A hundred fantasy football facts

The problem, if I am being honest, is me.

I'm to blame. My fault. My bad, as the kids used to say.

Not just me, mind you. There are a lot of us. But if you want to point your digital finger at someone, look right here. It's on me. I only ask that you use proper spelling in the comments.

The issue at hand, of course, is information. Specifically, fantasy football information. There are gobs of it. Enormous mountains 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.

But back when fantasy football started, there was no internet, no mobile phones, no breaking alerts ... West Coast guys had to wait until Wednesday to score their games by hand because the Monday Night game ended too late to make the newspaper (if you don't know what that is, ask your dad). There were no websites to check your stats and, frankly ... no guys like me.

That's what I mean when I say I am to blame. Before you played the game online, before there was a 24-hour news cycle, before there was ever such a thing as a fantasy football analyst, getting information actually meant having an advantage. Which receiver the QB likes, which handcuff you want for your stud running back, whose gonna get the goal-line looks. If you didn't live in that NFL team's market, that info was hard to get.

That is no longer an issue. Everything you could ever want to know is available. Need to know Tom Brady's pet's name? (It's a pit bull named Lua). How about what Jamaal Charles drives? (It's a Lamborghini Gallardo LP-550 2). Or even what Vincent Jackson just had for lunch? (Tuna tartare -- it was delicious). There is no piece of information you can't find out and find out quickly. And that's before you even get to the stats. Stats about players and teams and trends. Stats about situations and schemes, and stats about which stats are more statistically relevant than other stats.

Getting intel is no longer the concern. There's no advantage because everyone has access to the same information. If you are in any kind of real league in which people are paying attention, the only advantage might be a faster Internet connection or a better smartphone to make a quick pick up in the dying seconds before game time. Otherwise, it's 10 or 12 guys looking at all the same names, numbers and rankings.

The key to winning, then, is parsing that data. Figuring out what to believe and what to ignore. Because, as I'll be the first to tell you every season, stats can say anything you want them to.

Consider the case of these two quarterbacks.

"QB1" was a fantasy stud last year. He finished as a top-10 quarterback and had more 30-point games than any quarterback not named Peyton or Drew. In fact, according to Tristan H. Cockcroft's 2013 consistency rankings, those two quarterbacks (Peyton Manning and Drew Brees) were the only two who had more "stud" games than this guy. ("Stud" being defined as a QB who was top-two at his position for the week). His attempts, completions, touchdowns, yards, QB rating and QBR have improved every year he's been in the league. He has one of the most talented receiving corps around, including the leading wide receiver in end zone catch percentage (among qualified wideouts). Top 10 in the NFL in pass attempts last year, he's the leader of a high-octane offense that was sixth in the league in total points. And he has started every game of his career, so it's easy to see why this 4,000-yard passer was a high draft pick. He's coming off his best professional year ever, and considering he's still fairly young, the best is yet to come. Draft him high, and ride the wave.

On the other hand, "QB2" is being drafted well outside the top 10 this year, and it's no shock why. Per Tristan's same consistency rankings, Geno Smith, Eli Manning and Chad Henne were the only quarterbacks who were "stiffs" more often last season. ("Stiff" being defined as someone who ranked among the worst at his position, thus making almost any waiver wire option a better choice.) His interceptions have increased every year he has been in the league, his completion percentage decreased from the previous season, and his QBR was just four tenths of a point better than Ryan Fitzpatrick's. I repeat: Ryan Fitzpatrick. It's not just fantasy owners who have questions about this quarterback. His own team hasn't signed him to an extension yet, and in fact, he will be a free agent after this season. Considering how QB-starved the NFL is, it speaks volumes that his team is willing to let him walk. With the fifth most interceptions in the NFL last year, it's not surprising his team just hired a new offensive coordinator known for running the ball; in his latest job as a playcaller, this coach was top four in the NFL in rush attempts and rush yards. Hand the ball off and don't lose this for us, they seem to be saying. Something you don't want them to say about your quarterback as a fantasy owner. Look elsewhere.

Now, everything I wrote about for each player is 100 percent true. So tell me ... which QB do you want?

Before you answer, you should know that both quarterbacks are Andy Dalton.


You see, I can talk up or talk down anyone; I just have to choose the right stats for the job. Or just ask John Parolin and Zach Rodgers of ESPN Stats & Information to get me the right numbers for the job, as I did at many different points while writing this column. They are both stats studs. Everything you're about to read is heavily researched and thought out -- a 100 percent true, can't be argued with, fully vetted fact.

But they're only some of the facts. The facts that support whatever opinion I have of a player. Listen, there's very little in this world that I am good at, but one thing at which I am truly fantastic? Manipulating stats to tell the story I want to tell. For instance, in a little bit I'm going to use some Scott Linehan stats to talk up Tony Romo's prospects. When I do, I will conveniently leave out the not very impressive numbers from Matthew Stafford's first two seasons and the season Linehan was calling plays for Gus Frerotte.

