We are mere days away from most fantasy football drafts.
And every fantasy manager that actually cares about winning is already doing player evaluations.
With that in mind, I'd like you to consider two quarterbacks for your fantasy team this year.
Quarterback “A” is an absolute superstar who averaged 21.7 fantasy points per full game last year. QB4 on a points per full game basis last season, it was another stellar campaign for our guy. As a starter, he's been a top-eight fantasy QB on a points per game basis every single year of his career, including three top-five finishes in the last four seasons. It's the consistency that's so great, helped by the fact he's a dual threat. He gets you points with his arm of course, but he's also sneaky with his legs. Did you know he had nine – count ‘em – NINE different games last year with over 200 passing yards and over 25 rushing yards?
Coming off a year where he averaged a career-high in passing attempts, completions and passing yards per game, expect QB “A” to keep chucking it deep all season long. Last year he was third in air yards per attempt and had the fourth highest rate of passes thrown at least 20 yards downfield. Oh, he's a gunslinger all right. His offense as a whole was top ten in total pass attempts last year, and this QB had the seventh highest deep ball rate in the NFL. Coming off yet ANOTHER Pro Bowl season, if you want this superstar as your fantasy QB this year you'll need to draft him early. He won't last long in any fantasy league that knows what they are doing.
Meanwhile, Quarterback “B” should be nowhere near your roster. He struggled horribly in his first year as a starter (when he averaged an NFL-low .38 touchdown passes per game) and while yes, he has improved some since then, still, it's been a challenge in the years following for this guy to stay on the field. He's never played every game in an NFL season including missing seven games last year. If you thought he missed more than seven last year, it's understandable since he seemed to disappear from games every week.
QB “B” had the second highest interception rate in the NFL, the fifth highest sack rate and finished 23rd of 31 qualified QBs in off-target rate. Seriously. Pick a stat, any stat, and this guy was likely towards the bottom of the league in it. His touchdown rate has declined for three straight years. He was QB16 last year in fantasy scoring and honestly I was surprised he was even that high when I looked him up. I mean come on, when you consider what a disaster it is when this guy throws is it any wonder his franchise wants to go more run-heavy this year?
They let the only wide receiver with over 600 yards or over 50 receptions from last season leave, they didn't draft or sign any additional wide receivers and they spent multiple early-round draft picks on offensive linemen. And before you think maybe this QB will run, remember those days are behind him. He's coming off a career low in rushing attempts and it's the third straight year his rushing yards have declined.
So, which Quarterback do you want?
Understand that every single thing I wrote about each player above is 100% true. Heavily researched, verified and completely accurate.
Which Quarterback do you want?
You've got 60 seconds in the draft room. Clock is ticking down. Gotta make a call and make it quick.
You've done the research, including reading about 500 stat-filled words from me on these two QBs. You're fully informed. So come on now. It should be obvious, right?
Which QB do you want?
“A” or “B”?
Oh, before you answer, you should know one last thing.
Both players are Lamar Jackson.
You see, I can talk up or talk down any player I want. It's a skill I learned in 15 years at ESPN and it's one I'm bringing back with me to Rotoworld. That's right. I'm back, baby.
My very job writing fantasy analysis professionally was right here, working for Rotoworld back in 1999, a job I held for almost five years. I left in 2004 to start my TalentedMrRoto website which was then bought by ESPN in 2007.
I spent the last 15 years at ESPN and I learned a great many things.
Including how to make stats say anything I want.
And I mean ANYTHING.
If I want to talk up Lamar Jackson, I talk about his per-game averages from last year and use the stats from his 11 “full” games while ignoring the one game he left early. I make sure to omit that his average last year was skewed by a few huge games as he actually scored 20+ points in just 4 of 11 games (just 36% of his games were 20pts+).
I praise his team's passing tendencies without mentioning their top two running backs tore ACLs in the pre-season and they were using street free agents for much of the year at running back, not to mention the loss of LT Ronnie Stanley. But because I didn't want to make it obvious it was Lamar, I use a decent rushing stat (the nine games of 25+ rushing yards) and didn't use a great rushing stat, like the fact he averaged 63.9 rushing yards a game last season, most by an NFL QB.
