The highest-scoring player in fantasy football managed to find his way onto the greatest percentage of ESPN championship rosters in 2017.
How about that!
In a development that surely came as no surprise, Todd Gurley II, whose 383.3 PPR fantasy points this season was 35.38 more than any other player, and whose 319.3 non-PPR points trailed only Russell Wilson’s 347.92 (remember that quarterbacks have a significant scoring advantage in that format), carried his teams to championship glory in a whopping 34.4 percent of ESPN leagues. You read that right: More than one-third of ESPN champions had Gurley on their rosters. That’s a higher percentage than 2016 leader David Johnson (23.6), 2015 leader Tim Hightower (33.6) or 2014 leader Odell Beckham Jr. (31.0) had.
A quick glance at the list of most common players on championship rosters reveals that it’s the waiver wire, not your draft-day moves, that are largely responsible for your team’s ultimate fate. Ten of the 15 players most commonly found on championship teams went undrafted in ESPN standard leagues, meaning they were selected beyond the 160th pick on average.
That said, Gurley’s presence — as well as Johnson’s and Beckham’s in 2016 and 2014, respectively — shows that it’s every bit as important to hit on a key draft-day move. Twelve of the 31 players who resided on at least 12.5 percent of ESPN champions’ rosters — you can see the full list in the chart below — were selected within the first six rounds of preseason drafts. Two of them, Le’Veon Bell (14.8 percent, ADP 2.1) and LeSean McCoy (12.6 percent, ADP 7.5), were first-round selections on average.
Gurley carried his teams with one of the most dominating playoff-weeks stretches in fantasy football history, totaling 123.1 PPR fantasy points from Weeks 14-16 alone (before he sat out Week 17 for rest purposes). He was the No. 8 scorer in Week 14 before leading all individual players (or D/STs) in both Weeks 15 and 16, with his total in those three weeks 8.1 more than any other player scored in history during that three-week (Weeks 14-16) span. Expanding it further and putting it into a different perspective, if we extract historical performances by any player in his final four team games of a 16-game season (1978 forward), that chosen to roughly coincide with the traditional “fantasy playoffs,” Gurley’s 123.1 was the 12th most all time, and all 11 players who scored more played in all four of their teams’ games to Gurley’s three.
Here are all 31 players who reside on championship rosters in at least 12.5 percent of ESPN 10-team standard leagues, along with their preseason ADPs and fantasy points:
Alvin Kamara wound up on the greatest percentage of ESPN playoff teams’ as well as finalists’ rosters, landing on 77.4 percent of the former and 48.3 percent of the latter, so predictably he ended up on the second-highest percentage of championship rosters (24.1 percent). A 30.8 PPR-fantasy-point Week 17 surely had a lot to say about that, but Kamara’s historic, 320.4-point rookie campaign at the price of a waiver pickup in most leagues largely propelled him to that status. He did, however, also suffer the third-largest drop-off in terms of percentage placement on champions’ compared to finalists’ rosters, 24.2 percent, which trailed only Greg Zuerlein’s 34.6 and Alfred Morris’ 24.5.
Two other Week 17 standouts understandably had large says in their teams’ championship quests, as top individual scorer JuJu Smith-Schuster (35.3 PPR fantasy points, found on 23.8 percent of championship rosters) and No. 3 scorer Dion Lewis (31.3 points, 21.4 percent) joined Gurley and Kamara as the only players this season to land on at least 20 percent of ESPN champions’ rosters.
Streaming members of the San Francisco 49ers’ passing game was an apparently good strategy during the 2017 fantasy football playoffs, as Marquise Goodwin wound up on 16.8 percent of ESPN championship rosters, third highest among wide receivers, while Jimmy Garoppolo landed on 16.0 percent, highest among quarterbacks. That makes sense, considering Garoppolo’s 72.26 PPR fantasy points during Weeks 14-17 were third most among quarterbacks, while Goodwin’s 57.5 points during that four-week span were 12th most among wide receivers.
Finally, here are the five most popular players at all six standard positions on the rosters of ESPN championship teams: