Fantasy Football Today

Three-receiver formations standard in today's NFL

By Larry Hartstein | Senior Analyst

The NFL becomes more of a passing league each year, making an increasing number of receivers Fantasy-relevant.

Average pass attempts have risen five straight years. They reached an all-time high of 35.4 per team last year, for nearly 71 passes per game.

Pass attempts per team since 2008:

2008: 32.3

2009: 33.3

2010: 33.7

2011: 34.0

2012: 34.7

2013: 35.4

For the first time, teams came out in three-receiver formations more than half the time. According to Football Outsiders' Aaron Schatz, teams came out in "11" personnel -- one running back, one tight end, three wideouts -- 51.2 percent of the time and used three or more receivers on 58.8 percent of plays.

Teams used "11" personnel 45.7 percent of the time in 2012, 40.4 percent the year before.

"Right now, the most efficient way to play offense in the NFL is to put three wide receivers, one running back and one tight end on the field with your quarterback in the shotgun for a majority of snaps," Schatz wrote. "Not all of them, you have to switch it up of course, but most of them."

Seventy-nine players drew at least 80 targets last year, compared to 62 players in 2008. Here's a year-by-year look at how many players (WRs, TEs, RBs) cleared 80 targets.

2008: 62

2009: 72

2010: 68

2011: 73

2012: 75

2013: 79

Quarterbacks are getting more efficient too. Last year, QBs collectively set all-time highs in completion percentage (61.2) and passer rating (84.1). Philip Rivers completed 69.5 percent of his throws, with Drew Brees and Peyton Manning both above 68 percent.

Teams averaged an all-time high of 23.4 points, a number that's grown steadily since 2009 when they averaged 21.5.

Slot receivers and No. 3 wideouts are more Fantasy-relevant than ever before. Fifty-nine wideouts scored at least 75 Fantasy points in standard leagues last year, compared to 57 wideouts in 2012, 53 in 2011 and 49 in 2010.

These are all numbers to keep in mind when deciding between a committee running back and a team's No. 3 receiver.

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