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100 facts for the 2017 fantasy football season

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Draft strategy: Bell or Johnson No. 1? (1:22)

Matthew Berry, Stephania Bell and Field Yates discuss which player they would draft with the first overall pick in their fantasy drafts, Pittsburgh's Le'Veon Bell or Arizona's David Johnson. (1:22)

So let's start with an easy one. Tell me which of these players you'd draft first this year:

"Player A" is coming off a breakout season in which, for the second half of it, he was a top-five fantasy wide receiver on a points-per-game basis and 12th in total points despite missing Week 17. Yes, the scoring was huge, but even more impressive was the consistency in that scoring. You couldn't keep this guy out of the end zone. He had a touchdown in six of his final eight games. He was a big play waiting to happen, with one of every seven receptions he had last season going for at least 30 yards. And that part wasn't just the second half. He finished the season seventh among NFL wide receivers in yards per reception, fourth in yards before first contact per reception, and first in yards after the catch per reception. It's easy to see why his quarterback targeted him so much: He was one of only five qualified wide receivers (at least 30 receptions) to have zero drops last season. He scored 2.51 fantasy points per target, better than the 2.13 fantasy points per target Antonio Brown scored in his best season, 2014. Player A set career highs in touchdowns, fantasy points, receptions per game, total yards per game and first downs per game (QBs always like those guys who move the chains, don'tcha know). At age 26, entering his fourth NFL season, Player A is primed for another huge year.

Meanwhile, "Player B" can't stay healthy and can't score. "But other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how'd you enjoy the play?" Jokes aside, this wide receiver has played all 16 games only twice in his six-year NFL career, one of which was 2012. Player B is trending in the wrong direction. He actually had seven more CATCHES in 2015 than he had targets in 2016. Yeesh. He managed to play in 14 games last season, but not only did he tie a career low in touchdowns per game, there were 51 (51!) "flex" players who scored more touchdowns. And it wasn't just the scoring that was down, he had three-year lows in receptions, receiving yards, yards after the catch, receiving yards after contact, drop percentage, receiving first downs, routes run and, of course, fantasy points for both PPR and non-PPR. He just killed you in six games last season, including four games in which he had less than 40 receiving yards plus the two games he missed -- but if it makes you feel any better, it wasn't just fantasy teams he was hurting. He caught just 64 percent of his targets last season, compared with 71.3 percent for the rest of his NFL team. With so many stats at three-year lows and the fact that brittle body isn't getting any younger, let him be someone else's headache this year.

So, everything I just wrote about each player is 100 percent true. Now, which player do you want to draft higher this year?

Before you answer, let me give you one other fact about each guy:

Player A's name is Taylor Gabriel.

Player B's name is Julio Jones.

Yep. And with that, allow me to welcome you to the 2017 Fantasy Football season. As I have for well over a decade now, I always like to start the season off with my "100 Facts" column, because whether this is your first time reading me or very possibly your last, the point of this column is the most important one for anyone doing fantasy football research and preparing for their draft or auction.

Everything's a crock.

Look, not a total crock, but definitely at least a semi-crock. Which isn't a word, except I just used it in an ESPN.com article, so maybe it is.

As you start to read, listen and watch me and many others who do fantasy analysis, it's vital that you understand everything you read is opinion and nothing more.

Because facts can say anything you want them to. ANYTHING.

It was an extreme example, of course, with Gabriel and Jones, but the truth is that I can talk up or talk down any player I want, and all I have to do is choose the right stats. Or sometimes just ask ESPN Stats & Information or Kyle Soppe for some stats, as I did at various times while writing this column.

It's not to say those facts aren't well researched, well thought out or true. Just that they tell only part of the story, the story I want you to see. Because of time and space limitations, it's impossible to get a full picture on any one player. And even if I had unlimited time and space and you had unlimited time and patience, there will always be things we don't know. Is the WR having an affair with the QB's wife? Is he hiding an injury? Is he too worried about his contract year? Is he balling out for it? Is there a specific game plan by the defense that opens things up for our guy or keys on him? And so on. In any individual game, field conditions, game flow, groupings, schemes, coaching, penalties, whether all 10 other guys on the team do what they are supposed to on a play and then how the other 11 react to that play, coaching decisions and so much more can wildly swing something so that it's impossible to fully predict any one player's fantasy performance.