But when I need to talk Lamar down, I mention the rookie year low passing TD rate without discussing the fact that in his rookie year he primarily just ran the ball. It wasn't until his second year, the MVP year of 2019, that he really opened up as a passer. I mention the loss of Marquise Brown without talking about what a weapon tight end Mark Andrews is or that Rashod Bateman's stats are skewed because he missed time last year. And that obviously any Lamar passing stat has to be taken with a grain of salt since he gets so much value with his legs.
I use the fact he was injured last year and don't mention how insane his MVP 2019 numbers were to make it seem like his rushing production has gone down the last few years. I purposefully don't mention Baltimore spent this off-season bolstering its offensive line and all indications are they are going run heavy once again, including a lot of rushing from Lamar.
Oh yeah. Could do this all day. Because look, if you followed me over from ESPN you are already well aware but for the new kids in class you should know this: There's very little in this world I'm good at – seriously, it's a short list - but there's one thing I'm a world-class master at:
Manipulating stats to tell the story I want.
I did it at ESPN, I'm gonna do it here at NBC and it's important I tell you a secret.
I'm not alone.
Everyone does it.
Some of us admit it, many others don't, but EVERYONE does it.
They do it in fantasy football analysis, they do it in politics, protests, pop culture, office presentations and happy hour debates. They tell you the stats that support one side of an argument.
A side that is really just their opinion.
Oh, they'll claim it's unbiased and objective, but that's a total crock. There's no way around it. Even just by selecting what stat or video they show you, they are editorializing. Even if they wanted to be totally objective (and not many do), there just isn't enough time in the day to do a deep dive on every player and show you everything. There are too many stats, too much film and too many variables like coaching, play calling and teammates.
So that's why just like I have for the last 16 years, this is the very first column I write every season. And it's absolutely why I want this to be the first column I write for NBC now that I'm here.
Because I want you to know – I want everyone to know – that I do this. That I WON'T be telling you the truth. Oh, my stats will be accurate. They just won't tell the whole story. They'll just tell you the part of the story I want you to see. They are stats designed to support my opinion. I heavily researched, studied and was informed by league source's opinion but still.
If you take nothing else away from this column please take this. Your fantasy football success in 2022 is NOT going to be based on how much you read/watch/listen/number-crunch.
Much more important is how you interpret whatever you research: what you believe and, maybe even more crucial, what you ignore.
We are in the greatest era of information (and misinformation!) ever. When I started writing this column, it was about grinding and going that extra mile to find an unearthed piece of research, of digging deeper than your league mates to find an edge.
Now, thanks to the internet, thanks to easy access to game film, thanks to social media, podcasting, digital video, etc., anyone who wants to find something out can easily do so.
I mean, hell, this year I'll be doing segments on Football Night in America. I'll be appearing on Sunday Night Football Final. We are doing a huge Fantasy Football Draft Special on Peacock in two weeks. I'll be doing a new Monday-Friday show that will air on Peacock and be available as a podcast everywhere you get podcasts. I'll be on a Sunday morning show that will air every game day morning during the NFL season, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., on Peacock, the NFL on NBC YouTube channel and right here on NBCSportsEDGE.com. I'll be posting a ton on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok and Facebook (I'm MatthewBerryTMR on every social platform). I'll be doing stuff with the Fantasy Life newsletter (FantasyLife.com) and the Fantasy Life App (FantasyLifeApp.com)… I'll have weekly rankings and my pre-season and weekly in-season Love/Hate column. There will be daily video on demand segments from me, radio hits and special betting odds boosts and opportunities. And that's just dumb me, right?
There are tons – and I mean tons – of smart men and women out there, analyzing fantasy football and specific NFL players' value in the game from every possible angle. Whether it's Rotoworld/NBC, many other media companies, websites, podcasts, radio shows, blogs, Discord channels, YouTube or social media we're all talking, writing, arguing, tweeting, performing, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.
