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).
Example: Keenan Allen had performances of 26, 18, 44, 10, and 6 fantasy points through Week 5. That means he scores around 21 points per game. That looks nice, but 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 7 there are 455 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 (we’ll call it Volatility from this point on) from their mean values:
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. Let’s get it poppin’!
Week 8 ultra-volatile plays
These players have standard deviations from their averages of 13-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 Marvin Jones Jr. (DET)
Not only did you watch Marvin Jones destroy Minnesota’s defense, but you’ve also taken a look at the upcoming game for the Lions and are drooling knowing they face the Giants, right? You better hold your horses, my friend. Yes, Jones had a game for the ages (13 targets, 10 receptions, 93 yards and 4 TDs), but it was the true definition of “outlier”. Jones had only scored one touchdown prior to last weekend’s explosion and had reached 93 yards only once too. His highest number of targets to date never reached 10 and his season-high receptions were six back in Week 3. The last game was a weird one. Danny Amendola topped 10 targets while Kenny Golladay saw only two. Kerryon Johnson fell injured. You know what happened to Will Fuller after he put on a monster game. Stay away from Jones.
QB Daniel Jones (NYG)
It was all laughs and smiles when Daniel Jones debuted with the Giants as their starter quarterback in Week 3 against Tampa Bay. More than 300 yards, two touchdowns passing, another two rushing; great times ahead! Or not. Jones has been bad since that game, looking like a rookie quarterback and average at best. Not once since that performance has Jones surpassed the 225-yard mark, nor throw for two touchdowns (he has not scored on the ground again, either) in a single game. His true outcomes range from 7 to 17 fantasy points, which is both wild and low-ceiling in fantasy terms. Low upside, high risk.
WR Mike Evans (TB)
After a super slow start to the season—28 and 61 yards in his first two games, 4.8 and 10.1 fantasy points respectively—Evans seemed to right his path starting with a massive Week 3 performance to the tune of 190 yards and three touchdowns on just 8 receptions. He obviously regressed a bit in Week 4 but still amassed all of 89 yards and scored to get a sweet bounty of 18.9 points for his owners. Then, the egg. No touchdowns. No yards. No freaking receptions in London. And all of a sudden he goes and gets back to another 18-point performance in Week 6 by catching nine passes for 96 yards. What the hell is wrong with Evans steadiness? With Chris Godwin as the No. 2 (but really seemingly the No. 1) option in Tampa—volatile too but a great player who can take opportunities from Evans—and Jameis Winston throwing the ball, I’m sorry but I’m not betting on Evans putting on good performances weekly.
Week 8 relatively-risky plays
These players have standard deviations from their averages between 10 and 13 fantasy points. We’re starting to get into the meat of the player’s pool, and decisions start to get tougher here.
RB Chase Edmonds (ARI)
Call me crazy but I don’t trust Chase Edmonds. Yes, 150 yards from scrimmage are awesome and not seen every weekend. Do you know what you don’t see either? A staggering 27 (!) carries in a single game. Those are the attempts Edmonds logged in Week 7—only Leonard Fournette (29, twice), Marlon Mack (29), and Ezekiel Elliott (28)—have had more in a single game this season. This had not been possible if David Johnson had been healthy and remained in the game, and while Edmonds has a good amount of talent and value in fantasy football, you can’t expect this type of performance to happen every week, much less considering it was the Giants who Edmonds ran over. Now we know Edmonds’ ceiling is high, but we have also seen him put on a couple of three-point games already, so consider yourself warned.
WR Zach Pascal (IND)
It would be unfair to label Pascal as a risky or volatile player considering he had two zero-point games in the first two weeks of the season while not been targeted a single time. But hey, he played 23 and 32 snaps respectively, so that means he had enough opportunities to get open and he just couldn’t. Against a horrid pass-defense last weekend he had a career-day putting up 106 yards and scoring twice on just six catches, all to end with 28.6 points. The truth is, though, Pascal had a three-point game in his record to go with those couple of goose eggs, and his other two performances were 13- and 11-point efforts of 53 and 72 yards respectively. All things considered, Pascal is a boom-or-bust player, he is overly dependent on touchdowns, his average is under 10 points, and his floor is buried underground.
WR D.J. Chark (JAX)
You don’t like to find Chark here, but let’s face reality. Chark’s first three games of the season were great with all ending on 17-plus points performances in which he was able to score a touchdown in each of them. From that Week 3 on though, Chark has embarked in a complete carousel: from 17.6 to 8.4 to 36.4 (!) to 7.3 to 10.3 points up to last week’s game. That’s a wavy streak of five games, also on a clear downward trend. When D.J. Chark is good, he’s a beast (he’s had two games of 145-plus yards). When D.J. Chark is bad, he’s horrid (back-to-back games under 55 yards and three receptions in the last two weeks). And to make matters worse, he shuffles those performances at random, which makes him quite a risky and unpredictable fantasy asset.
