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Fantasy Football Facts, Figures and Folly


Sorting out who’s been dead weight, who’s been great, and who is available to help your team.

@BreakTheHuddle

I never thought I would allow myself to write about fantasy football on this site. There are plenty of bona fide reasons for this – in order:

  1. It’s a terribly clichéd thing to do: “Amateur sportswriter thinks he knows everything about fantasy football!”
  2. My teams are not that good.
  3. My friends know my teams are not that good, and would give me crap for writing about fantasy football when I clearly don’t know much.
  4. It doesn’t appeal to my target audience (sports fans who want to see something satirical, unique or off-the-cuff, and despise the same old “sports talk noise”).
  5. It doesn’t appeal to my actual audience (mostly my relatives, none of whom play fantasy sports, or people who stumble to the site via random Google search, and are here exclusively for the pictures).

Good news is: I don’t take myself too seriously. I am not going to give you any fluff, nor will I B.S. you. I’ll give you facts, stats, a couple of light-hearted, good-natured tips, a few (hopefully) witty observations, and we’ll leave it at that. No pretentious demagoguery about who to pick up (though I will make some polite suggestions), who to trade for or who to start/ sit this week. Just a little bit of analysis and a whole lot of self-deprecation.

Quarterbacks:

The following list indicates the top scoring quarterbacks in terms of points per team game to this point in the season.

Rank Name Team PPG
1 Drew Brees New Orleans 24.6
2 Robert Griffin III Washington 23.7
3 Aaron Rodgers Green Bay 23.1
4 Matt Ryan Atlanta 20.8
5 Peyton Manning Denver 20.2
6 Tom Brady New England 19.9
7 Ben Roethlisberger Pittsburgh 18.8
8 Andrew Luck Indianapolis 17.4
9 Cam Newton Carolina 17.2
10 Eli Manning New York Giants 17.0

The top of the list contains one guy who was expected to be either at the top or close to it at the beginning of the season – Drew Brees. He’s in the perfect situation for terrific fantasy numbers: talented supporting cast, a pass-happy offensive scheme, and a terrible defense that necessitates throwing the football for the length of the game each Sunday. In second is a surprise, Robert Griffin III, who is succeeding in fantasy because of his rushing numbers. He’s got 468 yards and 6 TDs on the ground – if he were a running back, those stats would be good for around 14th in the league, ahead of Chris Johnson, Darren McFadden and Michael Turner. And third is Aaron Rodgers, who is up there because he is the best quarterback in football, as well as an awesome human being.

I never said this post would be 100% objective.

Dead weight

Tony Romo and Philip Rivers. Fantasy owners who waited during the draft and counted on one of those two to buoy the position for them wound up with the 24th or 25th (respectively) overall QB this season. Yet Romo, who averages 13 points per game, is owned in 96% of leagues and is started in 56% of them. Rivers is started in 30% of leagues, which is lower than Romo but still far too high considering the lack of production. To put this in perspective: Sam Bradford, whose receivers are as anonymous as internet trolls, is still averaging a point better, per game, than these two.

Who to get

Josh Freeman, who averages 17 points per game (I will do the math for you – that’s 4 points better than the Romo-Rivers conglomerate from Mediocrityville) is owned in 71% of leagues and started in just 15% of them. He’s the 11th overall QB this season – certainly worthy of a roster spot, and probably worth a shot at a platoon, or at the very least a bye week spot start.