And every single one of us is telling you why this guy is awesome and this one is a bum, why that guy is undervalued and how you need to ignore this other guy. IT'S ALL JUST OPINION.
Facts and stats and snippets of game film parsed to show you the side that supports their opinion.
And ONLY that opinion.
Your job? Watch the games, crunch the numbers, mock draft like crazy and figure out which analysts you trust and whose thinking aligns with yours. Question everyone and everything you hear, many times over. Take it all in and then make your own call.
Because ultimately, that's all any of us are doing, especially me: taking a small piece of a big picture and making a call.
It's what I have done here. I've done my research, I've looked at the stats, I've watched the film and I've talked to my contacts. I've made a call and now I'm going to show you a bunch of stats.
Stats that support what I want you to think.
Everything you are about to read below is an accurate statistical statement. A heavily researched, well-thought-out, 100-percent-true, can't-be-argued-with, fully vetted fact. Some of them are about players, some of them are about teams 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.
(TMR note: Unless I say otherwise, all stats below are for PPR leagues. Stats came from Pro-Football Reference, FantasyData.com and 4for4.com, where, full disclosure, I have a business relationship with. 4for4 is joining my RotoPass.com fantasy football bundle. Many great sites, one low price, you should check it out – it's a great deal! Oh yeah, forgot to mention, that's another thing I'm bringing with me from ESPN… my blatant promotion. Okay, here we go)
100 FACTS YOU NEED TO KNOW BEFORE YOU DRAFT:
1. Here's one year in “QB C's” career:
16 games started, 58.8% completion percentage, 3,089 passing yards, 510 rushing yards, 29 total touchdowns, 9 interceptions.
2. Here's one year in “QB D's” career:
15 games started, 61.3% completion percentage, 3,144 passing yards, 784 rushing yards, 26 total touchdowns, 9 interceptions.
3. “QB C” is from 2019, Josh Allen's second season in the NFL.
4. “QB D” is from 2021, Jalen Hurts' second season in the NFL.
5. In his rookie year, Josh Allen got to start 11 games and (until this upcoming season) has had the same coach and offensive coordinator his entire career.
6. In his rookie year, Jalen Hurts got to start just four games and his head coach and offensive coordinator were fired that off-season.
7A. Josh Allen finished that year as the No. 1 QB in fantasy.
8A. On Yahoo, Jalen Hurts is currently being drafted as QB8 (7th round).
9. Here's the entire list of Quarterbacks that have completed at least 66% of their passes and thrown for at least 4,000 yards in each of the last four seasons….Derek Carr. That's it. That's the list.
9A. He hasn't missed a game in the last four seasons.
10. Last year, Carr was top seven in the NFL in completion percentage, highest deep ball rate, passing yards per game and pass attempts per game.
11A. He's currently being drafted in the 11th/12th round range on Yahoo.
13. In those seven games, Rodgers threw 19 touchdowns, had just 1 interception, averaged a 68.6% completion percentage and averaged 292.7 passing yards per game.
14. In those seven games, Aaron Rodgers averaged 24.1 fantasy points per game.
14A. Last year, the No. 1 QB in fantasy, Josh Allen, averaged 23.7 ppg.
15. In the last 14 years, Aaron Rodgers has finished as a top nine QB 13 times.
15A. Rodgers is currently being drafted as QB12(!) on Yahoo.
15B. What are we doing here, people? Come on.
17. In the last two years, that same list (Rodgers, Brady, Mahomes, Allen, Herbert) are the only QBs with more total passing touchdowns than…Kirk Cousins.
18. Last year, under head coach Mike Zimmer, the Vikings were bottom 14 in the NFL in pass rate.
19. And yet, last year, Kirk Cousins was top four in the NFL in games with 2+ touchdown passes and games with at least 275 yards passing.
20. He has at least 4,000 yards passing in six of the past seven seasons.
22. Kirk Cousins has been a top 12 fantasy QB in six of the last seven years, including the last two seasons.
22A. He is currently going as QB15 on Yahoo, in the 13th round.
