40 stats to help you find fantasy football success
We’re nearing the fantasy football season, and there’s only one thing that means. More statistics for us at PFF to get our hands on. More information that we will sift through in order to find interesting little tidbits in order to help you become a better fantasy football player.
What follows in this space is a glimpse behind the PFF curtain, a look at the statistics we have that you can’t find anywhere else, the ones we use when forming our opinions, our rankings, our projections. They’re available to readers with a subscription to Fantasy Gold or All Access, and they’re what goes into our articles.
Whether it’s to help you win fantasy football titles, or to share conversational topics to make you sound smarter with your friends, we are here for you. Here is a taste of what our statistics include, presented in “fun facts” fashion.
1. Despite having the lowest average depth of target among quarterbacks (7.7 yards), Colin Kaepernick had the third-worst adjusted completion percentage (68.3 percent). He was graded as our worst quarterback in 2015, even behind Nick Foles.
The closest comparison to Kaepernick’s 2015 season was actually Colt McCoy’s 2011 season with the Browns, with an aDOT of 7.8 yards and an adjusted completion rate of 69.4 percent. This does not bode well for Kaepernick’s chance of a rebound.
2. Philip Rivers dropped back to pass 25 times more than any other quarterback. He also had 34 more pass attempts than the next-closest quarterback.
This pace is unsustainable, especially considering the Chargers; defense taking strides forward. What all this means is more rushing attempts for the running backs, making Melvin Gordon a value at his current ADP.
3. Despite his breakout, Blake Bortles threw the most interceptions in the league (18) and took the most sacks (51).
On top of the negatives there, Bortles actually graded out as a negative passer in 2015 as well. The Jaguars’ addition of Chris Ivory, as well as multiple high-round draft picks on the defense, tells us they are going to throw much less in 2016, in order to hide these inefficiencies.
4. Of the quarterbacks who played at least half of their teams’ snaps, Aaron Rodgers ranked 26th out of 27 quarterbacks in yards per attempt (6.68). He was the second-best in that category in the previous two years (8.43 and 8.74).
On top of the fact that he lost Jordy Nelson in the preseason, Rodgers also dealt with a multitude of injuries on his offensive line throughout the entire season last year. If we didn’t have such a large sample size on Rodgers, it’d be a question. But we do, so it’s not. Look for Rodgers to bounce back to his usual self.
5. Cam Newton was just 16th in pass attempts, but had the second-most passing touchdowns. Ted Ginn ranked 56th in receptions, but his 10 touchdowns ranked seventh.
Newton’s efficiency was out of this world, as he threw a touchdown on 7.1 percent of his attempts. To put it into context, Newton had never topped 5.1 percent prior to 2015. He’ll need his pass attempts to increase in order to finish among the best in the league in 2016.
6. Brian Hoyer had the highest percentage of yards in the air (65.0 percent). Alex Smith and Matthew Stafford had the lowest (43.5 and 43.6 percent, respectively).
Some of the best in the “yards in the air” category last year were Hoyer, Tyrod Taylor, Cam Newton and Ben Roethlisberger. While Stafford and Smith allowed their receivers/running backs to do much of the work, Hoyer did a lot himself. Hoyer’s Houston replacement, Brock Osweiler, was middle of the pack last year, at 54.9 percent.
7. The highest completion rate on passes of more than 20 yards belonged to Ben Roethlisberger, who completed 50.7 percent of his deep passes, with Drew Brees slightly behind at 50.6 percent.
It’s no secret that Martavis Bryant was a huge part of Roethlisberger’s deep-ball success, but most don’t know the extent of it. Roethlisberger’s deep-ball accuracy in the three years prior to Bryant’s arrival were 35.5 percent in 2013, 31.9 in 2012 and 33.8 in 2011. Bryant’s absence will be felt in 2016.
8. Aaron Rodgers and Matthew Stafford were the only quarterbacks who didn’t throw a single interception on a deep ball.
While Stafford threw just 49 deep balls, Rodgers threw an impressive 64 passes that traveled more than 20 yards in the air, all without an interception. This is a trend for Rodgers, as he threw just one interception on 56 such attempts in 2014, and one on 36 in 2013. Stafford, on the other hand, threw six interceptions on deep balls in 2014.
9. Blake Bortles threw more deep balls than any other quarterback in 2015, with 97 of them. The next-closest were Carson Palmer and Ryan Fitzpatrick, who both had 86 of them.
