Robert Griffin III Fantasy Football 2012 Projection

The Newest Redskin


The Washington Redskins traded their first round draft picks in 2012, 2013, and 2014 and the number 39 pick in the 2012 draft to the St. Louis Rams.  Those are incredibly valuable picks considering the Redskins are in the top 10 pretty frequently.  So why give up such value?  Three words…Robert Griffin III.

The Redskins are going to draft Robert Griffin.  There is no speculation about that.  It’s a done deal.  Robert Griffin to the Redskins is guaranteed.  But is drafting RGIII guaranteed success for the Redskins?

Personally, I play in an 8 team 2 quarterback league.  A certain rookie named Cam Newton was drafted in the very last round.  With our leagues scoring, he ended up in the top 5 in fantasy points.  I think it is only logical to compare Robert Griffin III to Cam Newton, and see if RGIII can come close to the fantasy success Cam had.

There are plenty of similarities between both players, but there are some differences too.  Right off the bat, Cam Newton won the Heisman in 2010.  RGIII won the Heisman in 2011.  But let’s look at their NCAA statistics to get a better idea…

RGIII 2011 NCAA Statistics at Baylor:


291 / 402, 72%, 14.7 yards per completion, 4,293 yards, 37 TDs, 6 INTs


179 attempts, 699 yards, 4 yards per attempt, 10 TDs

Total Yards: 4,992

Cam Newton 2010 NCAA Statistics at Auburn:


185 / 280, 66%, 15.4 yards per completion, 2,854 yards, 30 TDs, 7 INTs


264 attempts, 1,473 yards, 5.5 yards per attempt, 20 TDs

Total Yards: 4,327

RGIII Pre-Draft Measurements:

6’2 / 223 pounds

40-yard dash – 4.41 (Faster than Michael Vick)

Vertical – 39 inches

Cam Newton Pre-Draft Measurements:

6’5 / 248 pounds

40-yard dash – 4.56

Vertical – 35 inches

The College statistics are fairly similar.  Griffin has better passing numbers.  Newton has better rushing numbers.  The biggest difference in trying to compare college numbers and project them to the NFL, is that Cam Newton played in the SEC.  SEC defenses are the farm system for the NFL.  Furthermore, Newton won a National Championship and took that gained experience to the NFL.

On the other hand, RGIII did not have the opportunity to play with the same amount of talent (on offense or defense) as Newton had at Auburn.  Auburn is a traditional football SEC powerhouse.  Baylor is not a traditional football power and RGIII turned around a mediocre Big 12 team and turned them into a national story.

The players are comparable, the NCAA stats are analogous, the measurements are similar.  How do you decide whether to draft RGIII?  It all comes down to a comparison of the Carolina Panthers and Washington Redskins.

2010 Carolina Panthers Statistics

Obviously, the Carolina Panthers drafted Cam Newton in 2011.  So what did the Panthers look like in 2010 before Newton strapped up Panther black and blue?  The 2010 Panthers were 2-14…not a good start to the statistical analysis.  Once you look at the offensive numbers of the pre-Newton Panthers, you’ll understand why they only won 2 games.

2010 Panthers Offense Statistics: Pre-Newton

Total Offense: 32nd (that’s last place in case you didn’t know…)

Passing Offense: 32nd (again…last place)

Rushing Offense: 13th

Yards per game: 258

Passing Yards per game: 143

Rushing Yards per game: 115

Points per game: 12

2011 Panthers Offense Statistics: Post-Newton

Total Offense: 7th

Passing Offense: 13th

Rushing Offense: 3rd

Yards per game: 389

Passing Yards per game: 239

Rushing Yards per game: 150

Points per game: 25

2010 Panthers Quarterbacks Stats:

256 / 484, 52%, 2,289 yards, 9 YDS/COMP, 9 TDs, and 21 INTs

2011 Cam Newton Stats:

310/ 517, 60%, 4,051 yards, 13 YDS/COMP, 22 TDs, and 17 INTs

Rushing: 126 attempts, 706 yards, 14 TDs, and 3 Fumbles

Total Yards: 4,757

When you look at the statistics, Cam Newton completely overhauled the Panthers offense in 2011.  Here is the summary for those who don’t want to labor over the numbers.

Summary of the “Cam Newton Affect”

  • The Panthers Total Offense went from being ranked 32nd to 7th, a rise of 25 spots
  • The Panthers Passing Offense went from being ranked 32nd to 13th, a rise of 19 spots
  • The Panthers Rushing Offense went from being ranked 13th to 3rd, a rise of 10 spots
  • The Panthers Yards Per Game increased from 258 to 389, a 131-yard difference
  • The Panthers Passing Yards Per Game increased from 143 to 239, a 96 yard difference
  • The Panthers Total Passing Yards increased from 2,289 to 4,051, a 1,762 yard difference
  • The Panthers Rushing Yards per game increased from 115 to 150, a 35 yard difference
  • The Panthers offense went from averaging 12 points per game to 25 points per game, a 13 point difference

Cam Newton was HUGE in 2011.  The Panthers dramatically improved in every single offensive statistical category.  What’s even more impressive is how good Cam Newton was compared to how bad of a team he was drafted by.  See how good Washington Redskins were in 2011…

2011 Washington Redskins Statistics:

Total Offense: 16th

Passing Offense: 14th

Rushing Offense: 25th

Yards per game: 336

Passing Yards per game: 235

Rushing Yards per game: 100

Points per game: 18

2011 Redskins Quarterback Stats: (Rex Grossman & John Beck)

345 / 590, 58%, 4,009 yards, 11 YDS/COMP, 18 TDs, and 24 INTs

The Redskins are better than the Panthers were before Newton joined them.  The chance of success for RGIII is even better than Newton’s in 2011 if you just look at the offense he is taking over.  With Rex Grossman and John Beck at quarterback, the Redskins still managed to throw for 4,009 yards and 18 TDs.

RGIII is a more accomplished passer than Cam Newton was coming out of college.  He should be able to either match or increase Washington’s passing numbers in 2011 while maintaining at least 400 – 500 yards rushing.  IF he played Cam Newton’s 2011 schedule…

Opposing Defenses:

In my humble opinion, the biggest mistake fantasy football owners make is playing or projecting a player without fully understanding the type of defense he is going up against on a weekly basis.  This is RGIII’s biggest obstacle to overcome in 2011, the schedule.

