Fantasy Football: Who helped you win in 2017? Todd Gurley, Alvin Kamara, and Le'Veon Bell led the way
Todd Gurley was the biggest winner for Fantasy owners in 2017, but he wasn't the only running back at the top of the list. Jamey Eisenberg looks at the players who contributed to the most wins this past season.
Many championship-winning Fantasy owners will credit Todd Gurley for their success this season, and they would be right. Gurley delivered in a big way in 2017.
In looking at the win percentage for leagues on CBS Sports – which takes into account the teams that won the most games, not Fantasy titles – Gurley was the No. 1 overall player. He was also on the most Fantasy championship rosters of a sample size of more than 15,000 leagues on CBS Sports by a wide margin.
The win percentage data shows us the players on successful rosters at the end of the season, and they don't have to be starters on your team all year long. For example, popular waiver wire pick ups like Nick Foles and Mike Davis have a high win percentage because they were likely added to teams late in the year that were in playoff contention and already had stacked rosters.
But you will also see players on this list who were among the best late-round selections and free-agent additions, and those guys ended up being tremendous difference makers this year. Some of those players are Alvin Kamara, Alex Collins, Adam Thielen, JuJu Smith-Schuster and Evan Engram, among others.
Of the top 50 players in win percentage – and we removed DST and kickers from this discussion because, as some Fantasy owners will tell you, they don't matter – there were 19 players drafted after Round 10 or added off the waiver wire that made the list based on their average draft position on CBS Sports. Only five of the top 50 were drafted in the first round (Le'Veon Bell, Antonio Brown, Melvin Gordon, LeSean McCoy and Aaron Rodgers).
And there were 18 players drafted in the first four rounds, including running backs like Gurley, Bell, Kareem Hunt and Ezekiel Elliott, who makes this list for the second year in a row. Taking out Foles, the best quarterback was clearly Russell Wilson, and Travis Kelce topped Rob Gronkowski as the No. 1 tight end.
At receiver, DeAndre Hopkins barely edged out Brown for the top spot, but free agents like Marquise Goodwin and Robert Woods also made a big impact. But no one was better than Gurley this year at any position.
Now, along with the good comes the bad, and several players who failed us this season based on their win percentage compared to their ADP were Jameis Winston, Derek Carr and Marcus Mariota at quarterback, Devonta Freeman, Jordan Howard and DeMarco Murray at running back, Jordy Nelson, Dez Bryant and Amari Cooper at receiver and Jordan Reed, Martellus Bennett and Tyler Eifert at tight end, among many more.
The good news with some of these players who failed is that last year two of the worst players based on win percentage were Gurley and Hopkins. And clearly they rebounded in a big way in 2017.
We wish this list could serve as a blueprint for how to build your Fantasy team in 2018. Unfortunately, that's not the case because every year there are going to be first-round busts, along with difference-making waiver wire additions.
But it's always good to review players who helped you win and also see why some players flopped. Whenever there is relevant data, there is usually always something we can learn and apply to the future.
Editor's note: The numbers listed next to each player's name is their win percentage for 2017.
Top 50 overall win percentage
- Todd Gurley, RB, Rams - 0.625
- Nick Foles, QB, Eagles - 0.617
- Alvin Kamara, RB, Saints - 0.582
- DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Texans - 0.579
- Le'Veon Bell, RB, Steelers - 0.576
- Kareem Hunt, RB, Chiefs - 0.571
- Antonio Brown, WR, Steelers - 0.570
- Mike Davis, RB, Seahawks - 0.560
- Russell Wilson, QB, Seahawks - 0.560
- Marquise Goodwin, WR, 49ers - 0.557
- Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Cowboys - 0.556
- Travis Kelce, TE, Chiefs - 0.548
- Robert Woods, WR, Rams - 0.548
- Keenan Allen, WR, Chargers - 0.547
- Josh Gordon, WR, Browns - 0.545
- Mark Ingram, RB, Saints - 0.542
- Melvin Gordon, RB, Chargers - 0.540
- Leonard Fournette, RB, Jaguars - 0.540
