News & Analysis

How NFL roster construction impacts fantasy: NFC

Dec 3, 2017; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas (13) celebrates with running back Alvin Kamara (41) after a touchdown against the Carolina Panthers during the second quarter at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

On Saturday, I took a look at AFC roster construction from a real-world perspective as it relates to fantasy football production. In other words, are there teams out there with more of a stars-and-scrubs build as compared to a roster-depth setup? And what does that mean for fantasy.

Logically, today I’m following that up with a look at the NFC. First, the structure here. Ranking every team’s top-10 PPR performers 1-10, we can build an average point total by roster spot. If a team starts well above the average and falls well below, it’s top-heavy, a stars-and-scrubs roster. If it starts below rises above, it’s more balanced. Comparing a single team to the league average can give us all sorts of tidbits to learn from.

First, the league average:

Now I’ll look at the NFC teams, a division at a time, to see what we can figure out.

NFC East

Philadelphia: The Eagles were the poster-child for a balanced roster in 2018. Fifteen teams had a better point total from the top of the roster, but only four had more points from the 10th-best slot. The Eagles hovered just under average most of the way down the graphic, but slots eight (Dallas Goedert), nine (Josh Adams), and 10 (Corey Clement) rose above. With a load of potentially relevant running backs and Goedert having another year to develop, expect the Eagles to be balanced in 2019 as well.

Washington: No team had fewer points from roster spots 2/3 than Washington got from Alex Smith and Jordan Reed, and the team overall was well below average at every spot except No. 9, where Vernon Davis’ 75.7 climbed above the average … by 0.1 points. Maybe that means it was a balanced roster, but it certainly doesn’t make it one you want any part of in fantasy.

NY Giants: The Giants were one of only two teams with a hundred-point gap from No. 1 to No. 2, and their gap was nearly 150. Saquon Barkley had the second-most fantasy points for any player at any position last year, while Eli Manning (New York’s second-best performer) was barely even top-20 among quarterbacks alone. Only the Cardinals had got fewer points from the No. 9 slot than the Giants got from Wayne Gallman, and the overall roster was so shallow that Bennie Fowler makes an appearance at No. 10.

Dallas: Only the Texans and Packers had a bigger dropoff from No. 2 to No. 3 than the Cowboys got from the drop from Dak Prescott at second to Amari Cooper at third. Give Cooper a boost in 2019 from playing a full year in Dallas, but other than that, this remains one of the top-heaviest rosters in the league for fantasy purposes.

NFC North

Green Bay: I mentioned a paragraph ago how the Packers had a massive dropoff from No. 2 to No. 3 — Aaron Rodgers had 312.6 points, while Aaron Jones had 171.4. Only the Deshaun Watson-to-Lamar Miller drop in Houston was bigger. Give Jones a bump for a hopefully fully healthy season, and maybe you believe in a Jimmy Graham bounceback, but barring some major development from the secondary receivers, the Packers are looking more top-heavy than they have in a generation of players.

Chicago: The Bears were insanely balanced in 2018 … until you get to the No. 10 slot. Chicago hovered around average from roster spots 1-3, rose well above average for 4-9, and then suddenly fell off 80 points from No. 9 (Cody Parkey) to No. 10 (Josh Bellamy). No team got more points from No. 9; only the Cardinals got fewer from No. 10. With the roster largely intact in 2019 (save Mike Davis in for Jordan Howard), this feels like what we can expect from the Bears again.

Minnesota: The Vikings in 2018 were Kirk Cousins, Adam Thielen, and Stefon Diggs. That’s pretty much it. Only one team (we’ll get to them) had a bigger dropoff from No. 3 performer to No. 4. The Vikings should get more production from a Latavius Murray-less Dalvin Cook in 2019, but even at that, this is a four-person roster from a fantasy perspective.

Detroit: The Lions didn’t have a lot to offer. The backfield committee and injury to Kerryon Johnson kept the tail end of the roster more fantasy-relevant than some teams, but overall this wasn’t a team you wanted much part of after Kenny Golladay. With C.J. Anderson and Jesse James joining the team and Marvin Jones coming back healthy, maybe it gets slightly more interesting for 2019, but not much.

NFC South

New Orleans: The Vikings had the second-biggest dropoff from No. 3 to 4, as mentioned above, at 114.3 points. The biggest? The Saints who had a whopping 162.5-point gap from Drew Brees in third to Mark Ingram in fourth. Put another way, the gap from No. 3 to 4 on the Saints would have by itself been the 10th-highest score of any team’s No. 4 option. The Saints were a three-man team from fantasy purposes for most of the year. With Latavius Murray replacing Ingram, that shouldn’t change much there, though the arrival of Jared Cook and ostensible health from the team’s secondary receivers should give the roster slightly more depth. Still, this is not the team you want to dumpster-dive from.

Carolina: Christian McCaffrey outscored No. 2 Cam Newton by 102.9 points (second-biggest gap), Cam Newton outscored No. 3 D.J. Moore by 125.6 (fourth-biggest), and D.J. Moore outscored No. 10 Graham Gano by 79.0 (sixth-smallest). The Panthers had two players who excited you, and then a bunch of maybes.

Tampa Bay: You could argue that the Buccaneers had the most balanced roster 1-10 in the league, with Mike Evans the 15th-best No. 1 but Jacquizz Rodgers the fifth-best No. 10, and the Buccaneers having top-five performers at each of the spots 5-8. The departures of Ryan Fitzpatrick, Adam Humphries, and DeSean Jackson should make the team slightly more top-heavy in 2019, but this is still a team with a lot of mid-level offerings.

Atlanta: Mohamed Sanu (No. 5) and Austin Hooper (No. 6) were the best performers at their respective slots in the league. Justin Hardy (No. 10) was the third-worst. And there was a pretty steady drop from Hooper to Hardy. The Falcons weren’t top-heavy so much as they were … bottom-light. And that should still be the same in 2019.

NFC West

LA Rams: The Rams had a reputation as a reasonably top-heavy team, with nothing to speak of at tight end and only one running back. But they were one of only seven teams to get 100 points out of seven different roster spots in 2018, and the team was above-average at all 10 slots. The Rams aren’t going to give you massive value 1-10, but the roster ran deeper than you probably thought.

Arizona: The Cardinals had the worse performer at every roster slot 5-10. They were second-worst at Nos. 3 and 4. Such a top-heavy roster! … They were 13th-worst at No. 1 and ninth-worst at No. 2. No matter how bad you think the Cardinals were last year, they were worse than that.

San Francisco: George Kittle was a perfectly competent No. 1, but the 49ers fall off in a big way from there. Their No. 3 producer was Robbie Gould, believe it or not, and only Arizona, Buffalo, and Washington got fewer points from that slot. Things actually get slightly better for the 49ers near the bottom of the roster — 10th-place Kyle Juszczyk was a slightly above-average roster — but overall this team was basically Kittle and the pips.

Seattle: No team was closer to the league average performance than the Seahawks. Seattle was within 25 points of the league average at every roster slot 1-10. What does that mean for fantasy? Ultimately, not a lot. The Seahawks are average for fantasy. The options you think are options are probably options, and after that, don’t go trolling for more.

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