Cam Newton’s Opposing Defenses:

Total Defense Rank / Passing Defense Rank / Passing Yards Allowed Per Game

Arizona: 19th / 17th / 231

Green Bay: 32nd / 32nd / 300

Jacksonville: 6th / 8th / 209

Chicago: 17th / 28th / 254

New Orleans (twice): 24th / 30th / 260

Atlanta (twice): 12th / 20th / 237

Washington: 13th / 12th / 222

Minnesota: 21st / 26th / 251

Tennessee: 18th / 14th / 227

Detroit: 23rd / 22nd / 239

Indianapolis: 25th / 15th / 227

Tampa Bay (twice): 30th / 21st / 238

Houston: 2nd / 3rd / 190

According to statistics, Cam Newton had a pretty soft schedule.  His toughest opponents were Houston and Jacksonville.

Here are Cam’s stats against those 2 opponents:

Houston: 13/ 23, 56%, 149 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INTs, 7 rushes, 55 yards rushing 0 TDs

Jacksonville: 18 / 34, 52%, 158 yards, 1 TD, 0 INTs, 7 rushes, 27 yards rushing, 0 TDs

Newton for the season averaged 253 yards passing per game and 60%, he was significantly under that number against the top passing defenses.

So what does that mean?  Cam Newton came into a terrible team, but was handed an easy schedule.  When he played against top defensive teams, he was still good, but not great.  Because RGIII and Newton are so similar, don’t expect RGIII to run over and pass on top defensive teams.

Newton played against a 20th or lower ranked passing defense 9 times.  As you will see below, RGIII will not have that luxury.

In 2012, the Redskins will play against the following defenses:

2012 RGIII Opposing Defenses:

Total Defense Rank / Passing Defense Rank / Passing Yards Allowed P/G

Dallas (twice): 14th / 23rd / 244

Philadelphia (twice): 8th / 10th / 212

New York Giants: (twice): 27th / 29th / 255

Atlanta: 12th / 20th / 237

Carolina: 28th / 24th / 247

Minnesota: 21st / 26th / 251

Baltimore: 3rd / 4th / 196

Cincinnati: 7th / 9th / 212

New Orleans: 24th / 30th / 260

Tampa Bay: 30th / 21st / 238

St. Louis: 22nd / 7th / 206

Cleveland: 10th / 2nd / 185

Pittsburgh: 1st  / 1st 172

RGIII has several games against top passing defenses in 2012: Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Cleveland, Cincinnati, St. Louis, and Philadelphia.  Furthermore, RGIII will be taking on Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Philadelphia, and St. Louis on the road.

Here in lies the greatest difference between Cam Newton and RGIII, the strength of schedule.  It’s also the reason why I don’t believe RGIII will be as successful in 2012 as Newton was in his first year.

RGIII and Newton have very similar college careers, college statistics, styles of play, and measurements.  Newton joined the worst offensive team in the NFL, took advantage of an cupcake schedule, and went on to be one the best fantasy players in 2011.  RGIII is taking over a mediocre offensive team, and plays one of the most difficult schedules in his rookie campaign going up against the 1st, 3rd, 7th, 10th, and 8th best defenses in the NFL.


Draft RGIII as your backup.  If he defies the odds and takes down the Ravens and Steelers for huge numbers, and you started him, congratulations.  You are really smart (or just really lucky).  BUT, make sure that your starting quarterbacks bye week is not one of the weeks where RGIII travels to play the Steelers in Pittsburgh.  Make sure it is a week where he takes on the Cowboys or gets into a track meet with New Orleans or Carolina.

Fantasy owners should not look to Cam Newton in 2011 and automatically assume RGIII will have the same or better numbers in 2012.  I’m not saying to skip on RGIII in your draft, I’m simply saying don’t draft him too high.  Cam Newton was going up against a terrible defense almost every week he played, that will not be the case with RGIII.  He is going to struggle and be inconsistent, which often turns into difficulty in determining whether to start him or not.

Play RGIII against the Cowboys, Vikings, Bucs, Saints, and Carolina, and you’ll most likely be treated to some great numbers.  But the overall season value could end up losing you too many games to make the playoffs if you role the dice and go for RGIII in one of the first few rounds. The position of quarterback is too deep to risk a rookie going against that schedule.  Good luck.


Projecting Peyton Manning

Projecting Peyton Manning


Ever since Jim Irsay released Peyton Manning the Internet has been devoted to all things “Peyton.”  A tearful goodbye, thanking the wonderful fans, pretending to still be friends with Irsay, Peyton has been all over the Internet.  But who cares?  I’m not a Colts fan.  I’m not even particularly that fond of Peyton Manning.  My allegiances, love, hopes, and fears lie squarely within the world of Fantasy Football.  The only things I care about are: (1) what team is Peyton Manning is going to play for, (2) should I draft the P. Mann, and (3) if I do target Manning in my draft, how high should I draft him?

My mind is going to explode from information overload!  This Peyton Manning drama is going to cause me to lose sleep, I can feel it.  Should I draft Peyton in the second round?  Can I get a steal in the later rounds?  It’s only March but I’m already freaking out!  Enough!  It is time for answers based on sound analysis, statistics, and reasoning.  Let’s discover together what to do with Peyton Manning.

What team is Peyton going to play for in 2012?

Several teams are popping up as possible landing destinations for Manning’s laser rocket arm and old lady neck.  Here are the favorites: Washington Redskins, KC Chiefs, Miami Dolphins, Arizona Cardinals, Seattle Seahawks, Houston Texans, San Francisco 49ers, and Denver Broncos.

Time to project a winner:

San Francisco 49ers:  The San Francisco 49ers just played in the NFC Championship game and only lost because a couple of fumbled punts, not because of Alex Smith.  While Manning would be an upgrade over Alex Smith, I don’t see the 49ers dismissing a younger and improving Smith over a 35 year-old Manning coming off 4,000 neck surgeries.  Plus, the 49ers have already expressed publically that they are not interested in signing Peyton Manning.

Denver Broncos:  The Broncos belong to Tim Tebow unless someone pays for a billboard demanding for Peyton Manning to be signed in Denver.  The Broncos have the cap room to sign Manning, but signing a veteran with only 3 valuable years left doesn’t make sense for a rebuilding team.

