25 interesting and illuminating fantasy stats

As he worked on projections for the upcoming season, Jeff Ratcliffe made some discoveries. Here are 25 of the most notable ones.

| 3 months ago
(David Eulitt/Kansas City Star/TNS via Getty Images)

(David Eulitt/Kansas City Star/TNS via Getty Images)

25 interesting and illuminating fantasy stats

In the future, when robots and cyborgs rule the world, machines will produce fantasy football projections. But today, that task is carried out by ordinary human beings. At Pro Football Focus, that ordinary human is yours truly. Producing projections is a lengthy process. Sure, I’m helped out by algorithms and spreadsheets, but there’s a lot of manual work involved.

To generate the first batch of 2017 projections – which are now officially live on the site – I carefully surveyed the football landscape over the last decade to identify trends across the league, by team and coaching staff, and for individual players.

A lot has changed over the last 10 years. Offensive snaps have increased by 2.2 percent from an average of 61.7 in 2007 to 63.1 last season. The low point over that span came in 2008 with 60.7 snaps per game, and the high point was 64.0 snaps per game in 2013. The percentage of passing plays has also increased from 59.3 percent in 2007 to 62.3 percent last year. Yards per attempt has jumped 4.6 percent from 7.37 in 2007 to 7.71 last season. However, yards per carry hasn’t jumped as dramatically, and doesn’t show a steady increase.

These big-picture data points serve as a foundation for my projection model, but the devil is in the details. As I went through process, certain stats emerged that helped paint a picture of a player’s future fantasy outlook. Some of these stats were as expected, but others really stood out as interesting tidbits. Below you’ll find 25 of the most interesting player stats I discovered during the process.

1. Julio Jones has 100-plus yards in 35 of 79 games played (44.3 percent). His touchdown-to-yards rate has been 0.43 percent over the last two years, which is just over half the 0.83 percent he posted in his first two seasons as a pro.

2. Larry Fitzgerald’s yards per reception was below 10.0 for the first time in his career, but his dip in yardage productivity has been accompanied by a higher catch rate with over 70 percent of his targets caught in each of the last two years.

3. Le’Veon Bell has averaged over 3.00 yards after contact per attempt in each of the last two years.

4. After averaging just over 2.0 yards after contact per attempt in 2014 and 2015, LeSean McCoy managed 2.42 yards after contact last year. He also scored at a touchdown to yards rate of 1.03 percent, which was triple his 2015 rate.

5. Matt Ryan’s YPA jumped from 7.90 in 2015 to 9.26 in 2016. He also completed over 70 percent of his passes for the first time in his career.

6. Latavius Murray has 91 career catches and zero receiving touchdowns.

7. Carson Palmer dipped from a career-high 8.50 yards per attempt in 2015 to 7.09 in 2016. His average depth of throw also declined from 10.44 to 9.23, and his passing touchdown to yardage rate of 0.61 percent was the lowest it’s been since 2013.

8. Jeremy Maclin has averaged under 13.0 yards per catch in three of his last four seasons. Last year, he caught a touchdown on a career-low 0.37 percent of his yards.

9. In 309 career carries, Jay Ajayi averages a massive 3.44 yards after contact.

10. Sam Bradford has averaged over 7.00 yards per attempt in each of the last two seasons. He also completed a career-high 71.6 percent of his passes while throwing an interception on just 0.9 percent of his attempts.

11. In 2016, Jordy Nelson average 12.96 yards per reception, which was the first time he was under 15.0 since 2010. However, he did post a touchdown-to-yards rate of 1.11 percent. That’s the second-highest of his career.

12. Cam Newton’s scramble rate dropped from 5.2 percent in 2015 to just 1.8 percent in 2016.

13. David Johnson has a career rushing touchdowns-to-yards rate of 1.3 percent, which is extremely efficient. That level of efficiency is all but guaranteed to regress going forward.

14. Donte Moncrief posted a massive touchdown-to-yardage rate of 2.28 percent last year, scoring seven times on just 307 yards. While Moncrief has shown the ability to find the end zone in his time as a pro, that’s a completely unsustainable rate.

15. Blake Bortles largely regressed as a passer in 2016, but his sacks taken rate did improve from 7.4 percent in 2015 to 4.9 percent last year.

16. Jason Witten’s yards per reception has dipped under 10.0 over the last two seasons, with an average of 9.75 last year.

17. Jarvis Landry’s yards per reception jumped from 10.52 in 2015 to 12.09 last season, but he’s scored a touchdown on just 0.35 percent of his yards in each of the last two years.

18. In 177 career rushing attempts, Duke Johnson has just one touchdown.

19. Ryan Tannehill is coming off a career-high 7.70 yards per attempt and 67.1 percent completion percentage.

20. Antonio Gates hasn’t averaged over 12 yards per catch since 2011.

21. Frank Gore has averaged under 4.00 yards per carry in each of the last two years. He also posted his second-lowest yards after contact (2.07) and was under 0.40 percent in rushing touchdowns-to-yards rate.

22. Dak Precott threw an interception on just 0.9 percent of his attempted throws in 2016.

23. Over the last two seasons, Demaryius Thomas’ yards per reception has been under 13.0. That’s roughly three yards less than it was during the Peyton Manning era. His touchdowns-per-yards rate also declined dramatically from 0.70 or better in his first four seasons to 0.46 in each of the last two years.

24. Joe Flacco averaged 6.42 yards per attempt in 2016, which was the second-lowest of his career. He also posted his lowest passing touchdown-to-yards rate (0.46 percent).

25. Spencer Ware’s yards-before-contact average dropped nearly a full yard from 3.79 in 2015 to 2.81 in 2016. He also scored at a rate of 0.33-percent touchdowns per yards after posting a mark of 1.49 in 2015.

| Director of Fantasy

Jeff Ratcliffe is the Director of Fantasy at Pro Football Focus. He produces all of our projections and is 2016's second-most-accurate ranker in the fantasy industry. Jeff also is the host of our show on SiriusXM fantasy sports radio and is one of the main hosts of our Fantasy Slant podcast.

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