- • Senior Fantasy analyst for ESPN
• Member, FSWA and FSTA Halls of Fame
• Best-selling author of “Fantasy Life”
As far as I can tell, there are only two types of people in this world. Those who love the show “Ted Lasso” and those who haven’t seen it yet. I am in the former camp, and my favorite scene is from Season 1 and is known as “the darts scene.”
If you haven’t seen it yet and don’t want to have the scene spoiled for you, skip ahead to the next photo.
In the scene, Ted is challenged to a game of darts by Rupert, the ex-husband of Ted’s boss, Rebecca. Rupert is, to put it kindly, a real jerk, and there are significant emotional stakes up for grabs, especially for Rebecca.
After they agree to play, Rupert pulls out his own — very nice and expensive — set of darts. He’s hustling Ted.
We fast forward to the end of the game, and Rupert makes a particularly nasty comment to Rebecca. Ted asks Rupert to be quiet and then leans over to the bartender to ask what he needs to win.
He is told he needs two triple-20s and a bull’s-eye. Three extremely hard shots. The ex-husband laughs to himself. “Good luck,” he says dismissively.
And it’s at that moment when Ted nods, stands in front of the dartboard and says …
“You know, Rupert, guys have underestimated me my entire life and for years I never understood why. It used to really bother me. But then one day I was driving my little boy to school and I saw a quote by Walt Whitman. It was painted on the wall, and it said, ‘Be curious, not judgmental.’ I like that.”
(Ted throws a triple-20.)
“So I get back in my car and I’m driving to work and all of a sudden it hits me. All them fellas that used to belittle me, not a single one of them was curious. You know, they thought they had everything figured out, so they judged everything and they judged everyone. And I realized that their underestimating me — who I was — had nothing to do with it. Because if they were curious, they would have asked questions. Questions like, ‘Have you played a lot of darts, Ted?'”
(Ted throws another triple-20.)
“To which I would have answered, ‘Yes, sir. Every Sunday afternoon at a sports bar with my father from age 10 until I was 16 when he passed away.'”
(Ted stares at the board for a second.)
(Ted throws a perfect bull’s-eye to win.)
I have to tell you, as a former TV writer, that’s about as good as it gets in terms of writing, acting and directing, and my words don’t give justice to how well Jason Sudeikis plays that. But there are a million articles about how good Ted Lasso is. You didn’t come here for another.
There’s a lot in that speech I would love to unpack, but for this column, I chose that speech because of the Whitman quote.
Fantasy football needs a lot more curious. A lot more questions. Because whether it’s analysts or fantasy players, they are full of judgment. They think they have everything figured out. They think they know which players will do well, which players won’t, which positions to draft when, which NFL coaches are good and which are bad, which fantasy analysts are smart and which ones are morons. They judge everyone and they judge everything.
It’s a good lesson for life and it’s a good lesson for fantasy football. Instead of judging and thinking you know everything, be curious. Ask a question.
Which of these two quarterbacks do you want in fantasy this year?
Quarterback A: One of the first things that has to concern you is whether Quarterback A will even be on the field. Having missed 18(!) games the past four seasons (nearly 30% of his games), QBA has played all 16 games in a season only once in his NFL career. Given all his missed games, you have to be concerned about his offensive line. Last season, his O-line allowed pressure at the 10th-highest rate in the NFL. How bad was it? The line allowed pressure at the third-highest rate when the opponent did NOT blitz. And that’s a problem, because when blitzed, QBA’s off-target percentage was worse than Dwayne Haskins’ and Mitchell Trubisky’s, among others.
QBA’s yards per attempt has gone down three straight seasons, and who wants a dink-and-dunker in fantasy? Get this: 23.3% of his passes last season were thrown at or behind the line of scrimmage. His team added no significant pass-catchers this offseason, and he just lost the 1,000-yard receiver he had the highest catch rate with. His career is clearly on a downward trend (I mean, his touchdown passes are down a whopping 24% from even just two years ago).
Quarterback B: Meanwhile, Quarterback B has multiple finishes of ninth or better at the position, and he is set up for his best fantasy season ever. Why? He has a new playcaller who with his previous team got 72% of its offensive yards through the air (the sixth-highest rate in the NFL over that stretch). The coach’s offense kept getting better, as last year it had its best season during his tenure in terms of passing yards per game, fastest tempo, TD/INT ratio and fantasy points per red zone attempt.
QBB gives you points with his arm and his legs; he’s coming off a season in which he had the most rushing attempts of his career, doubled his rushing yards and rushing touchdowns from the season before and did that all in one fewer game played. He has been to multiple Pro Bowls, earned multiple NFL Player of the Week awards and is coming off career highs in completion percentage and on-target percentage, a career low in bad-throw percentage and took a big leap forward from 2019 with a higher touchdown percentage and a lower interception percentage.
