Week 15 means everyone is in their fantasy playoffs, big dollar contests are probably deciding league winners and kicking off the total-points stretch for the final two weeks. We saw a lot of injuries in the last two weeks, particularly to quarterbacks. Unfortunately, most of every league is just watching by now but there’s always things to learn that can help next season.
Here’s a popular look at meaningful statistics that aren’t usually considered.
1.) Wide Receiver yards per catch – How many yards do each catch average? Here are the Top-20 deep-ball receivers for 2021 with a minimum of 30 catches.
Last year, there were only seven wideouts with more than 15.0 yards per carry, so this shakes out about the same. There were only two players that carried over from last year – Mike Williams and Justin Jefferson. Ja’Marr Chase (18.0) and Deebo Samuel (18.2) were the only receivers with 18 yards per catch and both have been injured this year. Chase is just short of 15 yards so far this season. The elite receivers are well represented, including Tyreek Hill who already has a 100-catch year.
2.) Quarterback passes per touchdown – This metric is the ultimate in measuring quarterback effectiveness. What is more telling than how many passes have to be thrown to get a touchdown? Minimum of ten touchdowns.
There are still detractors for Tua Tagovailoa but he’s been very effective. Granted, he has two great wide receivers, but he is making good use of them. Geno Smith also shows well in this metric. They may not seem like prolific passers, but Justin Fields, Jimmy Garoppolo and even Marcus Mariota was effective when they passed but none of the three are in pass-heavy offenses.
3.) Running Back plays per game – Today’s NFL uses running backs as both rushers and receivers, but it is a little more accurate to count up their carries and targets, since that represents how often teams consider the running back for a play. Snaps are a fairly new metric, though only describes how often a players was on the field rather than actually doing anything fantasy-relevant. Minimum 100 plays.
The surprise of the year in Josh Jacobs has been a bigger workhorse than any other player. There are only seven backs with 20 plays per game and nine last year. Derrick Henry led the metric with 29.9 plays per game but did not last beyond midseason. Alvin Kamara (2021- 23.6) and Najee Harris (2021 – 23.6) have seen noticeable drops in plays this year.
Saquon Barkley’s return to heavy usage is a sign of his health and while Jonathan Taylor seems so less effective this year, he’s actually slightly busier than his 22.5 plays per game last year. And who would have guessed that the rookie Dameon Pierce would be one of the busiest players in the NFL?
4.) Tight Ends yards per catch – Maybe you don’t get any fantasy points for “Catch distance”, but it’s a good measure of how much a tight end is really a designed receiver than a blocker. Minimum 25 catches.
The top three barely qualified with low volume but it is encouraging for Greg Dulcich in particular as he becomes a bigger part of the game plan. Anything higher than ten yards is elite within the position. This was a down year for tight ends anyway, and five of the Top-8 in yards-per-catch caught fewer than 30 passes.
5.) Place Kicker field goal success rate – The reality for kickers is that they are an expression of how often an offense is good enough to get within the opponent’s 40-yard line and yet bad enough that they didn’t score a touchdown. But when that happens, you want a guy that is going to toss three points on the scoreboard.
Jason Meyers of the Seahawks has been the most accurate and that having tried 25 kicks already. Cameron Dicker has only played for seven games for the Eagles but has been nearly perfect as has Eddy Pineiro for the Panthers. The notable about a high success rate for a kicker is that the team is more likely to let him try a field goal than punt or go for a first down instead.
6.) Defensive “big plays” – There is a wide variation in what fantasy points are awarded for defenses from league to league, but everyone rewards sacks, fumble recoveries, interceptions, and safeties. They reward touchdowns as well, but those come on a sack or interception. This looks at how many plays NFL defenses have in those categories.
The takeaway from this is that the teams with the most “big plays” on defense were those with the highest interceptions, and sacks, which are both a product of forcing the opponent to pass the ball more. That can be because their offense builds a lead that makes the other team try to catch up, or it can be that they have a great run defense and that encourages more passing.