It’s unlikely Bortles throws that many deep balls in a year again in his career, let alone in 2016. Since 2007, there hasn’t been a quarterback who has had even 90 deep-ball attempts in two different seasons. 10 of his Bortles’ touchdowns came via the deep ball in 2015.
10. Teddy Bridgewater was pressured on 46.9 percent of his dropbacks. Ben Roethlisberger was on just 27.2 percent.
Before giving up on Bridgewater, you must understand how bad his offensive line play was. This number tells it all, so it’s somewhat of a miracle that he led the league in completion percentage with Mike Wallace and Stefon Diggs as his leading wide receivers last year.
11. Matt Ryan completed the highest percent of passes while under pressure, at 59 percent. Colin Kaepernick (34.7) and Andrew Luck (37.7) had the lowest percentages.
The craziest part of this number is that Ryan didn’t do much better when he wasn’t under pressure, completing 68.8 percent of his passes. By comparison, there were 15 quarterbacks who topped that percentage with their under-pressure numbers included. Acquiring Pro Bowl center Alex Mack this offseason should help Ryan improve on that number in year two of Kyle Shanahan’s offense.
12. Pierre Garcon had more targets than any of Doug Baldwin, Allen Hurns and Sammy Watkins.
To say that Baldwin cannot continue his torrid pace to the end of 2015 is likely correct, but it’s also more than likely he’ll see more targets to compensate in 2016. Russell Wilson has also increased his attempts every year in the league.
13. There were just 10 wide receivers with 88 or more receptions. The Lions had two of them (Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate).
This bodes well for newly acquired wide receiver Marvin Jones, who currently has an ADP outside of the top 35 wide receivers. Matthew Stafford hasn’t thrown the ball fewer than 592 times in either of the last five seasons, and there wasn’t a single year since his rookie year where Calvin Johnson had fewer than 128 targets.
14. Brandon LaFell ranked 64th in receptions, but ranked sixth in drops. He also had the most targets without a touchdown (69). The next-most targets without a touchdown was 48.
LaFell literally and figuratively dropped the ball last year. Don’t overdraft the wide receiver, who has topped 677 yards and five touchdowns just once in his six-year career.
15. DeSean Jackson had the most targets (44) and receptions (30) without a drop.
There are a lot of people forgetting about Jackson with the breakout of Jordan Reed and the drafting of Josh Doctson, but you shouldn’t be one of them. When healthy, Jackson and Kirk Cousins have connected nicely. There have been 10 games in which Jackson has seen at least four targets from Cousins, and he’s averaged 85.7 yards and 0.6 touchdowns in them. He was actually 16th in fantasy points per snap in 2015, albeit in a small sample.
16. Michael Crabtree was 108th out of 125 wide receivers in yards per target (6.4). He received the ninth-most targets.
He was purely a volume play in 2015. The Raiders weren’t the most efficient team, as Latavius Murray received the third-most carries in the league despite ranking 53rd of 90 running backs in points per opportunity. Crabtree won’t see as many targets in 2016 if he doesn’t produce with more efficiency.
17. There were just 12 wide receivers who had more games with 7.3 fantasy points than Jermaine Kearse.
One of the oddest things you’ll likely read here, Kearse scored 7.3 or more fantasy points in nine games. The only players who did that more often than him were the studs. What does it mean? Well, he is someone to have on your radar if something were to happen to Doug Baldwin or Tyler Lockett, as he would step in as a weekly WR3.
18. Despite playing in one fewer game, John Brown had more 10-point games than Larry Fitzgerald (seven to six).
Most think that Fitzgerald still has the edge, as evidenced by an ADP that stands a full round before Brown. But when entering your draft, Brown should be the one higher on your list, as he enters his prime at just 26 years old, whereas Fitzgerald will be playing in his age-33 season, which is where wide receivers typically fall off.
19. Stefon Diggs had more games with 14 or more fantasy points than Mike Evans (three to two).
This happened despite Diggs seeing 77 targets, compared to Evans’ 146. Diggs has been just about completely forgotten in fantasy circles, being drafted as the No. 41 wide receiver in early ADP.
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20. Although he ranked 53rd of 90 running backs in points per opportunity, Latavius Murray received the third-most carries in the NFL.
The Raiders were attached to many of the free-agent running backs on the market (Chris Ivory and Doug Martin, heavily), but ended up drafting DeAndre Washington in the fifth round of the draft. Washington has a skillset similar to that of Maurice Jones-Drew and should steal 8-10 touches a game right out of the gate. Murray needs to increase his efficiency before he starts losing even more work.
21. Alfred Morris had the most carries without a fumble (202).
As sexy a pick that Ezekiel Elliott is, the Cowboys signed Morris for a reason: short-yardage situations. This statistic shows his ball security and includes the red zone, where sometimes rookies struggle. Morris is likely the constant short-yardage back, while Darren McFadden is the handcuff to Elliott.
22. Adrian Peterson and Melvin Gordon each fumbled seven times. No other wide receiver or running back fumbled more than five times.
Fumbles are a big problem for young players, especially when they haven’t proved that their talent is worth the risk. Peterson isn’t going to get benched at this point in his career, but Gordon needs to get this problem fixed. Competing with just Danny Woodhead for carries is a good problem to have considering the veteran hasn’t topped 4.0 yards per carry since 2011, but Gordon himself averaged just 3.5 himself last year.
23. Both Spencer Ware and Le’Veon Bell averaged more yards after contact than Matt Jones averaged yards per carry (3.4).
This says more about Matt Jones than it does Ware and Bell, although it’s impressive to see Ware’s average of 3.8 yards after contact. But if there is a caveat in all of this for Jones, it’s that he doesn’t have any legitimate competition on the roster. On top of that, he’ll see a lot of base defenses with all of the talent the Redskins have in the passing game.
24. Dion Lewis broke 19 tackles on 49 carries. Jeremy Langford broke seven tackles on 148 carries.
This one is the difference between opportunity created, and opportunity made. Langford essentially got what was blocked (average of 1.8 yards after contact) and not much more, while Lewis himself was a game-changer, averaging 3.3 yards after contact.
25. Danny Woodhead, Theo Riddick and Devonta Freeman all had 92 or more targets. No other running back had more than 74.
The rich get richer, as none of these players’ teams added another receiving back in the draft, and the Lions cut Joique Bell. While everyone knows who the target leaders are, the amount of difference between them and the next tier allows room for regression. These players have extremely high floors.
26. Duke Johnson was fifth in receiving yards among running backs. He didn’t see a single target until Week 3.
Looking at the running backs from the entry just before this, Johnson might get into that tier in 2016. He averaged 5.0 targets per game from Week 3 to 17. Add in the fact that Hue Jackson’s last four coached teams have finished in the top-seven in carries, and you have yourself a high-floor RB2.
27. C.J. Spiller had the most targets among running backs without a drop (40).
This is relevant simply because Sean Payton has used this offseason to boost Spiller’s confidence, saying that he was hurt all of last year, and that you’ll see the real Spiller in 2016. Mark Ingram had tons of targets last year, averaging nearly five per game, but prior to 2015, he’d seen five or more targets just twice in his career. If Spiller is indeed healthy, he could emerge as a solid flex option in PPR formats.
28. Chris Ivory’s aDOT was -2.8 yards, the lowest among those with at least 30 targets.
Jacksonville obviously didn’t acquire Ivory for his passing-game production. This number represents the only way the Jets could use him – behind the line of scrimmage. T.J. Yeldon excelled in the passing game last year, but even he wasn’t used downfield, with an aDOT of 0.3 yards.
29. Of the running backs who were targeted 10 or more times, Ronnie Hillman had the lowest yards per reception (4.6).
Denver quarterbacks targeted their running backs just 71 times last year, third-lowest in the NFL. The lack of production out of Hillman, who was their primary running back, might be a reason why. They’d be better off targeting C.J. Anderson, who averaged 7.3 yards per reception in 2015, and 9.6 yards per reception in 2014.
30. Of the running backs who were targeted at least 10 times, Tevin Coleman had the lowest yards per target (1.4).
This is another small sample size, but when a running back catches just two of his 10 targets, it’s sure not a good sign. Meanwhile, Devonta Freeman has caught 103 of his 126 targets over his two seasons, averaging 6.4 yards per target. Even if Coleman gets more carries in 2016, Freeman will accumulate at least 75 percent of the passing-down work.
31. There were 13 running backs who had at least five games with 14.1 or more fantasy points. 11 of the 13 were drafted as a top-30 running back. The others were Devonta Freeman and DeAngelo Williams.