Running Backs:

Rank Name Team PPG
1 Arian Foster Houston 19.1
2 Ray Rice Baltimore 15.3
3 Jamaal Charles Kansas City 14.3
4 Alfred Morris Washington 13.9
5 Adrian Peterson Minnesota 13.8
6 C.J. Spiller Buffalo 13.7
7 Frank Gore San Francisco 13.3
8 Reggie Bush Miami 12.6
9 Stevan Ridley New England 12.3
10 Marshawn Lynch Seattle 12.2

The top two players were two of the first four backs selected in most fantasy football drafts, so their appearance near the top is not shocking. Also unsurprising is the fact that the rest of the top-10 is full of surprises; the running back position is historically hard to project, and this season is no exception. The rest of the top ten is made up of two guys who made quick rebounds from injuries (Charles, Peterson), three who emerged from running-back-by-committee situations to be workhorse backs (Morris, Spiller, Ridley), two guys who refuse to get old (Gore, Bush) and the ugliest human being on the planet (Marshawn Lynch). Kudos to you if you saw any of that coming, and kudos to you if you’ve never seen a close-up of Marshawn Lynch.

WordPress wouldn’t even let me post a picture of Marshawn Lynch.

Dead Weight

The Carolina backfield. Both DeAngelo Williams (5.1 PPG) and Johnathon Stewart (4.2) are dismal, despite being 94% and 81% owned, respectively. Mike Tolbert and Cam Newton are there to vulture goal line carries on the rare occasion the sputtering Panther offense even gets that close, and each has dealt with nagging injuries. The two  had 13 points apiece in Week 2; only Williams (in Week 4) has cracked double digits other than that.

Who to get

To be honest, there isn’t a whole lot to choose from – running backs are thin, and even the whiff of a potential starting spot is enough to send everyone to the waiver wire in a tizzy. Pierre Thomas is already owned in 72% of leagues, but considering the fact that he averages nearly 7 PPG, and is a threat to both run and catch the ball, it should be a lot closer to 100%.

Wide Recievers:

Rank Name Team PPG
1 A.J. Green Cincinnati 15.2
2 Victor Cruz New York Giants 15.0
3 Vincent Jackson Tampa Bay 14.8
4 Brandon Marshall Chicago 13.6
5 Marques Colston New Orleans 13.3
6 Roddy White Atlanta 13.2
7 Reggie Wayne Indianapolis 12.8
8 Percy Harvin Minnesota 12.7
9 Jordy Nelson Green Bay 12.2
10 Wes Welker New England 11.3

The first two wideouts taken in many drafts were Calvin Johnson and Andre Johnson; it’s not all that surprising that Andre is outside the top-10, but it is shocking that Calvin, who has been healthy and active for all six of his team’s games, can’t find the end zone. Green’s jump from year one to year two has been extraordinary, as he’s third in the NFL in receiving yards (636) and tied for first in touchdowns (7). Vincent Jackson’s emergence as a fantasy stud is also a surprise – but the rest of the top ten is full of familiar names.

Dead weight

Justin Blackmon, who is owned in 51% of leagues, averages 2.4 points per game and has zero receiving touchdowns. Cecil Shorts, his Jacksonville teammate, averages 7.3 points per contest, has found the end zone three times this season and is owned in 3% of fantasy leagues. Neither is particularly own-able, but at least Shorts has shown something this season; Blackmon’s been a dud from the get-go. Sidney Rice is also a quandary I can’t figure out, netting 6.2 points per game, but still owned in 88% of leagues. Donnie Avery, by comparison, matches his output yet is owned in 13% of leagues.

Who to get

Avery and Shorts would be nice additions in deep leagues, but Andre Roberts, who is one of 20 receivers to average double digit fantasy points per week, is still only owned in 38% of leagues. This is ludicrous – his output thus far matches Dwayne Bowe’s and eclipses Larry Fitzgerald, Stevie Johnson, Dez Bryant, Andre Johnson and Steve Smith, just to name a few. Jeremy Kerley, of the fantasy black hole known as the New York Jets receiving corps, is surprisingly decent (3 weeks of double digit fantasy production, plus another week with 9 points) and available (owned in 45% of leagues).

