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 14th week of the 2021 season, there are 570 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 15 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 Tyreek Hill (Kansas City Chiefs)
At this point, it’s safe to say the Chiefs live and die by Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce more than they do by QB Pat Mahomes. The Chiefs are 9-4 on the year, and in those four losses, Hill posted PPR tallies of 5.9, 9.7, 14.8, and 12.7 fantasy points. His best finish in that four-game sample was good for the overall WR28... Ugh. That said, Hill kicked the year off with a ridiculous Week 1 37.1-point PPR score, demolished that mark with 47.6 points in W4, and has two more games of 26+ PPR points. It’s been a goddam rollercoaster of a season for Hill, and on top of that he’s coming off back-to-back games outside of the WR3/top-36 realm after scoring 4.2 and 11.6 fantasy points in his last two outings putting up silly 5-2-22 and 4-4-76 receiving lines. Is that what is coming? No, we could very well be talking about another 12-11-186-3 day. But it’s been so random with Hill this year that he’s the embodiment of risky business right now.
Week 15 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 Josh Allen (Buffalo Bills)
Remember what Josh Allen did in Week 13 against New England? He completed 15-of-30 passes for 145 yards and a touchdown, that’s what he did. And do you remember this past weekend’s game against Tampa Bay? Monster 36-of-54 passing day for Josh with 308 yards and 2 TDs (with a single INT), and a bonus 109 yards on 12 carries including a rushing touchdown. In other words, Allen just went from having his worst game of the year (he has two performances below 12 FP) to having nearly his best one (he has three games of 36+ FP). Allen in a nutshell, folks. Though Josh has been on the right side of things more often than not (thus the moderate and not the ultra label of riskiness), his outcomes are a goddamn shotgun fingerprint. Allen has been a top-4 QB in seven of his 13 games (five of those were QB1 finishes) but he’s also finished in the QB14-QB22 clip five other times. The average FPPG sits at a sound 24.1 FP a pop, but he can end doing it all, so temper your expectations if only for a minute.
Week 15 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 Alvin Kamara (New Orleans Saints)
Kamara is averaging a ridiculous 20.3 PPR points per game, which leads every player with a volatility mark in the 5-to-8 PPR-point clip. No joke, as no other player is above 18.5 PPR points per game among the 50 in this group. AK finally came back last weekend to face New York and all he did was run through the Jets for 120 yards on a freakish 27 (!!!) carries in a day in which he also found paydirt—and it’s been three games in a row for Kamara scoring, even though he missed the whole W10 to W13 (both included) span of matches. Barring a couple of middling outings in the first four weeks of the season (thus the “relatively” safe tag), Kamara has strung five in a row of 16+ PPR points with four of those matches seeing him hit 20+ fantasy points topping at 33.9 bak on Week 7 when he was the RB1 and 2nd-best overall player in fantasy leagues to the tune of a 20-51-0 rushing line and 11-10-128-1 receiving outcome. Jeez.
Week 15 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 Jerry Jeudy (Denver Broncos)
Jeudy did play 31 offensive snaps in Week 1 before getting injured and done for the next seven weeks until he returned in time for the Week 8 game against Washington. He scored 7.9 PPR points back then catching all 4 of his targets for 39 yards, and he’s never looked back. Other than a kinda-stinky 4.5 PPR-outing in Week 12, Jeudy has been a steady 10 FPPG averager playing in the Rocky Mountains. He’s got 9.7+ PPR points in four of his last five games, is a pass-catching machine with sky-high catch rates, is seeing an average of 6+ targets per game on the year, and has finished all games except one with 39+ yards. The only blemish in Jeudy’s resume is that he’s still to score a touchdown, which could happen as early as this weekend if you ask me. Of course, with a sublime 2.8 VOL through W14, it’s not that we can be too picky about Jeudy’s 10.0 pinpoint rounded FPPG this year. The average/volatility average is the best in the NFL as Jeudy is the only player with a <3 VOL putting up double-digit fantasy points (the second-best is already down at 7.3 FPPG).