A Hundred Little Lies

100 facts you need to know before your draft

Updated: July 25, 2013, 3:21 PM ET
By Matthew Berry | ESPN.com

When you think of it, that no one knows who said it is kind of perfect.

The Talented Mr. Roto

Even Wikipedia can't agree. It notes that radical journalist Henry Du Pré Labouchère might be the guy and that Leonard H. Courtney mentioned it in 1895. That Eliza Gutch used it under a pen name, that Sir Charles Dilke used it in a speech in 1891, and that it showed up at a meeting of the Australasian Association for the Advancement of Science in 1892.

Nineteeth-century British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli gets credit for it, but he mostly gets credit for it from Mark Twain, and no one can find evidence of Disraeli using it. However, Twain himself put it in his "Chapters from My Autobiography" from 1906.

I'm speaking, of course, about the phrase "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics."

We don't know where it comes from, and that's sort of perfect, because the point is that we don't know anything. Especially when we think we know something.

Among the definitions of the word "lie" is this from the good folks at Merriam-Webster: "To create a false or misleading impression."

And under that definition, gentle reader, I have been lying to you pretty much every time I have opened my mouth.

And I've got news for you. I am not alone.

Every person who does any kind of analysis or is paid to give his opinion does it. The guy talking about the royal baby? He does it. The two guys arguing about the latest debate issue in Washington, D.C.? They do it. The high-powered CEO, the pop culture commentators, the girl in the cube next to you who has that big presentation to your boss next week? They all do it. Every fantasy analyst you read does it. Everyone who's appeared on one of ESPN's many debate-style shows does it, and I most certainly do it.

We present facts.

But only some facts.

The facts that support whatever opinion we have. We mislead you. And we do it on purpose. For example, I want to talk to you about an amazing running back who last season had his fifth straight season of double-digit touchdowns. Super durable, he hasn't missed a game in three straight seasons, and what you like is there are so many ways he can beat you. Last season, he had his career highs in receptions, targets and receiving touchdowns. This three-down threat has become more efficient as his career has gone on, as he is scoring once every 22 carries. This is the highest touchdown-per-carry rate of any running back with at least 200 carries last season. Ball security? Not an issue, as he lost the rock the fewest number of times since 2007 and his yardage total was almost twice what it was over the first two seasons he was in the league combined!

So yeah, make sure you draft Michael Turner early!

You see? I just talked up a player who, as longtime podcast listeners know, I can't stand. A player who doesn't have a NFL team as of this writing, who had his carries significantly reduced last season, who consistently got stuffed in short-yardage situations, who managed to catch one ball and score a touchdown -- his first-ever receiving score -- and who, by all accounts, appears to be done, even if he does manage to score a new gig. And if he does, it will not be as good a role with as many scoring opportunities as he had with Atlanta last season.

That example was extreme by design to illustrate what I (and everyone else) does with startling regularity. We do it because we have to. There's only so much time in the day to listen or read or watch, and there are endless statistics that can say whatever you want them to say.

So, the truth is, I study all the stats, do the research and talk to as many folks as I can, then I choose which stats I want to show/discuss/butcher. If my research shows I should like the guy, I tell you positive stats. If it's the other way, I highlight the negative.

Listen, I can talk up or talk down anyone; I just have to choose the right stats for the job. Or, rather, I just ask John Parolin of ESPN Stats & Information to get me the right stats for the job, as I did at many different points throughout writing this column. John's a stats stud. Take him in the first round of your ESPN Stats & Info draft.

Although I believe I am a true master of researching statistics and then manipulating them to serve my narrative, I'm not alone. Everyone you listen to, read, watch, download, tweet and consume does it. We all do it because it's impossible -- and I mean impossible -- to get a complete statistical overview of a player.

Potential value changes with every game, play, personnel grouping and scheme. So, to make sense of the chaos, we have to make choices as to which stats we believe are important. Choice is opinion, and once any of us has an opinion, that OPINION is what shapes which facts are presented and how they are discussed.

If you're having a little bit of déjà vu, it's because I do a version of this column every year, and I happily cop to lying to you because I feel it's important. Extremely important. Throughout this preseason, you will have countless analysts tell you all sorts of reasons to draft this guy or avoid that one, so I want you to be aware that every stat thrown at you is really an opinion. A damned lie.

Your job? Figure out whom you trust and whose thinking aligns with yours, question everyone and everything you hear, take it all in and then make your own call. Ultimately, that's all that any of us is doing: taking a small piece of a big picture and making a call.

Everything that follows is 100 percent accurate. They are my attempts to influence how you think about certain players. Some are about football players; some are about teams and tendencies. And not one of them tells the whole story.

[+] EnlargeTom Brady and Peyton Manning
Stew Milne/US PresswirePeyton Manning stealing Tom Brady's favorite wide receiver? That's just crazy-crazy drama waiting to happen!