When contemplating a zero-RB strategy, this is a stat you should keep in mind. Williams found the fountain of youth, and obviously needed a Le’Veon Bell injury to achieve these games. Freeman was someone who everyone just projected wrong. As the years go on, it’s getting less and less likely that we don’t see who the starter will be before the season, with all of the access that we have between beat reporters and social media.
32. Isaiah Crowell had just as many games with more than 14.1 fantasy points as David Johnson. So did Tim Hightower.
While I’ve never been a huge supporter of Crowell, he has shown he can contribute to fantasy teams in spurts. This offseason, Hue Jackson came to town, only increasing Crowell’s value. The last four Hue Jackson-coached teams have finished top-five in rushing touchdowns.
33. There were just two running backs who had more five-point games than Darren McFadden: Adrian Peterson and Latavius Murray.
One of the reasons you can make the case for Ezekiel Elliott as a first-round fantasy pick is the offensive line he plays behind. McFadden and Murray played behind our No. 1- and No. 10- ranked offensive lines.
34. Andre Ellington had as many games with 8.5 fantasy points as Ameer Abdullah.
Before the hype train gets going again, Abdullah was not only not very good last year, he also had offseason surgery to repair a torn labrum in his shoulder. The problem is that he is stuck in between Theo Riddick, who is better in the passing game, and Zach Zenner, who is better in short yardage. Abdullah definitely has room to improve, as his numbers from last year don’t look very promising.
35. Tyler Eifert caught a touchdown once every 5.1 targets. Rob Gronkowski caught one every 10.3 targets.
Eifert’s level of production cannot be sustained going forward. Looking back at Eifert’s career before 2015, he had caught just two touchdowns on 63 targets, compared to the 13 he caught on 66 targets in 2015. On top of that, he might not be ready for the start of the season. Don’t pay for this production.
36. Of the tight ends who saw at least 30 targets, Travis Kelce had the lowest aDOT at just 5.8 yards, but he was No. 19 of 40 in yards per reception (12.2).
This goes to show that Kelce made the most out of what he was given. His 7.5 yards after the catch ranked third, behind only Marcedes Lewis (who had just 16 receptions) and Rob Gronkowski. If Kelce gets targeted more toward the end zone, he could easily surpass his five touchdowns from 2015.
37. Rob Gronkowski had the highest yards per reception among all tight ends by 1.5 yards (16.3); the next-closest was Daniel Fells at 14.8.
We all know that Gronkowski is the most dominating tight end in the league, some are comparing Jordan Reed to his level. The fact that Gronkowski is nearly 10 percent better than the next guy at his position in this metric, and almost 33 percent higher than Reed, shows it’s really not all that close. He’s still far and away the best at his position.
38. Of the tight ends with at least 30 targets, Larry Donnell had the fewest yards per reception, at 7.7 yards.
This was a wasted opportunity for Donnell, as up-and-coming Will Tye appears to have stolen the starting job. Despite having a 6.0 aDOT, compared to Donnell’s 6.5, Tye actually averaged a much higher 11.0 yards per reception. Prior to last season, Eli Manning targeted his tight end an average of 82 times per year since 2012. Tye is a nice late-round flier who can provide low end TE1 numbers, if he indeed gets the starting job.
39. Brent Celek led all tight ends in yards per target, at 12.4, while teammate Zach Ertz, who had the same aDOT, finished 27th in that category at just 8.0 yards per target.
Ertz wins out in the production category, as he saw more than three times the amount of targets. But it wasn’t just Celek who outproduced him. Of the 40 tight ends who saw at least 30 targets in 2015, Ertz finished 30th in fantasy points per target. With a new head coach coming to town, he should hope his targets don’t decrease, because he needs them to produce.
40. There were 26 tight ends who saw 50 or more targets. Martellus Bennett was the worst in both yards per reception (8.3) and yards per target (5.8).
It’s a concern for any player to be at the bottom in such meaningful categories, and especially for one who will have to make the most out of limited targets in 2016. Over the last four seasons, Tom Brady has targeted his tight ends an average of 145.8 times per year. Unless you project Rob Gronkowski to see fewer than 110 targets, it’s hard to see Brady going much higher than his average. Even bumping it to 160 targets and keeping Gronkowski at 110 targets, Bennett is looking at roughly 50 targets.