Last week I wrote about lessons learned from the 2021 season, as it is important to look back before moving forward. That is exactly what this article does, as well. It is filled with a lot of stats to help you have a stronger grasp of what unfolded before our eyes the past few months. This should help you better assess both strategies and player values heading into the 2022 season.
And while I love researching and finding stats, I did not find all these alone. Huge shoutout to the NFL fantasy football research department (my old stomping ground) and to researchers Matt Frederick, Matt Okada (@MattOkada) and Joel Smyth (@FF_Smyth) who helped a ton on this article!
First, let's start by looking at league stats from 2021.
I decided to look at the numbers QBs put up in 2021 and noticed that passing numbers were not as high as they had been in recent years, but rushing numbers were. In 2021, QBs put up the most:
- 10th most pass YPG since 2000
- Eighth most pass TD per game
QBs never reached 70 rushing TDs as a whole from 2000 to 2018, but that's changed as of late.
- 2019: 78 rushing TDs for QBs
- 2020: 117 rushing TDs (most ever)
- 2021: 90 rushing TDs
QBs ran for nearly 9,000 yards this season; before 2020, no season ever topped 8,000 in a season.
What about offenses in 2021? There are still more points being scored now than there was a decade or two ago, but there was not as much scoring this past season as in recent years:
- Fourth most PPG since 2000 (23.0)
- 10th most rush YPG since 2000 (115.2)
- 10th most pass YPG since 2000 (244.1)
- 57.9% pass in 2021 -- eighth most since 2000
The lack of preseason had a big effect on scoring in 2020. Despite the extra game in 2021 there were more passing TDs (871 to 840) and rushing TDs (532 to 505) last year. In total, there were 1,403 TDs in 2020 and teams averaged 24.8 PPG -- in 2021, there were 1,345 TDs and 23.0 PPG
Now it's time for some player stats to help project moving forward!
Ezekiel Elliott posted per-game career lows in yards (75.8), touches (16.7) and fantasy PPG (14.83). He posted lows in yards after contact (655) and missed tackles forced (19 -- never been below 30).
Michael Carter's 0.27 missed tackles forced per attempt is the sixth-best since 2014 (min. 100 attempts).
We all know Javonte Williams is a beast at forcing missed tackles -- his 0.31 missed tackles forced per attempt are the most by any player since Marshawn Lynch posted the same number in 2014. Williams scored 29.8 fantasy points and was the overall RB1 in one game without Melvin Gordon. He averaged 18.9 fantasy PPG in five games with 16-plus touches in his rookie season.
Austin Ekeler led all RBs with 1.25 fantasy points per touch this season. He is the only RB to average 1.25-plus points per touch in multiple seasons since 2019.
Ja'Marr Chase as a rookie led all WRs in fantasy points per target at 2.36. In the last 10 seasons (min. 100 targets), the only receivers to post better were Doug Baldwin (2015) and Davante Adams (2020).
Josh Allen was the first QB to finish as the top scoring fantasy QB in back-to-back seasons since Daunte Culpepper in 2003 and 2004.
Justin Herbert has the most fantasy points and passing yards by a QB in their first two seasons in NFL history.
Josh Allen and Justin Fields each had just 37% of their passing yards come after the catch this season -- the fewest in the NFL.
Matthew Stafford led the NFL with nine games of three-plus passing TDs this season.
Joe Burrow threw 18 passing touchdowns of 20-plus yards in 2021, which is the most among any QB since 2015.
Kyler Murray's 964.5 fantasy points in first three NFL seasons is the second-most among QBs in NFL history behind only Cam Newton.
Lamar Jackson's 9.3 air yards per attempt in 2021 ranked third-most among QB.
Jonathan Taylor, Ekeler and James Conner scored at least 18 touchdowns in 2021. In the history of the NFL, there were 55 previous cases of a player scoring 18 touchdowns. Only nine of them scored 18-plus TDs the following season.
Ekeler led all RBs in receiving yards this season, leads all RBs in catches since 2019 and is the only RB with at least 50 catches in three straight seasons.
Najee Harris led the NFL with 381 touches in 2021, which was the most by rookie since LaDainian Tomlinson in 2001. Harris also led all RBs with 74 receptions in 2021.
Joe Mixon posted career highs in touches, yards, TD, fantasy points in 2021 -- and he finished as a top four fantasy RB in more weeks than Taylor did this season.