1. Over the past four seasons, Tom Brady has completed 72.7 percent of his passes to Wes Welker.

2. That percentage is second only to Aaron Rodgers and Jordy Nelson among QB-WR combinations with at least 200 targets over that span.

3. Welker is no longer on the Patriots. Neither are Aaron Hernandez, Brandon Lloyd or Danny Woodhead. Should Rob Gronkowski miss the first game of the season, the Patriots player with the most 2012 receiving yards and still on the roster would be Shane Vereen, with 254.

4. Speaking of Welker, last season, he led the NFL in receptions and receiving yards when lined up in the slot.

5. Last season, no quarterback completed a higher percentage -- 71.7 percent, to be exact -- of his passes to slot receivers than … Peyton Manning.

6. From 2008 to 2010, the Indianapolis Colts and Peyton Manning ran 2,309 plays out of three-receiver sets.

7. That was the most in the NFL during that time frame, 326 more plays than the second-place team.

8. Last season, the Broncos ran 706 plays with three-receiver sets, third-most in the league.

9. This offseason, Welker left the Patriots to join the Broncos.

10. More Peyton: For all the talk of "noodle arm," Manning completed 45.9 percent of throws more than 20 yards downfield. Only Robert Griffin III (with completions on 47.1 percent of such throws) was better.

11. By comparison, from 2008 to 2010, Manning's completion rate on throws more than 20 yards downfield was 31.6 percent.

12. In 2011, Matthew Stafford attempted 663 passes, had 16 interceptions and threw 41 touchdown passes. In 2012, Stafford attempted 727 passes, had 17 interceptions and threw for 20 touchdowns.

13. Last season, Calvin Johnson was tackled an NFL-leading eight times inside the 5-yard line.

14. In addition, he was tackled at the 1-yard line five times, most in the NFL.

15. In fact, last season, Lions wide receivers as a group were tackled 23 times at or inside the 5-yard line.

16. That was at least five more times than any other team.

17. In addition to the 18 interceptions Andrew Luck threw last season, he had 10 fumbles, five of which he lost.

18. Luck also had seven interceptions dropped by defensive players.

19. Those seven dropped interceptions were tied for the most in a season since 2009.

20. Last season, Luck also had five rushing touchdowns.

21. In the past 10 NFL seasons, only 12 quarterbacks have rushed for five or more touchdowns in a season.

[+] EnlargeTim Tebow
Jonathan Wiggs/The Boston Globe/Getty ImagesFact: Mentioning Tim Tebow in a column is a great way to boost your SEO and social media appeal.

22. Only two of those 12 quarterbacks followed it up with another season of five or more rushing touchdowns: Cam Newton and … Tim Tebow.

23. Of Luck's 4,374 passing yards last season, 2,636 (60.2 percent) came when the Colts were playing from behind.

24. That was the fifth-highest total in the NFL.

25. This season, the Colts will have former Ravens defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano as their head coach for the whole season. Between free-agent signings, drafted rookies and players returning from injury, they could have seven new starters on defense.

26. Under Bruce Arians in 2012, the Colts' offense rushed on 37.2 percent of plays, 10th-fewest in the league.

27. During 2011-12, with new Colts offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton as the Stanford offensive coordinator, the Cardinal rushed on 56.7 percent of plays. Isolating 2011, with Luck under center, Hamilton's Stanford offense rushed on 55.4 percent of plays.

28. In the first four weeks of last season, Griffin had 28 designed rushes, or seven per game. He also had six designed rushes at or inside the 10-yard line (1.5 per game) and scored four touchdowns. In Week 5, Griffin got hurt against the Falcons and left the game early.

29. In Weeks 6 through 14, Griffin had 41 designed rushes in eight games (or 5.1 per game). He also had just four designed rushes (0.5 per game) at or inside an opponent's 10-yard line and just one rushing touchdown. In Week 14, Griffin got hurt against the Ravens and left the game.

30. After missing the Week 15 game against the Browns, Griffin had 12 designed rushes in Weeks 16, 17 and the wild-card game (or four per game). He had just one designed rush at or inside the opponent's 10-yard line in those three games (0.33 per game) and just one touchdown.

31. Over the past four seasons, the only quarterback who's been sacked more than Ben Roethlisberger (152 times) is ... Aaron Rodgers (168).

32. Last season, two running backs averaged more than 6.0 yards per rush: Adrian Peterson and … C.J. Spiller.

33. No back with at least 125 touches had a better yards-per-touch average than Spiller (6.8).

34. Last season, with new Bills coach Doug Marrone as their coach, the Syracuse Orange ran the ball 555 times, 24th-most in FBS and 63 more times than any other team in the Big East.

35. Over the first 13 weeks of the 2012 season, 95 different running backs had more fantasy points than David Wilson (12).

