Team-By-Team Fantasy Trios

| 4 years ago

Team-By-Team Fantasy Trios

I decided to take a look back at the 2012 fantasy football season on a team-by-team basis, comparing each team’s leading quarterback, running back, and wide receiver’s fantasy success to their actual team’s offensive success according to the PFF grades. I did this exact same study two years ago and there were some very interesting results then, including an amazing correlation between fantasy success and the PFF grades. Here’s a quote from that article:

“After going through all of the numbers, the team PFF rankings were surprisingly close to the ranking of teams’ fantasy scorers. So close, in fact, that the average margin of error between the PFF rankings and average fantasy points scored was zero.”

This year, believe it or not, the average margin of error between the PFF rankings and the average fantasy points scored by a team’s leading QB, WR, and RB was…zero. Again.

For example, Atlanta’s combination of Matt Ryan, Roddy White, and Michael Turner were the sixth highest scoring fantasy trio on the same team in 2012. The Atlanta Falcons also had the sixth best offensive PFF grade for 2012. It’s not all perfect, though. Chicago’s combination of Brandon Marshall, Matt Forte, and Jay Cutler combined as fantasy’s seventh best trio last season; but the Bears had an offense PFF grade of -35.3, third worst in the league.

Thirteen quarterbacks, eleven running backs, and eight wide receivers led their respective teams in fantasy points. Team leaders averaged 279 fantasy points over the course of the season. There was about a 58-point drop to the second tier, which averaged 221 fantasy points on the season. The third tier averaged 165 points, 56 lower than the second tier.

Let’s take a look at what these findings turned up. It should be noted that Week 17 was included in the point totals.


Typically, quarterbacks get more snaps than anybody else on a team. In 2012, there were 20 quarterbacks than took over 1,000 snaps. There were 10 receivers that had at least 1,000 snaps, and no running backs even cracked 850 snaps. However, when ranking a team’s best fantasy QB, RB, and WR, the snap totals line up more with the fantasy points and less with the position.

A team’s highest scoring fantasy player averaged 914 snaps. Their second highest scorer averaged just 34 snaps less at 880. The third tier has an average of just 635 snaps, a massive drop of nearly 30 percent from the second tier. However, when looking at points per snap, the third tier was actually better than the second tier:

First Tier Second Tier Third Tier
Snaps 914 880 635
Pts. 279 221 165
PPS 0.31 0.25 0.26

There could be a variety of explanations as to why the third tier was actually more effective with their snaps than the second tier, but it’s certainly a head-scratcher.

My best explanation is that the third tier is home to more injury victims and late starters than the second tier. For example, Percy Harvin, DeMarco Murray, and Colin Kaepernick are all in the third tier for their respective teams. Harvin and Murray excelled whent hey were on the field, but they were injured for a large portion of the season. Kaepernick didn’t get his chance until the season was well underway. So while he’s in the third tier for the 49ers, it’s only because of when he started.


First Pts. Second Pts. Third Pts. Avg. FP rank PPF rank Difference
NE Tom Brady 348 Wes Welker 290 Stevan Ridley 208 282 1 2 -1

No surprise here. The best fantasy trio of 2012 was Tom Brady, Wes Welker, and Stevan Ridley of the New England Patriots. Those three combined for an average of 282.1 fantasy points on the season, which is above the league team leader average of 278.8 points. Fantasy footballers owning one of these three players were aided by New England’s absurd snap totals.

Brady took 1,231 snaps on the season, the most since PFF started counting in 2008. New England’s prolific offense went through these three players, and it showed int he fantasy totals. Brady had the third most fantasy points among quarterbacks this season, Welker had the seventh most among receivers, and Ridley had the 15th-most among running backs. And, even though his position wasn’t counted for in this research, Rob Gronkowski had the fifth most fantasy points among tight ends (second most in standard leagues) in just 11 games.

The margin of error between this trio’s fantasy ranking and New England’s offensive PFF ranking was just one. New England had the second best offensive PFF grade (240.7) for the third year in a row. With all of the major parts returning (aside from the possibility of Wes Welker leaving, which I don’t think will happen), it’s a safe to say that the Patriots will have an excellent pool for fantasy picking again next season.


First Pts. Second Pts. Third Pts. Avg. FP rank PPF rank Difference
ARZ Larry Fitzgerald 175 Kevin Kolb 92 L. Stephens-Howling 83 116 32 32 0

For the second time in the last three years, the Arizona Cardinals have had one of the two worst offensive PFF grades in the league. What made 2012 especially bad, though, is how far behind the rest of the league their offense graded. With a PFF grade of -188.3, the Cardinals were more than 120 grade points away from the next worst team, the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Cardinals offense was close to three times more inept than the Jaguars. That’s bad.

Despite having a terrible season, especially when you consider where he was drafted, Larry Fitzgerald led Arizona with 174.8 fantasy points on the season. Compared to all other team leaders, Fitzgerald’s 174.8 points were the lowest.

