2015 Fantasy Football in Review: Wide Receiver Consistency

Just how reliable are the league's best receivers on a weekly basis, and what does it mean for fantasy football?

Building a fantasy football roster around elite wide receivers is an enticing strategy.

Receivers don't seem to get hurt very often, they can put up monstrous, week-winning games, and they don't bust at a rate as high as their running back counterparts.

But are year-end fantasy point totals for receivers misleading? Are there too many ups-and-downs each week from receivers relative to other positions? Let's find out what 2015 had to say about this.

The Approach

For a full breakdown of what's going on, check out the first piece in this position-by-position breakdown: quarterbacks. For the shorthand, read this next sentence.

From a player's weekly scoring totals, we can calculate how consistently that player produced and see what his floor-to-ceiling range was in roughly 68% of his games (about 11 of the 16 fantasy-relevant weeks), based on standard deviations.

For a game to count in this study, a receiver needed to be targeted at least four times in at least eight games in 2015. While this helps boost up low-volume players who happened to get an increase in volume in a few weeks, it also helps to reduce games when players had small workloads for other reasons (e.g. injury), as well.

This is how 2015 shook out for receivers.

The Results

Here are the points per game (in qualified games) and the low- and high-end results for the 26 receivers who offered a ceiling of at least 15 points.

Player FP/qGm 68L 68H Player FP/qGm 68L 68H
Antonio Brown 14.63 4.79 24.48 Larry Fitzgerald 10.73 3.59 17.88
Odell Beckham Jr. 15.42 7.14 23.71 Calvin Johnson 10.91 4.05 17.78
Doug Baldwin 14.41 5.15 23.67 Allen Hurns 11.38 5.25 17.50
Allen Robinson 14.21 6.30 22.12 Alshon Jeffery 11.63 5.90 17.36
Julio Jones 14.88 7.70 22.06 Michael Floyd 11.46 5.57 17.35
DeAndre Hopkins 13.88 6.86 20.90 Amari Cooper 10.67 4.17 17.16
AJ Green 12.54 4.44 20.64 James Jones 11.34 5.85 16.84
Martavis Bryant 13.36 6.19 20.52 Jeremy Maclin 10.19 3.72 16.66
Brandon Marshall 14.17 8.78 19.57 DeSean Jackson 9.48 3.00 15.95
Keenan Allen 11.94 4.88 19.00 Markus Wheaton 8.17 0.81 15.53
Julian Edelman 12.50 6.50 18.50 Jarvis Landry 9.88 4.29 15.47
Emmanuel Sanders 10.88 3.61 18.16 Mike Evans 9.84 4.34 15.34
Brandin Cooks 11.09 4.03 18.15 Jordan Matthews 8.55 1.99 15.11

Only three of these players offered at least seven points per game on the low end: Brandon Marshall, Eric Decker, and Odell Beckham. This is despite each player in this table (naturally) averaging at least 8.17 points in qualified games. By contrast, five running backs offered floors of at least seven points per game.

But here's the thing with receivers: eight of them offered ceilings of at least 20 points on a realistic basis. Way more than running backs, right? Nope. Eight running backs also offered that high of a ceiling in games with at least six combined carries and targets. And 15 backs had a ceiling of at least 18 points, compared to 13 for receivers.

Even in a terrible year for running backs, they were more valuable in terms fantasy points on the high end than receivers were in standard scoring formats.

For PPR scoring, receivers did offer some separation. Last year, 18 qualified backs averaged at least 13 PPR points, compared to 34 receivers. And 31 receivers had ceilings of at least 20 points, compared to 20 for running backs.

Further in the favor of receivers in the PPR setup: 10 wideouts offered a double-digit PPR floor, and 19 scored at least 9 points on the low end of their outputs. Only five of the 20 backs offered floors of at least nine points last year.

Oh, and 19 backs offered at least 12 PPR points in half of their qualified games. The number for receivers was 36.

Eric Decker9.0413100.00%DeAndre Hopkins3.051173.33%
Martavis Bryant6.09888.89%Calvin Johnson2.031071.43%
Julio Jones1.081386.67%Emmanuel Sanders3.06969.23%
Allen Robinson6.061280.00%Kamar Aiken22.03866.67%
Brandon Marshall5.101280.00%Donte Moncrief15.03866.67%
Larry Fitzgerald7.091280.00%AJ Green2.06964.29%
Jarvis Landry5.031280.00%Jeremy Maclin5.06964.29%
Michael Floyd9.12880.00%Amari Cooper4.02861.54%
Demaryius Thomas1.101280.00%Brandin Cooks2.12960.00%
Odell Beckham Jr.1.091178.57%Allen Hurns18.01857.14%
Julian Edelman4.08777.78%James Jones18.03555.56%
Alshon Jeffery2.11777.78%Mike Evans3.02753.85%
Keenan Allen4.06675.00%Marvin Jones15.11753.85%
Doug Baldwin14.12975.00%Michael Crabtree13.08853.33%
Danny Amendola21.05675.00%Golden Tate4.07853.33%
John Brown8.02975.00%DeSean Jackson6.05450.00%
Jermaine Kearse25.01675.00%Anquan Boldin9.1650.00%
Antonio Brown1.031173.33%Kenny Britt20.06450.00%

Of the 36, 15 were taken after round 10, on average according to MyFantasyLeague, but the same number (15) were taken inside the first five rounds. This is a big part of why you need to be aware of how important receivers are in terms of paying off their draft cost.

What It Means for the Position

In PPR setups, receivers are tough to match with running backs, though that doesn't mean you can ignore running backs entirely because they aren't easy to get off the waiver wire and useful backs aren't often taken late in drafts, either. You still have to start running backs in PPR formats, and there are plenty of receivers who can score big points in this setup.

Still, an investment in the receiver position in PPR leagues is hard to argue against, but in standard formats, receivers didn't offer as much weekly consistency as running backs, even when the running back position imploded in 2015.

Based on the results in 2015, there is obviously some merit to targeting the elite receivers early in non-PPR formats, but back in 2014, running backs outclassed receivers in standard and half-PPR formats from a weekly consistency basis.

The bottom line is that if you care about week-to-week performance, running backs still matter plenty in standard scoring leagues, so don't get too hyped up on ignoring them in favor of receivers.