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Fantasy Intelligence Report: Spreading the Wealth

His nickname is Bumpy, and like so many grandpas around the world he has so many stories. And like so many close to that 30 mark, I love listening to his stories, even when I’ve heard them over and over and over again. They’re funny, they teach a lesson, and make my imagination run wild as I try to formulate what each story would’ve visually looked like.

Now, back when I was about 12 and first being introduced to fantasy football, my father had this great idea to incorporate card collecting in to fantasy football drafts. He would buy a set of the yearly cards (he often preferred Topps), and him and I would sit at the kitchen table and bust open packs. Excitement built every time we opened a new pack. We sorted them by player as we opened more and more packs, and eventually he would put the doubles in sleeves and then in a somewhat large square box.

Later on, at fantasy draft time, the teams announced who they were picking and grabbed the player’s card out of the box. By the end of the draft each team would have a slew of sleeved cards they took home with them. Most new owners, like myself, at that time drafted their favorite players with really no thought. Over the years though, that would change.

As the game of fantasy evolved to new heights, new theories were brought to the kitchen table. It was no longer “pick my favorite player cards to enjoy” fantasy, at least not if I was to be successful. I had to open my mind to the thought of real strategy. I had to explore different articles in magazines and reel in what was trying to be taught. In so many words I had to, “Be open to new theories and opinions.” So I was.

Over the years I developed a knack for winning based on a lot of that encouraged openness. Eventually I made my way up the fantasy ladder to And now today, several years after joining Tony’s great cast of writers I’m bringing forth a new theory, a new look. The only thing I ask is that you at least be open to it.

T.I.F.T.T. — Taking It From The Top

If you were to ask a beginning fantasy owner to describe New England wide receiver Wes Welker with one word, they would probably blurt out “stud.” It’s the universal fantasy football term for not only one of the game’s best wideouts, but the team’s best all-around pass catchers, in this case referencing the Patriots. But for this article we are abandoning, abolishing and completely terminating that overused term. It’s too generic, like al dente long spaghetti noodles without the red sauce.

The word I would use to best describe Wes Welker would be “spread,” as in spread formation. This is the formation he thrives in, and this will be the formation the Patriots will continue to utilize heavily in 2012. This is also the formation that will dictate a lot of fantasy production at both quarterback and wide receiver, and you’ll find out why below.

In essence, the thought here is contrary to what most have believed in the past – more quality-quantity targets on the field for the quarterback equals more quality opportunities for each receiver(s). For a more in-depth introduction feel free to read “
Formation that will change the fantasy landscape in 2012” in the magazine or digital copy of
Fantasy Football Cheat Sheets.

Note: In terms of this theory, the spread (shotgun) formation utilization percentages were generated when three or more wide receivers were on the field.

F.C.R. — Fantasy Correlation Revealed

Now your first question at this point should be: What is the correlation between spread (shotgun) formations and overall fantasy production from quarterbacks and receivers?

The easy way for me to explain it is to say that spread formations are like the Sicilian red sauce on a perfectly cooked plate of penne noodles, accounting for two-thirds of the invigorating taste. That’s right, in most cases spread formation split numbers account for two-thirds of a player’s fantasy production. There isn’t a more important formation in the NFL today than the one that features three or more wide receivers on the line of scrimmage no matter where the quarterback is standing or squatting at the snap of the ball.

Q.T. — Quarterback Trends

To get things started, attached below is a spreadsheet of utilization percentages from last season along with projected utilization rankings for 2012. Study and memorize them before moving on.


O.T.R. — On The Rise

Here are a few quarterbacks whose fantasy production should rise with a boost in shotgun and other spread formation play calls.

Blaine Gabbert, Jacksonville Jaguars (69.9 percent 3-4 wide receiver utilization):

The Jaguars added a few new targets at wide receiver in Laurent Robinson and Lee Evans via free agency and Justin Blackmon through the draft. They also still have possession receiver Mike Thomas and 6-foot-6 tight end Marcedes Lewis, who caught 69.2 percent of his passes last season when three or more receivers were on the field. Furthermore, if new head coach Mike Mularkey and offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski put an emphasis on higher percentage passing formations, as they did in Atlanta with Matt Ryan in 2011, Gabbert should see more fantasy success.

Josh Freeman, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (72.9 percent 3-4 wide receiver utilization):

With the addition of wide receiver Vincent Jackson and tight end Dallas Clark (who replaces Kellen Winslow Jr.) to go along with a new offensive coordinator in Mike Sullivan, Freeman should be able to increase his overall productivity. The Buccaneers have a solid core of young pass catchers – Dezmon Briscoe is underrated and can be the productive slot receiver Tampa Bay needs – whom are only destined to get better as Freeman continues to mature.

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