So, you know everything you need to know, right? You’ve spent this whole preseason studying, mock drafting, reading, listening and watching. So let me ask you again:
Which quarterback do you want?
Understand that every single thing I wrote about each player is 100% true.
I just gave you almost 500 words of detailed research about them. Do you really need more info? You know the right one to pick, don’t you?
The draft clock is winding down. You hear my annoying voice yell at you from the computer screen. “Hurry up! Make a pick!” Gotta make a call. And you know — I mean, you know — which one you want. It’s obvious. Quarterback B, right? The guy with the multiple top-nine finishes and the fantasy-friendly playcaller?
Well, before you answer, you should probably ask me a question.
Like, “Hey, Matthew, what are those guys’ names?”
To which I would answer, “Well, Quarterback B is Jared Goff.”
“Oh, and Quarterback A is named Patrick Mahomes.”
Be curious, not judgmental.
I mean, I was just able to talk down Patrick Mahomes. I did it by using his rookie season, in which he sat for 15 games, and made it seem like he was injury-prone, while also ignoring that the reason he didn’t play all 16 games every season is the Chiefs have usually clinched a bye by Week 16 or 17. I leaned into the Chiefs’ offensive line woes without acknowledging the injuries or opt-outs from last year, or that the team feels it addressed all that during the offseason.
I didn’t mention one reason to throw a lot of short bubble screens is that when you have Tyreek Hill on your team, why not take advantage of the one of the fastest guys in the NFL? I ignored that the reason the Chiefs didn’t make any major offseason moves for a pass-catcher is that they didn’t need to and, I admit, it took me forever to find a good Sammy Watkins stat to make it seem like him leaving the team would be an issue. His 1,000-yard season was in 2015 with the Buffalo Bills, by the way. And finally, I was able to trend Mahomes down by comparing last season’s stats to his ridiculous 50-touchdown 2018 season.
As for Goff, he has, in fact, had two usable fantasy seasons in which he finished in the top nine, but certainly not last season, and there wasn’t a lot else to work with to make Goff sound good. So instead, I went with his new offensive coordinator, Anthony Lynn, and used all the ridiculous Justin Herbert stats to make Lynn and Goff sound a lot better. Goff did have four rushing touchdowns last season after getting two the season before. Lamar Jackson he isn’t, but written the right way, he can sound like a dual threat.
My point of making Goff sound great and Mahomes sound washed up is to show you how I can literally make stats say anything I want. I just have to choose the right stats and omit the others for the job. Or ask my friends “Thirsty” Kyle Soppe of the Fantasy Focus 06010 podcast or Damian Dabrowski — The Stat-a-Pillar from The Fantasy Show with Matthew Berry on ESPN+ — to find me the right stat for the job, as I did at various points while writing and researching this column.
You see, there is very little in this world I am actually good at, but one thing I am a world-class master at? Manipulating stats to tell you the story I want you to hear.
As we head into the final 10 or so days of drafts and into the 2021 season, I want you to remember I do that. I do it all the time. Every time, in fact. Podcasts, TV, columns, Twitter … I will give you only some of the story. And anyone who does this for a living or a hobby and is telling you why this guy is awesome and this one is a bum, and why that guy is undervalued and how you need to ignore this other guy, is doing the same thing. It’s all just opinion.
Your job? Watch the games, crunch the numbers, figure out which analysts you trust and whose thinking you respect. And then, most importantly, be curious — not judgmental.
Do it all, and then, at the end of the day, make your own call.
These are 100 facts you need to know. What you do with them is up to you.
1. Over the past three seasons, there are only two quarterbacks with more than 30 games with multiple touchdown passes. Patrick Mahomes and … Russell Wilson. They are tied with 34.
2. Wilson is the only QB with at least 30 touchdown passes in each of the past two seasons.
2a. He has done it for four straight seasons.
3. Among QBs over the past four seasons, only Lamar Jackson and Cam Newton have more rushing yards than Wilson.
4. He has never missed a game in his NFL career.
5. The last season Wilson didn’t finish as a top-10 fantasy QB in total points, Mark Sanchez, Josh Freeman and Tim Tebow were all starting QBs in the NFL.
6. Over the past four seasons, Wilson is first among QBs in total points and fourth in points per game.
6a. He is being drafted as QB7.
7. In Week 7 of the 2019 season, Ryan Tannehill was named the starting quarterback for the Tennessee Titans. Since that time, he has:
8. The fourth most games with at least 25 fantasy points.
9. The third most passing touchdowns.
10. … and the second most total touchdowns (tied with Josh Allen).