So we pick and choose. I crunch the numbers, I study the film, I call and text with a ton of team sources, I compare notes with my ESPN reporter and ex-player colleagues and then consider all the information I've gathered. Then I make a call. And then I show you the information that supports the conclusion I have come to. Realize there is very little in this world I am good at, but one thing I am fantastic at is manipulating numbers that support my conclusions. And as you watch, read and listen to me this year, know that I have done this. Every single time.

And I'm not alone. Everyone who gives any sort of opinion does that, be it in sports, entertainment or politics. And that's crucial to understand as you dive in. They might sound like facts, or X's and O's, or rock-solid coach quotes, but they are all really opinions, half-truths and partial pieces of a much larger story.

These days, getting information is not hard. The NFL -- and specifically, fantasy football -- has exploded beyond almost anyone's expectations. As such, there is a 24-hour, seven-days-a-week, 365-days-a-year news cycle available to you on whatever device you could possibly want.

So the trick becomes finding your way through all of it. Deciding what you think is "fake news" and what isn't. Deciding what you agree with and what you don't. Whom you trust, whose thinking aligns with yours, who legitimately makes you question and look at things differently, and who doesn't. Question everything and everyone, and then go from there, which is good advice in life, as well.

Everything you are about to read is a 100 percent fully vetted, can't be disputed, rock-solid, take it to the bank, stone-cold fact. Some are about players, some are about teams and not a damn one of them tells the whole story.

These are 100 facts you need to know before you draft. And what you do with them is entirely up to you.

1. Last season, Cam Newton averaged 16.95 points per game, which was 18.8 percent below his average from 2011 to 2015. He finished as QB17.

2. Of all the quarterbacks with at least 500 pass attempts in a season, Newton's completion rate of 52.9 percent in 2016 was the sixth worst in NFL history.

3. In 2017, the Panthers' offense will heavily feature two rookies and an offensive line that last season was bottom 10 in quarterback contact allowed. Carolina only added inconsistent Matt Kalil in free agency to the offensive line and might have to start a rookie if Michael Oher can't get healthy.

4. Since coming into the league in 2011, Newton has been contacted on 23 percent of his dropbacks, the highest rate in the league.

5. Last season, Newton suffered a concussion and tore his rotator cuff.

6. Last season, Newton had career lows in rushing attempts, rushing touchdowns and yards per rush.

7. More than one-third of Newton's passing fantasy points (34.8 percent, to be precise) came via the deep pass last season. Ted Ginn Jr., the team's top big-play threat in recent years, now is on the Saints.

8. Drew Brees now has nine straight seasons of 30-plus touchdown passes.

9. No other TEAM has done that.

10. From Weeks 5 to 12 last season, no player scored more fantasy points than Marcus Mariota.

11. For his NFL career, Mariota has 33 touchdown passes and zero interceptions in the red zone.

12. From 2012 to 2015, Eric Decker was third in the NFL in red zone receptions and second in red zone touchdowns.

13. In 2016, Kirk Cousins had at least 300 yards or at least two touchdowns 14 different times.

14. That's more than Matt Ryan or Andrew Luck and the same as Drew Brees.

15. Russell Wilson has 15 such games -- in the past two seasons combined.

16. Since Jay Gruden joined Washington as head coach in 2014, only the Saints, Falcons, Steelers and Patriots have more passing yards than the Washington Redskins.

17. In Derek Carr's rookie season for the Raiders, he completed 58.1 percent of his passes and finished with 192 fantasy points, ranking as QB20.

18. In Carr's second year, Oakland added rookie Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree. Carr raised his completion rate to 61.1 percent, and his fantasy point total increased to 271.28 points, a gain of 41 percent.

19. In Carson Wentz's rookie year, he completed 62.4 percent of his passes and finished with 213.98 fantasy points.

20. Last season, under first-year head coach and former NFL quarterback Doug Pederson, the Eagles were sixth in the NFL in pass attempts.

21. Last season, the Eagles dropped 31 passes, second most in the NFL, with a drop rate of 5.2 percent.

22. This offseason, the Eagles added Alshon Jeffery (career drop rate of 2.7 percent) and Torrey Smith (4.6 percent) to existing receiver Jordan Matthews and tight end Zach Ertz.

23. If Carson Wentz improves his fantasy point total by 41 percent, you're looking at just above 301 fantasy points, which last season would have been QB5.

24. As of June 22, Wentz is the 17th quarterback being drafted in ESPN standard leagues, going in the 13th round.

25. In the 13 seasons Ben Roethlisberger has been an NFL QB, he has played all 16 games just three times.

26. Last season, Roethlisberger had as many games with fewer than 190 passing yards as he did with more than 300 yards.

27. Over the past three years, Roethlisberger has averaged 70 fewer passing yards and two fewer touchdown passes per game and has a completion percentage three points lower when on the road.

28. Roethlisberger has averaged 13.71 fantasy points per game when on the road in that span, good for QB22.

29. He has had just one game of 25-plus fantasy points on the road in the past three years.

29a. That game happened in Week 14 of 2014.

29b. Some of the QBs who have a more recent game with 25-plus points on the road than Big Ben does: Geno Smith, Blaine Gabbert and Brock Osweiler.

30. Starting in 2010, here are the final finishes for Roethlisberger as a fantasy QB: 17th, 13th, 18th, 12th, 5th, 20th, 18th.

30a. As of June 22, he is being drafted as QB11 in ESPN live drafts.

31. Only one player in the NFL has at least 3,000 passing yards and at least 550 rushing yards in each of the past two seasons: Tyrod Taylor.

32. In fact, in that time frame, there are only two other quarterbacks to do it even once: Cam Newton and Russell Wilson, both in 2015.

33. During the past two years, Tyrod Taylor has rushed for at least 30 yards in 19 of 29 games.

33a. In the same time frame, Cam Newton has done it in 18 of 31 games.

33b. No other QB has done it more than 12 times.

34. Since the beginning of 2015, only Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees have more games with at least 15-plus fantasy points than ... Tyrod Taylor.

35. Over the past two years, Taylor has averaged 18.71 points per game, seventh-best in the NFL.

35a. In that same time frame, Russell Wilson has averaged 18.95.

35b. Also in that same time frame, Drew Brees has averaged 20.53, or 1.82 points a game more.

36. As of June 22, Taylor is going 19th among quarterbacks in ESPN live drafts.

36a. 19th!!

37. In the second half of last season, the Detroit Lions went 5-3 on the way to making the playoffs.

38. In the second half of last season, Detroit was 11th in average time of possession and averaged the third-most plays per drive.

39. In seven of his final 10 games last season, Matthew Stafford had zero or one touchdown passes.

40. Last season, in games 9-17, Stafford was the 19th-best QB in fantasy on a points-per-game basis, averaging 15.63 points a game.

40a. That's fewer than Alex Smith and Ryan Tannehill, among others.

41. This offseason, the Lions lost wide receiver Anquan Boldin, who had the second-most receptions and most receiving touchdowns, and gained no other significant pass catchers save for rookie third-rounder Kenny Golladay from Northern Illinois.

42. They did, however, gain studs Rick Wagner and T.J. Lang on the offensive line (among other moves), and they get running back Ameer Abdullah back from injury.

43. In his past 16 outdoor games, Stafford has averaged just 15.4 fantasy points a game, or what would have been QB21 last season.

44. In the final weeks of the 2017 season, the Lions will play at Baltimore in Week 13, at Tampa Bay in Week 14, home versus Chicago in Week 15 and at Cincinnati in Week 16.

45. In 2015, Marshawn Lynch played only seven games and finished the year as RB56.

46. He finished the season ranked 43rd out of 44 qualified runners in yards before first contact.

46a. Only Antonio Andrews was worse.

47. However, that same year, Lynch was ninth in rushing yards after first contact per carry and 57.3 percent of his rushing yards came after first contact (league average: 43.7 percent).

48. Last season, the Oakland Raiders were one of only six teams in the NFL to average at least 120 rushing yards per game. They were also top six in the NFL in rushing touchdowns.

49. Last season, despite missing two games and ranking outside the top 20 in yards per carry after first contact, Latavius Murray finished as the 13th-best RB in fantasy.

50. Murray is now on the Minnesota Vikings.

51. Three different times in his NFL career, Adrian Peterson has failed to gain 1,000 yards on the ground, including last season.

52. In the season after the previous two times he failed to gain 1,000 yards rushing, Peterson gained more than 1,400 yards.

53. Last year, the Minnesota Vikings' offensive line ranked 31st in yards per carry before first contact.

54. The Saints ranked sixth.

55. Frank Gore entered the 2015 season as a 32-year-old RB. In the two seasons since, his yards-per-carry rate has decreased by 15.9 percent, his yards per game has dropped by 15.9 percent and his touchdowns per game by 3.8 percent from his career averages.

56. If 32-year-old Peterson follows that same career trajectory and plays 16 games in 2017: 1,498 total yards and 12.8 touchdowns.

56a. Melvin Gordon was RB8 in 2016 with 1,416 yards from scrimmage and 12 touchdowns.

57. The Saints have had at least 16 rushing touchdowns in three straight seasons.

57a. Peterson is currently going as RB26 in the seventh round, or 22 picks after Mark Ingram.

58. Speaking of Peterson, in his rookie year, he had 1,609 yards from scrimmage and seven different games with more than 100 such yards.

59. In Jordan Howard's rookie year he had 1,611 yards from scrimmage and 10 different games with more than 100 such yards.

60. In the past five years, there are only two running backs who carried the ball at least 250 times and averaged more yards per carry than Jordan Howard's 5.21: Jamaal Charles and Peterson, both in 2012.

61. Howard also averaged 5.64 yards per carry on his 202 carries that he had against teams that won at least eight games last season (most among the 37 running backs that had at least 65 carries against such opponents).

62. Only Ezekiel Elliott and Le'Veon Bell will enter 2017 with longer streaks of games with at least 10 fantasy points. Howard finished 2017 with six straight.

63. Last season was Marty Mornhinweg's first as the offensive coordinator in Baltimore.

64. In that season, 26.9 percent of completions went to members of the backfield.

64a. For comparison's sake, Odell Beckham Jr. accounted for 26.8 percent of receptions for the Giants last season.

65. With Steve Smith Sr., Dennis Pitta, Kamar Aiken and Kyle Juszczyk no longer on the team, there are 315 targets from last season up for grabs.

66. Since 2013, Danny Woodhead has 167 catches, eighth most among running backs, despite 27 missed games.

67. As of June 22, he is going in the eighth round of PPR drafts on ESPN.com.

68. Last year, one player (Ryan Mathews) got 69.6 percent of the carries inside the 5-yard line for Doug Pederson and the Philadelphia Eagles.

69. During the past two years, no player in the NFL has gotten more rushes inside the 5-yard line than LeGarrette Blount.

70. Last season, the Philadelphia Eagles were eighth in rushing yards before first contact.

71. The Patriots were tied for 12th.

72. Rookie Donnel Pumphrey is 5-foot-8 and 169 pounds. Darren Sproles is 5-foot-6 and 185 pounds. Wendell Smallwood is 5-foot-10 and 208 pounds. LeGarrette Blount is 6 feet and 241 pounds.

73. LeSean McCoy, Ezekiel Elliott, Jay Ajayi and Mike Gillislee were the only RBs in the NFL last season to average more yards per carry and have more rushing touchdowns than ... Isaiah Crowell.

74. Crowell is one of only six backs in the NFL under the age of 30 with at least 145 carries in each of the past three seasons.

74a. Crowell has never missed a game in his NFL career.

75. This offseason, the Browns signed guard Joel Bitonio to an extension while signing guard Kevin Zeitler and center J.C. Tretter to go along with Joe Thomas.

76. All four rank in the top 13 at their position per Scouts, Inc.

76a. This isn't a stat, but you should probably read this article.