- Rob Gronkowski, TE, Patriots - 0.539
- Tyreek Hill, WR, Chiefs - 0.538
- Adam Thielen, WR, Vikings - 0.538
- Zach Ertz, TE, Eagles - 0.537
- Martavis Bryant, WR, Steelers 0.531
- Greg Olsen, TE, Panthers - 0.530
- Jamaal Williams, RB, Packers - 0.528
- A.J. Green, WR, Bengals - 0.525
- Case Keenum, QB, Vikings - 0.524
- Alex Collins, RB, Ravens - 0.524
- Marvin Jones, WR, Bengals - 0.523
- JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, Steelers - 0.523
- LeSean McCoy, RB, Bills - 0.523
- Evan Engram, TE, Giants - 0.522
- Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Cardinals - 0.522
- Robby Anderson, WR, Jets - 0.522
- Michael Thomas, WR, Saints - 0.522
- Dion Lewis, RB, Patriots - 0.521
- Aaron Rodgers, QB, Packers - 0.521
- Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Steelers - 0.520
- Tom Brady, QB, Patriots - 0.520
- Kirk Cousins, QB, Redskins - 0.520
- Giovani Bernard, RB, Bengals - 0.519
- Kenyan Drake, RB, Dolphins - 0.519
- Delanie Walker, TE, Titans - 0.517
- Jared Goff, QB, Rams - 0.515
- Mike Wallace, WR, Ravens - 0.515
- Philip Rivers, QB, Chargers - 0.514
- Jarvis Landry, WR, Dolphins - 0.514
- Blake Bortles, QB, Jaguars - 0.513
- Jamison Crowder, WR, Redskins - 0.512
- Carlos Hyde, RB, 49ers - 0.511
The breakdown of the positions from this list are 18 receivers, 16 running backs, 10 quarterbacks and six tight ends. For the quarterbacks, this list supports the argument about waiting for the position on Draft Day.
Again, take out Foles because his impact was minimal despite his high win percentage. We'll also take out Rodgers since his win percentage would have likely been higher if he didn't miss nine games due to injury, and he's the only quarterback drafted in the first round based on his ADP.
Brady was drafted in Round 2, and he was sixth among quarterbacks in win percentage. But you had Wilson (Round 5), Roethlisberger (Round 6) and Cousins (Round 6) drafted after Round 5. And Rivers was drafted in Round 8, Bortles drafted in Round 13 and Keenum and Goff were free agents.
I'll say it again for the umpteenth time: you can wait for a quarterback on Draft Day and still have a successful Fantasy team. It all comes down to value, and you don't have to reach for a quarterback like Rodgers or Brady with an early-round pick. Drew Brees was the No. 3 quarterback drafted in Round 2, and he failed to help Fantasy owners have a winning season based on this data.
Another major takeaway from this list was that if you hit on the right running backs then you likely had a successful team in 2017. Of the top 20 overall players, nine were running backs, and only Kamara and Davis were not drafted in the first four rounds.
Gurley, Kamara and Bell were fantastic this season, and Hunt started strong and finished great despite a lull in the middle of the year. And the Fantasy owners who also stuck with Elliott despite his six-game suspension were rewarded with a winning team.
Top 10 quarterbacks
- Nick Foles, Eagles - 0.617
- Russell Wilson, Seahawks - 0.560
- Case Keenum, Vikings - 0.524
- Aaron Rodgers, Packers - 0.521
- Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers - 0.520
- Tom Brady, Patriots - 0.520
- Kirk Cousins, Redskins - 0.520
- Jared Goff, Rams - 0.515
- Philip Rivers, Chargers - 0.514
- Blake Bortles, Jaguars - 0.513
Other notables: Matthew Stafford (0.511), Alex Smith (.510), Carson Wentz (0.504), Cam Newton (0.500), Dak Prescott (0.490), Drew Brees (0.487), Jameis Winston (0.486), Derek Carr (0.482), Marcus Mariota (0.474), Matt Ryan (0.442)
Newton and Smith finished as top five Fantasy quarterbacks, but they were outside of the top 10 in win percentage just based on the Fantasy teams they were on at the end of the season. And Wentz would have likely had a higher win percentage if he didn't suffer a torn ACL in Week 14.
In looking at ADP and comparing it to win percentage and overall Fantasy production, the biggest winners here were Wilson (No. 1 Fantasy quarterback and drafted in Round 5), Keenum (No. 14 quarterback and a free agent) and Cousins (No. 7 quarterback and drafted in Round 6).
The biggest disappointments, using the same criteria, were Ryan (No. 15 quarterback and drafted in Round 3), Carr (No. 18 quarterback and drafted in Round 6) and Winston (No. 21 quarterback and drafted in Round 5).
