NFL Passing Yards from 2007-2011: Why Fantasy Owners Should Buy the Tight End

The ProFFiler@@THEPROFFILERCorrespondent IJuly 20, 2012

Jan 1, 2012; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski (87) and tight end Aaron Hernandez (81) watch from the sideline as they take on the Buffalo Bills in the second quarter at Gillette Stadium. The Patriots defeated the Bill 49-21. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-US PRESSWIRE

Being a high-ranking official at a very serious and very high ProFFile Fantasy Football agency affords me many luxuries. One such luxury I utilize most often, aside from the company car, is the interns.

Originally, I tasked these extremely well adept working ladies to aid me in gathering yardage statistics for the past five seasons. I had questions about where all of the passing yardage is going? What I got was an in-depth look at the passing-yardage trends, including evidence that will affect fantasy owners.

I applaud our interns. They are an asset to our fantasy team.

Passing around the pie

The increase in passing has been profound for quarterbacks, but where is the passing yardage going?
Who is actually benefiting from the extra frequent flier miles?

From 2007-2011 the percentage of receiving yards divvied out to the various positions has remained fairly constant.

Broken out at a rate of about 64 percent for WR, 20 percent to TEs and RBs pick up the last 15 percent. (For you real statistical enthusiasts, it is exact to the nth decimal. I only have so much room on this digital page.)

Total Receiving Yards(TRY) by year
2011 – 124,348
2010 – 120,330
2009 – 117,958
2008 – 116,015
2011 – 116,069

What I found was fluctuation of a few percentage points among the positions over the five years. All in all, these numbers help, but they don’t tell the whole story. They do make for a nice pie chart. Do you agree? 

GAIN OF EIGHT…Thousand! 

Total receiving yardage (WR+TE+RB+FB) has increased over the last five years by 8,279 yards. 116,069 in 2007; 124,348 in 2011. Interesting to note that 4,018 of those yards came in 2011. Evidence suggests that the trend will continue.

2007-2011 Receiving yardage by position

Year    WR         TE            RB
2011    77969    27080    19299
2010   75856    24950    19524
2009   73799    24659    19500
2008   73283    23126    19606
2007   75492    21759    18818

The Breakdown of yardage for each position by year bears some interesting information. It does not get me the answers to the questions floating around in my head.

Which position saw the biggest increase? Is that the next position on the cusp of statistical explosion? Is it already happening, and if so when will it end? Will it end? And if not, what’s next…and where the hell was I?

Yards gained by each position 2007-2011

Over the last five years, RB receiving yardage has gone from 18,818 yards in 2007 up to 19,299 in 2011. The last significant yardage increase happened in 2008 when the position gained 788 yards. Rocky terrain, considering the overall trend is inching down.

The last few years of aerial bloom have not helped the RB position sprout. Gains amount to less than 100 yards a year. In fact, RB lost 225 yards in 2011. Get out of my office.

WR must be getting the lion’s share of the yards, right? In 2007, WR receiving yards were at 75,492. Fast forward to 2011, where they topped out at …wait for it…77,969 yards.  2,477 yards gained, that is all?

Stop!! Before you go trading away all of the WRs on your team because you think their skies are falling, know that numbers can be a bit deceiving. Notice in 2008 WR yardage bottomed out at 73,283. In the four seasons since, WR yardage has increased 4,686 yards. Crisis averted, whewf.

There is some green to be made on the tight end market too.

TE Yardage went from 21,759 in 2007 to 27,080 yards in 2011. A realized gain of 5,321 yards. Roughly the equivalent of adding a new 1000 yard receiver at TE, annually. TE yardage is a stable investment. Put a call in to my broker.

Over the last two seasons TE and WR have split the increase in passing yards pretty evenly. RB has held about even or lost yardage. Of the 4,018 yard increase from 2010-2011, TEs received 2,130 yards. WR received 2113. RB lost 225.

Name Of The Game

As if you needed tangible evidence of a distinct increase in passing yardage. What you may not have been aware of is where the majority share is landing. TEs accounted for 64 percent of the increase in yardage from 2007-2011. Looking at each position individually, TEs had the largest percentage of growth.

For some reason, I’m hearing the Pacman theme song.

If you were investing in one of these three areas, which would it be? Well guess what, every time you plunk some money down on your fantasy football league. You are investing in these areas. Do it wisely.

Now for the Million Dollar Question: Just who is the next 1000 yard TE?

The numbers show there could be more than one guy that will excel beyond his expectations. TEs are building a role as a weapon. A weapon current defenses are not equipped to stop. It is going to take a few years before teams can find the hybrid linebacker/defensive back that can stop these behemoths.

Brandon Pettigrew, Jermichael Finley, Brent Celek, Aaron Hernandez, Antonio Gates and Fred Davis are all talented TEs. All find themselves in a situation that will allow for success.

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