Mike Clay

Goal Line Stand

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Clay: Fantasy Top Tens

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Following the lead of colleagues Evan Silva and Chris Wesseling, today I’m releasing a list of my top-10 players at the four most important fantasy football positions: quarterback, running back, wide receiver, and tight end.

Like Evan and Chris, I added in a little bit of analysis, but instead of a “quick” explanation for the ranking, I offered some statistical tidbits for you to chew on.

Note that the statistics shown include the playoffs. Snap distribution data provided by Pro Football Focus.


1. Aaron Rodgers - GB – Rodgers had a 21:2 TD:INT ratio last season…on the road. His 26:5 home mark was pretty good, too. He’s on his own tier at the top.

2. Cam Newton - CAR – 14 rushing touchdowns overshadowed a disturbing 8:10 TD:INT ratio on the road. The rushing scores will regress, but the yardage will remain and he should only continue to improve as a passer.

3. Drew Brees - NO – At Rodgers’ level at home, but his yardage (7.5 YPA) and touchdown (4.6% TD/Att) rate stats are barely above league average on the road.

4. Tom Brady - NE – Turns 35 this season, but the offense around him is even better than a year ago when he put up a 47:16 TD:INT ratio.

5. Matthew Stafford - DET – Don’t be surprised if Stafford takes a step back with his team calling more run plays and so many other top quarterbacks racking up fantasy points with their legs. He only scrambled 13 times last season.

6. Michael Vick - PHI – 26 of his 40 passing touchdowns have come on the road over the last two seasons. Additionally, he scored on just 1.3 percent of his carries in 2011 after putting up a 9.3 percent mark in 2010. That will regress in 2012. Expect top-five production when he’s healthy.

7. Tony Romo - DAL – Touchdown, yardage, and interception rate stats were all better in 2011, which led to a strong bounce back from an injury-plagued 2010 campaign. Romo tends to throw a lot more touchdowns at home than on the road, but also suffers a few extra interceptions on home turf.

8. Eli Manning - NYG – It might surprise you that his touchdown rate and completion percentage dropped from 2010 to 2011, but his overall production was better thanks to deeper throws combined with a substantial decrease in interceptions and a sizeable increase in YAC from his receivers.

9. Peyton Manning - DEN – A product of the dome in Indianapolis? Not exactly. Manning has a 32:18 TD:INT ratio at home, compared to 40:16 on the road over his last two seasons.

10. Philip Rivers - SD – Rivers took a lot of criticism last year, but he wasn’t as bad as you think. When you take out the impact of drops, his completion percentage has been either 75 or 76 percent each of the last four seasons. Recovery from a poor 13:12 TD:INT ratio on the road (was a combined 47:19 the previous three seasons) will lead to better fantasy production in 2012.

Running Backs

1. Arian Foster - HST – He’s scored 33 total touchdowns in 31 games over the last two seasons. In 15 games last year, Foster saw 22-plus carries nine times and was targeted five or more times on nine occasions. His career 4.8 yards-per-carry mark is even more impressive when you consider that he only has a pair of 45-plus yard runs.

2. LeSean McCoy - PHI – The 2011 breakout season for McCoy came despite a drop in both yards-per-carry (5.1 to 4.8) and YAC/Att (3.0 to 2.5). He saw 12 percent of the Eagles’ targets, which is a drop from 17 percent in 2010. He did, however, see a boost in carries and scored a ridiculous 85 percent of the team’s rushing touchdowns (up from 37 percent in 2010).

3. Ray Rice - BLT – Rice doubled his rushing touchdown total from 2010 with 12 in 2011. He racked up five 50-yard runs after combining for seven the previous three seasons. Rice has handled 17-plus percent of Baltimore’s targets and 56-plus percent of the carries each of the last three seasons. He was targeted, at least, seven times in eight of Baltimore’s first 10 games last season, but saw more than six only once in the team’s final eight affairs.

4. Ryan Mathews - SD – A whopping 29 percent of Philip Rivers’ throws were directed at Chargers’ running backs last season (13 percent of which were directed at gone-and-not-replaced Mike Tolbert). Mathews was targeted, at least, four times in nine of his 14 games in 2011. He improved his YAC/Att from 2.8 to 3.2, which helped his YPC jump to a dominant 4.9.

5. Chris Johnson - TEN – Johnson scored on 1.5 percent of his carries in 2011 after not falling under 3.4 percent each of the previous three seasons. His 4.0 YPC and 2.1 YAC/Att were also lows over the same time span. Johnson failed to pull off a 50-yard run after managing nine over the previous three seasons. He’s seen, at least, 13 percent of Tennessee’s targets each of the last four years.

6. Maurice Jones-Drew - JAX – Jones-Drew carried the ball fewer than 17 times only once during the 2011 season. After averaging 2.7 targets-per-game during the first 10 weeks of 2011, Jones-Drew averaged 4.8 the rest of the way. He was responsible for an unsustainable 89 percent of the team’s rushing scores. The 4.7 YPC mark he put up was his highest over the last four seasons and that came despite a slight drop in YAC/Att.

7. Jamaal Charles - KC – Charles’ 6.1 career YPC is the best of all time for a back with 500-plus carries. He saw no fewer than nine carries in every game of the 2010 season. From Week 5 on during that same season, he averaged 4.3 targets-per-game.

8. Darren McFadden - OAK – McFadden has eclipsed 113 carries only once over the last four seasons, but is averaging 4.8 YPC on those runs. A poor 3.4 YPC in 2009 was offset by 5.2 and 5.4 marks over the last two seasons. McFadden carried the ball more than 14 times and averaged 3.5 targets in six full games last season. Extrapolated over 16 games, his 2011 season would’ve ended with 293 carries for 1,584 yards, 56 receptions for 454 yards, and 13 total touchdowns.

9. Trent Richardson - CLV – In eight games where he was healthy enough to play more than half the snaps last season, Peyton Hillis – an inferior talent to Richardson – averaged 18 carries and 3.5 targets-per-game. Under the same parameters in 2010, Hillis averaged 18 carries and 4.5 targets-per-game. Richardson will step into a very similar role and should be even more efficient.

10. Steven Jackson - SL – Jackson has seen, at least, 65 percent of the carries and 11 percent of the targets for the Rams over the last four years. Additionally, he’s been responsible for 67-plus percent of the team’s rushing scores in each of those seasons. Jackson averaged 19.4 carries and 4.3 targets-per-game in the 13 complete games he played in 2011. His 4.4 YPC was his highest mark over the last four years.

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Mike Clay is a football writer for Rotoworld.com and the Founder/Managing Editor of Pro Football Focus Fantasy. He can be found on Twitter @MikeClayNFL.
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