Washington RedskinsThe Redskins are terrible.  The running game is a mess, the wide receiver position is a mess, Mike Shanahan is crazy, and Peyton is not going to go to Washington and finish 6-10 for 3 years.  The team is simply too horrible.  I expect Washington to rebuild through the draft.  Their team is not a Peyton Manning away from being competitive. 

Houston Texans

This would be amazing.  Having Manning throw passes to Andre Johnson and Arian Foster catching balls in the flat would be heaven for fantasy owners.  Unfortunately, the Texans have already publically stated they will not be pursuing Peyton Manning.  Schaub only has 1 year left on his contract and is coming off a season ending injury.  I think this team is a Peyton Manning away from winning the AFC, but I won’t waste time since they have already said they will not sign Manning.

Arizona Cardinals

Only a few years removed from losing in the Super Bowl to Pittsburgh, Arizona could be a good destination for Manning.  Obviously the presence of Larry Fitzgerald is a big motivator, as he remains one of the top receivers in the NFL with a similar work ethic to Manning.  I think Arizona has the second best chance of landing Manning.

And the winner is…the Miami Dolphins

Miami Dolphins 

ESPN has reported that Peyton Manning will hold a press conference at the Boys and Girls Club in Connecticut to announce where he will be signing.  Unfortunately for Miami citizens, he will be taking his talents to South Beach…there’s a difference.  Miami is not South Beach, at least according to LeBron.  Losers live in Miami.  LeBron lives in South Beach, and Peyton will join him.

Peyton Manning to the Dolphins would have interesting fantasy implications.  It also seems probable with a few random factors playing in Miami / South Beach’s favor.  Manning has a home in Miami and he is a good friend of LeBron James Dan Marino.  Manning has also been working out with Reggie Wayne in Miami over the last month or two.  Furthermore, Miami has Jake Thomas to help protect Manning from being hit.  Miami is the favorite to land Manning.

Fantasy Implications

In 2011, the Chad Henne and Matt Moore split time under center.  Henne started off the season hot, finding himself in a throw down against Tom Brady where each quarterback threw for over 400 yards.  Unfortunately, on October 2 the San Diego Chargers separated Henne’s left should and put him on IR for the remainder of the season.

Matt Moore stepped in and threw for 16 touchdowns, 9 interceptions, 2,497 yards, completing 210 passes on 347 attempts for 60%. 

Matt Moore and Chad Henne combined for 274 completions on 459 attempts for 59%.  The two quarterbacks combined to throw for 3,365 yards, 20 touchdowns, and 13 interceptions.

In Peyton Manning’s worst year as a professional quarterback, his 1998 rookie campaign, he had the following stats: 326 completions on 575 attempts for 57%.  He threw for 3,739 yards, 26 touchdowns and 28 interceptions.  Other than the interceptions, Manning’s worst year is already better than the Dolphins passing duo from 2011.  Here they are in a more comparable format:

Henne & Moore Season Totals – 3,365 yards, 20 touchdowns, 13 interceptions, 274 completions, 459 attempts, 12 yards per completion, and 59%

Henne & Moore Per Game Averages – 210 yards per game, 1.25 touchdowns per game, less than 1 interception, 17 completions, 28 attempts, and 60%.

1998 Peyton Manning – 3,739, 26 touchdowns, 28 interceptions, 326 completions, 575 attempts, 11.6 yards per completion, and 57%

Peyton Manning Career Totals – 54,828 total yards, 399 touchdowns, 198 interceptions, 4,682 completions, 7,210 attempts, and 65% completion

Peyton Manning Career Season Averages – 4,217 yards, 30 touchdowns, 15 interceptions, 360 completions, 554 attempts, and 65%

Peyton Manning Career Per Game Averages – 264 yards per game, about 2 touchdowns per game, about 1 interception, 22 completions, 35 attempts, and 63%.

The question to ask yourself is how much better can Peyton Manning do than Chad Henne and Matt Moore.  In Peyton Manning’s worst year as professional he threw for 374 more yards, and 8 more touchdowns, with a team that barely made the win column.

Fantasy Projections with Miami:

If Peyton Manning can stay healthy, he should be able to hit his career averages or perhaps just below.  He will have plenty of weapons in Miami with Brandon Marshall (who caught 81 passes in 2011), Davone Bess, TE Anthony Fasano, Reggie Bush as a receiving threat, and a rushing attack that includes Bush and Devon Thomas. 

Despite the weapons, Manning will more than likely start slow.  In 2008, Manning had surgery to remove an infected bursa sac in his left knee.  Manning missed all 4 pre-season games and all of training camp with the injury.  The Colts started 2-2 and Manning threw 5 touchdowns and 5 interceptions in those three games.  It will come as a surprise to no one if Manning has below average numbers for his first 4 or 5 starts. 

Manning played all 16 games and finished the 2008 season with 4,002 yards passing, 27 touchdowns, 12 interceptions, 371 completions on 555 attempts for 67%. 

2012 Peyton Manning as a Dolphin Season Projection:

352 completions / 561 attempts / 62% / 4,050 yards / 27 TDs / 16 INTs

2012 Peyton Manning as a Dolphin Per Game Projection:

22 / 35 / 62% / 253 yards per game / 1-2 TDs / 1 INT

I’m assuming the first 4 to 5 games will be closer to 1998 or 2008 numbers, but like in 2008, Manning should pick it up as long as he stays healthy.

The Dolphins should give him plenty of passing attempts, heck they let Matt Moore and Chad Henne throw the ball 459 times. Plus, Manning will more than likely have control of the offensive play calling so he will call his own number frequently.  You might want to draft Manning and wait and see for the first 3 to 4 games, but he could be what pushes you over the edge when it comes to the final weeks of the season, especially in a 2 QB league.

In an ESPN standard scoring league, that would get you about around 18 points per game for the season.  As a Dolphin, Manning would be the top of the second tier of quarterbacks.  I don’t see him surpassing Rodgers, Brees, Brady, or Stafford.  But if you decide to go running back in the first round and receiver in the second, Manning might be a steal in the third or fourth round.  Of course, you are gambling on health.


Manning should get you anywhere from 17-19 points per game and probably have a couple memorable games as the Dolphins play St. Louis, Buffalo, and New England at home, all potential high scoring games for Miami.  But in the first few weeks of the season he may disappoint with interceptions costing fantasy owners too many points.

