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Friday, January 3, 2014
Interesting facts from 2013 season

By Tristan H. Cockcroft
ESPN.com

With more NFL scoring comes more fantasy football scoring.

Check the record books: They've got some new entries. The league set new marks for points (11,985), points per game (46.8) and touchdowns (1,338) in a single season. A record 11 teams scored at least 400 points this season, and from an individual angle, Peyton Manning set records for passing yards (5,477) and touchdowns (55).

The fantasy record books changed too. Manning's performance earned him the best single-season fantasy point total by any quarterback since 1960, with 406. Four of the five offensive fantasy positions also set marks:

• Quarterbacks totaled 7,828 fantasy points, the most that position has ever scored in the history of the NFL, breaking the previous record set in 2012 by 273 points. Quarterbacks have now set all-time records in each of the past four years, beginning with 7,018 in 2010, then 7,274 in 2011, then 7,555 in 2012 and now this.

• Wide receivers (10,531), tight ends (3,768) and kickers (4,161) also set all-time marks for total fantasy points accrued by those positions.

• Thirteen quarterbacks scored 240 or more fantasy points -- that's an average of 15 per game -- the most to reach that plateau in any year since 1960.

Only one position didn't experience an uptick in production: running backs, who totaled 8,297 fantasy points. There have been 24 seasons since the AFL/NFL merger in 1970 that running backs scored more, including each of the 1975 to 1977 seasons, during which time the regular season was just 14 games long and there were no more than 28 NFL teams (26 in 1975, 28 in 1976 and 1977).

Tom Brady and Randy Moss
Tom Brady connected with Randy Moss for 23 touchdowns in his amazing 2007 season.

Despite all that, positional scarcity hardly shifted toward the quarterbacks in 2013. Sure, positional totals, as well as the increasingly pass-friendly nature of the NFL, might have you wondering whether it's smarter to build around them first. It's not so, a point Christopher Harris also made using Value-Based Drafting data Monday.

For another perspective, what if we compared Manning's fantasy point total, as well as every other quarterback's since 1960, to the league's positional average? For these purposes, let's define that average as the total number of fantasy points accrued by the position divided by the number of teams in the league. Here are the top 10 quarterbacks comparative to the league's average since 1960:

1. Tom Brady, 2007, 378 FPTS (+177.9)
2. Peyton Manning, 2013, 406 FPTS (+161.4)
3. Aaron Rodgers, 2011, 385 FPTS (+157.7)
4. Daunte Culpepper, 2004, 360 FPTS (+155.5)
5. George Blanda, 1961, 336 FPTS (+153.5)
6. Drew Brees, 2011, 380 FPTS (+152.7)
7. Steve Young, 1998, 353 FPTS (+150.7)
8. Dan Marino, 1984, 353 FPTS (+150.5)
9. Peyton Manning, 2004, 350 FPTS (+145.5)
10. Randall Cunningham, 1990, 342 FPTS (+143.8)

As you can see, Manning's record-setting campaign isn't even tops on the list, which shows how much the bar has shifted even for lower-tier quarterbacks. For another way to put it, consider this:

• Quarterbacks averaged 15.3 fantasy points per game in 2013, most ever by the position, and teams received an all-time-high 244.6 fantasy points from their quarterbacks for the season. Twelve quarterbacks managed greater than those 244.6 points.

Ten years earlier, 13 quarterbacks exceeded the league's average, which was 190.0, 54.6 points fewer than it was in 2013. The entire position has picked up its pace, meaning values over replacement haven't shifted much at all.

Other 2013 fantasy facts

Let's take a quick look at some of the other memorable statistical feats of the 2013 season:

• Manning's 406 fantasy points were the second most of any player since 1960, behind only LaDainian Tomlinson's 410 in 2006.

• Manning became the oldest player since 1960 to score at least 300 fantasy points; he began the 2013 season 37 years, five months and 16 days old. He is only the fourth to score that many points after his 35th birthday, joining Steve Young (1998; he was more than six months younger that year than Manning was in 2013, turning 37 early in the season), Tom Brady (35 in 2012) and, well, Manning himself (36 in 2012).

