Why You Should Draft Players For Yards, Not Touchdowns
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Why You Should Draft Players For Yards, Not Touchdowns

The numbers players put up each year vary, that much is obvious. Some numbers change a little more than others. Let's look at last year's top ten players in receiving yards. Their numbers of receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns are:

1) Calvin Johnson @Bigplaycj

96

1681

16

2) Wes Welker @WesWelker

122

1569

9

3) Victor Cruz

82

1536

9

4) Larry Fitzgerald @LarryFitzgerald

80

1411

8

5) Steve Smith

79

1394

7

6) Rob Gronkowski @RobGronkowski

90

1327

17

7) Jimmy Graham

99

1310

11

8) Roddy White @roddywhiteTV

100

1296

8

9) Jordy Nelson

68

1263

15

10) Brandon Marshall @BMarshall

81

1214

6

Strong numbers right? The only stats that stood out to me were Brandon Marshall and Steve Smith, whose numbers together combined to average 200.6 yards per touchdown. To put that into perspective the three top touchdown-makers' -- Calvin Johnson, Rob Gronkowski, and Jordy Nelson -- combined average was 88.9 yards per touchdown. Obviously the lack-of touchdowns is a result of poor offense, and vice-versa for great offense scoring often. Those top three touchdown-makers all either had a quarterback that threw for 5000 yards or was the league MVP. What will happen to those like Smith and Marshall who struggled to score last year? Well, Smith has a young gun in Cam Newton that should be able to surpass his rookie passing numbers with a year of experience under his belt. The Carolina Panthers offense should be a pass-first one; and as the team's leading receiver, Smith should score 10-11 touchdowns (so long as he stays healthy). Marshall was stuck with the Miami Dolphins, who scored 20.6 points per game in 2011, good for 20th best in the league. He is now with a Bears team that averaged 22.1 ppg in 2011, 17th best, and they were without their top running back or quarterback for the last three and five weeks of the season. Marshall should also score around 10 touchdowns in a Bears offense that runs through its running back. I believe that if he can cut down the number of passes he drops, Marshall could lead the league in receiving yards.

Let's look at those same ten player's stats, but this time from the year before.

1) Roddy White

115

1389

10

2) Larry Fitzgerald

90

1137

6

3) Calvin Johnson

77

1120

12

4) Brandon Marshall

86

1014

3

5) Wes Welker

86

848

7

6) Jordy Nelson

45

582

2

7) Steve Smith

46

554

2

8) Rob Gronkowski

42

546

10

9) Jimmy Graham

31

356

5

10) Victor Cruz*

0

0

0

Firstly, Cruz didn't start any games that year and only played in three. Secondly, I'm amazed at how Nelson went from two touchdowns on 45 catches (4.4%) to 15 touchdowns on 68 catches (22%) just one year later. Obviously, there is a lot of fluctuation with these two charts of numbers, but we learn that there is a lot of yearly change in touchdown numbers. There is less change with yards, and we can rely more on the players like Roddy White, Calvin Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald who have consecutive 1000 yard seasons under their belt. Others, like Gronkowski and Johnson, are consistent enough with scoring touchdowns to merit bonus trust on top of their yardage consistency.

This information makes me more likely to draft players like Antonio Brown, who had 1100 yards but only two touchdowns in 2011. Remember, it doesn't take a pro bowl quarterback to cause a receiver to lead the league in touchdowns (Dwayne Bowe, 2010) but talent will always win-out when it comes to yardage, and the touchdowns will eventually follow.

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    3 Comments

    Very interesting read. In a couple of my leagues I put my rankings together solely based on the end of the year league points scored rankings. Using that as a barometer of how they perform in that given year as opposed to the actual yards and touchdowns breakdown. It takes the emphasis off of getting caught up in statistics, and in the leagues I've tried out this system as opposed to going off of actual yards, touchdowns or reception totals there is really no real difference in how the given fantasy teams performs when compared to leagues I use actual stats as a ranking tool. Really keeps the 'fantasy' in fantasy football. Getting too caught up in a players actual breakdown of stats can lead an owner astray, as in the case of Nelson scoring the TDs he did last season. I like him this year but won't put him on my draft board above another option solely based on the TD numbers. Good read!

    Posted by:
    Walton Spurlin 06/12/12 05:25 PM

    Great article. Totally makes sense in the drafting and comparing of WR's. Would there be a similar comparison against RB's? One could argue it depends on the number of carries given to the RB, but I just can't seem to find any lineage in the stats because there are just so many variables!

    p.s. I really like this article when comparing WR's.

    - Anthony

    Posted by:
    Report Abuse
    asunkist23 06/22/12 10:46 AM

    Walter, thank you I'm glad you enjoyed it. I agree with Nelson, for instance, a couple years ago the debate for the number #1 fantasy wide receiver was between Andre Johnson and Randy Moss and it was either the yardage monster or touchdown beast. Andre outperformed that season entirely. I believe that Antonio Brown could be this years Nelson, I'm not saying 10+ touchdowns but a huge improvement upon the previous year's stats and a top ten receiver.

    Anthony, carries could be the most important stat when analyzing running backs and writing predictions. Though when I look at running backs I tend to favor talent over all else. Obviously health issues are major, as are landing in an unfavorable situation. For instance, this past year Matt Forte was a third-round pick in most fantasy drafts, I felt that was too low for someone who should be viewed as a top-five running back talent. This year is tough to analyze the running back position with all of the question marks but we know that the top four are Arian Foster, LeSean McCoy, Ray Rice, and Maurice Jones-Drew. Most people keep the same 5-7 with Chris Johnson, Ryan Mathews, and Marshawn Lynch. If you look at talent Chris Johnson could be someone drafted late-first or early-second of most fantasy drafts and end up at the top of his position. Just an example, but this year will be much easier to predict wide receivers as opposed to running backs.

    Posted by:
    Sean Miller 06/29/12 07:57 PM

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