Football is a wildly complex and enigmatic sport. What looks and seems so easy on the surface has taken hours of preparation, with head coaches and assistants spending hours, sometimes days, trying to find the one edge that holds the key to victory.
Fantasy football is no different.
There is a world of data available within the PFF database, ranging from commonplace metrics such as average depth of target to advanced metrics such as inside-the-five rush attempt share and expected fantasy points. And using the data and analytics to find the edge can be the difference between winning and tumbling out of the postseason, just as it is in the NFL.
Each week, I come across statistics and trends that help sharpen my fantasy football rankings and inform my decision-making. Now that the regular season is over, it's time to share some of these insights and quantify the accomplishments of some of the league's best players.
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Rondale Moore caught 38 passes behind the line of scrimmage this season, the second-most among all players. Every other player who ranked in the top five is a running back.
Kyle Pitts gained 694 receiving yards on plays where he wasn’t considered open or wide open, the third-most among all players regardless of position. Only two tight ends ranked in the top 20.
Mark Andrews hauled in 18 contested catches during the 2021 season, three more than any other tight end.
Christian McCaffrey didn’t play much this season, but he was as effective as ever when he did. The Panthers' star back averaged 2.91 yards per route run this season, the highest single-season average ever recorded by a running back who ran at least 100 routes.
Justin Fields‘ 6.3% big-time throw percentage is the highest mark by a rookie quarterback since 2019.
Ja’Marr Chase led the league in receiving yards on go-routes (325) and back-shoulder go-routes (128).
Nick Chubb led all running backs in rushing yards against eight-men boxes at 669. He is one of 29 backs who faced an eight-man box at least 50 times but the only one to average more than 5.0 yards per carry against them.
Tony Pollard gained a first down on 39.4% of his carries when running to the outside, the highest rate for all running backs.
D’Andre Swift gained 506 yards after contact, the second-most among running backs this season.
Randall Cobb received 26.3% of his targets in the end zone, the highest rate among wide receivers in 2021.
Davis Mills‘ 2.57-second average time to throw was the quickest among rookie quarterbacks this year.
Jonathan Taylor ran for 106 first downs. He is the only player to reach triple digits in the last 16 years.
James Robinson found the end zone on seven of his 10 carries from inside the 5-yard line. He was the only running back with at least 10 such carries to convert 70%-plus of his goal-line carries into touchdowns.
Travis Kelce avoided 19 tackles this season, a career-high mark that tied for the league lead at the tight end position. Only three tight ends since 2006 have forced more missed tackles over a single season.
DeSean Jackson averaged 22.7 yards per reception, the highest average among wide receivers with at least 20 catches in over a decade.
Justin Herbert‘s 39.3% adjusted completion rate on tight-window throws ranked first among quarterbacks in 2021.
Cooper Kupp is the only wide receiver over the last 16 years to produce more than 800 yards after the catch. He finished the season with 861.
Tua Tagovailoa recorded the league's best adjusted completion percentage on deep throws at 55.2%.
Justin Jefferson was targeted 100 times on passes that traveled 10 or more yards in the air, 25 more than any other receiver. Only 65 of those passes were catchable. He caught 57 of them for 1,249 yards.
Damien Harris led all running backs in fantasy points per snap at 0.53.
Jamies Winston averaged 0.64 fantasy points per dropback, leading all quarterbacks.
Rookie Michael Carter forced 0.34 missed tackles per attempt on outside-zone run plays, the best mark among running backs this season.
Miles Sanders was tackled for a loss on just 3.6% of his carries in 2021, the lowest rate for a back over the last five seasons.
Najee Harris avoided 35 tackles, 14 more than any other running back this season and the second-most among backs since 2006.
Trey Lance averaged 8.5 yards per attempt during his rookie year, the best mark by a rookie quarterback since 2012.
Chris Godwin recorded 32 receptions on wide receiver screens in 2021, 11 more than any other wide receiver. He gained 236 yards, including 118 after contact.
Derrick Henry gained 331 rushing yards on plays with man-blocking run concepts. He led the league in yards in those situations despite missing half the season — and five backs ended up with more carries than him on man-blocking plays.
Terry McLaurin hauled in 25 contested catches this season, the most among wide receivers in 2021 and the second-most among wideouts since 2017.
If you would like to make some observations of your own, check out PFF Elite, where you can find signature statistics for every offensive and defensive position in football, thanks to PFF's Premium Stats and Fantasy Stats.