I actually think Manning to Miami has a bigger fantasy impact on the players already wearing a Dolphin.  Bush would definitely increase in fantasy value, especially in a PPR league.  And Marshall should be a top receiver again in 2012 with Manning having a tract record of allowing one receiver put up huge numbers (Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne).

Draft Anthony Fasano

Here is my first sleeper suggestion, Anthony Fasano. Dwight Clark of course has torched defenses since Manning went under center for the Colts, but do you remember a player named Jacob Tamme?  No one had ever heard of this guy until Clark went out with an injury in 2010.  He went on to have 67 receptions for over 660 yards and 4 touchdowns.  Fasano is a talented Tight End whose numbers could double in 2012.  Expect around 60 receptions 850 yards receiving and 8-10 touchdowns if Manning plays all 16 in 2012.

Can the Quarterback Get some Love?

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Don’t forget to check out Fantastic Stat’s previous article: Don’t Draft #1…

Since I began playing fantasy football the running back has been advertised as the most important position on any fantasy team.  Almost every expert mock draft I read has its first round almost entirely devoted to running backs.  As a young and upcoming fantasy football owner, I bought into the hype.  I felt that if I did not draft a running back in the first round I would never win my league.  But I have decided to use my own mind, do a little research, and see why the experts want you to draft running backs with your most important picks.  The results have changed my mind, and it should change yours too.

The most common argument in favor of drafting running backs is that they receive the most opportunities to score fantasy points.  Traditionally, NFL teams would acquire one workhorse running back and let him “tote the rock” at least 20 times per game. But the NFL has evolved over the years and this is no longer the case.  The modern NFL team subscribes to the running back by committee theory, and because of this, the position of running back has become specialized.  There is the goal line back, the 3rd down back, the receiving back, the change of pace back, the 4th quarter back, and the list goes on and on.  An NFL team with one main running back is a rarity and should be cherished.

Take for example the Dallas Cowboys.  In 2008, Cowboys General Manager Jerry Jones used the 14th overall draft pick to acquire Arkansas running back Felix Jones despite recently signing Marion Barber III to a big contract to be the feature back.  Jones publically stated that Felix Jones was a great complement to Barber and the two together would help the Cowboys rushing attack.  The Cowboys believed Jones could be a “change of pace” back that allowed Barber to rest so he could finish games in the 4th quarter.  Jerry Jones’ draft plan is a good example of how general managers are attempting to specialize the roles of their running backs.

In 2010, the Miami Dolphins also used a running back by committee attack when they had Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown.  The Dolphins split carries between the two backs with Brown rushing for 734 yards on 200 attempts and Williams rushing for 673 yards on 159 attempts.  If you are a fantasy owner of either player, your points were cut in half.

The New York Giants have also utilized a running back by committee attack.  In 2011 Ahmad Bradshaw rushed for 659 yards and 9 touchdowns on 171 attempts, Brandon Jacobs rushed for 571 yards and 7 touchdowns on 152 attempts, and DJ Ware rushed for 163 yards on 43 attempts.

Other recent RB committee examples include:

2010 New York Jets – LaDanian Tomlinson (219) and Shonn Greene (185)

2011 Washington Redskins – Roy Helu (151), Tim Hightower (84), and Ryan Torain (200)

2011 New Orleans Saints – Mark Ingram (122), Pierre Thomas (110), Darren Sproles (87), and Chris Ivory (79)

2011 Carolina Panthers – DeAngelo Williams (155) and Jonathan Stewart (142)

2009 Carolina Panthers – Jonathan Stewart (221) and DeAngelo Williams (216)

2011 San Diego Charges – Ryan Matthews (221) and Mike Tolbert (121)

Because of the “committee” it is becoming more and more difficult for fantasy owners to project whether a running back will get the necessary touches to score a decent amount of points.  At any minute your running back could be substituted for the other horse in the stable just before a scoring play, which is why fantasy owners hate Mike Shanahan.  Too many fantasy owners are victims of this “running back by committee” trend, and I believe it must be stopped.  The NFL has evolved from a “ground and pound” league to one that is much more pass friendly, and teams are adjusting their offensive playbooks accordingly.  If a team is going to allow its quarterback to throw over 35 times a game, why are we not drafting quarterbacks with our most important picks?  The quarterback is now the most important position in fantasy football, not the running back.  If you don’t have a great quarterback, get ready for a frustrating year.

Quality Attempts

A lot of fantasy football projections are based on attempts.  The theory being that if a player is given multiple attempts to make a positive play; your chances of scoring as a fantasy owner are much higher.  The theory is simple and overall is correct.  But the problem is that simply evaluating a player’s total number of attempts is not the correct test.  Fantasy owners need to start paying attention to the quality of the attempts the player is receiving.

Too many experts still believe the running back gets the most “quality” attempts.  The running back by committee offensive scheme is diluting the quality of the attempts each running back receives in almost every situation.  With two or three quality running backs, the carries get split, and no one knows when your player will be holding the clipboard instead of celebrating in the endzone.  The NFL has evolved, and it is the quarterback, not the running back, who will receive the greatest number of “quality attempts” for your fantasy team.  The following statistical analysis should convince you to concentrate on drafting a great quarterback in the upcoming season.

In 2011, 34 quarterbacks averaged at least 14 pass attempts per game for their respective team.  Those 34 quarterbacks combined for the following results:

Attempts: 15,105

Completions: 9,143

Completion %: 60

Yards passing: 110,225

Touchdowns: 667

Interceptions: 425

Sacks: 985

In 2011, the top 34 running backs combined for the following results:

Attempts: 7,230

Yards rushing: 31,442

Touchdowns: 222

Fumbles: 64

At first glance, it may be surprising for you to realize the significant difference between the quarterbacks’ passing attempts and the running backs’ rushing attempts.  34 quarterbacks had 7,875 more attempts than the top 34 running backs.

Obviously, all of the pass attempts do not equate to fantasy points.  A pass attempt on its own is not a quality attempt. That’s why for years the running back has been considered more important.  Every time the running back touches the ball he could potentially score fantasy points.  Every time the quarterback drops back to pass, there may be an incompletion, sack, fumble, etc.