 Tight Ends:

Rank Name Team PPG
1 Tony Gonzalez Atlanta 11.2
2 Rob Gronkowski New England 10.2
3 Heath Miller Pittsburgh 10.2
4 Owen Daniels Houston 9.4
5 Vernon Davis San Francisco 8.3
6 Kyle Rudolph Minnesota 7.8
7 Jimmy Graham New Orleans 7.2
8 Brent Celek Philadelphia 7.0
9 Martellus Bennett New York Giants 6.9
10 Scott Chandler Buffalo 6.5

Once you get outside the top three, it’s a giant mess of mediocrity. Don’t get me wrong, Owen Daniels has been a nice surprise, rebounding from injury late last season, and Kyle Rudolph’s sophomore development is a sign of big things to come in the future, but it’s hard to know what’s what at tight end unless you’ve got Tony, Gronk or the Heath Bar.

Dead Weight

Jermichael Finley. What else is there to say? The Packers offense has tallied 100 points over the past three weeks. Jermichael’s contribution? 7 receptions, 54 yards. Total. He’s been a little dinged up, and in case you haven’t noticed, I’ve been avoiding putting the injured into the ‘dead weight’ category, preferring instead to point out the healthy, terrible players clogging rosters. While I understand why he’s owned in 88% of leagues (the Packers offense is one of the league’s best) I don’t think he’s ever going to break out. He’s nowhere near as washed up as Chad Ochocinco was a season ago, but the principle applies here: if you can’t get your numbers as part of a high-powered attack, what does that say about you? It says you’re not that good. Shoulder injury aside, Finley’s been bad this year. Period.

Who to get

Remember earlier? When I told you about Heath Miller, and I said he was the third overall tight end through seven weeks? Well, he is a free agent in 1 of 5 fantasy leagues. So do yourself a favor, and see if he’s out there, then remedy the situation. And if he’s on your bench, start him (only 50% of those who own him actually start the guy).

 Defense:

Rank Team PPG
1 Chicago 18.3
2 Houston 11.7
3 Arizona 10.1
4 Atlanta 9.8
5 Minnesota 9.7
6 Denver 9.2
7 San Francisco 9.1
8 Seattle 8.9
9 New England 8.3
10 New York Giants 8.1

 Dead Weight

Defenses are drafted based on reputation alone – but they shouldn’t be held onto so long if they are terrible. For some reason, the Pittsburgh defense, who averages 3.7 points per game (good for 24th place) is owned in 93% of leagues and STARTED in nearly two-thirds of them.

Who to get

Miami (11th overall, 7.5 points per game) is available in 87% of leagues. The play the Jets this week. The quarterback of the Jets is Mark Sanchez. Have I painted a clear enough picture for you?

Confession

I don’t really care about defenses that much – the only reason I brought any of that up is so I could write about the Bears Defense. Every league seems to score defenses differently, but in my three leagues, the Bears rank 8th, 9th, and 10th… OVERALL. Yes. The Bears, in all their majesty, were apparently deserving of a first round pick, meaning the idiot in your league who took them rounds ahead of where they “should” have gone isn’t actually an idiot. He’s the smart one.

Remember how last season was the “year of the tight end”, with Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski shattering all sorts of records? In most leagues, in 2012, there are two defenses who have scored more points per game (Chicago, Houston) than the top-rated tight end (Tony Gonzalez). In 2011, there were six tight ends among the top 56 fantasy players; this season, there are zero.

It just goes to show you that fantasy football is fickle, fabulous folly, full of fortune, farce and frivolous foolery.  If the knucklehead who sat at your draft and defended his selection of a defense in the fifth round was right, then maybe everyone, even the guys who get paid to do this professionally, need to admit something: playing fantasy football is one part smarts, one part luck and one part theatre of the absurd.

Happy fantasy-ing (fantasizing?) everybody.

 

BreakTheHuddle is a fan of the Twins, Timberwolves and the 13-time World Champion Green Bay Packers. Reach him at BreakTheHuddle@gmail.com, @BreakTheHuddle on Twitter or leave a comment below!

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