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 10th week of the 2021 season, there are 535 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 11 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.
WR CeeDee Lamb (Dallas Cowboys)
Lamb has played all nine Cowboys games to date, and he’s also benefited from absences of fellow wideouts from Dallas’ receiving corps here and there (Lamb leads all skill-position Cowboys in snaps played). Even in those positive scenarios, Lamb hasn’t been otherworldly. Yes, he’s put up 158.6 total PPR points through W10 and is averaging a more than tasty 17.6 PPR per game, but that is not Lamb’s true average outcome on a weekly basis. Why? Well, let me explain briefly. Lamb’s fantasy scores have ranged from 3.3 PPR points (W4, for a WR88 finish) to a season-high of 36.1 (W6, obviously a WR1 finish). He’s got as many 20+ PPR outings as he’s had games not even reaching 10 PPR points... and his last three scores were 17.2, 4.3, and then 28.6 last weekend. Is Lamb bad? Hell, no. Is he a lock to thrive any given weekend no matter what? No, sir, so color me scared.
Week 11 moderately-risky plays
These players have standard deviations from their averages between 8 and 10 fantasy points. We’re starting to get into the meat of the player pool, and decisions start to get tougher here.
QB Lamar Jackson (Baltimore Ravens)
This assumes Lamar will be out there balling for the Ravens after missing practice time through the week due to a non-COVID illness. Even not assuming that plays to my advantage when calling Jackson a kinda-risky play. Lamar is bombastic, don’t get me wrong, but he’s had some serious up and downs through the year and his nine games played entering this upcoming Sunday’s contest. Just a glimpse at his last four outings tell you about Jackson’s riskiness: he had a monster game (32.6 FP), an absolute dud (13.8), an above-average outing (23.1), and a meh-average performance (23.1). Jackson’s fantasy upside is all over the place. He can throw 3 TDs as well as he can throw just one. He can avoid interceptions entirely, or throw a couple in a single game. He can rush for 120 yards, and he can also entirely fade the rushing game and finish with a putrid 30-yard outcome. Like him? Sure. Love him? Not really.
Week 11 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.
TE George Kittle (San Francisco 49ers)
George Kittle came back to the turf a couple of weeks ago in time for the 49ers W9 game against Arizona... and all he did was putting up 20.1 PPR points to the tune of an 8-6-101-1 receiving line. Not bad, if you ask me. After a couple of middling games to kick the year off—yet still finishing as the TE16 and TE26 in those two with scores of 9.8 and 4.7 PPR points—Kittle has been the Kittle we like, we know, and we appreciate. Other than his 8.0-fantasy-point game back in Week 4, more than a month and a half ago, his last two games since returning were sublime and saw him close the weeks as the TE2 and TE5 of those slates. Kittle is coming off a 16-PPR outing in which he scored his second TD on the year, and second in back-to-back games. He’s been a lock to get 7+ targets in all of his last four matches, he’s never caught fewer than 4 passes, and only once has he missed on reaching 40+ yards this season with an actual average of 63 receiving yards on six games played. Rock-solid option at a scarce TE position.
Week 11 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.
RB Jordan Howard (Philadelphia Eagles)
With only three games played you might find this play a little bit weird when it comes to ultra-risk averse players. That number of games played is definitely not very large. Even worse, the playing time and usage (Howard has topped at a below-average 40% snap share) J-How is seen in Philly isn’t going to blow your mind either. But given that context of play and the situation Howard finds himself in these days, he can’t be doing more than he’s already achieving. Three consecutive games hitting 57+ rushing yards on 12+ carries adorn his short 2021 resume. Howard has scored at least one rushing touchdown in two of those three games, and although he’s a net-zero on the passing game (no targets at all in 63 offensive snaps) he more than makes up for that with his ground game. The FP have gone down from 17.7 to 13.1 and lastly 8.3, but there is no reason to doubt Howard when it comes to racking up rushing yardage and even crossing the goal line in possession of the rock almost every week. If he doesn’t find paydirt then the fantasy tally will go down a bit, obviously, but the 14-ish carries, the 70-ish yards, and the TD-per-game averages speak highly of this man rushing prowess.