10 Surprising Fantasy Stats Heading Into Week 13
Surprising Fantasy Stats
It’s hard to believe that the fantasy playoffs are almost among us. It does not seem that long ago that we were all preparing our draft strategy in anticipation of the upcoming season. Now 12 weeks are in our rearview mirror and depending on how the season has gone for you, you are either excited about the weeks to come or already looking toward 2024. Still, if you’re looking for an advantage then knowing some of the less obvious statistics may be useful.
To that end, here are 10 surprising NFL stats heading into week 13.
Brock Purdy (QB)/Justin Fields (QB)
*Tied for highest touchdown rate among quarterbacks
When I saw this stat I had to do a double take just to make sure I had it correct. It’s hard for me to believe that with the sentiment surrounding these two, there are actually some deeper stats that tell a more complete tale. Many have accused Brock Purdy of being a “system QB” and of not being someone the 49ers can win a championship with, but through 12 weeks Purdy and the 49ers are leading their division with an 8-3 record. Justin Fields and the Chicago Bears have not been quite as successful but in recent weeks there have been real signs of growth from Fields and if a few possessions had gone their way, the Bears could have two or three more wins and be in the playoff hunt. Neither quarterback throws the ball a lot, with both averaging under 28 attempts per game, but still, earning a league-best 6.5% touchdown rate on those attempts is impressive. Their teams have been going in opposite directions this season, but when it comes down to touchdown efficiency there is a lot to like about both.
Jordan Love (QB)/C.J. Stroud (QB)
*Same number of touchdown passes
If I had asked you prior to this article to tell me whether Jordan Love or C.J. Stroud has thrown more touchdown passes this season I’m guessing the answer would’ve been automatic and only half right. Most managers see the two players very differently. Stroud has become an instant starter in a lot of leagues while Love is a bench stash at best and only playable in bye weeks or if an injury strikes. While I do agree that the quality of an NFL quarterback rests on more than their touchdown total, I do find it interesting that both Love and Stroud have thrown 19 TDs on the season, although Stroud has more yards and more TDs on the ground. Please don’t take this as me saying that Love is on Stroud’s level. I believe Stroud has more natural ability than Love, and is capable of being an elite QB in the league for years, which is something I’m not convinced can be said of Love. Still, Jordan Love is the QB9 this season, while Stroud is the QB6, so for fantasy purposes both quarterbacks are useful and can help you win your weekly matchups, even if in a real football game you’d rather have Stroud.
David Montgomery (RB)
*Fourth in the league in rushing touchdowns
I’m not surprised by the fact that Montgomery is among the league’s best in rushing touchdowns this season. After all, he is in the same role that made Jamaal Williams a top-10 running back in 2022. What is surprising is that the three players ahead of him (Christian McCaffrey, Raheem Mostert, and Gus Edwards) haven’t missed a single game this year, while Montgomery has missed three and big chunks of two more, making Montgomery’s nine rushing touchdowns all the more impressive. Though, there are some reasons for concern moving forward. Chief among them is the emergence of rookie running back Jahmyr Gibbs. When Montgomery went down with an injury the second time, Gibbs was handed the reins and had three straight games of 20+ fantasy points and finished as the RB3, RB2, and RB2. This production has led to a split backfield, but the Detroit rushing attack is good enough to support two fantasy-relevant running backs. The days of Montgomery having complete control of the backfield are likely over, but there should be many more TDS on the horizon.
Austin Ekeler (RB)
*RB26 on the season
Coming into the 2023 season, Ekeler was seen, once again, as a top 3-5 fantasy running back depending on who you asked. So far, through 12 weeks that has not been the case as Ekeler has only managed an RB26 showing this year. To be fair to Ekeler he did miss three full games due to injury, but even in the eight games he did play, he was a top-7 back just four of those games and outside the top-25 in the other four. No one will deny Ekeler’s talent. He is one of the most skilled players at the position, but the entire Chargers offense has underwhelmed at times and this has had a direct impact on Ekeler’s production. Still, as one of the truly elite dual-threat running backs in the game, Ekeler remains a set-it-and-forget player for any manager who owns him, but it may be time to accept the fact that when you drafted him as a clear-cut RB1 for your fantasy team, what you got was a solid RB2 with upside. Four of his final six games are very favorable matchups so there is a chance that Ekeler will put together a string of top-5 performances right at the perfect time to help his managers win their league’s championships. If that does happen, all will be forgiven, but until we see it and until this offense finds more consistency, it may be best to temper expectations
Josh Jacobs (RB)
*Fewest fantasy points per attempt among any top-25 running back
Josh Jacobs has not had a bad fantasy season. He is currently the RB4 and since week three he has had double-digit fantasy points in all but two games. Still, it has been volume, not efficiency that has led to much of his success. As one of the premiere talents on the Raiders, Jacobs gets over 20 touches a game. This makes him one of the true bellcow running backs in the league. The Raiders have very little behind him and as such are giving him nearly every carry, but with 52 targets on the season, it’s his role in the passing game that is somewhat surprising and exciting for fantasy managers. To be fair to Jacobs his .79 fantasy points per attempt is likely, at least in part, because he gets so many attempts, but even so, it’s hard not to imagine how incredibly good he could be for fantasy owners if that number was higher. Coming out of his bye week, Jacobs will remain an automatic must-start player. Hopefully, for those who have him, he’ll begin to really take off just as the fantasy playoffs begin.
