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 13th week of the 2021 season, there are 563 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 14 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.
TE George Kittle (San Francisco 49ers)
Let’s start by stating one single and very important fact: other than Travis Kelce, there is no better tight end in fantasy football than George Kittle. As simple as that, folks. Yes, he’s “only” the TE6 of the season in total PPR points. Yes, he’s missed games here and there and only played nine matches through W13. But also yes, he’s putting up the third-most PPR points per game only 0.2 points behind Mark Andrews. Kittle is fantastic, is what I mean. He’s also freaking bouncy, this man. Kittle has as many games below the 10-PPR-point mark (four) as he’s got ones above 15 PPR points (four more) with the other one sitting in the middle at 13.4 PPR. Now, the best summary of Kittle’s volatility has come in back-to-back weeks leading up to this one: 2.3 PPR points against Minny two weeks ago even though he appeared on 93% of the Niners’ snaps... and then a ridiculous 39.6 fantasy points last week facing Seattle and playing exactly the exact same snap share. The lines? 2-1-13-0 and 12-9-181-2 respectively. Play Kittle, only tame your expectations when it comes to those ridiculous near-40 fantasy points.
Week 14 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.
RB Austin Ekeler (Los Angeles Chargers)
Remember when Ekeler came out of left field to back up Melvin Gordon III as the latter held out for a while? Good old surprising times, those ones. Ekeler is now a bonafide superstar in this league. No point in arguing about that, honestly. Ek is putting up 21.6 FPPG in 12 games played this season. He’s rushing the rock a ton (149 carries, top-14) and also has been targeted a rather-bulky 71 times through W13 (second-most only one behind Najee Harris). When it comes to DFS and PPR leagues, Ekeler is just unstoppable, and his only blemish is the four fumbles on the year. Not that he hasn’t made up for those issues, though. Also, Ekeler is a little bit up and down on a weekly basis. Just peep at the Weeks 5-to-12 span of games, and you’ll get what I mean. Here are Ekeler’s PPR points in those games, from earliest to latest: 32-9-24-11-15-41-22. See what I’m saying? Ekeler has finished inside the top-19 at the position in six of those eight weeks, and he’s also been an RB1 four of those. He’s posted a season-high of 41.5, though he also fell to 9.5 PPR points in Week 6. Even then, Ekeler should be good for his average 22 FPPG easily because of his dual rushing/receiving profile.
Week 14 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.
QB Tom Brady (Tampa Bay Buccanneers)
At this point in his career, I think it’s safe to say Tommy is infinite. Just impossible to see this man running out of gas, honestly. Tommy is throwing interceptions (seven in the past five weeks combined, at least one in each of those games) at a ridiculous pace, yes, but he’s also thrown 4+ TDs in four of his last eight games. He had one rushing TD all the way back on W3, but that’s of no importance really because he just doesn’t rush the rock. But when it comes to passing, oh boy, oh boy. Brady is averaging 23+ FPPG on the year and 19+ FPPG since the W9 bye. He had a shaky outing against Indy in W12 (12.2 FP) but other than that he’s got to 15+ in the other three while having a couple of 20+ outings. You can count on a touchdown as the very minimum with upside for a mega tally when all is said and done.
Week 14 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 Keenan Allen (Los Angeles Chargers)
Six games since the Chargers bye week back on W7, six games in which Keenan Allen has topped 15 PPR points. No, seriously. And before that, he had three more games of that scoring height with three more in the 10-to-14 clip. Teammate Mike Williams kicked off the year incredibly nicely but ultimately flopped. Keenan, though? Jeez. Allen has gotten 5+ targets every time out this year and that only happened once, as he’s logged 8+ in all but one match to date. Prior to last weekend’s 8-target game, though, he had strung five consecutive games of 10+ targets while catching no fewer than 6 weekly. He’s just a lock to break the 75-receiving-yard barrier, is putting up an average of 10.8 YPR since the bye, and is averaging 19.7 FPPG in that six-game span. Play. Keenan. Allen. Without. Hesitation.