Is Your Fantasy Player “the Exception Or the Rule”

There was a chick flick in 2009 called “He’s Just Not That Into You” that featured an all-star cast of Hollywood’s trendy, talented actors, all dealing with romantic misinterpretations. Although the movie was not a critical success, there was a life lesson within this film. The lesson was summed up with the quote, “You’re either the exception or the rule.”

How does this relate to fantasy football, you may ask?

Is there a baseline that you could reference for the best players at each position? This baseline would represent a typical and reasonable yardage expectation – “the rule” if you will. Of course, anything above this baseline, by definition, would be “the exception” to the rule.

The numbers that follow are calculated by researching the top ten players in each season of the last decade. Essentially, they represent the averages of the 100 best players from each position.


  • 4,423 – The passing yardage average by the top 10 QB. The rule.
  • 46 – Only 46 QB total threw for more than the 4,423 passing yard average in the last 10 seasons (which translates to about 4.6 QB per season). The exceptions.
  • 30 – The average number of TD passes thrown by the top 10 QB. The rule.
  • 55 – Only 55 QB total have thrown for more than 30 TD passes in a season over the last 10 years (or 5.5 per season). The exceptions.

At first glance, you might conclude that these baseline stats of 4,423 passing yards and 30 TD are rather conservative. So it may be worth noting that in the last 3 seasons, only 9 QB have met or surpassed both averages. Within the last decade, only 31 QB have met/surpassed both. That’s only 3 QB per season. Apparently, this is a lot tougher than it seems.


  • 1,648 – The all-purpose yardage average by the top 10 RB. The rule. (Rushing yards plus receiving yards.)
  • 41 – The number of RB who have racked up more than the 1648 all-purpose yards in the last decade (4.1 per season). The exceptions.
  • 11 – The average number of TD scored by the top 10 RB. The rule.
  • 33 – Only 33 RB total have scored more than 11 TD in the last decade. The exceptions.

Over the last decade only 27 RB have met/surpassed the yardage average and also met/surpassed the TD average. That’s less than 3 RB per season (2.7).

  • 1,233 – The drop in the average of all-purpose yardage for RB ranked 11-20 in this same time span, which is over 400 yards less than the top 10 group. The rule.


  • 1,357 – The receiving yards average of the top 10 WR. The rule.
  • 43 – Only 43 total WR have had more than the average receiving yards over the last decade (or 4.3 per season). The exceptions.
  • 9 – The average number of receiving TD scored by the top 10 WR. The rule.
  • 107 – There have been 107 WR who scored at least 9 TD in the last 10 seasons. This may seem like a bonanza but keep in mind this only averages out to 10.7 wideouts per year. Not even enough to satisfy each owner in a 12-team league.

Over the past decade only 26 WR have met/surpassed both the receiving yards average and TD average (or 2.6 per season).

  • 1,073 – The drop in the average receiving yards for WR ranked 11-20 in this same span, which is nearly a 300-yard drop in average. The rule.
  • 943 – The next drop in average receiving yards for WR ranked 21-30, which isn’t too far off from the group ahead of them (less 130 yards).


  • 853 – The receiving yards average of the top 10 TE. The rule.
  • 61 – The number of TE who had more than the 853-yard average over the last decade (6.1 per season). The exceptions.
  • 6 – The average number of receiving TD scored by the top 10 TE. The rule.
  • 142 – The number of TE who have scored at least 6 TD or more in the last decade.

Over the past 10 years 41 TE have met/surpassed both the 853 receiving yardage average as well as the 6 receiving TD average (4.1 per season). The exceptions.

It’s worth noting that TE yardage averages have dropped the last 2 seasons. While “receptions” are not captured here, they too have tailed off the last 2 seasons as well.


Each season some fantasy sites will go the extra mile and provide their expert “projections.” Or perhaps you’re the type of fantasy owner that compares last season’s statistics and then draws the conclusion that a better situation or a stronger supporting cast will have to improve on the statistics of a certain player.

These averages outlined here show that exceptional (or elite) numbers that go beyond the averages are not as common as some believe. They’re also hard to repeat as you can see by the fluctuation from even the top performers year to year.

This does not necessarily mean that the elite are not elite, nor does it mean that the elite are not consistent. The fact is, the very few elite, may be the ones driving the top averages up! It may be the inconsistent one-hit wonders who bounce between greatness and mediocrity who ruin the expectations of many fantasy owners.

No one wants to make draft day mistakes but many owners are optimistically eager to exaggerate the potential of ordinary players – the proverbial “break out” season. The attraction to these players may even be enhanced if the player had one of these exceptional seasons previously.

This one-sided love affair deepens if they admit to having a player “bromance” or a personal man-crush. This results in “reaching” for players too early. Then their fantasy relationship is put to the test once the season begins. If it doesn’t go well, the relationship gets strained and owners complain that the players are not performing as advertised.

If we were talking about love, we would learn from it and chose more wisely in the future. While this is about fantasy football, aren’t we still talking about love?


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Joe Mica

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Joe has been passionate about fantasy football since 2001. He has experience as an owner as well as a commissioner in H2H, auction, redraft and IDP leagues. He has written fantasy football columns since 2010. Submit any fantasy football questions you may have to me on twitter @JoeFMica

5 thoughts on “Is Your Fantasy Player “the Exception Or the Rule””

  1. Well Joe, over time who’s elite changes. Some of the young players will move up to elite, while others drop out, due to injury, age and what not. So the challenge is to hit on the player moving up. Bound to be some wrong guesses in trying to do that.

  2. Nice work and certainly very enlightening
    I love the unique spin on things
    Well done Mr Mica…

  3. The difference between wide receivers 11-20 and 21-30 being so small was pretty surprising to me. Of course none of this changes the fact that you have to draft the right guys to finish in those positions for it to matter. Great read Joe. Very well researched.

  4. Excellent article. What this tells me is that, in a “normal” draft, go RB in first, WR in second, QB in third and wait on tight end. The drop off seems to be significant and hopefully one of those top QB’s will drop. Depends on draft though of course.

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