23. In his final two regular-season games last year, Joe Burrow threw for 971 yards and 8 touchdowns.
24. But in the six games prior to those final two, Burrow threw for 6 touchdowns.
25. As my friend Mike Clay points out, almost HALF of Joe Burrow's fantasy points last year, 47% to be exact, came in those two final weeks (a beat-up Ravens team in Week 16 and the crazy 34-31 game vs. KC in Week 17) and in Week 7 at Baltimore. Three games accounted for 47% of Burrow's fantasy points last year.
26. He also had four different games with under 13 fantasy points.
27. Last year, Burrow averaged just 7.4 rushing yards per game, down 52% from his rookie year.
28. He is currently going FIFTH among QBs on Yahoo.
29A. I mean seriously people. WTF?
30. Over the last two years, the Arizona Cardinals have the second most goal-to-go rushing attempts.
31. Since 2017, no qualified running back (at least 25 carries) has a higher TD conversion rate on goal-to-go rushing attempts than…James Conner.
32. Last year, James Conner had the second most goal-to-go carries in the NFL.
32A. Of RBs with at least 15 such carries last year, Conner's 42.3% conversion rate in goal-to-go was second highest in the NFL.
33. He got at least 1 goal-to-go carry in 14 of the 15 games he played.
34. He was also 11th in the NFL in receiving yards among running backs.
35. Last year, Chase Edmonds missed Weeks 9-14 (he got just 1 touch in Week 9) and Week 18.
36. From Weeks 9-14, James Conner was the fourth-best RB in fantasy.
37. In Week 18, James Conner went 15 for 52 yards rushing, had 6 receptions for 41 yards, scored two touchdowns and was the third highest scoring RB in fantasy that week.
37A. Chase Edmonds is now on the Miami Dolphins.
39. In those seven games, Jones averaged 19.6 touches and a 19.8% target share.
40. In those seven games, Jones averaged 25.7 fantasy points per game, which would have been the No. 1 RB in fantasy last year.
41. Aaron Jones is currently going as RB9 on Yahoo.
42. Last year, on a per game basis, Aaron Jones averaged 14.9 touches per game, 79.4 total yards per game and scored 10 total touchdowns.
43. Last year, on a per game basis, AJ Dillon averaged 13 touches per game, 65.6 total yards per game and scored 7 total touchdowns.
44. In fact, from Week 4 to Week 18 last year, those numbers turn into:
Jones: 14.3 touches a game, 79.8 yards from scrimmage per game, 13.8 points per game.
Dillon: 14.4 touches a game, 74.1 yards from scrimmage per game, 12.4 points per game.
45. Last year, 41% of AJ Dillon's fantasy points came from receiving in PPR, (up from just 10% as a rookie).
46. Last year, AJ Dillon caught 34 of his 37 targets.
47. AJ Dillon also lead the Packers in red zone and goal-to-go carries last year.
48A. It is possible for people to both be too low on Aaron Jones and to also have way too wide a gap between Jones' ADP and Dillon's.
49. There are only six running backs in NFL history to have at least 8 total touchdowns and 900 rushing yards in six straight seasons: Jim Brown, LaDainian Tomlinson, Adrian Peterson, Emmitt Smith, Marshall Faulk…. and Ezekiel Elliott.
50. In Weeks 1-4 last year, Ezekiel Elliott was RB6 in total points, with 4 touchdowns and an average of 99 total yards a game.
51. In Week 4 of last year, Ezekiel Elliott partially tore his PCL.
52. He still managed to play in every game last year.
53. He still managed to have the fifth most red zone touches in the NFL.
54. Not counting the six-game suspension in 2017, Ezekiel Elliot has played at least 15 games in every season of his six year career.
55. He has never averaged fewer than 16 touches per game.
56. In his career (six seasons) he has never had fewer than 1,200 yards from scrimmage.
57. For his career he has never been worse than a top-six fantasy running back in four of the five non-suspension years.
58. He is going as RB15 on Yahoo.
58A. And as RB18 on ESPN.
