There will be a lot of debate about taking Aaron Rodgers at No. 1 overall on Draft Day. He finished as the highest scorer in standard leagues in 2011 and it makes sense to take him with the top spot if you want a quarterback in Round 1.
For you pro-Rodgers, pro-quarterback owners, this research is right up your alley. Rodgers finished as the No. 1 player based on win percentage in CBSSports.com leagues at 59.8 percent. And he wasn't alone. There were three quarterbacks in the Top 12 overall with Drew Brees (57.4 percent) and Tom Brady (54.8).
This study is to show how players affected Fantasy leagues and not individual performance. It is based on the winning percentage for Fantasy owners of all players owned by 80 percent or more in leagues on CBSSports.com, which came to about 150 players. Only paid leagues were considered with at least eight Fantasy teams or more. And the results produced some interesting highlights.
For example, of the Top 12 players drafted based on Average Draft Position -- Adrian Peterson, Arian Foster, Ray Rice, Chris Johnson, Rodgers, Jamaal Charles, Michael Vick, LeSean McCoy, Andre Johnson, Maurice Jones-Drew, Brady and Michael Turner -- only Rodgers, McCoy (57.6), Rice (56.8), Foster (55.6) and Brady (54.8) lived up to the billing. Rob Gronkowski (58 percent) presented the best value since he was the No. 2 most successful skill player yet he was drafted the latest at 107 overall.
To fully understand this study, you have to realize that the players with the highest win percentage were all part of rosters that were likely already successful, which accounted for their high total. Those owners who drafted well then made quality additions off the waiver wire, which is why players like C.J. Spiller (54.0), Toby Gerhart (53.9) and Victor Cruz (53.4) are all in the Top 20 of win percentage.
It's not like Spiller and Gerhart were better Fantasy options than Fred Jackson and Peterson, respectively, but they helped Fantasy owners more based on their late-season success. Cruz also was a player likely added to an already-solid team and his overall production just made that roster even better.
It might seem obvious that a good draft along with the right additions off the waiver wire is the key to winning in Fantasy Football. But you'd be surprised how many owners walk away on Draft Day saying they won or lost their league based on the picks they made.
As for the quarterbacks, the old-school owner who still prefers running backs first can use Matthew Stafford (55.6 percent) as his argument against taking Rodgers or another passer in Round 1. Stafford was the No. 11 quarterback drafted at No. 68 overall, but he still finished No. 9 in win percentage based on his amazing year in 2011.
Top 50 winning percentage
1. Aaron Rodgers, QB, Packers (59.8 percent)
2. Rob Gronkowski, TE, Patriots (58.0 percent)
3. LeSean McCoy, RB, Eagles (57.6 percent)
4. Drew Brees, QB, Saints (57.4 percent)
5. Wes Welker, WR, Patriots (57.2 percent)
6. Jimmy Graham, TE, Saints (57.0 percent)
7. Calvin Johnson, WR, Lions (56.8 percent)
8. Ray Rice, RB, Ravens (56.8 percent)
9. Matthew Stafford, QB, Lions (55.6 percent)
10. Arian Foster, RB, Texans (55.6 percent)
11. Tom Brady, QB, Patriots (54.8 percent)
12. Seahawks, DST (54.5 percent)
13. Jordy Nelson, WR, Packers (54.2 percent)
14. C.J. Spiller, RB, Bills (54.0 percent)
15. Toby Gerhart, RB, Vikings (53.9 percent)
16. Marshawn Lynch, RB, Seahawks (53.7 percent)
17. Mike Wallace, WR, Steelers (53.5 percent)
18. Victor Cruz, WR, Giants (53.4 percent)
19. Maurice Jones-Drew, RB, Jaguars (53.2 percent)
20. Laurent Robinson, WR, Cowboys (53.1 percent)
21. 49ers, DST (53.1 percent)
22. Titans, DST (53.0 percent)
23. Michael Bush, RB, Raiders (52.9 percent)
24. Steve Smith, WR, Panthers (52.9 percent)
25. David Akers, K, 49ers (52.8 percent)
26. John Kasay, K, Saints (52.8 percent)
27. Cam Newton, QB, Panthers (52.5 percent)
28. Bengals, DST (52.5 percent)
29. Ravens, DST (52.4 percent)
30. Ryan Mathews, RB, Chargers (52.4 percent)
31. Marques Colston, WR, Saints (52.3 percent)
32. Donald Brown, RB, Colts (52.2 percent)
33. Broncos, DST (52.2 percent)
34. Dan Bailey, K, Cowboys (52.1 percent)
35. Percy Harvin, WR, Vikings (52.1 percent)
36. Vincent Jackson, WR, Chargers (52.0 percent)
37. Texans, DST (52.0 percent)
38. A.J. Green, WR, Bengals (51.9 percent)
39. Brandon Marshall, WR, Dolphins (51.8 percent)
40. Santana Moss, WR, Redskins (51.7 percent)
41. Hakeem Nicks, WR, Giants (51.7 percent)
42. Malcolm Floyd, WR, Chargers (51.6 percent)
43. Antonio Brown, WR, Steelers (51.6 percent)
44. Matt Forte, RB, Bears (51.6 percent)
45. Ahmad Bradshaw, RB, Giants (51.6 percent)
46. Nick Novak, K, Chargers (51.5 percent)
47. Jabar Gaffney, WR, Redskins (51.4 percent)
48. Reggie Bush, RB, Dolphins (51.3 percent)
49. Darren Sproles, RB, Saints (51.3 percent)
50. Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Cardinals (51.2 percent)
Biggest surprise: Usually the best waiver-wire additions or late draft picks have the highest win percentage, so it's surprising that guys like Nelson, Lynch, Cruz, Newton and Sproles weren't more successful. But you could see which late-season additions made an impact with players like Spiller, Gerhart and Robinson having a good stretch run after being added to quality rosters.