If you think that’s bad, consider this: Arizona’s highest scoring quarterback (Kevin Kolb, 91.8 points) and running back (LaRod Stephens-Howling, 82.7 points) combined for less points than Fitzgerald. Andre Roberts did nearly outscore Fitzgerald with 172.3 points, but only one player per position per team can qualify.

The average margin of error between this trio’s fantasy rankings and Arizona’s offensive PFF ranking was zero. They were both dead last.


First Pts. Second Pts. Third Pts. Avg. FP rank PPF rank Difference
CHI Brandon Marshall 334 Matt Forte 222 Jay Cutler 207 254 7 30 -23

As noted earlier, Chicago’s trio of Brandon Marshall, Matt Forte, and Jay Cutler were much more successful in the fantasy world than their offense was in the real world, as PFF grade suggests. There was a differential of 23 between their fantasy rank and Chicago’s offensive PFF grade. Why was there such a large gap?

The most obvious explanation is the lack of supporting help. Marshall, Forte, and Cutler were three of only six Bears that recorded an offensive PFF grade in the green. Those three players combined for a PFF grade of 32. The rest of the offense combined for a PFF grade of -67.3.

Marshall in particular was much better than any other Chicago receiver. He had 994 snaps, more than Alshon Jeffery and Earl Bennett combined. His 181 targets were 41 more and his 118 receptions were 39 more than all of Chicago’s receivers combined.

Marshall, Forte, and Cutler truly were Chicago’s only stars on offense, and they happen to be a QB, RB, and WR. That explains why there was such a large deviation between their fantasy success and their team’s PFF grade.

Below is the full list of team leaders, sorted alphabetically:

 Tm First Pts. Second Pts. Third Pts. Avg.
ARZ Larry Fitzgerald 175 Kevin Kolb 92 L. Stephens-Howling 83 116
ATL Matt Ryan 323 Roddy White 269 Michael Turner 176 256
BLT Ray Rice 283 Joe Flacco 250 Torrey Smith 183 239
BUF C.J. Spiller 260 Ryan Fitzpatrick 242 Steve Johnson 219 240
CAR Cam Newton 341 Steve Smith 217 DeAngelo Williams 146 235
CHI Brandon Marshall 334 Matt Forte 222 Jay Cutler 207 254
CIN A.J. Green 301 BenJarvus Green-Ellis 176 Andy Dalton 275 251
CLV Trent Richardson 255 Brandon Weeden 185 Josh Gordon 159 200
DAL Dez Bryant 301 Tony Romo 299 DeMarco Murray 149 249
DEN Peyton Manning 324 Demaryius Thomas 296 Willis McGahee 143 254
DET Calvin Johnson 347 Matthew Stafford 298 Mikel Leshoure 188 277
GB Aaron Rodgers 358 Randall Cobb 237 Alex Green 77 224
HST Arian Foster 305 Andre Johnson 296 Matt Schaub 235 279
IND Andrew Luck 305 Reggie Wayne 271 Vick Ballard 130 235
JAX Cecil Shorts 194 Chad Henne 128 Maurice Jones-Drew 76 132
KC Jamaal Charles 244 Dwayne Bowe 157 Matt Cassel 104 168
MIA Reggie Bush 209 Brian Hartline 188 Ryan Tannehill 200 199
MIN Adrian Peterson 347 Christian Ponder 215 Percy Harvin 162 241
NE Tom Brady 348 Wes Welker 290 Stevan Ridley 208 282
NO Drew Brees 367 Marques Colston 257 Darren Sproles 214 279
NYG Victor Cruz 255 Eli Manning 250 Ahmad Bradshaw 184 230
NYJ Shonn Greene 186 Mark Sanchez 152 Jeremy Kerley 151 163
OAK Carson Palmer 244 Denarius Moore 166 Darren McFadden 156 189
PHI LeSean McCoy 204 Jeremy Maclin 195 Michael Vick 171 190
PIT Ben Roethlisberger 235 Mike Wallace 196 Jonathan Dwyer 102 177
SL Sam Bradford 237 Steven Jackson 199 Brandon Gibson 150 195
SD Philip Rivers 237 Malcom Floyd 167 Ryan Mathews 140 181
SF Michael Crabtree 250 Frank Gore 225 Colin Kaepernick 179 218
SEA Russell Wilson 291 Marshawn Lynch 272 Sidney Rice 167 243
TB Doug Martin 313 Josh Freeman 268 Vincent Jackson 258 280
TEN Chris Johnson 218 Jake Locker 151 Kendall Wright 151 173
WAS Robert Griffin III 328 Alfred Morris 256 Santana Moss 147 243
279 221 165

Tyler Loechner is a lead writer at PFF Fantasy. He has played fantasy football since 1999 and has been a part of the PFF Fantasy staff since 2010. Tyler was also previously a fantasy football featured columnist at Bleacher Report.

  • jasoncongo

    Interesting to me that had Murray been in the full season the Cowboys might have had as good or better numbers than the Patriots, only coming 97 points away, while missing 6 full games.