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 seventh week of the 2021 season, there are 486 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 8 ultra-volatile players
These players have standard deviations from their averages of 10-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.
QB Justin Herbert (Los Angeles Chargers)
Six games for Herbert, who is coming off the Chargers 2021 bye week, and an absolute mess of outcomes for him entering the second half of L.A.’s schedule. You won’t believe me, but J-Herb has been a freaking shotgun out there with fantasy cores ranging from 12 to 42.8... and that’s just what he’s done in the past two weeks. LOL. Herbert was a completion machine in the first two games of the season (back-to-back 31 completions) though he got intercepted three times in that two-game span. Then, he decided to lower his amount of attempts and thus completions (he’s topped at 36 in all last four matches), limited interceptions to just one (Week 6), and turned into a touchdown-crazy thrower hitting 4-3-4 in three games between Week 3 and Week 5 only to have a 39-22-195-1-1 performance against the Ravens the last time we watched him on a gridiron. That happened, again, just one week after he threw for 398 yards and 4 TDs facing the Browns. You can bet on Herbert and get a QB1 good for 50 FP on his brightest of days... or a 12-FP player if the opposing D finds a way to limit him as Baltimore already proved is truly possible.
Week 8 moderately-risky plays
These players have standard deviations from their averages between 7 and 10 fantasy points. We’re starting to get into the meat of the player pool, and decisions start to get tougher here.
WR Deebo Samuel (San Francisco 49ers)
Deebo started the season with a 31.9-PPR-point bang, then sucked. No, that’s not true, but you know where I come from. Samuel has had finishes of WR2, WR3, WR7, WR21, WR26, and WR6 (!) this year in his six games played. And not precisely in that order, but rather alternating great outings with much lower ones. Samuel went from those 31.9 points to 16, 10, then back to 35, 16, 21. The targets keep coming in bunches (8+ each game, 10+ in four of them), but the actual production has been all across the board with the receptions falling as low as to three in W5, and reaching nine in that awesome W1 game. The usage alone makes Deebo a sure thing to at least rack opportunities up, but when it comes to actually delivering goodies things don’t look that great on a weekly basis.
Week 8 relatively-safe plays
These players have standard deviations from their averages between 4 and 7 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.
TE Travis Kelce (Kansas City Chiefs)
Let’s take a minute of silence for the dead Chiefs offense. RIP. Nah, not so fast, folks. Yes, Patrick Mahomes is throwing interceptions like Jameis Winston in his best days out there, but it’s also true that when he hits his pass-catchers, they often are either WR Tyreek Hill or TE Travis Kelce. And it is not that those connections don’t occur on a fairly high basis. Kelce has been targeted 65 times already, catching 45 of those looks for 533 yards and 4 TDs on the first half of the season. Say or believe what you want, but that makes Kelce the first TE in total PPR points, FPPG (min. 4 games), yards, touchdowns, receptions, and targets. I mean, he’s No. 1 at everything. Kelce has finished six of seven games with 13.5+ PPR points, and five of seven with 17.4. The only time he wasn’t a TE1 was back in Week 4 and he still finished in the TE2 realm with a 4-6-23 line.
Week 8 ultra-risk-averse plays
These players have standard deviations from their averages between 0 and 4 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.
RB Javonte Williams (Denver Broncos)
You know how this usually goes: the less volatility a player carries, the lower the upside, and thus the lower weekly fantasy points he tends to score. That’s a pretty nice summary of rookie Javonte Williams’ first season as a pro playing for the Rocky Broncos. Williams hasn’t been bad, far from it, but he’s found himself “stuck” into a committee featuring veteran Melvin Gordon and that has limited his touches a bit, more than anything in terms of ball carries. BUT. Javonte has been a staple on Denver’s pass game with at least three targets in all five last games and is coming off his best outing at that after putting up a 7-6-32-1 receiving line just a week ago at Cleveland. From Week 2 (included) on, Williams has averaged 11.5 FPPG while always scoring in the 8.4-to-13.2 clip with the exception of Week 7 season-high 17.2 PPR points (he also rushed the ball four times for 20 yards on the ground). Can’t get much steadier than Javonte’s outcomes, making him a fantastic last-open-slot filler this (or any, for that matter) weekend.