100 fantasy football facts for 2015

The part I enjoy most about the magic and comedy duo Penn & Teller is the fact that they are sort of anti-magician magicians. And by that I mean that the long-running rule for magicians is to never reveal how a trick is done.

Penn & Teller not only do that, but actually shine a light on the fact that they are doing that, explaining the trick as they perform it, sometimes even doing the trick in a slow, step-by-step manner, so as to point out exactly what they are doing.

"See, when this tower falls over here, it distracts the audience into looking over here while Teller quietly switches out the card."

They delight in pulling back the curtain, exposing frauds, charlatans and others that try to make untrue claims or hoodwink the audience without proper context. Penn & Teller, instead, say, "We are tricking you, here's how we are tricking you" and then they trick us.

There's no mystical baloney they try to sell. They don't claim to be otherworldly or have secret powers. They are point blank tricking us with sleight of hand, deception and specially designed props. And they completely own that.

I love that. If you've read or listened to me for any amount of time you know I am a huge Howard Stern fan, and I suspect one of the reasons I like Stern so much is the same reason I respond to Penn & Teller. There's no "behind the scenes" with Howard, either.

Everything he does is done on air, so the audience is let in on how it all works. There is no pretense of a slick-running show where everyone is all smiles all the time. No, Howard also peels back the curtain, warts and all, for people to see.

It's also why this is my favorite column to write every year. I've written a version of "100 Facts" for basically a decade now, and lately, I've made it the first column of the year for me. There's no real offseason in football anymore, but to the extent there is one, "100 Facts" is my official start of the year, as I research, write and present it to help set up everything I write, say and do for the upcoming football season.

I try to pull back the curtain, if you will, so that you are aware of what I do when I present fantasy football advice and analysis. And what everyone does when they present fantasy football advice and analysis.

They lie.

That's too strong. We don't actually lie, but we mislead; we show only what we want to show; we tell partial truths.

Because what we all do is give opinions. Oh, we disguise it as facts, as truths, as scouting X's and O's, but they really are all just opinions.

They are opinions because they don't tell the whole story. Because when you keep time, space and reader engagement in mind, there is not enough time to give a full picture of a player. And even then, there are things you don't know. Is he in a fight with the quarterback? Does he have a bad hammy that hasn't been reported? Is he nervous about his contract?

They are opinions because even if you somehow knew everything you could about a player and what his teammates think and how his coach really feels about him, potential value changes with every game, play, personnel grouping and scheme.

But mostly, they are opinions because facts can say whatever you want them to say.

Consider the case of "Player A."

A young quarterback, you have to be concerned with how he finished the 2014 season. Averaging just nine fantasy points per game in his final three games last year, "Player A" used to have his rushing as a big part of his fantasy appeal. But his rushing touchdowns have decreased every season he's played, including last year, when he had the lowest total of his career along with the second-lowest rushing yardage total of his career. He's getting more careless -- his 24 turnovers last year were 10 more than he had the previous year and, in fact, only five QBs in the NFL had more interceptions than he did last year. It's probably why his team brought in a big name running back this offseason amid talk they want to run more. The offseason in general has been tough on Player A, as the pass catcher he has targeted 369 times the past three years -- the most he's targeted any player, and the guy many call his "security blanket" -- has left the team. That security blanket's replacement? An aging player that is coming off the worst statistical 15-game stretch of his career.

Finally, per Pro Football Focus, 62 percent -- 62 percent! -- of Player A's passes were thrown within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage last year, so whatever you do this year, make sure you avoid ...

Andrew Luck.


You see? Facts can say whatever you want them to say. I can talk up or talk down anyone I want, even trashing the second-best QB in fantasy. I just have to choose the right stats for the job. Or, ask Zach Rodgers and the team at ESPN Stats & Information for the right stats for the job, as I did many times throughout this article.

So as we start the season of preparation, getting you set for your drafts, I want you to be fully aware of that.

