Let’s take a look some of the top performing wide receivers and running backs from last year in relation to their teams rank in points per game allowed.
Last year’s 14 wide receivers over 1100 yards and their team defensive ranks are Colston at 13, Welker at 15, Brown and Wallace at 1, Calvin at 23, Cruz and Nicks at 25, Fitzgerald at 17, Steve Smith at 27, Roddy at 18, Jordy at 19, Marshall at 6, Bowe at 12, and Vince Jackson at 22.
That’s an average defensive ranking of 16 which drops to 18 when dropping the outliers in Pittsburgh.
The 9 running backs over 1100 yards with their team defensive rankings are MJD at 11, Rice at 3, Turner at 18, Mccoy at 10, Foster at 4, Gore at 2, Lynch at 7, McGahee at 24, and Jackson at 26.
That’s an average of 11 2/3 which drops to just fewer than 8 without the two outliers of McGahee and Steven Jackson.
The next six over 1000 are Matthews at 22, Bush at 6, Benson at 9, Greene at 20, Johnson at 8, and Wells at 17. That’s three more inside the top 10.
Forecasting which defenses are going to be in the top or bottom ten in points allowed is not something you want to use as a basis for your fantasy strategy. As the season wears on though try to keep an eye on opportunities to upgrade your team with wide receivers on teams that allow more points and running backs with a stingy defense as both situations will allow for greater success. A team that is trailing will try to score faster with their passing game and a team in the lead will run the ball to maintain their lead.
Dwayne Bowe, Larry Fitzgerald, Brandon Marshall and Steve Smith are the only four on the list with a quarterback outside the top ten in QB rating. This means you want a wide receiver from a bad team defensively but not necessarily with a bad quarterback. Those four wide outs were the dominant option on their teams which resulted in a strong season due to a high percentage of targets.
So how do you put this into action? I’m not saying you should not draft a wide receiver because his defense is projected to be good but weigh your options on each pick and if you need a tie breaker between two similar players this can be useful to sway your decision.
For instance – Yahoo has a preseason rank of 56 for Stevie Johnson, 58 for Demaryius Thomas and 59 for Dwayne Bowe. With an overwhelming advantage in targets (perhaps to subpar team defense) I would lean towards Bowe. I would prefer Vincent (67) over DeSean Jackson (69). I would take Reggie Wayne (83) or Greg Little (89) over Torrey Smith (77) or Danny Amendola (147) over Alshon Jeffery (143).
For running backs I would prefer Fred Jackson (36) over Trent Richardson (26) and Steven Jackson (28) or Frank Gore (57) over Doug Martin (40) and Michael Turner (46) or Willlis McGahee (63) over Peyton Hillis (62) and Jonathan Stewart (61). I would take BenJarvus Green Ellis at 73 before Donald Brown at 71.
As the season wears on keep an eye on teams like Jacksonville, San Francisco and Pittsburgh which were top ranked defensively last year as injuries and hold outs could open the door for a good running back waiver add. Keep your eyes on those top performing defenses as the weeks roll on and you might get yourself a diamond in the rough like last years Marshawn Lynch.