Week 8 moderately-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.
QB Jacoby Brissett (IND)
I only understand people’s skepticism with Brissett to a certain point, honestly. Yes, I get the Colts lost Andrew Luck and that Brissett is no Luck, but are those comparisons even logical after six games and what Brissett has already shown? Sure, the long-time backup had a tough game against Kansas City in Week 5 (151 yards on 18 completions and no passing touchdowns) but other than that Brissett has thrown for two or more touchdowns in his other five games, comes from his season-best game against Houston (326 yards, 26 completions, four TDs), and he’s a pretty steady performer with outcomes floating around the 22-point mark and a Volatility of just 7 points. While Brissett might not sustain his scoring pace all season long, his floor isn’t lower than 15 points and his ceiling can easily reach the 30-point mark if he has a good day.
TE Austin Hooper (ATL)
It is hard to find week-to-week reliable tight ends nowadays, folks, but Hooper is giving his owners points on a fairly consistent basis. In fact, Hooper has only had one game under 11 fantasy points and it was all the way back in Week 2. In the other games Hooper couldn’t score a touchdown to add extra points to his tally, he still finished with 16.7, 11.6 and 22 fantasy scores, which removes the TD-dependency from his equation to produce. His catch rate is also very high at 83.6%, making him a reliable option on offense. If he’s not an ultra-safe play this week it is only because Matt Ryan is down injured and won’t probably make it to the field, but other than that Hooper is a real solid player to have around weekly.
WR Julian Edelman (NE)
This guy has averaged 14 or more fantasy points per game for the last six seasons, 2019 included. The other receivers to do so? A.J. Green, Antonio Brown, and Julio Jones. This year, production has been also constant from Edelman, averaging 15.8 points per game. He has had some troubling games (namely in Weeks 2 and 4, with 9.2- and 7-point outcomes), but other than that he’s been sitting around 20 points easily and without much variation. Edelman has reached 45 yards in all but one game, has a couple of touchdowns, and often sees 10 targets per game. With a low Volatility of just 6.4 points, he’s a safe play every week no matter the matchup.
Week 8 ultra-safe 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.
WR Courtland Sutton (DEN)
You have nothing to lose by playing Sutton on a weekly basis from this point on. If you need points, he’ll provide. Even before the Broncos moved from Emmanuel Sanders, Sutton was probably the No. 1 option on Denver’s offense. If there was any doubt about it, there is no more. Sutton has six games of 60-plus receiving yards (42 in the other one), has scored three touchdowns and his targets were already high at around eight per game with an expected increase coming. Denver did the right thing by trading Sanders. Sanders has been good but his performances have ranged from one to 30 points, while Sutton’s have all moved between eight and 24. Sutton is averaging 15.8 points per game and his outcomes don’t vary wildly, making him as safe a play as they come, even more in his new role.
QB Josh Allen (BUF)
Is Josh Allen the best quarterback in fantasy football? No, not by a mile—Allen ranks 14th in points per game (20.2). Is Josh Allen the best bet to get points from the position every week? Oh boy is he. Only Dalvin Cook (23.8) and Carson Wentz (20.6) are averaging more points per game while having a Volatility under six points. Keeping his impossible matchup against New England (16.3) in Week 4, Allen has scored between 20.8 and 26.5 points in every game he’s played while also throwing one or more touchdowns in each of them. He’s also been able to score three times on the ground already. You know you’re getting 20 solid points from him weekly, and to put a cherry on top of Allen’s cake he also brings the rushing upside to the table.
RB Leonard Fournette (JAX)
On the opposite side of D.J. Chark’s position in the spectrum is Fournette. He wasn’t superb in the first three games of the year scoring 13.4, 12.7, and 15.2 points, but from Week 4 on he has turned into a very solid play. His massive performance against Denver (225 yards rushing, 20 receiving, 26.5 fantasy points) was followed by three more of 13.7, 17.8, and 16.5 points. Fournette has logged 115-plus yards from scrimmage in each of his past four games and he has only scored one touchdown, so positive regression must be coming his way to boost his fantasy numbers even more. So not only are you betting on a really solid player, but you’re also more than probably going to get a little extra from him if things work as they are supposed to do and Fournette crosses the goal line a few times soon.