The most important comparison to pay attention to is the quarterbacks’ completions verses rushing attempts.  A completion is guaranteed to build an owner points, just like a rushing attempt.  Therefore, fantasy owners need to determine whether the passing completion or rushing attempt will result in more fantasy points.  I argue that the passing completion is the better way to go.  Let’s dive into some more stats…

Over a 16 game season, quarterbacks averaged about 12 yards per completion at a 60% completion rate.  Those 34 quarterbacks together also averaged to throw for at least 1 touchdown per game.  That means to score 1 fantasy point the average NFL quarterback would have to throw about 5 passes.[1]  Theoretically, you will get 1 fantasy point for every 5 passes the average quarterback throws.

On the other hand, the top 34 running backs together averaged 4.3 yards per rushing attempt and less than 1 touchdown per game.  Therefore, your running back would score 1 fantasy point for every 3 rushes.

Under a typically utilized standard scoring method, a quarterback receives 1 point for every 25 yards thrown and 4 points per passing touchdown.  A running back receives 1 point for every 10 yards rushing and 6 points per rushing touchdown.

For a running back to receive 20 fantasy points from rushing, he would need to either:

(1) Rush for 140 yards and 1 touchdown,

(2) Rush for 80 yards and 2 touchdowns, or

(3) Rush for 20 yards and 3 touchdowns.

Don’t forget, running backs average 4.3 yards per carry, that means a running back would need about 32 rushing attempts to get 140 yards.  What running back in the NFL today gets close to 32 rushing attempts on a weekly basis?  And if he does, how is he going to survive all the way to week 16 when you need your first round draft pick in the playoffs?

On the other hand, quarterbacks averaging a 60% completion rate and 12 yards per pass need either of following stat lines to score 20 points:

(1) 25/41, 300 yards, and 2 touchdowns, or

(2) 17/28, 200 yards, 3 touchdowns.

Which one of these hypothetical stat lines do you think is more likely to happen from a first round draft pick?

25/41 for 300 yards passing, 2 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions

17/28 for 200 yards passing, 3 touchdowns and 0 interceptions

30/49 for 360 yards passing, 2 touchdowns, and 1 interception


32 rushing attempts for 140 yards rushing, 1 touchdown, and 0 fumbles

19 rushing attempts for 83 yards rushing, 2 touchdowns, and 0 fumbles

24 rushing attempts for 103 yards rushing, 2 touchdowns and 1 fumble

Do you think Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, or Drew Brees could average 300 yards passing, 60% completions, and 2 touchdowns for a season?  Or do you think Arian Foster, Adrian Peterson, Maurice Jones-Drew, or Chris Johnson will receive over 20 rushing attempts per game, and average well over 100 yards rushing, score multiple touchdowns all while limiting their fumbling?  That is the question to ask yourself.

With a high draft pick, you must be confident that your running back will (A) receive enough rushing attempts to get over 100 yards, (B) does not have another running back who will take away touchdowns, and (C) can last an entire season rushing the ball over 20 times a game.  With the evolution of football leaning towards providing benefits towards a passing offense, the answer is simple; draft a quarterback in the first round.

Still need further proof?  By looking at the top quarterbacks and running backs stats, you can see that it is more likely that a quarterback will be able to average the necessary statistics to reach over 20 fantasy points per game for your team.  See what the top quarterbacks and running backs have averaged over the last few seasons in the statistics given below.  You’ll notice that the top quarterbacks in 2011 were able to average the necessary statistics to score 20 points per game, as analyzed above.

Top 5 quarterbacks 2011 Per Game Averages:

 (1) Drew Brees – 29 / 41, 342 yards, 2.5 touchdowns, and less than 1 INT

(2) Tom Brady – 26 / 38, 327 yards, 2.4 touchdowns, and less than 1 INT

(3) Aaron Rodgers – 23 / 33, 309 yards, 3 touchdowns, and less than 1 INT

(4) Matthew Stafford – 26 / 41, 314 yards, 2.5 touchdowns, and less than 1 INT

(5) Tony Romo – 21 / 32, 261 yards, 2 touchdowns per game, and less than 1 INT

The top 5 quarterbacks of 2011 together averaged: 25 / 37, 310 yards passing, 2 touchdowns, and less than 1 INT.  Under a standard scoring method that would equate to about 21 fantasy points per game.

Top 5 running backs 2011 Per Game Averages:

(1) Maurice Jones-Drew – 21 attempts, 100 yards, and scored 8 TDs in 16 games

(2) Arian Foster – 21 attempts, 94 yards, and scored 10 TDs in 13 games

(3) Marshawn Lynch – 19 attempts, 80 yards, and scored 12 TDs in 15 games

(4) Fred Jackson – 17 attempts, 93 yards, and scored 6 TDs in 10 games

(5) Ray Rice – 18 attempts, 85 yards, and scored 12 TDs in 16 games

Only 1 running back averaged over 100 yards per game in 2011 and only 2 running backs averaged over 20 rushing attempts per game.

The Evolution of the Rushing Attack

As a point of comparison, look at a list of stats from 2004 through 2012 to see how running backs rushing attempts have decreased and consequently, their value has decreased in fantasy football.


*  12 running backs averaged 20 or more rushing attempts per game

*  5 running backs averaged over 100 rushing yards per game

*  10 running backs had at least 12 touchdowns


*  11 running backs averaged 20 or more rushing attempts per game

4 running backs averaged over 100 rushing yards per game

8 running backs had at least 12 or more touchdowns


*  9 running backs averaged 20 or more rushing attempts per game

*  4 running backs averaged over 100 rushing yards per game

*  8 running backs had at least 12 or more touchdowns


*  4 running backs averaged 20 or more rushing attempts per game

*  0 running backs averaged over 100 rushing yards per game

*  3 running backs had at least 12 or more touchdowns


*  4 running backs averaged 20 or more rushing attempts per game

*  2 running backs averaged over 100 rushing yards per game

*  6 running backs had at least 12 or more touchdowns


*  4 running backs averaged 20 or more rushing attempts per game

*  1 running back averaged over 100 rushing yards per game

*  6 running backs had at least 12 or more touchdowns


*  6 running backs averaged 20 or more rushing attempts per game

*  1 running back averaged over 100 rushing yards per game

*  5 running backs had at least 12 or more touchdowns


*  2 running backs averaged 20 or more rushing attempts per game

*  1 running back averaged over 100 rushing yards per game

*  4 running backs had at least 12 or more touchdowns

The difference between 2004 and 2012 is pretty big in all 3 categories.  In only 8 years, the number of running backs averaging at least 20 rushing attempts per game dropped from 12 to 2.  Although there is a steady decline over the years, the “transition year” seems to be 2007.  The NFL has evolved.  Teams simply are not running the ball with one running primary running back as much as they did a few years ago and fantasy owners should adjust their strategies accordingly.