Biggest disappointment: The No. 1 overall pick based on his ADP is not in the Top 50. Peterson's win percentage was just 50.8, and he was a tremendous letdown to a lot of owners this season. The same goes for guys like Chris Johnson (47.0), Philip Rivers (46.8), DeSean Jackson (46.7), Andre Johnson (45.7) and Michael Vick (43.3). But you didn't need win percentage to tell you those players struggled in 2011.
Looking ahead to 2012: There is a lot of value in taking a quarterback in the first round since Rodgers, Brees and Brady lived up their billing as top picks. You know they will play 16 games, and they should continue to post outstanding stats. It also might be worth your while to draft Gronkowski and Graham with early-round picks because they have the chance to play at a high level, and an elite tight end clearly is a difference maker in all leagues.
Top 12 quarterbacks
1. Aaron Rodgers, Packers (59.8 percent)
2. Drew Brees, Saints (57.4 percent)
3. Matthew Stafford, Lions (55.6 percent)
4. Tom Brady, Patriots (54.8 percent)
5. Cam Newton, Panthers (52.5 percent)
6. Tony Romo, Cowboys (51.2 percent)
7. Eli Manning, Giants (51.1 percent)
8. Tim Tebow, Broncos (50.3 percent)
9. Andy Dalton, Bengals (50.0 percent)
10. Matt Ryan, Falcons (49.2 percent)
11. Alex Smith, 49ers (48.8 percent)
12. Carson Palmer, Raiders (48.6 percent)
Biggest surprise: I would have expected Ryan to be higher on the list based on how he finished the season. But the owner who drafted Ryan struggled early, and he was only started in more than 75 percent of leagues once from Week 2 to Week 9. But he finished strong even though his win percentage didn't reflect that.
Biggest disappointment: The names missing from this list illustrates the struggles of many of the top-tier quarterbacks. Vick, Rivers, Ben Roethlisberger (47.2), Josh Freeman (46.4) and Matt Schaub, who didn't even make the Top 150 of win percentage, all had losing records for Fantasy owners. They all had down seasons due to injuries or inconsistent play, and all five need to play better in 2012 to help Fantasy owners be more successful.
Looking ahead to 2012: If you draft a good quarterback it is still in your best interest to have a quality backup, even for trade bait. Tebow, Dalton, Smith and Palmer were not drafted in the majority of leagues, but they still helped owners more than Vick, Freeman, Rivers, Schaub and Roethlisberger. Again, it's all a matter of the team around them, but having a good backup quarterback can still help your Fantasy squad.
Top 12 running backs
1. LeSean McCoy, Eagles (57.6 percent)
2. Ray Rice, Ravens (56.8 percent)
3. Arian Foster, Texans (55.6 percent)
4. C.J. Spiller, Bills (54 percent)
5. Toby Gerhart, Vikings (53.9 percent)
6. Marshawn Lynch, Seahawks (53.7 percent)
7. Maurice Jones-Drew, Jaguars (53.1 percent)
8. Michael Bush, Raiders (52.9 percent)
9. Ryan Mathews, Chargers (52.4 percent)
10. Donald Brown, Colts (52.2 percent)
11. Matt Forte, Bears (51.6 percent)
12. Ahmad Bradshaw, Giants (51.6 percent)
Biggest surprise: Bush wasn't expected to be a starting option for many Fantasy owners, but he proved to be an excellent replacement for the injured Darren McFadden. The same goes for Spiller and Gerhart, but they came on at the end of the season. Brown also turned out to be a good flex option or No. 2 running back as he played a lot for the injured Joseph Addai. If you don't draft running backs early you can still find quality options by playing the waiver wire, which is proven here.