36. Over the final four weeks of the 2012 season, only six running backs had more fantasy points than Wilson (55).

37. Per Pro Football Focus, among running backs with at least 70 carries, no one had more fantasy points per opportunity (carries and pass routes) than … Wilson.

38. Wilson averaged 5.0 yards per carry. He was one of only seven running backs to have at least 70 carries and average 5 yards or more per carry last season.

[+] EnlargeGore
Bruce Kluckhohn/USA TODAY SportsListen, I'm not telling you that Frank Gore is getting old and beaten up. His birth certificate and the stats are doing a pretty good job of it.

39. Frank Gore has seven straight seasons with at least 203 rushes.

40. In NFL history, only 10 players have had eight straight seasons with at least 203 rushes.

41. In Weeks 1-10 last season, with Alex Smith as the starting quarterback, Gore averaged 5.4 yards per rush and 1.9 yards after contact per rush.

42. In Week 11 through the Super Bowl, with Colin Kaepernick as the starting quarterback, Gore averaged 4.3 yards per rush and 1.4 yards after contact per rush.

43. Including the playoffs, 30-year-old Gore has had 692 touches the past two seasons. The only two running backs with more touches the past two seasons are 26-year-old Ray Rice and 27-year-old Arian Foster.

44. The 49ers also have LaMichael James, Anthony Dixon and Kendall Hunter on their team.

45. In Trent Richardson's final season at Alabama, he averaged 5.1 yards per rush between the tackles.

46. Last season, in his final season at Alabama, Eddie Lacy averaged 7.6 yards per rush between the tackles.

47. Over the past three seasons, only two teams in the NFL had more rushing attempts inside an opponent's 10-yard line than the Atlanta Falcons. They had 136 such attempts.

48. Over that same time frame, only the Tennessee Titans had fewer rushes inside the 10 than the St. Louis Rams, who had 61.

49. Over that same time frame, former Rams and new Falcons running back Steven Jackson was seventh in the NFL in yards after contact in goal-to-go situations.

50. That average was better than Peterson's and Foster's, among many others.

51. In case you were wondering, over the past three seasons, Turner was 21st in yards after contact in goal-to-go situations.

52. Turner scored 12 rushing touchdowns in 2010, 11 in 2011 and 10 in 2012.

53. Jackson has 126 receptions the past three seasons, seventh among all running backs during that time frame and more than Reggie Bush and Gore, among others.

54. Last season, the Denver Broncos ranked in the top 10 in red zone rushing attempts and red zone rushing touchdowns.

55. They also were tied for the sixth-most goal-to-go rushes.

56. Since the start of the 2011 season, Montee Ball led the FBS in rushing yards, rushing touchdowns and rushes of 15 yards or longer. In that two-year time frame, he scored 55 rushing touchdowns.

57. Over the past three seasons, no running back in the NFL has had more offensive touches than Foster.

58. Foster's yards per carry: 4.9 in 2010, 4.4 in 2011, 4.1 last season.

59. If you took away the touchdowns from every running back last season, Foster would have finished eighth in fantasy points among running backs, averaging just one point more per game than Matt Forte.

[+] EnlargeWallace-Brown
Christian Petersen/Getty ImagesBonus fact No. 1: Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown combined for 1,623 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns last season. Bonus fact No. 2: Emmanuel Sanders is not Mike Wallace.

60. Last season, Antonio Brown dropped just 2.9 percent of his targets. Only five wide receivers had as many targets as Brown and a lower drop percentage: Roddy White, Larry Fitzgerald, Vincent Jackson, Miles Austin and Anquan Boldin.

61. Last season, Brown averaged just more than eight targets per game.

62. Mike Wallace is no longer a member of the Steelers.

63. As mentioned above, Johnson was tackled an NFL-most eight times inside the 5-yard line last season. In second place, among the players tied with six tackles inside the 5-yard line were White, Marques Colston and Darren Sproles.

64. Last season, Alex Smith completed 70.2 percent of his passes, the most of any player with at least 200 attempts.

65. In Dwayne Bowe's career (2007-12), Chiefs quarterbacks have completed 57.8 percent of passes, 28th in the league in that span.

66. Over the past nine seasons, Andy Reid offenses have been top-10 in the NFL in passing yards eight times.

67. From Week 1 of 2004 to Week 8 of 2005, Terrell Owens, playing for Andy Reid, was targeted 214 times, fourth-most in the NFL during that time frame.

68. Owens had an injury in Week 8 of 2005, but from Week 1 of 2004 until that injury, he also had 1,963 yards (third-best in the NFL during that time frame) and 20 touchdowns, tied for most in the NFL.

69. Owens was listed at 6-foot-3, 226 pounds.

70. Bowe is listed at 6-2, 221 pounds. He's going in the seventh round, on average, in ESPN drafts.

71. Last season, there were 71 different players who were targeted in the end zone more or the same number of times as … Andre Johnson.