Hindsight is 20/20

So you have read the averages and hypotheticals above and you still want to draft a running back with your top draft pick?  There is just something about drafting a running back that makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside.  Having the words “Adrian Peterson” or “LeSean McCoy” come out of your mouth just warms your soul.  You enjoy when your friends all pat you on the back and say, “That’s a good pick, you’ll be happy with him in your lineup.”

Well, allow me to re-introduce you to a wise little cliché…hindsight is 20/20.  I actually find that cliché to be pretty annoying because somebody always manages to say it to you right after you realize you did something stupid.   Hindsight truly is 20/20 because we can re-evaluate our prior decisions knowing all of the facts necessary to make the perfect choice.  Thanks to science totally sucking and failing to invent a time machine, we can’t do anything about our wrong choice.[2]  Take a look at the ESPN Projections for the following seasons and notice the amount of running backs projecting to be incredible and how many quarterbacks actually dominated that season.

2011 ESPN Projections:

(1) Adrian Peterson – RB – MIN

(2) Chris Johnson – RB – TEN

(3) Jamaal Charles – RB – KC

(4) Arian Foster – RB – HOU

(5) Ray Rice – RB – BAL

(6) LeSean McCoy – RB – PHI

(7) Aaron Rodgers – QB – GB

(8) Maurice Jones-Drew – RB – JAC

(9) Andre Johnson – WR – HOU

(10) Michael Vick – QB – PHI

According to ESPN, 7 out of the first 10 picks in your draft should be running backs, including the first 6 overall.  Want to know how the quarterbacks did in 2011?  Take a look below.

2011 ESPN Standard League Scoring Leaders:

(1) Aaron Rodgers – QB – GB

(2) Drew Brees – QB – NO

(3) Tom Brady – QB – NE

(4) Cam Newton – QB – CAR

(5) Matthew Stafford – QB – DET

(6) Ray Rice – RB – BAL

(7) Eli Manning – QB – NYG

(8) LeSean McCoy – RB – PHI

(9) Tony Romo – QB – DAL

(10) Matt Ryan – QB – ATL

What do you know?  8 out of the top 10 fantasy players in 2011 were quarterbacks.  Still want to draft a running back with your second overall pick?  I wouldn’t if I were you.  The running back position is too diluted by the running back by committee scheme for most of the running backs to receive enough quality attempts to score major fantasy points.  It is now the quarterback who receives the majority of the quality attempts and consequently, the most points.  Take a look at 2010.

2010 ESPN Projections:

(1) Chris Johnson – RB – TEN

(2) Adrian Peterson – RB – MIN

(3) Maurice Jones-Drew – RB – JAC

(4) Ray Rice – RB – BAL

(5) Steven Jackson – STL

(6) Frank Gore – RB – SF

(7) Andre Johnson – WR – HOU

(8) Michael Turner – RB – ATL

(9) Drew Brees – QB – NO

(10) Randy Moss – WR – TEN[3]

2010 ESPN Scoring Leaders:

(1) Arian Foster – RB – HOU

(2) Michael Vick – QB – GB

(3) Aaron Rodgers – QB – GB

(4) Tom Brady – QB – NE

(5) Peyton Manning – QB – IND

(6) Philip Rivers – QB – SD

(7) Drew Brees – QB – NO

(8) Josh Freeman – QB – TB

(9) Matt Ryan – QB – ATL

(10) Matt Schaub – QB – HOU

Alas, 9 of the top 10 scoring leaders for the 2010 season were quarterbacks.  That means in the last two fantasy seasons under ESPN standard scoring, 17 of the top 20 fantasy players have been quarterbacks.  In two years, only 3 times has a running back cracked the top 10 in fantasy scoring on ESPN.

If you look at the big picture, it only gets worse for the running backs.  Do you know how many running backs finished in the top 50 (yes, 50) in scoring in ESPN Standard Leagues in 2011?  15!  Did you read that last number?  If you didn’t, it was 15.  Out of the top 50 players in ESPN standard leagues only 15 running backs managed to crack the top 50!  In 2010 it was the exact same situation.  Out of the top 50 players in 2010, only 15 were running backs.  On the other hand, in 2010 21 quarterbacks made the top 50 fantasy player list.  And in 2011, 19 quarterbacks were listed in the top 50.

In sum, running backs have only cracked the top 10 in fantasy scoring 3 times in two years.  Quarterbacks have occupied the top 10 17 times over the last two seasons.  The game of football is evolving, and fantasy football should as well.

What Have We Learned?

First, when the world tells you that at least 7 to 8 running backs will lead your league in scoring, don’t believe it.  At least two years of stats show that quarterbacks, not running backs, dominate the top tier of fantasy scoring.  It is safe to assume at least 4 or 5 quarterbacks will be in the top 10 of scoring by the end of your league’s Super Bowl.

Second, there is a significant lack of depth in dominant running backs, which brings me back to my original point.  With teams beginning to pass more often, and offensive coordinators moving towards a running back by committee rushing attack, a single prolific running back is becoming a thing of the past.  Once the elite running backs have been taken, usually the top two or three, there will be a significant downfall in terms of fantasy production at that position.  The position of quarterback is deeper and produces more fantasy points than the running back in the modern NFL.  Therefore, it is a smart and safer choice to draft a quarterback with a high draft pick.  But if you feel like being risky, go for a running back, but just don’t complain to me when your team is demolished.

Third, the best quarterbacks are much more consistent than the “best” running backs.   Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Tom Brady, and Matt Ryan all finished in the top 10 in points scored in both 2010 and 2011.  There were no running backs to repeat in the top 10 between 2010 and 2011.  In fact, Arian Foster, who was the number one overall fantasy player in 2010, was not even in ESPN’s top 50 for projections that year.  Just another example of how difficult the running back position can be to predict.  Consequently, your chances of missing on drafting a quarterback are much lower than when drafting a running back.  There is nothing that can be considered a “sure thing” in fantasy football.  But if you are going to attempt to label a position as close to “guaranteed” as possible, it must be the quarterback.  Nothing is more frustrating than wasting your first round draft pick on a player who doesn’t put up great numbers consistently throughout the season.  Your chances of acquiring a great player are better if you draft a quarterback.