11. Since that time, he is averaging 21.7 points per game.
12. That is 0.6 fewer points per game than Allen and 0.9 fewer points per game than Mahomes.
13. Since becoming the starter, he is the fourth-best QB in fantasy in total points.
14. His team added Julio Jones this offseason.
15. Tannehill is being drafted as QB10.
16. In Week 14 of last season, Jalen Hurts started his first of four straight games as QB for the Philadelphia Eagles.
17. The wide receivers with the most routes run during that four-game stretch were rookie Jalen Reagor, who played his eighth career NFL game in Week 14, and former college quarterback Greg Ward, who in 2019 played wide receiver for the San Antonio Commanders of the now-defunct AAF.
18. It would be the final four games of Doug Pederson’s tenure as head coach of the Eagles.
19. Hurts threw for 919 yards on 133 attempts, ran for 272 yards and scored 10.3 points per game with his legs alone.
20. He averaged 23.0 total points per game.
20a. Last season, 23 points per game would have been QB7.
21. Those numbers prorated over a 16-game season would be 532 pass attempts and 164.8 fantasy points with his legs.
22. Last season, there were only five quarterbacks to throw at least 400 passes and score at least 60 points with their legs.
23. Those five quarterbacks were Allen (QB2), Kyler Murray (QB4), Deshaun Watson (QB5), Wilson (QB6) and Tannehill (QB9).
23a. Hurts is going in the 11th round in ESPN leagues.
24. Fifteen times over the past three seasons, Ryan Fitzpatrick has thrown at least 35 passes in a game.
25. In those games, he has averaged 313 passing yards and 21.7 fantasy points.
26. That 21.7 mark would have been good enough to be a top-10 QB last season, just 0.8 points lower than QB6, Wilson.
27. Last season, Washington’s starting quarterbacks were current Steelers backup Dwayne Haskins, current Washington backup Kyle Allen and current ESPN analyst Alex Smith.
28. With that trio under center, Washington still attempted 37.6 passes per game, ninth most in the NFL.
29. Last season, Fitzpatrick led all qualified quarterbacks in completion percentage on deep passes.
30. This offseason, Washington added Curtis Samuel (4.31 40 time) and drafted Dyami Brown (4.46) to go along with Terry McLaurin (4.35), Antonio Gibson (4.39) and 6-foot-6, 250-pound Logan Thomas (4.61).
31. Fitzpatrick is going undrafted in more than 80% of ESPN leagues.
32. Last season, seven of the top 10 QBs had at least 15% of their fantasy points come from rushing.
33. In his lone full college season, Trey Lance rushed for 1,100 yards and 14 TDs.
34. Since 2019, the 49ers are tied for third in rushing touchdowns, fifth in rushing attempts and sixth in rushing yards.
35. Over the past three seasons, Jimmy Garoppolo has missed 23 games.
36. Lance’s current ESPN ADP is 157.7 (QB19).
37. Since the beginning of 2019, 31 running backs have at least 300 touches.
38. Of those 31 qualified backs, Christian McCaffrey is third with 1.17 fantasy points per touch.
39. Alvin Kamara is second in fantasy points per touch, at 1.20.
40. And first, with 1.21 fantasy points per touch, is Austin Ekeler.
41. In his nine healthy games last season, Ekeler averaged 18.6 touches per game.
42. Over a 16-game season, that equals out to 297.6 total touches.
43. Last season, Ezekiel Elliott had 296 total touches, fifth most in the NFL.
44. Once he came back from injury last season, from Week 12 on, playing with Justin Herbert, no running back had a higher target share than Ekeler’s 19.9%.
45. Last season, Ekeler scored only three touchdowns.
46. In 2019, he scored 11 touchdowns.
46a. He makes Mike Clay’s list of players expected to score more touchdowns this season.
47. From 2011 to 2019, only three times did a running back have at least three runs of 70-plus yards in one season.
48. Those running backs were Adrian Peterson, Jamaal Charles and Chris Johnson, all in 2012.
49. None of them repeated it the next year or ever again.
50. Last season, Miles Sanders had three runs of 70-plus yards.
51. Remove those runs and last season Sanders was 41st among running backs in fantasy points per touch.
52. Sanders has never had a game with more than 20 carries in his two-year career.
53. He did, however, have three games last season with 10 or fewer total touches.
54. To put that another way, Sanders played only 12 games last season. In 25% of them, he had 10 or fewer touches.
55. New Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni was the offensive coordinator for the Indianapolis Colts from 2018 to ’20.
56. In none of those three seasons did a single RB play more than 50% of the Colts’ snaps.
57. In all three seasons, multiple running backs played at least 30% of the snaps.
58. In all three seasons, a third Colts RB played more than 15% of the team’s snaps.
59. Last season, no running back with at least 50 targets had a lower catch rate than Sanders’ 52.8%.
60. This year, the Las Vegas Raiders signed Kenyan Drake to a lucrative two-year, $14.5 million dollar contract.
61. For his career, in games in which Josh Jacobs has had fewer than 15 touches, he has never had 10 or more fantasy points.