During the next few months, you will be bombarded with enormous mountains of news and analysis delivered daily to whatever device you have, wherever you are. Twitter and nonstop tickers scrolling by and text alerts from your 15 different apps. At the Worldwide Leader, we have people analyzing every dropback, every two-tight end set, every hamstring tweak, every coach's press conference. Is there a guy in your league who doesn't follow Adam or Mort? Exactly. You don't even need me to use their full names to know whom I'm talking about.

The issue these days isn't information -- we are in an information overload era. The issue is parsing that data, trying to decide what to believe and what not, who to trust and who to ignore.

So as you take it all in, realize what you are reading/seeing/hearing is all opinion, dressed up as fact. Everything I write and say is true -- same as everyone else. But, we're just showing you the part of the story that supports the opinion we have of the player.

Everything that follows is completely and totally accurate. Some is about players. Some of it is about tendencies. And not a damn bit of it tells the whole story.

These are 100 facts you need to know before you draft.

And what you do with them is up to you.

1. No quarterback posted double-digit fantasy points in all 16 games last season.

2. But five did so in 15 games.

3. Those five? Andrew Luck, Drew Brees, Russell Wilson, Ben Roethlisberger and ... Ryan Tannehill.

4. After Week 1 last season, Matthew Stafford averaged only 13.9 fantasy points per game.

5. That was 25th among qualified quarterbacks, worse than (among others) Ryan Fitzpatrick, Kyle Orton and Mike Glennon.

6. Stafford's completion percentage on deep passes (thrown at least 15 yards downfield) has decreased in each of the past three seasons.

7. His interceptions on deep throws have increased each of the past three seasons.

8. In a six-year NFL career, Stafford has finished as a top-5 fantasy QB once.

9. Drew Brees threw nine touchdowns and eight interceptions on deep passes last season.

10. That was his worst TD-INT ratio on deep attempts since 2007.

11. In the past three years, no player in the NFL has more red zone touchdown catches than Jimmy Graham.

12. Graham now plays for the Seattle Seahawks.

13. Graham was also the player on the Saints with the most receptions, with 85. The player on the Saints last season with the second-most receptions was Kenny Stills, with 63. The player on the Saints last season with the fifth-most receptions was Pierre Thomas, with 45.

14. None of them play for the New Orleans Saints anymore.

15. Odell Beckham Jr. made his NFL debut in Week 5.

16. Starting in Week 5, Eli Manning posted five games of 20-plus fantasy points.

17. That was tied for fifth-most among QBs, behind only Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning, Andrew Luck and Tony Romo.

18. In his five full games last season, Carson Palmer averaged 18.8 fantasy points per game, which would've ranked fifth among qualified quarterbacks if carried out for the full season.

19. Palmer recorded at least 16 fantasy points in all five of his full games.

20. Palmer is currently going outside the top 15 at quarterback.

21. Since Chip Kelly took over in 2013, Eagles quarterbacks have combined to score 594 fantasy points (18.6 per game).

22. During that span, the only quarterbacks with more fantasy points than "Eagles QB" are Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Andrew Luck.

23. Sam Bradford is also going outside the top 15 at quarterback. Mark Sanchez isn't being drafted.

24. Last season, Teddy Bridgewater led the league in red zone completion percentage (72.0 percent).

25. Last season, Bridgewater led the league in third-down completion percentage (68.5 percent).

26. Last season, these were the only quarterbacks with a better completion percentage at least 15 yards downfield than Bridgewater's: Matt Ryan, Tony Romo, Drew Brees.

27. Charles Johnson scored his first touchdown of the season in Week 12.

28. Starting in Week 12, Teddy Bridgewater averaged 240 passing yards and 1.7 passing touchdowns per game.

29. During that span, his 94 fantasy points ranked 11th among quarterbacks, which is more than Tom Brady's, Peyton Manning's, Philip Rivers' or Matthew Stafford's.