Biggest disappointment: Like the quarterbacks, there are many high-profile players missing with Chris Johnson, Rashard Mendenhall (47.0), Peyton Hillis (47.5), LeGarrette Blount (47.8) and Frank Gore (49.0) all finishing with losing records. Reggie Bush (51.3) and Kevin Smith (49.4) were also surprises that they didn't finish with a better percentage given that Bush was drafted in Round 7 or later in most leagues, and Smith was a late waiver wire gem.
Looking ahead to 2012: The Top 3 running backs in win percentage this season should be the Top 3 players drafted in most leagues. Even though someone will take Rodgers with one of those picks, you still have a better chance of building a quality roster with McCoy and Stafford (average of 56.6 percent win percentage) with your first two picks then taking Rodgers and Gore (average of 54.4).
Top 12 wide receivers
1. Wes Welker, Patriots (57.2 percent)
2. Calvin Johnson, Lions (56.8 percent)
3. Jordy Nelson, Packers (54.2 percent)
4. Mike Wallace, Steelers (53.5 percent)
5. Victor Cruz, Giants (53.4 percent)
6. Laurent Robinson, Cowboys (53.1 percent)
7. Steve Smith, Panthers (52.9 percent)
8. Marques Colston, Saints (52.3 percent)
9. Percy Harvin, Vikings (52.1 percent)
10. Vincent Jackson, Chargers (52.0 percent)
11. A.J. Green, Bengals (51.8 percent)
12. Brandon Marshall, Dolphins (51.7 percent)
Biggest surprise: Nelson and Cruz were two of the best waiver wire additions this season, and Robinson came on late to help many Fantasy owners. They are great examples for owners who are against drafting receivers early. Even in 2010, the No. 1 receiver in standard leagues was another free agent in Brandon Lloyd. But still, you can see that taking Johnson as the No. 1 receiver worked out well as he finished No. 2 in win percentage at his position.
Biggest disappointment: Roddy White (50.7), like Ryan, got off to a slow start, which hurt his overall production. Andre Johnson's injury also ruined his year, and Reggie Wayne (47.0) suffered with Peyton Manning out all season. DeSean Jackson might have been the biggest disappointment since he let his contract situation impact his performance, and Fantasy owners who continued to start him likely suffered the most.
Looking ahead to 2012: Nelson and Cruz have played their way into being drafted as Top 10 receivers. They have elite quarterbacks, and their roles should only continue to expand in tremendous passing offenses. Green also has proven to be a standout Fantasy receiver even though he was just a rookie in 2011.
Top 12 tight ends
1. Rob Gronkowski, Patriots (58.0 percent)
2. Jimmy Graham, Saints (57.0 percent)
3. Aaron Hernandez, Patriots (51.1 percent)
4. Jason Witten, Cowboys (51.0 percent)
5. Tony Gonzalez, Falcons (51.0 percent)
6. Brent Celek, Eagles (50.7 percent)
7. Antonio Gates, Chargers (50.1 percent)
8. Jermaine Gresham, Bengals (49.9 percent)
9. Jermichael Finley, Packers (49.7 percent)
10. Brandon Pettigrew, Lions (49.3 percent)
11. Dustin Keller, Jets (48.7 percent)
12. Kellen Winslow, Bucs (48.4 percent)
Biggest surprise: Graham in Round 8, Gronkowski in Round 9 and Hernandez in Round 11 presented some of the best value on Draft Day at any position since they were the Top 3 tight ends in Fantasy production as well as win percentage. Gates was still helpful despite dealing with injuries most of the year, and Witten was also successful even though he struggled. Gonzalez continues to defy age by producing at a high level despite turning 36 in 2012.
Biggest disappointment: Fantasy owners watching the NFL playoffs had to be throwing things watching Vernon Davis play at an elite level after struggling during the year. He had four touchdowns against the Saints and Giants but finished with a win percentage near the bottom at 48.2. Davis should rebound in 2012, but he left a lot of production on the field until the postseason.
Looking ahead to 2012: The biggest decision facing Fantasy owners, especially early in Round 2, is when to draft Gronkowski. If you take him early and he continues to perform at a high level (he has 28 touchdowns through two seasons) then he will pay off in a big way. But if he struggles and another tight end emerges late (Gresham is a great candidate, as is Jared Cook) then you could ruin your team. We think Gronkowski is worth the risk based on how he's done so far in his career.