62. For his career, in the 16 games with fewer than 20 touches, Jacobs averages 10.5 fantasy points per game.
62a. Twenty touches a game is … a lot.
63. Last season, 10.5 fantasy points per game was lower than RB31 Rex Burkhead’s 10.8 points per game.
64. Last season, among RBs with 100-plus touches, Jacobs ranked 46th in fantasy points per touch. Forty-sixth.
64a. Same category, same qualifier, RB43 was Kalen Ballage.
64b. RB44 was Brian Hill.
64c. RB45 was Devontae Booker.
64d. Booker, Hill and Ballage are all backups this year for their respective NFL teams.
65. This offseason, the Raiders lost starters Rodney Hudson, Gabe Jackson and Trent Brown from their offensive line.
66. Last season, Jacobs’ yards per carry after contact fell by more than 22%.
67. For his career, he averages 1.8 receptions per game.
68. Over the past five years, the New England Patriots have had the NFL’s second-highest red zone rush rate.
69. Last season, the Patriots led the NFL in red zone rush percentage.
70. Last season, the Patriots had 53 goal-to-go carries.
71. Of those 53 carries, 49 of them went to Cam Newton, Rex Burkhead, Sony Michel and Damien Harris.
72. Newton (free agent), Burkhead (Texans) and Michel (Rams) are no longer on the Patriots.
73. Last season, teams that were trailing threw the ball 68% of the time.
74. Most sportsbooks have the over/under for Detroit Lions wins this year between 4.5 and 5 wins.
75. Over the past two years, no running back has caught a higher percentage of his targets than new Detroit Lions RB Jamaal Williams.
76. From 2017 to ’20, the Chargers, under head coach Anthony Lynn, had the third-highest RB target share in the NFL.
77. From 2017 to ’20, the Chargers, under head coach Anthony Lynn, had the second-most RB receptions in the NFL.
77a. Lynn is now the offensive coordinator for the Detroit Lions.
78. In his seven games last season with at least 10 touches, Jamaal Williams averaged 13.1 points per game, which would have been RB25 on a points-per-game basis.
79. Last season for the Lions, Kerryon Johnson and Adrian Peterson combined for 231 touches.
79a. Neither is on the team this year.
79b. Jamaal Williams is currently being drafted as RB41 on ESPN.
80. Last season, Cooper Kupp averaged 13.9 fantasy points per game and finished as WR30 on a per-game basis.
81. Since 2015, here are some of the rookie receivers who averaged fewer than 13.9 points per game in their first season: Terry McLaurin, CeeDee Lamb, A.J. Brown and Tyreek Hill.
82. Ja’Marr Chase is being drafted as a borderline top-30 wide receiver on ESPN.
83. In Weeks 1-11 last season, with a healthy Joe Burrow under center, Tyler Boyd was WR14 on a per-game basis.
84. In Weeks 1-11 last season, Ja’Marr Chase, in college, was WR … nothing. He didn’t play football last season.
85. Since the start of 2018, Tyler Boyd is WR18 in total points.
86. Boyd is currently going as WR36 on ESPN, often multiple rounds after Chase.
86a. What are we doing here, people? Seriously.
87. Since 2015, among wide receivers, Brandin Cooks ranks fifth in receiving yards, tied for 11th in receiving scores and eighth in total fantasy points.
88. Since 2015, Cooks has missed a total of three regular-season games.
89. Last season, his first in Houston, Cooks was WR17.
90. Last season, William Fuller V, Randall Cobb, Keke Coutee, Darren Fells, Chad Hansen, Kenny Stills, Steven Mitchell, Kahale Warring and Deandre Carter combined for 254 targets.
90a. None of them are on the Texans’ 53-man roster as of Sept. 1, 2021.
91. Last season, Cooks had 10 games with at least seven targets. In those 10 games, he averaged 19.7 fantasy points.
92. Last season, 19.7 fantasy points per game would have been WR4, just ahead of Calvin Ridley.
93. Cooks is currently going as WR33, in the 10th round, in ESPN leagues.
93a. I mean, honestly people. COME ON.
94. Last season, only three tight ends had more red zone targets than Logan Thomas.
95. Last season, only two tight ends had more games of double-digit fantasy points than Thomas’ 10.
96. Last season, only one tight end (Darren Waller) ran a route on a higher percentage of his team’s dropbacks than Thomas’ 82.2%.
97. And last season, no tight end ran more overall routes than Thomas.
97A. And he did all that with quarterbacks Dwayne Haskins, Kyle Allen and Alex Smith.
98. This offseason, Washington upgraded at quarterback and gave Thomas a three-year, $24 million extension.
99. Last season, Thomas was the third-best TE in fantasy.
100. This year, he is being drafted as TE7, in the eighth round.
Source: Read Full Article