30. Speaking of the Vikings, last season, Matt Asiata and Jerrick McKinnon combined to catch 71 passes. If they were one running back, that would have been third most in the NFL behind only Matt Forte and Le'Veon Bell.

31. The final three years Norv Turner was in San Diego, only the Saints had more targets and receptions to their running backs than the Chargers.

32. There have been only two seasons where Adrian Peterson has caught at least 40 balls: 2012 and 2009.

33. They happen to have been the two best fantasy seasons of his career, and two of the three seasons in which he has played all 16 games.

34. Last season, Matt Asiata and Jerick McKinnon combined to score 199 fantasy points. If combined into one person, they would have been the seventh-best running back in fantasy, two points better than Jamaal Charles.

35. Adrian Peterson has scored double-digit touchdowns every season of his career that he has played more than one game.

36. In each of the past two seasons, LeSean McCoy has totaled more than 300 carries.

37. Rex Ryan has not had a running back receive 300 carries in a season since his first year with the Jets in 2009 (Thomas Jones, 331).

38. In the past two years, the Eagles averaged 3.28 yards before contact per rush, most in the league during that span.

39. Last season, the Bills averaged 1.97 yards before contact per rush, 28th in the league.

40. Per Pro Football Focus, only one team last season had worse run blocking than the Buffalo Bills. Now, they have made some changes to the starting offensive line. Some.

41. In the first 11 games the Carolina Panthers played last season, Jonathan Stewart missed three games and averaged 12.5 offensive touches in the eight he did play.

42. In the final five games of last season, DeAngelo Williams did not play in four, and Jonathan Stewart averaged 19.6 offensive touches per game.

43. In the final five games of the season, only DeMarco Murray rushed for more yards than Jonathan Stewart.

44. He averaged 12 fantasy points per game and ranked 10th among running backs in fantasy points during that span.

45. DeAngelo Williams is now a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

46. Last season, under Marc Trestman, Matt Forte accounted for 26 percent of the Bears' receptions and 20 percent of the team's receiving yards.

47. Both percentages were the most by any running back in the league.

48. In Adam Gase's two seasons as offensive coordinator in Denver, no running back accounted for more than 10 percent of the team's receiving yards.

49. If you cut Forte's receiving yardage and touchdowns in half (lose 400 yards and two touchdowns), Forte would have gone from 231 fantasy points to 179. And instead of finishing fourth among fantasy running backs, he would have finished just ahead of Lamar Miller.

50. Prior to last season, Arian Foster had never exceeded 2.0 yards after contact per rush.

51. Last year, Arian Foster averaged a career-best 2.2 yards after contact per rush.

52. He missed three games -- and still finished as the fifth best running back in fantasy.

53. Last season, the Dallas offensive line averaged 2.8 yards before contact per rush. That was 10th best in the league.

54. Last season, the Eagles, with a constantly changing offensive line, averaged 2.9 yards before contact per rush. That was seventh-best in the NFL.

55. DeMarco Murray, who played for the Dallas Cowboys last season, now plays for the Philadelphia Eagles.

56. Last season, Jeremy Hill averaged 5.1 yards per carry.

57. That rate led all rookie running backs.

58. Since 2001, there have been only two rookie running backs that had as many carries as Hill (222) and averaged more yards per carry than Hill's 5.1 rate.

59. Those players were Adrian Peterson and Clinton Portis. Both of them finished as top-5 fantasy running backs in their second NFL season.

60. During the second half of last season, only DeMarco Murray had more carries inside an opponents' 10-yard line than Mark Ingram did.

61. Last season, on the San Francisco 49ers, Frank Gore had 266 offensive touches and scored four touchdowns.

62. Last season, on the San Francisco 49ers, Carlos Hyde had 95 offensive touches and scored ... four touchdowns.

63. Per our friends at Pro Football Focus, 61.7 percent of the snaps Carlos Hyde played last season were passing plays.

64. Frank Gore is a member of the Indianapolis Colts now.

65. New 49ers running back Reggie Bush has played all 16 games in a season once since 2007.

66. During the first five weeks of last season, Rashad Jennings ranked seventh among RBs in fantasy points before getting hurt.

