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Fantasy Football Volatility Index: The riskiest and safest plays for Week 7

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Here are the most- and least-volatile players so far this season to help you with your Week 7 start and sit gambles.

Getty Images/Pete Rogers Illustrations

You know how this goes. You wake up on Monday, all good after a great Sunday of games and still with Monday Night Football on schedule! Yay! And all of a sudden it’s Tuesday and another week of the season is in the books. And it’s been six of them already! Time to panic, folks, the year is almost over.

It’s been more than enough to know who’s a stud, who’s a dud, and who has yet to find his place. But this is why I’m here today, to let you know about who’s putting on steady weekly performances and who’s just having a good day here and there, and not much else.

Either you are a risk-averse fantasy owner, or a risk-tolerant one. There is not a unique, written-on-stone way of winning at fantasy football, nor a dominant personality of owner that always get the W. So no matter which side of the coin you fall on, here are some players that fit the risk-range-of-outcomes to different extents so you can put them in your lineups fully knowing what you’re getting into!

How does the season look so far (a little primer on volatility)?

Okay, so to measure how risky a player is I did something very simple. I calculated the fantasy points per game each player has scored through all of the games he has played, and then calculated the standard deviation of his different scores through his games. This way not only do I get his average points per game, but also I get to know how his scores vary between games (how “volatile” they are).

If you got lost, fear nothing! Let’s go through an example. Keenan Allen has had performances of 26, 18, 44, 10, and 6 fantasy points through Week 5. That means he scores around 21 points per game. Do you see how that varies from his lowest performance of 6 points in Week 5? That is where the standard deviation comes in handy. Allen’s standard deviation is at 15 points. That means that knowing his average of 21 points, we can expect him to put on around 21 +/-15 points in most of his games, which is between 36 and 6 if he keeps playing as he has done through five weeks. I hope it is clear enough now!

Having those two numbers it is easy to see who is putting on good performances constantly, who is having boom-or-bust games, etc. Through Week 6 there are 445 players with at least two games played in fantasy football. Here is how they are spread in a graph that includes their fantasy points per game and their standard deviation from their mean values:

FP/G and Std. Deviations through Week 6

Now, that is a goddamn mess. At the top of the chart, you have the best players by points per game. At the left, you can find those who—almost—always score the same points, and at the right those who have wide variations between different games.

That chart is fine and all, but it’s much better to break it down and separate players into different categories so you can make decisions easily come lineup-locking time—which, keep in mind, is earlier this Sunday with the early game in London. Let’s get it poppin’!

Week 7 ultra-volatile players

These players have standard deviations from their averages of 14-plus fantasy points. They are as capable of putting on a monster, record-books performance as easily as they can lay a goose age any given day. You’re playing with fire here, boy.

WR Stefon Diggs (MIN)

Although seeing Diggs putting on a show on Week 6 was good for everyone, it didn’t help him in terms of how volatile he’s been this season. It’s been a real roller coaster for him so far this year. Here are his fantasy points (rounded) through six weeks of play: 6, 12, 5, 18, 7, 44. Damn me if this is not a highly unpredictable player. We all know how Minnesota’s offense operates by now, and it’s nothing I’m putting a dollar on predicting what will happen next. If you believe in Kirk Cousins / Adam Thielen / Stefon Diggs going forward and can keep calm lining them up, good for you. You probably aren’t going to die of a heart attack.

RB Aaron Jones (GB)

I had this thought watching Green Bay against Detroit on Monday: what if Jones is actually Jamaal Williams’ handcuff and we had it all wrong? Honestly, the Packers backfield is a mess. You don’t know who’s getting the ball on the ground, or who’s going to saw more targets. Sure, usually Jones is going to out-perform Williams on pure ability, but are you willing to risk points just because Green Bay decides today is a good day to favor Williams and run with him? Truth be told, we have seen it all: in Week 2 Jones scored 25 points and Williams 13, while in Week 6 Jones ended with 10 and Williams racked up 24. Yep, I’m staying away.

WR Keenan Allen (LAC)

The poster boy of volatility in halves. Allen started the season with a 26-18-44 points streak and followed it with a 10-6-5 one. Basically, he scored more points in his first game than the did in his last three combined. We should expect a rebound, yes, but numbers tell me that we can equally expect another shitty performance from the no. 1 wideout through Week 3. It’s been three games with fewer than 50 receiving yards, let alone touchdowns, and three consecutive weeks with only six targets in each game. Ugly things are ugly.

Week 7 moderately-risky plays

These players have standard deviations from their averages between 10 and 14 fantasy points. We’re starting to get into the meat of the player’s pool, and decisions start to get tougher here.

RB Demarcus Robinson (KC)

I know, I know. “You want to have as many shares of the Chiefs offense as you can.” Sure, you do, but this offense is such a mess that I’m not really sure if my nerves are made for it. Up to six receivers have played at least two games for the Chiefs this season. Robinson has a good 31 targets and has not missed a single match, has caught 17 passes and even scored three touchdowns. But his range of fantasy outcomes is wild as the jungle. Here are his scores from lowest to highest: 0, 1, 6, 8, 13, 35. And to make matters worse, he’s been on a down trend lately. Not touching him.

RB Austin Ekeler (LAC)

The no. 1 human tailback and no. 2 overall behind Christian McCaffrey, turns out, is a risky bet. Uh, oh. If you have read Demarcus Robinson’s blurb you’ll think this is a copy of it, but it makes sense to put Ekeler’s weekly scores together—this time from Week 1 to Week 6—so you can see what he’s been up to: 39, 29, 25, 24, 15, 6. Yes, that’s what I call regression. Hard, cold, dark regression. Melvin Gordon is back in town and as solid as it gets (back-to-back 7.8-point performances) and he’ll keep eating from Ekeler’s opportunities. On top of the deviation from his mean, Ekeler is facing tough competition and is clearly on a down path, so I’d rather look for others.

WR Nelson Agholor (PHI)

Oh boy has it been a ride that of Agholor this season. The receiver has two games of 25 points (reaching 107 yards in Week 2) sandwiched by duds of three and zero points. He’s as capable of putting up a hundred yards or two touchdowns as he is of leaving the field with 11 yards on two paltry receptions. Philadelphia is missing DeSean Jackson big time and his lone presence would help everybody. I guess Agholor is definitely one of those wanting him back sooner rather than later.

Week 7 relatively-safe plays

These players have standard deviations from their averages between 6 and 10 fantasy points. This is where most of the rostered players and those that are part of your weekly lineup fall. They can have up and downs in their outcomes, but they mostly produce to their true talent.

RB Devonta Freeman (ATL)

I have to admit I don’t know what to make of this guy. I didn’t like him early this season, but it looks like he’s improving on a weekly basis. In fact, that is exactly what he has done. He’s gone from 6 to 9 to 12 to 18 (twice) to 27 fantasy points. That wide range of outcomes have made him hold a relatively “high” volatility in scores, but even with that he’s on a clear upward trend and even if he regresses he would still probably put up more than 10 fantasy points. It’s not guaranteed, but you can expect a great outcome from Freeman knowing what he’s been up to lately.

WR John Brown (BUF)

Brown has the third-lowest standard deviation from his average in this group at just 6.2 fantasy points over/under his average of 14.7. He can pretty much be considered a full risk-averse play this week, comes rested from a Buffalo’s bye, and goes against a horrid team in the Miami Dolphins. His 25-point Week 1 has “falsely” boosted his season average, but other than that his other four games all ended in between 10 and 14 fantasy points and with 51 or more receiving yards (and no touchdowns; expect some positive regression there), so he’s a pretty solid option to line up and get production from, even more considering he has a way favorable matchup coming.

WR Terry McLaurin (KC)

You tell me McLaurin is a seasoned veteran, I believe you. What a rookie season for the kid. McLaurin has already two 100-plus yards games, has scored at least a touchdown and 17-plus fantasy points in four of his five games. The only reason his volatility is higher than it should is that he had an 8-point game in Week 5. Even with that, McLaurin is performing on a weekly basis and he has a floor no lower than 12 points with upside to reach WR1 production (I’m talking 26-plus points here) easily. San Francisco will make things hard, but the game script could favor him this weekend.

Week 7 ultra-risk-averse plays

These players have standard deviations from their averages between 0 and 6 fantasy points. Most players fall inside this group as most players either are good, or bad. You know what you’re getting from these players, as they operate as robots on the field putting on heavily consistent performances weekly.

QB Josh Allen (BUF)

Don’t lie to me. You had forgotten about Josh Allen, right? It happens when bye weeks arrive. Someone disappears for one game and all of a sudden he goes flying under the radar. But you better get back on Allen’s train cause he’s one of the most reliable out there. Not only does he face Miami this weekend, he does so after logging three 20-plus points games followed by a 10-points and another 20-points one. Allen has scored a touchdown (passing or rushing) in every game he’s played and he still has to show his legs as he did last season. He’s yet to reach 50 yards on the ground in any game (he did so four times last season) so his upside is even higher than his current 19.6-points average show.

RB James White (NE)

It’s been five games for James White and at this point I don’t really know if he’s a human or a robot. White has the lowest standard deviation (0.7 FP/G) from his fantasy points average. While he’s averaging 13.1 points per game, all of his outcomes range between 11.9 and 13.8 points. White is a consistency machine. If you feel like you need 13 points this week, just start White. You can’t lose. There is no one in the league providing more security than White. The second-lowest deviation from the mean comes from Jason Witten (average 9.5 FP/G, StdDev 2.3) and it is 1.6 points higher! James White is not from this world.

TE Zach Ertz (PHI)

While Ertz has disappointed a bit this season after he did last year, he has been one of the most consistent tight ends. Yes, he’s averaging just 12.9 points per game, but he’s been constantly scoring between 9 and 17 points, something really great at the tight end position given its situation this season. The randomness we’re seeing from TEs through six weeks is at an all-time high, so playing one of the safest—along with a relatively high average scoring per game—options at it sounds like a good plan to me.