Top 15 running backs
- Todd Gurley, Rams - 0.625
- Alvin Kamara, Saints - 0.582
- Le'Veon Bell, Steelers - 0.576
- Kareem Hunt, Chiefs - 0.571
- Mike Davis, Seahawks - 0.560
- Ezekiel Elliott, Cowboys - 0.556
- Mark Ingram, Saints - 0.542
- Melvin Gordon, Chargers - 0.540
- Leonard Fournette, Jaguars - 0.540
- Jamaal Williams, Packers - 0.528
- Alex Collins, Ravens - 0.524
- LeSean McCoy, Bills - 0.523
- Dion Lewis, Patriots - 0.521
- Giovani Bernard, Bengals - 0.519
- Kenyan Drake, Dolphins - 0.519
Other notables: Carlos Hyde (0.511), Derrick Henry (0.498), Lamar Miller (0.491), Jordan Howard (0.488), Christian McCaffrey (0.487), Joe Mixon (0.486), Devonta Freeman (0.482), Marshawn Lynch (0.479), Doug Martin (0.470), Jay Ajayi (0.467), Isaiah Crowell (0.466), DeMarco Murray (0.455)
There were 21 running backs drafted in the first four rounds based on CBS Sports ADP, and 18 of them are listed here. David Johnson (broken wrist in Week 1), Dalvin Cook (torn ACL in Week 4) and Ty Montgomery (missed eight games due to wrist/rib injuries) are the ones missing.
The successful ones, for the most part, also have the best win percentage since Gurley, Bell, Hunt, Elliott, Ingram, Gordon, Fournette, McCoy and Hyde were all top 12 Fantasy running backs in standard leagues. Freeman and Howard also finished as top 12 running backs, but their win percentage didn't match their total production.
Most Fantasy leagues are typically won by the standout late-round picks on Draft Day or quality free agent pick ups made during the season, and this running back list reflects that as well. Kamara, Williams, Collins, Lewis, Bernard and Drake were either added to successful Fantasy rosters during the season, or their production helped propel Fantasy owners to plenty of wins.
Conversely, the failures of high draft picks can ruin a Fantasy season. And you saw that with guys like Ajayi, Crowell and Murray, who had a sub-.500 win percentage and were also outside of the top 20 for Fantasy running backs in standard leagues.
The takeaway from this for next season is almost like a history lesson. You might want to once again lean heavily toward running backs with your early-round picks and make sure to be aggressive at the position with the waiver wire.
Top 15 wide receivers
- DeAndre Hopkins, Texans - 0.579
- Antonio Brown, Steelers - 0.570
- Marquise Goodwin, 49ers - 0.557
- Robert Woods, Rams - 0.548
- Keenan Allen, Chargers - 0.547
- Josh Gordon, Browns - 0.545
- Tyreek Hill, Chiefs - 0.538
- Adam Thielen, Vikings - 0.538
- Martavis Bryant, Steelers - 0.531
- A.J. Green, Bengals - 0.525
- Marvin Jones, Lions - 0.523
- JuJu Smith-Schuster, Steelers - 0.523
- Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals - 0.522
- Robby Anderson, Jets - 0.522
- Michael Thomas, Saints - 0.522
Other notables: Alshon Jeffery (0.510), Julio Jones (0.510), Brandin Cooks (0.508), Doug Baldwin (0.504), Mike Evans (0.502), Michael Crabtree (0.500), Demaryius Thomas (0.499), Davante Adams (0.495), Sammy Watkins (0.491), Dez Bryant (0.485), T.Y. Hilton (0.483), Amari Cooper (0.465), Jordy Nelson (0.464), Emmanuel Sanders (0.459)
Much has been made about the failures of the receivers who were drafted early this year, and that's a fair argument. Brown was great, but Julio Jones was inconsistent despite finishing as the No. 3 Fantasy receiver in standard leagues. Odell Beckham (broken ankle) was limited to four games, and Evans, Bryant and Cooper were busts. And Nelson and Hilton fell victim to quarterback injuries because of Rodgers and Andrew Luck (shoulder) missing extended periods of time.
The good news was Hopkins rebounded from his Brock Osweiler nightmare in 2016, Allen was healthy for 16 games and Thomas finished strong to show he's an elite Fantasy receiver. We also had standout performances from many late-round picks and free agents, including Goodwin, Woods, Thielen, Marvin Jones, Smith-Schuster and Anderson, which is reflected here in their win percentage.
One positive for 2018 should be that the receiver position is strong – maybe better than ever. Barring injury, we should get rebound performances from guys like Beckham, Evans, Hilton and Cooper, who gets an upgraded system with the addition of new coach Jon Gruden.
