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)?
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).
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 the sixth week of the 2021 season, there are 463 players with 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 7 ultra-volatile players
These players have standard deviations from their averages of 11-plus fantasy points. They are as capable of putting on a monster, record-books performance as easily as they can lay a goose egg on any given day. You’re playing with fire here, boy.
TE Mark Andrews (Baltimore Ravens)
Let’s start from the ending this time: the Bengals defense against fantasy tight ends ranks as a top-7 unit so far through six weeks of games. That, amigos, is no bueno for Andrews’ upside this weekend. Don’t get me wrong, there is almost no risk all things considered in rostering a guy at the position who’s averaging 17.1 PPR points per game this season because the tight end cohort is so ridiculously bad that some 10 PPR points are good to be a TE1 any given week. LOL. But here’s the thing: Cincy’s defense has been stout at stopping TEs, and the Andrews/Lamar pairing has truly worked only at times in the first six games of the year. Andrews was able to put up a ridiculous top-3 overall finish in Week 5 with 41.7 FP to the tune of a 13-11-147-2 line, and he scored his third TD of the year last weekend. Before that W5 explosion, though, he had three-of-four games not even reaching 12 PPR points. The Bengals are giving up a tiny 4-38-0 receiving line to TEs this season having allowed just one touchdown to the position in six matches.
Week 7 moderately-risky plays
These players have standard deviations from their averages between 8 and 11 fantasy points. We’re starting to get into the meat of the player pool, and decisions start to get tougher here.
QB Tom Brady (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
Am I crazy picking Tommy Tom? Not that much, as I see it. The Bucs are facing the Bears this weekend, and do you know what the Bears have done this season to date? Sucking hard, that’s what. I see no scenario in which Tampa doesn’t put up a bunch of points in the board this weekend, have the game won by halftime, and ultimately hand Brady a
cigar veggie smoothie so he can load on electrolytes for next week training before going on a Bye come Week 9. Brady has been incredible this year, for sure, as his 154.3 total FP (third-most) and 25.7 FPPG (fourth-highest) so far speak of. But Brady has had Games—37.7 FP against Miami in Week 4) and games (11.1 FP against NE) so it’s not that he’s a surefire 20+ FP performer. The Pats game might have been packed with internal emotions, and Brady has put up 19+ in all other five outings, yes, but I think this game will be so unbalanced that the Bucs rushers will get some run (pun intended) once for all.
Week 7 relatively-safe plays
These players have standard deviations from their averages between 5 and 8 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 D’Andre Swift (Detroit Lions)
We’re inching closer to Swift being an ultra-safe pick, but we’re not quite there yet. For as much as the Lions have sucked, and how negative that could have been for Swift’s upside on negative game scripts, the truth is that the second-year rusher has been rock solid through six games this season. Ohter than a stinker against the in-indivision rivals Chicago Bears (8.9 PPR points back in Week 4), Swift has hit 11.8+ FP in every other game while showcasing both rushing and receiving abilities on a weekly basis. Swift has four of six games of at least 17 PPR points, three of them of 22+ FP, and he’s basically doing it on all fronts. The targets are a safe bet and sky-high at 7 per game (it’s not that the Lions have many better options in their receiving corps) and Swift is delivering with almost 6 receptions per and 49+ yards on a weekly basis (he’s fallen from 41 receiving yards just once). Swift is one of five RBs with 200+ yards rushing and 200+ yards receiving (Ekeler, Najee, Jonathan Taylor, Fournette) and the one with the lowest VOL of them all.
Week 7 ultra-risk-averse plays
These players have standard deviations from their averages between 0 and 5 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 Tim Patrick (Denver Broncos)
If you’re going to come and tell me you had Tim Patrick in your league-winning list of players as recently as last August, I’m sorry but I’m going to think you’re blatantly lying to me. Patrick, who was forced to step up his game due to the Broncos receiving corps getting just a little bit banged up, has been a steady force for the Rocky Mountaineers. Sure, the weekly outcomes and the upside isn’t that of, say, Stefon Diggs (LOL joking; think Justin Jefferson or Diontae Johnson) among players with super-low VOL marks through six weeks of play, but Patrick is a safe bet for those out there looking for reliable performers on a budget. There is only one below-7-PPR-point game on Patrick’s game log this season (facing Baltimore three weeks ago) but other than that he’s finishing all other six between scores of 12.7 and 15.9 PPR points. That’s what I call consistency, folks. In fact, Patrick has finished five of the six games he’s played with either a receiving TD or 89+ receiving yards. Patrick has yet to catch fewer than 3 passes any time he steps onto a gridiron, is getting a healthy diet of 5.5+ targets per game, and he’s a lock to rack up 40+ yards weekly. Nothing wrong in playing it safe, I guess.