Proving That the NFC North Is Now Fantasy Football's Most Relevant Division
Fantasy football production may not always tell us what happens directly on the gridiron, but it can sometimes tell us where the most offensive production takes place. And that got me thinking: which divisions in football are best in terms of fantasy football?
To find this answer, I used the average draft position data from FantasyFootballCalculator.com. I based results off of a 12-team league with PPR scoring, assuming a roster of one quarterback, two running backs, two receivers, one tight end, and one flex spot. I then matched this data to respective divisions. You can find it below.
|NFC North||NFC East||NFC South||NFC West||AFC West||AFC North||AFC South||AFC East|
|Total Draft Picks||22||25||25||20||21||23||19||21|
Pounding the Rock
Grabbing one of the top three spots in a fantasy football draft usually allows a player to lay claim to an elite running back. Depending on your league-mates, you could end up with one of the top running backs at the end of the first round as well. Either way, grabbing a sure-fire running back is a priority in fantasy football.
The NFC North produces three different RB1s in mock drafts. Matt Forte, Adrian Peterson and Eddie Lacy are usually three of the top five or six picks in a draft. Our numberFire metrics project them as the third, fourth, and 10th highest scoring running backs in a 12-team, PPR format.
If you pick up your second running back after a couple of other picks, the depth is scattered about different divisions. The AFC South is the only division with three RB2s selected among the mock drafts, but with those players being Toby Gerhart, Bishop Sankey, and Trent Richardson, they could be considered more low-end types. With no division having more than four draftable starting running backs, the NFC North can claim slightly more relevancy at this position than the NFC East.
Pulling it Down
If you're not one to go with the running back position early and want to rely on elite receivers, then like the running back position, look no further than the NFC North once again. While the AFC East, AFC South, and NFC West (not surprisingly given the teams) had no receivers to qualify as a top receiver pick, the NFC North stood head and shoulders with five.
For your second tier of receivers, the NFC West may be one division that could allow you to strengthen the depth of your team. Being a division full of teams that love to run means there are not stand out receivers but that doesn't mean there aren't productive receivers.
So while the AFC West has Demaryius Thomas and the NFC East has Dez Bryant, those divisions don't compare that to a division with Calvin Johnson plus two receivers each from the Packers and Bears. The race to relevancy at the running back position was close, but no one can hold a candle to the NFC North at this position.
Airing it Out
While drafting a quarterback is completely different strategy in and of itself, there's not as much of a gap among the divisions of the NFL. Only the AFC North didn't have a quarterback that was taken as a QB1 in the mocks. Peyton Manning is residing in the AFC West, but with no one touching Alex Smith and Matt Schaub, Philip Rivers doesn't add much relevancy to the division.
It really comes down to three NFC divisions, the North, South, and East. Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees are considered two of the top three quarterbacks this year, and no one else is even close to their capabilities right now. The North can only claim Matthew Stafford as another QB1, but he's the fourth quarterback coming off the board in these mocks.
The NFC South can lay claim to one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in the league in Cam Newton, and there's rebound-candidate Matt Ryan as well. The NFC East may not have the cream of the crop quarterbacks among draftees, but there are great value picks later in mock drafts with Nick Foles, Robert Griffin III, and Tony Romo.
Our numberFire projections indicate that Rodgers and Stafford could finish the year as the second- and sixth-highest scoring quarterbacks of the season. Brees, Newton, and Ryan are to finish the season as the first-, fourth- and ninth-highest scoring quarterbacks. When you sprinkle in other elite options at the quarterback position, it leaves Foles, RGIII, and Romo as 10th, 13th, and 14th, respectively. If you like waiting on the position, this might be the division for you to get your quarterback. But the NFC South has an elite option as well as two value picks at quarterback, giving them a slight edge over the NFC East.
Tightening it Up
When it comes down to the ever-changing tight end position in these mock drafts, its really two divisions that are the most relevant in fantasy football. Rob Gronkowski is the third tight end off the board for the AFC East, but questions linger about his health. Julius Thomas broke out last year thanks to the Manning effect, but can he come close to his production from last year?
With the lack of few elite options at the position, the NFC East and NFC South shine through. Of course the NFC South has the top tight end in the league in Jimmy Graham but some tend to forget a smart, viable option in Greg Olsen of the Panthers. Olsen is going as the eighth tight end off the board and numberFire projects him as the sixth best tight end in fantasy.
But as the NFC South has two great options, the NFC East has the depth. Jordan Reed and Zach Ertz are going into their sophomore campaigns with high expectations, and then there's the always-consistent Jason Witten, who happens to be in a Scott Linehan-led offense this year. While a division where Graham represents you is great, I think the slight edge in relevancy goes to the NFC East at this position.
In the end, the NFC South and NFC East have 25 players from each division that were selected in various mock drafts. The NFC North and NFC East have the most starters for a fantasy team selected. However, quality receivers and backs are necessary for the successful fantasy teams. The NFC North led the way in both of those positions, making them the most relevant division in fantasy football.