Fourth, you should value a versatile running back more than a player whose primary skill is simply rushing.  With running backs receiving less and less rushing attempts, and quarterbacks passing attempts on the rise, the running back who can also come out of the backfield and catch should be valued higher than a more traditional running back.  To make up for the lack of rushing attempts, you need receiving attempts.  Make sure that if you take a running back in the first round, that he is not going to get substituted on a passing down because he cannot catch or run satisfactory routes.  Arian Foster has the ability to run and catch making him arguably the best fantasy running back in 2010 and 2011 (despite a knee injury)

Fifth, running backs who may be too small or lack the necessary skills to carry the ball between the tackles but have the ability to run routes, catch, and make positive players in the open field have increased their value.  3 years ago it would have been laughable to say that Darren Sproles can score as many points as Adrian Peterson but he is such an effective receiver that on any given Sunday he can outplay Peterson.

One Final Thing to Consider: Injury Risk

Quarterbacks get hurt less than running backs, that is a fact.  A missed first round draft pick can dramatically effect your season, but when your first rounder goes out for multiple weeks, or heaven forbid, the season, you can find yourself in last place.  In 2011 Jamaal Charles was a first round draft pick in almost every draft.  In the first week of the season Charles rushed for only 56 yards on 10 carries against Buffalo.  In week 2, Charles suffered an ACL injury against the Detroit Lions that ended his season.

Also in 2011, Adrian Peterson was projected by ESPN to be the top overall player.  With a high ankle sprain and a torn ACL and MCL, Peterson failed to reach 1,000 yards rushing for the first time in his career.  Other injuries to running backs include: Peyton Hillis (2011), Arian Foster (2011), Matt Forte (2011), DeMarco Murray (2011), Felix Jones (every season), Darren McFadden (every season), Ronnie Brown (2010), Rashard Mendenhall (2010), and the list goes on.

Of course Quarterbacks also get injured, no one is denying that.  Tom Brady only played for half a quarter in 2008 thanks to Bernard Pollard of the Kansas City Chiefs tearing both is ACL and MCL.  The most notorious quarterback to fall on the DL is Michael Vick.  Being the mobile quarterback that he is, Vick is often injured and has been every season since his return from prison.  But the traditional pocket passing quarterback rarely suffers a season ending injury.  The risk is much lower for a quarterback than a running back.  Brett Favre holds the record for most games consecutively played at 321 (including playoffs).  21 players trail behind Favre for the most consecutive games played and they are all quarterbacks, not running backs.  Drafting a quarterback is simply safer than drafting a running back.

[1] 3/5 passing equals 60% completion and with 12 yards per completion, 3 x 12 equals 24 passing yards…a receiver can get at least 1 YAC

[2] Seriously, it can’t be that hard, let’s travel some freaking time.  I mean, can you imagine a travel agent selling you on a vacation to Berlin in 1945?  How amazing would that be!  If you just thought that would be awesome, you failed History 101.

[3] This is just horrible…c’mon ESPN!  Randy Moss?  Are you serious?

Don’t Draft #1

Nothing is more frustrating than receiving false information regarding the upcoming fantasy football season.  When the phone rings and you realize it is the league commissioner with draft selection results, your heart skips a beat.  And when you pick up and say, “You’re a go for the owner of the Neverland Ranch Hands,” you know that the next piece of information will either change your life or shatter all of your life’s hopes and dreams.

Ok, perhaps draft selection results are not that dramatic in comparison to “real life.”[1]  But for those who appreciate the outward expressionist art that is fantasy football[2], it is really important.  Once you know where you are picking, a flood of players and statistics rush your mind.  Will Rodgers be available at 3?  Can I hold out for a quarterback until the third round or will I be stuck with a 97-year-old Donovan McNabb throwing ducks to terrible receivers in Minnesota?  The answer to those questions will determine your overall level of happiness from September through December.  As many wives and children know, being able to have a successful draft and ultimately a successful fantasy football season, can result in higher self-esteem, more happiness amongst a family, less divorce, and an increase in the population as a direct result of an increase in reproduction.

Back to my original point, nothing in this world or the next is more frustrating than receiving false information regarding fantasy football player projections because it is too important to mess up.  Every year around the end of August magazines, sports talk radio, podcasts, ESPN, blogs, and the Internet as a whole begin delivering projections for the upcoming fantasy season.  And of course, like any reasonable and prudent fantasy football owner, you start reading all of the information to determine who should be your first pick and testing your theories in mock drafts.  If you are the first overall pick in your draft, the pressure is even greater.  A new scientific study has proves that men with the number one overall pick suffer from increased heart risk during the two weeks leading up to their draft.[3]

Think I’m crazy for not liking the number one pick?  Allow me to change your mind and rock your world.  If you have the number one pick, presumptively you will have the best player in the entire fantasy football world.  Do you want to know your chances of actually selecting the best overall fantasy player in any given draft?  There are 32 teams in the NFL.  Each team is allowed to carry 53 players on the roster.  Consequently, you have a 1 in 1,696 chance of picking the best player for the upcoming season.  And if you really want to get technical, the odds are even worse in your favor.  Fantasy drafts are typically done during the pre-season where NFL teams are allowed to have 80 players on their roster.  Therefore, at the time of your draft you only have a 1 in 2,560 percent chance of picking that potential fantasy MVP (a .00039 % chance to be exact).

Sure, you probably aren’t debating between Arian Foster and the 80th man on the St. Louis Rams roster for your first pick of the draft.  But if there are 3 great quarterbacks, 3 great running backs, and 3 great wide receivers, you still only have a 1 in 9 chance of picking correctly.

The biggest problem is not necessarily who you select in the first round, but who you are able to select in all of the other rounds.  If you do enough research and planning you should be able to select a decent player with your number one overall pick.  But from the second round and beyond, you have to seriously be on your game because your choices will be limited.  Still like your number one pick?  If yes, I’m not done.

There are 3 reasons why I despise having the number one pick:

(1) The snake draft punishes you for having the number one pick and supposedly selecting the best player for the upcoming season.  When I pick number one, I don’t get to choose another player until the end of the second round and I hate watching all those players drop off the board.  With every great running back, quarterback, and wide receiver selected, I get more and more nervous about my pick.