I'm going to do that because Stafford's first two years were marred by injury, and Gus Frerotte wasn't very good. Caling a lot of passing plays does no good if the guy passing can't make the throws. So I'll leave those stats out because I don't think they are relevant (or helpful) to the point I'm trying to lead you to, which is that Scott Linehan is going to help Tony Romo have top-10 fantasy numbers this year.

If you're having a bit of deja vu, it's because I make this same confession at the top of this column every year. I want to be truthful about everything, so I happily cop to trying to manipulate you because I feel it's important. Extremely important. Throughout this preseason, you will have countless analysts give you all sorts of reasons to draft this guy or avoid that one, so I want you to be aware that every stat thrown at you is really just reflective of an opinion. Your job? Figure out which analysts you trust and whose thinking aligns with yours, question everyone and everything you hear, take it all in, and then make your own call.

Ultimately, that's all any of us is doing: taking a small piece of a big picture and making a call.

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

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

1. Over the past two seasons, when Rob Gronkowski is off the field, Tom Brady's completion percentage is 59, his yards per attempt is 6.8, and he has a 26-to-11 touchdown-to-interception ratio.

2. Over the past two years, when Rob Gronkowski has played, Tom Brady completes 65 percent of his passes and has 7.7 yards per attempt and a 33-to-8 touchdown-to-interception ratio.

3. Last year, Patriots wide receivers were tackled at the 1-yard line eight times.

4. That was three more times than any other team.

5. If you regress that to the league average (3.3), Tom Brady would have had four additional touchdown passes and would have finished as the eighth best fantasy QB.

6. Last year, only one quarterback had more drops from his pass-catchers than Tom Brady.

7. The quarterback who had more passes dropped than Tom Brady? Matthew Stafford. Detroit had 46 drops last season -- 10 more than any other team.

8. Those 46 drops accounted for 7.5 percent of Detroit's total targets, which is also highest in the NFL.

9. Last year, Golden Tate was targeted 94 times.

10. And had two drops. Two.

11. With Scott Linehan calling plays as his offensive coordinator from 2002 to 2004, no quarterback had more fantasy points than Daunte Culpepper's 888.

12. With Scott Linehan calling plays as his offensive coordinator from 2011 to 2013, only four quarterbacks had more fantasy points than Matthew Stafford's 863.

13. In 2014, Scott Linehan will call plays for Tony Romo, who is currently being drafted outside the top 10 at QB.

14. Matt Ryan was under pressure on 154 pass attempts last season.

15. That was the most in the NFL and 31 more than the next QB.

16. Prior to last season, Ryan had never attempted more than 94 passes under pressure.

17. This offseason, the Falcons drafted RT Jake Matthews in the first round, added Jon Asamoah from Kansas City, got Sam Baker back from injury and hired Mike Tice as the offensive line coach.

18. During the first five weeks of the past season (the only time Julio Jones and Roddy White were on the field together), Ryan was sixth among QBs in fantasy points.

19. On passes of 15 yards or more, when targeting Kelvin Benjamin, Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston was 23-of-41 (56.1 percent) and averaged 16.5 yards per attempt.

20. Kelvin Benjamin had eight touchdown receptions of 15 or more yards, which tied for the most of any player from an automatic qualifying conference.

21. During Cam Newton's career, Panthers wide receivers have had the seventh deepest average target distance in the league.

22. Per Pro Football Focus, Steve Smith's catch percentage of 62.1 was 52nd among wide receivers this past season.

23. If Cam Newton does not finish this year as a top four fantasy quarterback, it will be the first time in his career that he fails to do so.

24. Including playoffs, without Michael Crabtree in the lineup, Colin Kaepernick has a 66.6 QBR (out of 100), 7.5 yards per attempt, a completion percentage of 56 and an 8.0 sack percentage.

25. Including playoffs, with Michael Crabtree in the lineup, Colin Kaepernick has a 75.5 QBR, 7.8 yards per attempt, a 59.4 completion percentage and a 5.5 sack percentage.

26. If you combine the 2013 fantasy points of Jay Cutler and Josh McCown, the Bears combo QB was the third highest scoring QB.

27. Prior to getting injured in the Week 7 game against Washington, Jay Cutler was tied for sixth in total fantasy points among quarterbacks.

28. Based on 2013 blitz percentage, Jay Cutler and the Bears will face the least blitz-heavy schedule (28.7 percent) in the NFL.