72. Johnson had just six end zone targets and caught one. Among the players with more catches in the end zone than Johnson last season? Garrett Graham, Jeff Cumberland and Lee Smith.

73. Last season, playing for West Virginia, Tavon Austin was able to gain 450 of his 1,289 receiving yards (35 percent) on passes that were thrown at or behind the line of scrimmage.

74. He averaged 7.4 yards per reception on those kinds of passes.

75. Over his career, on passes he threw more than 20 yards downfield, Christian Ponder hooked up with Percy Harvin for just one catch of 39 yards, which was a touchdown.

76. Ponder targeted Harvin downfield every 24.0 attempts.

77. Last season, Russell Wilson averaged one 20-yard attempt every 6.7 passes.

78. Overall, Wilson was off target on 14.4 percent of attempts, trailing only Drew Brees, Matt Ryan and Rodgers.

79. Ponder ranked 18th in that category (19.5 percent).

80. Over the past five seasons, Greg Jennings ranked seventh in the NFL with 228 fantasy points accumulated on throws of at least 20 yards downfield.

[+] EnlargeChristian Ponder
AP Photo/Charles Rex ArbogastNobody this side of a Vikings Fans Only league is pinning his hopes on Christian Ponder this season. But if you're buying into Greg Jennings, aren't you kinda drafting Ponder, too? Think about it.

81. The only qualified quarterback in the NFL without a touchdown throw at least 20 yards downfield last season was … Ponder.

82. Over the past five seasons, only the Colts attempted more passes at least 15 yards downfield (680) than Norv Turner's San Diego Chargers.

83. Josh Gordon is usually still available in the 13th round.

84. He's suspended for two games, but still. He's 6-3, 225 pounds, runs a 4.4 40-yard dash and is going in the 13th round.

85. Last season, the only player in the league to get at least three targets in the end zone and to catch them all was Randall Cobb. He was 6-for-6.

86. From Weeks 10-17, the player who caught the lowest percentage of his targets was … Larry Fitzgerald, at just 33.3 percent.

87. Last season, Cardinals quarterbacks were sacked every 11.7 drop-backs, the worst rate in the NFL.

88. Carson Palmer completed 46.9 percent of his passes under pressure in 2012, the fourth-best average in the league.

89. Cardinals quarterbacks combined for a 55 percent completion percentage and just 11 touchdown passes. They missed (over or underthrew) receivers on 23.2 percent of throws.

90. Last season, Palmer, playing with not a single wide receiver as good as Fitzgerald, completed 61.1 percent of his passes, threw for more than 4,000 yards and had 22 touchdowns.

91. Palmer also targeted Brandon Myers 105 times, the fourth-most targets for a tight end.

92. Palmer's new tight end, Rob Housler, is 6-5 and runs a 4.4 40.

93. Only two tight ends had at least 65 fantasy points from Weeks 10-17 last season: Jimmy Graham (78) and … Greg Olsen (66).

94. As our ESPN Fantasy Football Magazine notes, last season, there were 18 different tight ends who accumulated between 500 and 800 yards.

95. From 2007 to 2011, there were 18 different tight ends who had eight or more touchdowns in a season. Fifteen of them saw their touchdown total decrease the following season.

96. More on the repeatability of touchdowns from pass-catchers: Last season, there were nine different wide receivers who had at least 10 touchdowns. The list: James Jones, Eric Decker, Dez Bryant, Brandon Marshall, A.J. Green, Colston, Demaryius Thomas, Victor Cruz and Julio Jones.

97. Per the great Jason Vida of ESPN Stats & Information, from 2002 to 2011, 70 different wide receivers had 10-touchdown seasons, and 53 of them (or 76 percent) did not have double-digit touchdowns the following season.

98. Fourteen, zero, one, zero, one, two, zero. Those are Vernon Davis' weekly fantasy-point totals in the regular season starting in Week 11, when Kaepernick took over as the starting quarterback.

99. Last season, including the postseason, Dennis Pitta scored 10 touchdowns. Five of them came in the first 13 games (or .38 per game), during which Pitta averaged 37 yards per game under offensive coordinator Cam Cameron.

100. Over the final seven games, with offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell calling the plays, Pitta scored five touchdowns (or .71 TD per game) and averaged 49 yards a game.

Matthew Berry -- The Talented Mr. Roto -- managed to make it through an entire column without mentioning his book. His editor owes him a chicken parm. Berry is the creator of RotoPass.com, a website that combines a bunch of well-known fantasy sites, including ESPN Insider, for one low price. Use promo code ESPN for 10 percent off.

• Senior Fantasy analyst for ESPN
• Member, FSWA and FSTA Halls of Fame
• Best-selling author of "Fantasy Life"

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