67. In his three full games after returning, Jennings averaged 12.3 fantasy points per game, tied for 10th among RB during that span.

68. Rashad Jennings is currently being drafted outside the top 50.

69. Since 2011, only Calvin Johnson has more games of 15-plus fantasy points among wideouts than ... Jordy Nelson.

70. In the 12 games that Calvin Johnson played last season, Golden Tate averaged 7.2 fantasy points per game.

71. That would have ranked him 35th among qualified wide receivers.

72. Prior to his season-ending injury last season, Allen Robinson had nine straight games of at least four receptions and 35 yards. (Weeks 2-10.)

73. The only other wide receiver with at least four receptions and 35 yards in nine straight games during that span was ... Antonio Brown.

74. Of players who had at least 25 receptions last season, no player had a higher yards-per-reception average than ... Martavis Bryant, with 21.1.

75. The last player to average more than 21 yards per catch while hauling in at least 25 receptions was DeSean Jackson (22.5) back in 2010.

76. Prior to his season-ending injury in 2014, Brandin Cooks led all wide receivers last season by catching 80 percent of his targets.

77. Of the 456 receptions by New Orleans Saints pass-catchers last season, 239 of them were made by players no longer with the team.

78. Since Drew Brees joined the Saints in 2006, at least one New Orleans player has caught at least eight touchdowns every season.

79. Ten players had at least 20 red zone targets last season.

80. All of them had at least five receiving touchdowns except Andre Johnson, who had three.

81. Last season, Colts QBs had a plus-24 TD-to-INT differential in the red zone. That was tied for second best in the NFL.

82. Last season, Texans QBs had a plus-14 TD-to-INT differential in the red zone, 15th in the league.

83. In Torrey Smith's career, 17 of his 30 touchdowns (57 percent) came on deep throws.

84. Last season, Colin Kaepernick completed only 33 percent of his deep attempts, tied with Geno Smith for 29th among the 33 qualified quarterbacks.

85. Last season, Travis Kelce led all tight ends with 490 yards after the catch.

86. Since 2006, the only tight ends with more yards after the catch in a single season were Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez (both in 2011).

87. Larry Donnell was targeted 20 times in the red zone last season (all six of his TDs came on red zone targets).

88. The only tight end with more targets in the red zone than Donnell was ... Jimmy Graham.

89. During the final seven weeks of last season, the only tight ends to score at least four fantasy points in every game were Gronkowski and ... Heath Miller.

90. In his past 10 seasons, Peyton Manning has thrown at least six touchdowns to his tight ends every year, including 11.7 per season since joining the Broncos.

91. Last year, after Week 9, playing for Ravens offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak, Owen Daniels was top eight among tight ends in targets.

92. Since Gary Kubiak and Owen Daniels were paired together in 2006 (each in their first season with the Texans), Kubiak-coached teams have targeted tight ends 18 percent more than the average NFL team has.

93. During their time with the Texans, Daniels ranked in the top 10 in fantasy points among tight ends in three of the four seasons he played at least 15 games.

94. Per Pro Football Focus, no tight end had a higher percentage of his fantasy value come from touchdowns than Julius Thomas (60 percent).

95. Last season, the Denver Broncos had 50 pass attempts inside an opponent's 10-yard line, most in the NFL.

96. Last season, the Jacksonville Jaguars had 12 such pass attempts, last in the NFL.

97. Julius Thomas has never played all 16 games in an NFL season.

98. Jason Witten was targeted 88 times last season, his fewest in any season since 2005.

99. Witten was only targeted eight times in the red zone last season, his fewest in the last five years.

100. Only six tight ends caught more than six touchdowns last season.