Mike Evans (WR)
*Fewest targets/receptions than any other top-12 wide receiver
Mike Evans is WR9 on the season, and unlike Josh Jacobs, he has reached that height by making the most of his opportunities. So far through 12 weeks, Evans has fewer targets (91) and fewer receptions (54) than any wide receiver in the top-12, but he also has nine touchdowns, which is second to only Tyreek Hill. Evans has always been a touchdown magnet and with Baker Mayfield under center for the Buccaneers that has not changed. There’s this perception that Evans’ success is due to massive volume and that he’s the clear WR1 on his team, but the numbers clearly tell a different story. His targets are toward the bottom for an elite wide receiver and he only has nine more targets on the season than teammate Chris Godwin. The difference is where those targets come. When they get close to the end zone, Mayfield often looks Evans’ way, knowing that if he puts it anywhere close Evans will likely come down with it. Evans is a locked and loaded low-end WR1 with touchdown upside every week.
Brandon Aiyuk (WR)
*Highest average depth of target of any top-20 wide receiver
From a real-world perspective, the 49ers have been incredible this season, but from a fantasy point of view, every skill player not named Christian McCaffrey has been frustrating. Although, in recent weeks Aiyuk has become the second most consistent fantasy asset on the team with at least 13 points in each of the last four games. Still, I was surprised to see that among all top-20 wide receivers, Aiyuk has the highest average depth of target at 14.98. For any mid-range WR2 that is an important number, especially when that player is on a team with so much elite talent and might see his opportunities fluctuate from week to week. But even with minimal opportunities a player that is being targeted downfield can reward his managers. Over the last three weeks, Aiyuk has had target totals of 3, 6, and 4 but still finished with 13, 24.1, and 12 fantasy points in half-PPR formats. This is because his average depth of target over that span was 18.9 and because he scored in each game. Aiyuk has shown he’s fully capable of a disappointing game, but his upside is such that he should still find his way into your lineups every week.
Drake London (WR)
*Not a top-40 wide receiver
I knew the quarterback play was bad for the Atlanta Falcons, but I was not aware of just how bad it has been. In 2023, during fantasy drafts, Drake London was being drafted around WR24 as a low-end WR2. The concern about who would be throwing him the ball seemed to be baked into his ADP already because if it had been based solely on talent London would’ve been drafted much higher. It appears that concern was warranted. Through 12 weeks, London is not currently in the top-40 at the position, sitting just outside of it at 41. The opportunity has been there with six or more targets in all but two games, but the quality of those targets leaves something to be desired. Whether it has been Desmond Ridder or Taylor Heinicke, more often than not those standing on the sidelines have had a better chance of making the catch than those on the field. Chances are, unless you drafted a very deep team or got lucky on the waiver wire, London will be difficult to sit, especially in leagues that play three wide receivers or have multiple flex spots, but if you are able to pivot away from him, I would.
Kyle Pitts (TE)
*Most air yards per reception
Pitts is another elite talent that has fallen victim to poor quarterback play. After a rookie campaign that saw Pitts go over 1000 yards (only the 2nd time a rookie tight end has hit that mark in history), fantasy managers were excited for the future. Unfortunately, that future has yet to arrive with Pitts being linked to subpar (at best) quarterback play. What is somewhat encouraging is that not all of his work is coming close to the line of scrimmage. They are allowing Ridder (or Heinicke) to air it out and throw the ball downfield. This has led to Kyle Pitts having the most air yards per reception among all tight ends. I don’t have a lot of faith that this will lead to much success moving forward. Until we see it consistently I would not want to rely on Pitts. He only has two top-12 finishes on the season and those are also his only two weeks with double-digit points. If you drafted him, hopefully you also drafted a rookie like LaPorta or Kincaid, or have picked someone up off the waiver wire like Pat Freiermuth, Juwan Johnson, or Trey McBride. I’d start all of them ahead of Pitts.
Sam LaPorta (TE)
*Most drops among top-12 tight ends
Sam LaPorta has had an impressive rookie campaign so far in 2023. He is currently the TE4 and has seven top-12 finishes in 11 games, which includes four finishes in the top-5. He is a key part of the Lions offense and as such has managed to find success at a position that is often hard for rookies to do so. This is why it was so surprising to me to find out that LaPorta has the most drops of any tight end in the top-12, with four. Granted, that’s not a lot of drops, but it is an interesting statistic for someone who has been so good this season. Still, I wouldn’t worry about it having any impact on his role in this offense. His role is secure and it is that trust that quarterback Jared Goff has in LaPorta that will continue to make him a must-start TE1 the rest of the way. Rookies often have things they can improve on to reach the next level. LaPorta seemed NFL-ready from day one, and if having four drops on the season is the worst thing we can point to then I’d say he’s doing just fine.
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- Target Tracker
- Red Zone Data & Stats
- Third Down Stats
A die hard Bears fan and fantasy sports fantastic, T.J. Besler earned his journalism (and theatre) degree from The University of Iowa. When he isn’t busy writing parodies for his YouTube channel Parodies for Charities he can be found either on stage performing or doing all things fantasy football related. Besler has traveled to nearly all 50 states either for work or leisure, and is grateful to everyone who has helped him along the way, especially his lovely wife Elsa, without whom much of this would not be possible. BEAR DOWN!