Anytime I start talking fantasy football strategy with someone, my argument almost always shifts towards the fact that the game is a weekly one. In truth, I’m not entirely concerned with how many total points a player scores over the course of the season. I’m more curious to see how those points are spread out – whether said player was a boom or bust guy, or if he was consistently giving you quality production.
That’s why I look at weekly data. That’s why I love weekly data. It gives you a glimpse of the individual chapters that make up the player’s season-long story, rather than reading a quick summary that leaves out the details. I mean, SparkNotes was sweet in college, but fantasy football is much more entertaining than a freshman literature class. I actually care about it.
I decided to analyze the weekly data I have from the last two seasons, determining which players have been most consistent week to week based on “startable” performances. In essence, if a quarterback finished in the top 12 in a given week, he was start-worthy, given a startable performance. If a wide receiver or running back ended up in the top 24 at their position, they were worthwhile, too. In a normal 12-team league, this represents a QB1, RB1 or RB2 and WR1 or WR2 performance. Any of those players would more than likely be good to have in your lineup.
Clearly this isn’t an exact science. If a passer finished 13th, he looks just as bad as the one who finished 27th. And if a running back finished first, he looks just as good as one who finished 24th. The hope, however, is that this all evens out – there’s 32 weeks of data (Week 17 isn’t really relevant in fantasy football), so the chance of these occurrences shouldn’t be heavily weighted towards a single individual. And even if it is, the weekly data at least provides a better look at how the season-long totals came about.
I have "elite" performance data, too, so perhaps I'll dig into that next.
The information below isn't being used to sway fantasy strategy - that's not what this article is about. Though I love me some pretend pigskin tactics, I want to use this space to only speak to individual players who show consistency, not the greater fantasy football picture which I so often write about. If you want to read something more profound (maybe that's too strong of a word), you can peep my running back value series from earlier in the offseason.
Alright, without boring you any further, let’s take a look at these weekly numbers. I'm putting myself to sleep.
|T-7||Robert Griffin III||15|
The table above shows the best 12 quarterbacks in terms of start-worthy weeks over the last two seasons. Any surprises? Probably not. Brees and Manning lead the way, seeing a four-week difference in startable games compared to the rest of the field. Perhaps noticing Matthew Stafford being tied with Tom Brady is a shocker, but we all know Stafford can post ridiculous numbers based on volume, and Tom Brady wasn’t Tom Brady in 2013.
Yes, that's Aaron Rodgers at the bottom of this list. And while that’s mostly due to his injury in 2013 (he had only five start-worthy weeks), some of it has to do with his subtle inconsistent fantasy play over this time span. In 2012, despite finishing with the second-most standard fantasy points at quarterback, Rodgers only ended up with eight top-12 weekly finishes. Seven other quarterbacks finished with more, and one tied him. That’s why weekly data can be super helpful, people.
Also not listed is Ben Roethlisberger (12), Philip Rivers (12), Joe Flacco (11) and Colin Kaepernick (10).
My favorite weekly statistic stemming from the quarterback group has to be Ryan Fitzpatrick’s nine top-12 weekly performances since the beginning of the 2012 season. That’s as many as Alex Smith, and more than Ryan Tannehill (8) and Eli Manning (5). Beards, for the win.
Keep in mind that the majority of teams are only starting one passer each week, meaning the worst hypothetical starter in a 12-team league has seen 10 fewer top-12 performances than the best one. And that’s not even factoring the art of streaming, where you can build a quarterback Frankenstein that sees far more startable performances than a single passer would. Ok, ok - I'll stop with the fantasy strategy stuff. If you read on, you’ll see how that compares to the running back and wide receiver positions. I didn't play around with tight ends in this piece to keep things a little more concise. Plus tight ends are boring.
I tried to keep the wide receiver table to 24 of them (WR1 and WR2, essentially), but there was a tie at the bottom, so I included 25.
The same week-to-week variance occurs at wide receiver as we saw at quarterback: 10 startable weeks separates the best and worst players in the group. The difference is that predictable quarterbacks are always readily available off the waiver wire, while wide receivers aren’t. Here I go again with the strategy talk.
No player has been more consistent over the last two years at wide receiver than Brandon Marshall. Health certainly helps, as does volume, but it’s pretty incredible to see just how good of a fantasy asset he’s been in Chicago. Meanwhile, folks want to keep pushing him down in their drafts in favor of more up-and-coming stars.
Another notable player is Cecil Shorts, who has seen 16 start-worthy contests out of the 32-game sample size, which is more than Andre Johnson and Vincent Jackson. The problem is that Shorts isn’t necessarily someone who scores a lot of points when he finishes as a top-24 wide receiver, ending the last two seasons worse than WR2 status. He is, however, more consistent than a lot of people realize, despite having a poor quarterback situation in Jacksonville.
Players who missed the list include Steve Smith (10), T.Y. Hilton (10), Marques Colston (10), Golden Tate (9) and Stevie Johnson (9).
Like the wide receiver table, the running back one includes 25 players, as there was a tie at the bottom. And like the other two lists above, the variance is mostly similar.
Adrian Peterson, LeSean McCoy and Marshawn Lynch each lead the way with 23 startable performances over the last two seasons. Shocked? Of course not. AP was the dominant force in 2012, McCoy was one of the best in 2013, and Marshawn's just been doing his thing consistently over the last two seasons.
While this group isn't all that interesting, I’d say the most intriguing name high on the list is Alfred Morris. During his rookie campaign in 2012, Morris rushed for 11 top-24 weekly running back performances. And although he had a down year in 2013, he still finished with nine. He may not give you a crazy amount of upside, but he’s at least giving you consistency, and would be a nice pairing with a more up-and-down, unpredictable runner.
Not shown on the list is my main man Pierre Thomas (11 weekly top-24 performances), Andre Brown (11), Shonn Greene (10), Darren McFadden (10) and Joique Bell (10).