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 eighth week of the 2021 season, there are 508 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 9 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.
WR Mike Williams (Los Angeles Chargers)
Turns out Mike Will won’t be filling the bag this summer... or will he? Hard to know, considering the ridiculous outcomes from this man in both the real and the fantasy football worlds to this day. Last week I picked QB Justin Herbert as the most volatile player available, and indeed he had a good-not-great 15.8 FP performance against New England that was below his average on the year. Williams started the season with three consecutive bangs (22.2, 22.1, and 33.2 PPR points) but then scored a ground-level, turd-like 2.1 PPR points against Las Vegas... only to bounce back for a silly WR2 36.5 fantasy points (8-of-16 catches, 165 yards, 2 TDs). Oh, and he sandwiched the Week 7 bye between a 4.7 and a 3.9 FP-outings. The consensus opinion is the one saying Mike-W will rebound once more sooner rather than later. Are you risking the biscuit rostering such a random player, folks?
Week 9 moderately-risky plays
These players have standard deviations from their averages between 7 and 11 fantasy points. We’re starting to get into the meat of the player pool, and decisions start to get tougher here.
QB Josh Allen (Buffalo Bills)
Is Josh Allen some sort of Mike Williams Lite (read above), only in reverse? I mean, Allen had three games of 20 or fewer FP through the first four weeks of play, then jumped all the way up to scoring 28.5+ in the next three leading up to this week’s affair with Jacksonville. Here’s the thing: Allen is a bonafide QB1, no matter how bad he plays. Yes, he put up QB2 numbers in three of his first four games, but he also got a 37.2-FP explosion to his name in W3 and is coming off three games in which he’s thrown 8 TDs against just 1 INT total while racking up 917 passing yards and scoring twice on rushing plays (he’s carried the rock 8+ times in each of the past three outings and a grand total of 28 times). Allen comes with some baked-in risk, sure, and he can always drop to his season-low 16.2 FP (W1), but odds are he does not, throws a couple of touchdown passes, and crosses the goal line himself if he gets the chance. Risky-not-risky play, this one.
Week 9 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 Darren Waller (Las Vegas Raiders)
Everything seems to be alright when it comes to Waller’s availability for Week 9. Remember, the tight end missed Week 7 with a last-minute call that saw him hit the injury report, keeping him out of that game. Good for him, the Raiders went on a bye following that match and Waller is off the report as I’m writing this on Friday morning. Other than the ridiculous W1 outing (26.5 PPR points with a 19-10-105-1 receiving line), Waller has been a little bit more tamed from W2 to W6 putting up an average 11.3 FPPG while never deviating up or down further than to 15 PPR (above; W4) and 8.5 PPR (below; W5). Waller is a true TE1 with small chances to fall into the TE2 realm, but it’s not that he will ever cross the TE15-overall position in any slate of games. Yes, he’s been there twice this season, but even then you’d be guarantying yourself a top-end TE2 without many doubts floating above his head—let alone this weekend and going forward with WR Henry Ruggs getting cut earlier this week.
Week 9 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 Josh Jacobs (Las Vegas Raiders)
Two Raiders on the beat, surely looking like I cheated. Nah, I’m not good at the rap game... But stacking Waller and Jacobs this weekend sounds like music to my ears. Josh Jacobs is putting up the most FPPG among Raiders’ players only behind Derek Carr, yet his VOL sits at a measly 2.3 fantasy points. That’s insane. And that’s real. And that means Jacobs is the only player averaging more than 15 PPR points per game (15.1) with such low volatility to it—just for context, Diontae Johnson would be second in that group, already up a full PPR point with a 3.3 VOL. Jacobs has missed games here and there, but even then he clearly leads the Raiders in carries (60 to Kenyan Drake’s 42), rushing yards, rushing TDs (five in seven games played), and also produces on pass plays with a 16-14-110 receiving line so far this season. Nothing can go wrong with this one, folks.