Adams, who actually played well despite Rodgers going down, should also improve, and hopefully Nelson can still produce at a high level with better quarterback play in Green Bay. And don't forget about guys like Green, Hill and Baldwin, who are all top-flight receivers heading into next year.
Top 10 tight ends
- Travis Kelce, Chiefs - 0.548
- Rob Gronkowski, Patriots - 0.539
- Zach Ertz, Eagles - 0.537
- Greg Olsen, Panthers - 0.530
- Evan Engram, Giants - 0.522
- Delanie Walker, Titans - 0.517
- Jack Doyle, Colts - 0.508
- Jimmy Graham, Seahawks - 0.507
- Cameron Brate, Buccaneers - 0.493
- Kyle Rudolph, Vikings - 0.493
Of the top 12 tight ends drafted this year based on ADP, seven finished in the top 10 among win percentage, with only six finishing with a winning record (Kelce, Gronkowski, Ertz, Olsen, Walker and Graham). This list helps support the argument that drafting a good tight end early might be worth it.
Next year, you can expect to see Gronkowski drafted either in late Round 1 or early in Round 2, depending on how the playoffs go for him. And Kelce and Ertz will be drafted by Round 3 in the majority of leagues.
But even though the win percentage data shows that having a good tight end is worth it, I will probably still wait on the position with a mid-round pick. It worked this year since I was a big fan of Ertz, who was drafted in Round 7, and that's the range I will target a tight end in 2018.
Some of my favorite options next season will be Engram, Henry (hopefully Antonio Gates is gone) and Doyle (Luck's return will help him) with mid-round picks, and I'll target guys like George Kittle, David Njoku and O.J. Howard with late-round picks, especially if Tampa Bay lets Brate leave as a free agent. It will also be interesting to see where veterans like Graham, Walker and Rudolph end up with their ADP because they could turn into great value picks.
Having a good tight end is key to your win percentage, as this data shows. And while it's not a bad idea to target Gronkowski, Kelce or Ertz on Draft Day next season, you can still have a successful team if you wait on a tight end – if you hit on the right guy. That's the gamble with tight ends, but it could pay off in a big way if you find the next Ertz or Engram in 2018.
Fantasy Super Bowl-winning data
We looked at more than 15,000 leagues on CBS Sports to see which players were used in the most Fantasy championship games, which were held in Week 16. The top 30 players are listed below.
Editor's note: The numbers listed next to each player's name is the amount of leagues this player was used in during the Fantasy Super Bowl of the 15,000 leagues we used as a sample size.
- Todd Gurley, RB, Rams - 6,292
- DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Texans - 2,576
- Kareem Hunt, RB, Chiefs - 2,554
- Le'Veon Bell, RB, Steelers - 2,427
- Bears DST - 2,185
- Rob Gronkowski, TE, Patriots - 2,089
- Alvin Kamara, RB, Saints - 1,967
- Harrison Butker, K, Chiefs - 1,853
- JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, Steelers - 1,838
- Melvin Gordon, RB, Chargers - 1,836
- Zach Ertz, TE, Eagles - 1,759
- Keenan Allen, WR, Chargers - 1,754
- Mark Ingram, RB, Saints - 1,730
- Michael Thomas, WR, Saints - 1,685
- Tyreek Hill, WR, Chiefs - 1,638
- LeSean McCoy, RB, Bills - 1,583
- Julio Jones, WR, Falcons - 1,583
- Travis Kelce, TE, Chiefs - 1,568
- Russell Wilson, QB, Seahawks - 1,520
- Justin Tucker, K, Ravens - 1,513
- Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Cardinals - 1,512
- Ravens DST - 1,505
- Jaguars DST - 1,457
- Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Cowboys - 1,430
- Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Steelers - 1,439
- Greg Olsen, TE, Panthers - 1,398
- Dion Lewis, RB, Patriots - 1,398
- Cam Newton, QB, Panthers - 1,356
- Adam Thielen, WR, Vikings - 1,350
- Jake Elliott, K, Eagles - 1,317
Based on this list, the all-championship lineup was Wilson at quarterback, Gurley and Hunt at running back, Hopkins, Smith-Schuster and Allen at receiver (if you played three), Gronkowski at tight end and Bell at flex. The Bears DST and Butker rounded out that team.
If any of you had that exact lineup for your championship matchup then please tweet me and let me know. That would be impressive if you were able to put that roster together.
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