We hear it every year in the NFL.
“This season is so weird.”
By now it’s an old adage that every NFL season is a snowflake and provides its own distinctive fingerprint that impacts the fantasy landscape of that season.
The 2019 season was no different in that regard with the exceptional component that this past season was arguably the most top-heavy season we’ve ever had in terms of individual performances holding an advantage over the field of their respective positions.
A top-scoring fantasy season doesn’t always mean the same advantage. Even in the absolute best fantasy seasons over the years, that later component is determined by the field. Typically when we’ve had a major, high-scoring season for fantasy, there’s still been a decent counterpunch to the haymaker those players were dropping. That was not true for the 2019 season.
We’ve also had a few of these types of seasons when a player outkicked the field at his position so greatly that he was an absolute league-winner, but the other positions for fantasy were tighter and provided a different type of counterpunch to those rosters dependent on that particular fantasy juggernaut. That also was not true for the 2019 season.
The 2019 season was special in this regard. Not just having one player absolutely smash the field at their positions across every nearly position, but at nearly every fantasy position, allowing the opportunity for some teams to stack those fantasy supernovas.
Top-Scoring QB Performances Over the Past 10 Years
Lamar Jackson just posted the second-highest scoring fantasy season for a quarterback in an individual season just one year after Patrick Mahomes set the record. Jackson sat out the final week of the season, giving him the most points per game (27.7) for a quarterback in a year.
Even sitting out that week, Jackson still held more of a positional advantage over the next highest scoring quarterback for the season (Dak Prescott) than Mahomes did a year ago. It was the largest scoring edge the QB1 has had over the QB2 since the 2007 season, when Tom Brady was the first quarterback was the first passer to throw 50 touchdowns in a season, and the fifth-largest gap since the NFL merger in 1970.
Compared to the record-breaking performance of Mahomes just a year prior, Jackson’s scoring weight down the line of the position’s output held a larger advantage over the field than Mahomes’s did. Peyton Manning in 2013 had a weaker set of counterparts QB3-QB5 than Jackson did this season before falling back behind.
Top-Scoring PPR RB Performances Over the Past 10 Years
Christian McCaffrey is coming off the second-best fantasy season ever for any player, posting the third ever 1,000-yard rushing and 1,000-yard receiving season in league history. His 2019 fantasy season trailed only LaDainian Tomlinson’s 2006 season (483.1 points). But even in that 2006 season, Steven Jackson tallied over 400 fantasy points, which made up 86.8% of Tomlinson’s total, and Larry Johnson posted 374.9 points (77.6%). Both of those marks were much closer to the RB1 that season than where the field approached McCaffrey this season.
This season, the PPR RB2 (Aaron Jones) provided just 66.8% of McCaffrey’s point total. That percentage was the largest gap in scoring by the RB1 to the RB2 in a single season since the 1970 merger. The previous low had been 72.7% in the 1995 season when Emmitt Smith paced the field with 426.8 points, topping the next closest back in Barry Sanders (310.2 points). It was just the fifth time since that 1970 season in which the RB2 produced fewer than 80% of the fantasy output of the RB1, but the third time over the past decade. Jones’s 314.8 fantasy points ranked 19th for RB2 production over the past 25 seasons.
But McCaffrey wasn’t the only player to set the record for largest positional advantage in a season…
Top-Scoring PPR WR Performances Over the Past 10 Years
Michael Thomas didn’t have a top-two scoring season all-time at his position like Jackson and McCaffrey did (his 2019 season ranks ninth among all wideouts ever), but he still carried an unprecedented positional advantage.
The WR2 in 2019 (Chris Godwin) only matched 73.7% of Thomas’s scoring output for the season, the lowest rate for a WR2 compared to the WR1 in any season since that same 1970 merger previously mentioned. It was the first time since the 1987 season in which the WR2 produced fewer than 80% of the WR1’s fantasy total. The previous all-time low was set all the way back in 1974 when there were just two 1,000-yard wide receivers. Godwin’s 276.1 PPR points were the fewest in a season for a WR2 since 1992.
We’ve had some high-scoring wideouts over the past decade as the NFL game has changed, but no season had as much top-end dominance than what we just had from Thomas. Down the line this offseason, we’ll cover how the top of the wide receiver position has had a decreasing advantage over the position in recent years, but even with that being true in bulk, Thomas was a bonafide league winner at his position to a degree we haven’t seen before.
If you had one of Jackson, McCaffrey, or Thomas this season, you very likely had a good season. If you had two of them, you very likely smashed. No one cares about my fantasy teams, but I even had a team this season with McCaffrey and Jackson that cruised to a title.
Some teams may have even had all three of these players this season. It was harder to pair McCaffrey and Thomas than it was adding Jackson to one of those early rounders, but if you managed to pull off having all three of these players, you ended up looking like a virtuoso. If you somehow lost a fantasy league with all three, you ran into one of the worst beats imaginable considering McCaffrey and Thomas were also the top-scoring players at their positions for the fantasy playoffs while Jackson was second.
Top-Scoring TE WR Performances Over the Past 10 Years
Travis Kelce also was the highest-scoring tight end over the fantasy playoffs. The tight end position didn’t have an all-time albatross in the manner of which Jackson, McCaffrey, and Thomas paced their positions, but Kelce did have the largest TE1 advantage over the TE2 for a full season over the past five years.
Things were tighter down the line behind the TE2 and Kelce was aided by the TE2 (George Kittle) missing two full games, but he still provided his largest edge at the positional in bulk than he did in any of his previous three seasons when he paced the position in overall points scored.