29. Jay Cutler's Total QBR of 75.0 against four or fewer rushers was sixth best in the NFL this past season.

30. Against extra pressure, Cutler's QBR is 57.1, 16th-best in the NFL.

31. In five of his six years as an offensive coordinator, Kyle Shanahan's teams have been ninth or better in pass attempts.

32. In two years in the SEC, Johnny Manziel averaged 3,910 passing yards and 32 touchdowns per year. He completed 73.5 percent of his passes from the pocket.

33. Manziel also averaged 1,085 yards rushing and 15 rushing touchdowns.

34. In Cam Newton's final season against the SEC, he threw for 2,854 yards and 30 TD. He ran for 1,473 yards and 20 touchdowns.

35. If you scored Newton's final season in ESPN standard fantasy points, he would have averaged 35.8 per game.

36. And Johnny Manziel would have averaged 37.2.

37. Over the past five years, New York Giants running backs have the second most rushing touchdowns (74) and the 11th most rushing yards (8,337) among NFL corps.

38. Over that span, the Giants have run the ball on 55 percent of their plays from inside the 10-yard line, the seventh highest rate in the NFL.

39. Rashad Jennings is currently being drafted outside the top 20 of running backs.

40. At the end of 2012, there were four players with active streaks of at least three seasons of 250-plus rushes: Steven Jackson, Chris Johnson, Ray Rice and Arian Foster.

41. Jackson, Johnson and Rice all had the lowest yards per carry of their careers, and Foster had the lowest per-game rushing average of his career in 2013.

42. Of those four, only Chris Johnson played all 16 games.

43. Since 2001, there have been 47 instances of a player coming off three straight seasons of 250-plus rushes. The average fantasy output for those 47 the following season was 137.9 points, and that includes six seasons of LaDainian Tomlinson.

44. If you take Tomlinson out, that number dives to 118 points per season.

45. Last year, 118 points from a running back ranked 23rd among the position.

46. Heading into the 2014 season, Marshawn Lynch and Frank Gore (plus the aforementioned Chris Johnson) have an active streak of three straight seasons with at least 250 rushes.

47. More Lynch: Since his first game with Seattle (during the 2010 season) and including postseason games, Lynch has the most carries in the NFL and 53 more than second-place Ray Rice.

48. Last year, 79 percent of Knowshon Moreno's runs came with six or fewer men in the box.

49. Broncos running backs combined for 18 touchdowns in the 2013 regular season.

50. That included 14 rushing touchdowns inside the opponents' 10-yard line, good for second in the NFL.

51. Eight of those touchdowns and 13 of the 18 touchdowns were by Knowshon Moreno, now of the Miami Dolphins.

52. In the second half of last season, Montee Ball was fourth in the NFL in yards after contact per rush (2.55).

53. Over the past three seasons, the New Orleans Saints have targeted running backs 571 times.

54. That's the most in the NFL and 73 more running back targets than the next team.

55. Among New Orleans Saints running backs last year, Darren Sproles had 71 receptions on 89 targets, Mark Ingram had seven, Travis Cadet had two, and Khiry Robinson had zero.

56. And Pierre Thomas had 77 receptions on 84 targets.

57. All of the above running backs will be back with the New Orleans Saints.

58. Except Darren Sproles.

59. An ESPN Stats & Information study of running back fantasy production from 2001 to 2013, over the presumed five-year length of a rookie contract and using a minimum of 100 rushes to qualify, shows that on average the most productive season is the third year.

60. Third-year running backs averaged 150 fantasy points, most of any of the current rookie contract years.

61. Alfred Morris, Doug Martin, Trent Richardson and Lamar Miller are among the notable third-year backs this season.

62. In 2009 -- his third year -- Adrian Peterson caught a career-high 43 balls and had the second highest scoring fantasy season of his career.

63. In 2012, Adrian Peterson caught 40 balls, the second highest in his career and the only other time he had 40 or more receptions in a year. It was the best fantasy season of his career.

64. He played all 16 games in both 2009 and 2012, something he has done only three times in seven NFL seasons.

65. In Norv Turner's final three seasons with the Chargers, they ranked second in the NFL in targets and receptions by running backs, second only to the Saints.

66. Over the past three years, among running backs with at least 175 rushes, only three running backs have a higher yards after contact per rush than ... Toby Gerhart.

67. From 2010 to 2011, only three teams in the NFL had more rushing attempts or more rushing touchdowns, and no team in the NFL had more rushing yards than the Oakland Raiders, who had Hue Jackson first as offensive coordinator and then head coach.

68. Last year, there was only one running back in the NFL who had at least 15 red zone opportunities (rushes and targets) without scoring a touchdown: C.J. Spiller.

69. Meanwhile, there was only one running back with at least 15 red zone opportunities to convert at least one third of them for touchdowns: Donald Brown. He was six for 18 (33 percent).