Alvin Kamara has averaged 17-plus fantasy PPG in all five seasons and put up a career-high 22.1 touches per game in 2021.
Cordarrelle Patterson was the RB7 in Weeks 1-9 in 2021 (RB26 in Weeks 10-18). He did so playing 46% of snaps in 2021 (28th among RB).
Nick Chubb is awesome, but his 1.4 catches per game in 2021 ranked 65th among RB. He has averaged 1.6 receptions per game over four seasons in NFL.
Devin Singletary was a top 10 RB and 80% of snaps in final four games of 2021. His big usage continued into the playoffs, and he played 100% of the snaps in the Divisional Round game against the Chiefs.
Melvin Gordon has scored nine-plus total TDs in six straight seasons (first RB since Adrian Peterson in 2007-13).
Derrick Henry is the only RB in the NFL with 19-plus fantasy PPG in three straight seasons. He leads NFL in touches, scrimmage yards, total TD since 2019 and has scored 10-plus TDs in four straight seasons.
AJ Dillon played 34% of snaps in Weeks 1-9 in 2021 (52% of snaps in Weeks 10-17). He averaged 16.4 touches per game in Weeks 10-18 in 2021.
Saquon Barkley topped 20-plus touches and 100-plus yards in two of 13 games in 2021. He's missed four-plus games in three straight seasons.
Christian McCaffrey is one of just two players (Patrick Mahomes) to average over 18 fantasy PPG in each of the last four seasons. He has averaged over 19 touches per game in that span and finished as a top-five RB in four of five full games with 24-plus fantasy points in four of those in 2021.
Miles Sanders is the only RB in the Super Bowl era to record over 750 rushing yards and no touchdowns in a season.
Cooper Kupp 's 439.5 fantasy points was the most ever by a wide receiver, while his 25.9 fantasy PPG was second ever behind only Jerry Rice's 1987 season (26.3). He led receivers with 8.5 catches per game, 16 total touchdowns, in 100-yard games (11), multiple touchdown games (five), and led all of the NFL with 14 games of 20-plus fantasy points. His 37 red zone targets were the most by any player since Demaryius Thomas in 2014.
Davante Adams has scored over 30 fantasy points 12 times since the start of the 2020 season -- that is twice as many as any other player. He's also topped double-digit touchdowns in five of the past six seasons.
Deebo Samuel's eight rushing TDs were the most by a receiver in NFL history. He also led all receivers with four games of 150-plus receiving yards.
Justin Jefferson's 3,016 receiving yards in his first two seasons are the most in NFL history. His 196 receptions in his first two seasons are tied for the most in NFL history with Michael Thomas.
Ja'Marr Chase's 1,455 receiving yards were a new rookie record in the Super Bowl era, while his 304.6 fantasy points are the second-most by a rookie receiver ever -- and enough for him to finish as a top-five receiver as a rookie.
Tyreek Hill finished as a top-eight receiver for the fourth time in five years -- while setting career highs in catches and yards in 2021.
Stefon Diggs posted 23 end zone targets in 2021 -- which was six more than anyone else and the most in one season since DeAndre Hopkins in 2017. Diggs posted a career-high 10 touchdowns.
Diontae Johnson has led the Steelers in targets in three straight seasons. His targets, receptions, yards, TD, fantasy points and fantasy PPG all increased in each season.
Mike Evans is the only player to top 1,000 receiving yards in each of their first eight seasons. He has topped eight touchdowns in six of the past eight seasons. But he has failed to top 115 targets in two straight years after topping that number in each of his first six seasons.
Hunter Renfrow topped 10-plus fantasy points in 14 of 17 games in 2021. His targets, catches, receiving yards have increased in every season.
Keenan Allen is the only wide receiver in the NFL to top 16 fantasy PPG in five straight seasons.
Jaylen Waddle's 104 receptions in 2021 was the most by a rookie WR in NFL history.
DK Metcalf is the only player with 14-plus end zone targets in three straight seasons.
Tyler Lockett, Evans and Diggs are the only receivers with 1,000-plus scrimmage yards in four straight seasons.
D.J. Moore had a 40% air-yard share -- the third-most in the NFL.
CeeDee Lamb led the Cowboys in targets, receptions, receiving yards in 2021. But he did not score a TD in final seven games of 2021.