(2) There is too much risk of injury or lack of performance that could ruin your season because of the lack of depth on your team as a result of selecting first.  If the player you selected number one overall gets injured and is out for the season, your second best player is someone you selected with the last pick the second round.  If you are in a 10 team league, that would mean that you would lose your number pick, replace him with a free agent who was not good enough to get drafted, and your second best player would have been selected at 20th overall.  Hypothetically, the top 6 quarterbacks, 6 running backs, and 6 wide receivers are all gone.  If you lose number one or he ends up having a down year, your second best player on your team is the only the 7th best at his position.  Sure, the number one pick could put together an all-time great fantasy season, but if you’re wrong, you better hope that you are perfect on all your other picks.

(3) The difference between the number one pick and other first round picks is not great enough to justify selecting first.  If I have to forfeit all of my potential picks until the end of the second round, my first overall draft pick better dominate people to make up for it.  But year in and year out the best player in fantasy football is not far enough ahead of the rest of the pack to make a big enough difference.  And that’s taking for granted that you actually selected the best player with your first pick.

For example, Arian Foster led ESPN standard leagues with 313 total points scored averaging about 20 a game for 16 games.  In second place was Michael Vick who had 300 points but averaged 25 points per game (only played 12 games).  In third place was Aaron Rodgers with 298 points averaging 19 points per game (he only played 15 games).  And in tenth place was Matt Schaub with 237 points averaging 14 points per game.  In sum, the difference between your first overall pick and the very last pick of a 10 team draft is a total of 76 points and 6 points per game.

Of even more concern is that the person who selected 10th now gets to select again at 11.  The 11th best player in 2010 was Adrian Peterson with 232 points.  The 20th best player in 2010, who you could hypothetically draft, was Darren McFadden who had a total of 208 points.  In sum, if all the chips fall perfectly into place and you manage to select the first and 20th best players in 2010, you would end up with Arian Foster and Darren McFadden who combined to score 521 total points.  Your friend who drafted last in the 2010 draft ended up with Matt Schaub and Adrian Peterson who combined to score 469 points, a difference of only 52 total points.  Averaged out over the course of a 16 week season and you would have about 3 points more per game than the guy who selected last in your draft.

(4) The need to select a great player at number one prohibits your ability to draft a high risk / high reward player later in the draft.  With the pressure of the number one pick, you are less likely to take the risks that are necessary to win a championship.  In my opinion, the best way to win your league’s Super Bowl is to draft the player that no one saw coming (easier said than done).  I won my league in 2010 because I drafted Arian Foster in the fourth round before anyone knew who he was.  I got Aaron Rodgers in the first round and then later acquired the MVP of 2010 three rounds later.  That’s how you win championships.  If you are picking first you aren’t thinking risk, you are thinking safety.

In 2011, I was bestowed with the number 1 overall draft pick in my 8 team league.  I knew that if I swung and missed on number one I’d be stuck with misery and failure.  I MUST pick correctly and that player MUST stay healthy for the entire season or as mentioned above, my entire life would fall apart around me.  So what did I do?  Did I take a chance with a quarterback or a top notch wide receiver in a PPR league?  Nope.  I did what every magazine and podcast told me, I drafted Adrian Peterson.  I never thought Peterson would outscore everyone or average 30 points per game.  Peterson was safe.  I thought that I’d at least have a good running back and I’d fill in the rest of my roster around him.

What happened?  Adrian Peterson ended up getting injured and scoring the same amount of points as Cowboys wide receiver Laurent Robinson and less points than St. Tim Tebow who didn’t even play the whole season.  It was terrible.  What made it even worse was by the time I got to pick again, I remind you in an 8-team league, the list of players to choose from was extremely frustrating.  The players drafted by my second pick were: Aaron Rodgers, Arian Foster, Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Tony Romo, Calvin Johnson, Andre Johnson, Ray Rice, Philip Rivers, Michael Vick, and the list goes on.  I ended up finishing third in my league because I drafted Matthew Stafford and picked up Tebow and Victor Cruz, but the entire season was a struggle.  I did not have the luxury that the number one pick should have given me.  The luxury of one player scoring 25-30 points every week so other players could struggle and I’d still be competitive.  (By the way, in 2010 I won my league…drafting 5th).

In conclusion, having the first overall pick can be exciting and could possibly land you a great player, maybe the greatest player.  Hypothetically, you should win your league if you have the MVP for all 16 games.  But when you take into consideration how detrimental an injury is, the risk of selecting incorrectly, missing an opportunity from playing it too safe, drafting last in the second, fourth, and subsequent rounds of the draft, and the fact that your first pick might not be substantially better than the tenth, really makes drafting first more stress than it is worth.

So what is the solution?  If you agree with me and decide that the number one pick is not worth it, I have an idea.  I can guarantee you that at least one person in your league desperately wants the number one pick.  It just sounds sexy to say, “I have the number one pick.”  It makes people feel warm and fuzzy inside and it’s often used by men as a pick up line on women (probably not successfully).  But after reading this you know better.  You know your happiness is too valuable to stay put at number one in the draft.

Here’s your solution.  I would find the person in your league who really wants that number one pick and trade him.  Yes, trade your number one pick.  Here’s how the trade works.  Let’s say your friend has the 6th pick in your league.  You offer him your first overall pick for his 6th pick and his 6th pick in another round, maybe the fourth, fifth, or even sixth.  When your friend’s turn comes up in the later round, you draft where he would have and he doesn’t draft a player in that round.  To complete his roster.  He selects a player after the draft is finished from the undrafted players.  It’s genius, and you know it.

You can easily sucker your friends into doing this.  They end up with the number one pick.  But you would end up with the 6th pick in round 1, and the 6th and 10th pick in round 4 of a 10 team league.  That would give you 5 players in the top 40.  It’s brilliant!  With that many quality players on your roster, if one gets hurt your team is deep enough to withstand the effect.  Furthermore, you can afford to be risky with two picks in one round and take a flyer on a player or rookie who could completely change your season.  All the problems and risks associated with drafting number one are avoided and you will be set up for success in the upcoming year.  If you can find someone who will trade picks, do it.  You’ll thank me later.

[1] Don’t let outsiders belittle you.  Fantasy football is real life!  It is NOT dungeons and dragons for football fans!

[2] I don’t know what “expressionist” means and I probably made it up

[3] Again, I completely made that up, but I’m pretty sure it’s true.