• Drew Brees' 348 fantasy points were the 11th most by a quarterback since 1960, though he actually scored more in 2011 (380, third most during that same span).

Drew Brees
Drew Brees has thrown for at least 5,100 yards and 39 TDs in each of the past three seasons.

• Brees' 1,065 fantasy points during the past three seasons combined are more than any player has had during a three-year span since 1960; he broke Aaron Rodgers' mark of 1,006, set from 2010 to 2012.

• Six of the top 11 fantasy seasons by a quarterback have occurred in the past three years: Manning's 406 this year (first), Rodgers' 385 in 2011 (second), Brees' 380 in 2011 (third), Brady's 352 in 2011 (tied for eighth), Cam Newton's 352 in 2011 (tied for eighth) and Brees' 348 this year (11th).

• Newton's 943 fantasy points through his first three NFL seasons are the most by any player since 1960. Eric Dickerson previously held the record with 818 from 1983 to 1985.

Andy Dalton's 711 fantasy points through his first three NFL seasons are the fifth most by any quarterback since 1960. Only Newton, Jeff Garcia (756, 1999-2001), Dan Marino (755, 1983-85) and Manning (730, 1998-2000) had more.

Andrew Luck's 543 fantasy points through his first two NFL seasons are the second most by any quarterback since 1960, behind only Newton (661), and the fourth most by any player, behind Newton, Dickerson (620, 1983-84) and Edgerrin James (610, 1999-2000).

Russell Wilson's 515 fantasy points through his first two NFL seasons are the fourth most by any quarterback since 1960, behind Newton, Luck and Marino (519, 1983-84).

Geno Smith's 179 fantasy points were one shy of cracking the top 10 rookie quarterback seasons since 1960. Sam Bradford's 180 in 2010 is 10th.

Jamaal Charles might have outscored the next-best player at his position by 33 fantasy points -- despite missing Week 17 -- but his 295 fantasy points for the year were tied for just 30th since 1960.

• There have been only 19 instances of a running back age 30 or older (age as of Nov. 1 of the given season) scoring 200-plus fantasy points, six of them scoring 250-plus. This year's leaders among the 30-and-older crop: Fred Jackson 175, Frank Gore 166, DeAngelo Williams 128, Steven Jackson 105 and Darren Sproles 90.

Josh Gordon
Josh Gordon led all wide receivers in points despite missing the first two games due to suspension.

Josh Gordon's 221 fantasy points are the third most by any wide receiver younger than 23 since 1960. Only Isaac Bruce (252 as a 22-year-old in 1995) and Randy Moss (228 as a 21-year-old in 1998) had more.

Anquan Boldin's 153 fantasy points ranks 22nd among wide receivers age 33 or older since 1960. This was not a productive group in 2013: Boldin, Steve Smith (94), Reggie Wayne (61) and Santana Moss (51) were the only wide receivers that age or older who finished with double-digit fantasy points for the season.

Jerry Rice is the only wide receiver since 1960 to have scored more fantasy points during a three-year span than Calvin Johnson's 680 from 2011 to 2013. Rice had 681 from 1986 to 1988, 770 from 1993 to 1995 and 698 from 1994 to 1996.

Jimmy Graham's 211 fantasy points are the second most by a tight end since 1960, behind only Rob Gronkowski's 233 in 2011. He and Gronk are the only players during that time to reach the 200-point plateau. Graham scored 24 more fantasy points than he did in 2011, when at the time he registered the third-best season by a tight end since 1960 (and now ranks fourth).

• Graham did, however, set a new standard (since 1960) for fantasy points by a tight end during a three-year span. His 542 are 63 more than the previous record-holder, Gronkowski, had from 2010 to 2012 (479).

Stephen Gostkowski's 176 fantasy points tied Jeff Wilkins' 2003 total for the third most by any kicker since 1960.

• The top five kickers this season registered fantasy point totals that placed third (Gostkowski's 176), sixth (Matt Prater's 169), 10th (Justin Tucker's 159), 11th (Steven Hauschka's 158) and 12th (Adam Vinatieri's 157) since 1960. Naturally, with more offense come greater place-kicking totals.