59. For his career, Josh Jacobs has at least 260 touches in every single season.
60. Over the last five years with the Patriots, new Raiders head coach Josh McDaniels never had an RB get 260 touches.
61. Last year, Josh Jacobs was just 25th among running backs in fantasy points per touch.
62. For his career, when Josh Jacobs gets under 20 touches in a game, he averages just 11.5 points per game.
63. Or slightly less than the 11.6 points per game RB29 J.D. McKissic averaged last year.
64. From 2019-20, Allen Robinson was the fourth best wide receiver in total fantasy points.
66. Those three COMBINED for 46 touchdown passes over 2019 and 2020.
67. This season, Robinson's QB will be Matthew Stafford, who threw 41 touchdown passes last year alone.
68. Last year, the Rams were top five in the NFL in both red zone pass attempts and goal-to-go passing attempts.
69. Allen Robinson is 6'2” and 210 pounds.
70. 13 different times last year a Rams pass catcher NOT named Cooper Kupp scored 15+ points in a game.
70A. Robert Woods averaged 15.4 points per game last year and was WR16 on a points per game basis.
71. There are 165 targets from last year available on the Rams.
72. Allen Robinson is going outside the top 20 WR's on Yahoo and outside the top 30 on ESPN.
72A. Please see point 29A.
73. Last year, 66% of Amon-Ra St. Brown's total fantasy points came in Weeks 13-18.
74. Last year, T.J. Hockenson missed Weeks 14-18.
75. Last year, D'Andre Swift missed Weeks 13-16.
77. Prior to Hockenson's injury, St. Brown's target share was 21%.
79. Over 45% of the Ravens' targets from last year are now available.
80. The majority of them are from Marquise Brown, whose 146 targets last year were 10th most in the NFL.
81. Brown was targeted on 24% of Baltimore's pass attempts last year.
81A. Marquise Brown is now in Arizona.
82. Last year, in the eight games in which Rashod Bateman got at least 5 targets, he had double-digit fantasy points in six of them.
82A. The Ravens did not draft or sign a significant pass catcher this year.
83. Brandin Cooks' 27% target share last season was tied for seventh highest in the NFL.
83A. This off-season, the Texans made no significant moves to add another pass catcher.
85. Brandin Cooks has now gone over 1,000 yards in six of his eight pro seasons.
86. Brandin Cooks has finished as a top 20 WR in both seasons with Houston.
86A. Brandin Cooks is going as WR28 on Yahoo.
87. Last year, Gabriel Davis was 98th in the NFL in total targets.
88. Last year, Gabriel Davis had 11 different games where he ran fewer than 20 routes.
89. And yet, Gabriel Davis was top five among wide receivers for most end zone targets last year.
90. In the five games last year where Davis saw at least 5 targets, he scored in four of them.
91A. Neither Sanders nor Beasley is back with the Bills this year.
92. Last year, Zach Ertz was traded to Arizona in the middle of the season and while trying to learn the playbook on the fly played 11 games for the Cardinals.
93. In those 11 games, among tight ends, he was top four in the NFL in targets per game, red zone targets and receptions per game.
93A. In those 11 games, he was the fourth best tight end in fantasy points per game.
94. With Christian Kirk in Jacksonville, Chase Edmonds in Miami and DeAndre Hopkins suspended for six games, there are over 16 extra targets per game up for grabs through the first six games and an extra 10 targets per game available once Hopkins comes back.
94A. Now in his second year in Arizona with a full off-season to absorb the playbook, Zach Ertz is being drafted as TE10 on Yahoo.
95. Last year, Cole Kmet finished top 12 in targets, receptions and receiving yards among tight ends.
95A. He was tied for the fifth highest red zone target share among tight ends.
95B. He had 91 total targets.
95C. He scored zero touchdowns.
97. During Doug Pederson's tenure in Philly, the Eagles lead the NFL in tight end target share and tight end fantasy points.
98. Zach Ertz finished as a top-five fantasy tight end in points per game in four of those five seasons.
99. Evan Engram signed a one-year “prove it deal” this off-season in Jacksonville.
100. He is being drafted in just 4% of Yahoo leagues.