Brandin Cooks keeps changing teams but keeps producing. He has been a top-20 WR on four teams and has topped 1,000 receiving yards in six of his last seven seasons.
Amon-Ra St. Brown was the WR1 overall in the 2021 fantasy playoffs (28.3 fantasy PPG) and the WR2 over the final six weeks of 2021 season. He posted the second-most targets in the NFL over the final six weeks of the 2021 season and topped 23-plus fantasy points in the final four games. He is one of just three receivers to have a 23-plus fantasy-point streak since 2019.
Marquise Brown's targets, receptions, yards, fantasy points and fantasy PPG increased in each season of career. He was the WR6, averaging 20.8 fantasy PPG in Weeks 1-5, and the WR39 averaging just 11.2 fantasy PPG from Week 6 on.
Darnell Mooney led the Bears in targets, catches, receiving yards and receiving TDs in 2021. He was the WR13 over the final 10 weeks of season (15.4 fantasy PPG).
Tee Higgins has topped 100 targets in both of his seasons, but he has yet to finish as a Top-20 WR in terms of total points.
Despite Terry McLaurin's numbers decreasing across the board, he posted a 42% air-yard share, second-highest in the NFL.
Amari Cooper scored 43% of his 2021 fantasy points in three games.
Adam Thielen has scored 30-plus percent of his fantasy points off TDs in three straight seasons. He has failed to top 1,000 receiving yards in any of those years.
A.J. Brown scored 50% of his fantasy points in three of 13 games in 2021.
Brandon Aiyuk averaged 9.8 yards per target in 2021 which ranked 10th among WRs.
It was a strange year for Courtland Sutton, who averaged 15.4 air yards per target, good for the second-best among receivers. But he put up just 7.9 receiving yards per target and that was 90th among WRs.
DeAndre Hopkins did not top 100 yards in any game in 2021. But he averaged 1.1 end zone targets per game, which was second among all receivers.
Elijah Moore scored 56% of his fantasy points in three games, but he did score six TDs in the final seven games. Plus, the Jets passed 63% of the time in 2021, the second-most in the NFL.
Odell Beckham scored five TDs in eight games with the Rams in 2021. He scored just seven TDs in 29 games with the Browns.
Gabe Davis scored four TDs in the final five games of 2021 -- before becoming the first player to catch four TDs in a playoff game.
Rondale Moore averaged 1.4 air yards per target, the fewest for a WR since 2016.
Rashod Bateman topped six targets in five of seven games he played with Jackson. Bateman was one of just six receivers to finish with over 500 yards and just two TDs or less.
Kenny Golladay scored no touchdowns in 2021, but had 13 TDs in his previous 16 games. He did put up 13.9 air yards per target, which was ninth among WRs.
Allen Robinson had just 66 targets in 2021 after seeing 150-plus targets in his previous four complete seasons. He did not top 70 receiving yards in any game.
Jerry Jeudy is one of just two players since 2020 with 150-plus targets and three or fewer TDs. He did not see a single end zone target in 2021.
Mark Andrews led tight ends in targets, catches and yards this season. His 26% target share led the position and was the eighth-highest in the NFL.
Travis Kelce has finished as a top two TE in six straight seasons, finishing as the TE1 in five seasons prior to 2021. He is the only tight end to average 15-plus fantasy PPG in five straight seasons. He also has 80-plus receptions and 1,000-plus receiving yards in six straight seasons -- no other player has more than two straight seasons. Plus, his streak of six straight seasons with over 1,000 yards in the most by a tight end in NFL history.
George Kittle is the only tight end besides Kelce to average 14-plus fantasy PPG in each of the last four seasons.
Zach Ertz was the TE6, averaging 12.0 fantasy PPG after joining the Cardinals.
Kyle Pitts' 20% target share in 2021 ranked third among TEs. He registered the fourth most fantasy points and second most receiving yards by a rookie tight end in NFL history and was the first one to top 60 catches and 1,000 yards in his first season. Lastly, he was one of just two players with over 60 catches and one TD or fewer (Cole Beasley).
Dallas Goedert saw a 21% target share after the Ertz trade -- which ranked fourth among TEs.
Pat Freiermuth's 20 red zone targets tied for second among tight ends in 2021.
Cole Kmet saw five-plus targets in 11 of final 12 games in 2021.