77. Through his first 15 career games, Michael Thomas has 25 more catches and six more yards than Julio Jones did.

78. Last year, Terrelle Pryor Sr. ranked 10th in the NFL in air yards per target.

79. In the past two seasons, only Matt Ryan has a better deep completion percentage than Kirk Cousins.

80. Based on last year's records, the Indianapolis Colts have the easiest schedule in the NFL this season.

81. In the Colts' wins last season, T.Y. Hilton averaged 117.9 receiving yards per game.

81a. That was the most in the NFL among receivers who played in at least four wins.

82. Last season, Sterling Shepard was ninth best among wideouts in receiving touchdowns.

83. He was 33rd in targets.

84. And he was 36th in receptions.

85. This offseason, the Giants added 6-foot-4 Brandon Marshall, who leads all wide receivers in red zone touchdowns since 2012.

85a. They also added 6-foot-3 Evan Engram at tight end.

86. From 2014-15, Martavis Bryant ranked third among wide receivers in yards per catch and fourth in air yards per target.

87. Last season, Steelers wide receivers not named Antonio Brown combined for 102 catches, 1,481 yards and 11 touchdowns.

88. In 21 career games, Martavis Bryant has scored 224.3 standard fantasy points.

88a. In T.Y. Hilton's past 21 games, he has 213.3 standard fantasy points.

88b. As of June 22, Bryant is going as WR35, in the ninth round.

89. From Weeks 3-15 last season, Kelvin Benjamin was WR53 in PPR and WR54 in standard (non-PPR) formats.

89a. He is currently being drafted as WR31.

90. In the eight years he has played in the NFL, Mike Wallace has posted a top-30 WR fantasy finish ... seven times.

91. In 2016, in his first year with Joe Flacco (and alongside a big-name slot WR in Steve Smith Sr.), Wallace finished as WR23 in PPR and WR24 in non-PPR.

92. Each of the past two years, no team in the NFL has attempted more passes than the Baltimore Ravens.

92a. As noted in No. 65, more than 315 targets have left Baltimore.

93. Wallace is currently going as WR40, in the 10th round.

94. Since 2014, Emmanuel Sanders has 16 different games with at least 20 PPR points.

94a. Among wide receivers, only Antonio Brown, Julio Jones and Odell Beckham Jr. have more such games.

95. Brown is 5-foot-10 and 181 pounds. In his age-23 season (2011), Brown had 69 catches for 1,108 yards and 2 touchdowns, finishing with 132.9 standard (non-PPR) fantasy points.

96. Jamison Crowder is 5-foot-8 and 182 pounds. Last season, in his age-23 season, he had 67 catches for 847 yards and 7 touchdowns, finishing with 130.5 standard (non-PPR) fantasy points.

97. From Weeks 1-13 last season, Crowder was WR9 in terms of total standard (non-PPR) fantasy points.

97a. With the departure of DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon, there are 203 targets from last season available for the taking.

98. In 2016, Jack Doyle averaged 1.94 PPR points per target.

98a. The top PPR TE last season, Travis Kelce, averaged 1.91 PPR fantasy points per target.

98b. During the past three years, 25.3 percent of Andrew Luck's completions, 24.3 percent of his passing yards and 37.2 percent of his passing touchdowns have gone to tight ends.

98c. Dwayne Allen is no longer on the Colts.

99. From 2011-12, Jimmy Graham averaged 1.21 standard (non-PPR) fantasy points per target.

99a. In 2016, he averaged 1.32 standard (non-PPR) fantasy points per target.

99b. Russell Wilson's passing yardage total has increased every season of his career.

100. In the past three years, Eric Ebron has a total of 13 red zone receptions.

100a. By comparison, Kyle Rudolph had 14 red zone receptions last season alone.

100b. Among the tight ends with as many or more red zone receptions than Ebron last season: Dion Sims, Jacob Tamme, Charles Clay and Jared Cook.

Matthew Berry -- The Talented Mr. Roto -- is excited for the Lonzo Ball era in L.A. and is dreading the LaVar Ball era. He is the creator of RotoPass.com and one of the owners of the Fantasy Life app.