70. More red zone: Ryan Mathews and Danny Woodhead converted just 13 of 71 opportunities in the red zone (18 percent).

71. Last year, Dez Bryant was tackled inside the 5-yard line seven times, most in the NFL.

72. If Dez had scored on three of those plays, he still would have been tied for the seventh most plays being tackled inside the 5.

73. But he would have tied Calvin Johnson in fantasy points.

74. During the second half of last season, only Josh Gordon had more fantasy points among wide receivers than ... Antonio Brown.

75. Among Steelers wideouts last year, Emmanuel Sanders and Jerricho Cotchery combined for 16 receiving touchdowns.

76. With Emmanuel Sanders now playing for the Broncos and Jerricho Cotchery now playing for the Panthers, the remaining Steelers with the most receiving touchdowns after Antonio Brown last year are Heath Miller, Matt Spaeth, Will Johnson and Derek Moye. They each had one.

77. In Joe Flacco's first five NFL seasons, he completed 39 percent of deep (15-plus yards) passes. He averaged 9.4 deep touchdowns to only four deep interceptions.

78. Last season, Joe Flacco completed only 28 percent of deep passes, with just three deep touchdowns and nine interceptions.

79. Last season, Torrey Smith set career highs in targets, receptions and yards on deep throws ... and yet had zero deep touchdowns.

80. Torrey Smith had at least five deep touchdowns in both of his first two NFL seasons.

81. If Torrey Smith had had just three deep touchdowns last year, he would've tied Pierre Garcon in fantasy points (14th).

82. This marks the third consecutive season I have talked up Torrey Smith. I might have a problem.

83. Only Dez Bryant and Brandon Marshall had more touchdown catches on end zone throws than ... Marvin Jones, who was 9 for 9.

84. Jones was the only player in the league with a perfect catch percentage on end zone throws (minimum 5). A.J. Green, incidentally, was 7-for-23.

85. In 2012, 6-foot-3, 225-pound Josh Gordon's rookie year, he caught 53.2 percent of his targets, averaged 6.0 yards after catch per reception and averaged 18.8 targets per touchdown reception.

86. In 2013, 6-foot-2, 220-pound Cordarrelle Patterson's rookie year, he caught 60 percent of his targets, averaged 6.2 yards after catch per reception and averaged 18.8 targets per touchdown reception.

87. During the final five weeks of the past season, Cordarrelle Patterson was tied with Demaryius Thomas and A.J. Green for fourth in fantasy points among wide receivers.

88. Last year, Josh Gordon's offensive coordinator was Norv Turner. This year, Norv Turner is the offensive coordinator for Cordarrelle Patterson's Vikings.

89. Over the final eight weeks of the season, only four wide receivers had more receptions than Kendall Wright's 51: Pierre Garcon, Julian Edelman, Josh Gordon and Andre Johnson.

90. Wright caught 67.1 percent of his targets over that span, fourth among the 31 wideouts who had at least 50 targets.

91. Only nine wide receivers had at least 90 receptions last year. Eight of them had at least five touchdowns, with an the average of nine scores per player. The ninth, Kendall Wright, had two.

92. Give Kendall Wright five total touchdowns instead of two (and assume the three touchdowns are at least a total of 10 yards combined), and he's a top-20 wide receiver tied with T.Y. Hilton and Torrey Smith.

93. Over the second half of the past season, only Jimmy Graham had more tight end targets than ... Greg Olsen.

94. After Olsen, the current Panther with the most receptions last year is Mike Tolbert, with 27.

95. Since 2007, the top tight end in Norv Turner's offense has never scored fewer than seven touchdowns and only once has fallen short of 700 yards. This year, Norv's top tight end is 6-foot-6 Kyle Rudolph.

96. From 2006 to 2013, only four teams targeted their tight end more than the Houston Texans, coached by Gary Kubiak.

97. Kubiak is now calling the plays for the Baltimore Ravens and their tight end, Dennis Pitta.

98. Vernon Davis's touchdown totals the past four years, counting backward from 2013, are 13, 5, 6 and 7.

99. Last year, Davis was 14th among tight ends in targets, with just three more than Scott Chandler. He was tied for 14th in receptions among tight ends as well.

100. Once Michael Crabtree came back and including the postseason, here is the 49ers target-receptions-yardage distribution over eight games: Anquan Boldin caught 49 of 74 passes for 682 yards, Crabtree caught 34 of 61 for 487 yards, and Davis was limited to 19 catches on 37 targets for 281 yards.

Matthew Berry -- The Talented Mr. Roto -- isn't quite as thrilled when the Talented Mrs. Roto uses selective facts against him. He is the creator of RotoPass.com, a website that combines a bunch of well-known fantasy sites, including ESPN Insider, for one low price. Use promo code ESPN for 10 percent off. You may have also heard: He's written a book.