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 12th week of the 2021 season, there are 556 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 13 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.
RB Leonard Fournette (Tampa Bay Buccanneers)
Who do you prefer, W12 God Fournette or 28 Evil Lenny? Can’t get much wider in terms of a production range than Leonard Fournette’s fantasy tallies. Fournette has appeared in 11 games so far this season and he’s almost had as many performances of scoring fewer than 11 PPR points (four of them, bottoming at 6.4) as he’s had games above 17 PPR points (five of them, including his W12 explosion for 44.1 PPR points). Fournette’s usage is mind-bending with snap shares going from a low of 36% to a high of 82% on back-to-back weeks (W3 and W4). He is capable of rushing the rock 22 times (W6) as he is of carrying it 8 times (W8)... of racking up 100 yards last weekend or falling short of 40 a week earlier... of getting 8 receptions for 45 yards in W10, or missing on catching even 3 targets in W7. Can Lenny produce? Sure. Will he? Who the hell knows.
Week 13 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.
WR Justin Jefferson (Minnesota Vikings)
I’m not discovering anything in pointing to Jefferson as a fantastic fantasy player two seasons into his pro career. That might have been the case last year, sure, but it’s not anymore as Justin is more than established in the NFL and Minny’s offense playing next to Adam Thielen. Jefferson, though, is not the safest of players to pick any given week, which doesn’t mean he doesn’t merit consideration, though. The thing with Jefferson, though, is that while he’s pretty much a steady player averaging 18+ PPR points per game, he’s shown a floor of 4.1 fantasy points and a ceiling of 37.2 in the span of four games (W8 and W11). So when picking JJ you better know you might be in for a disappointing ride... or an explosive one, that is. Jefferson should be good to give you his customary 18 pops, and he’s gotten 9+ targets in all but two games (he went for 17 PPR points on just 5 targets against Baltimore in W9), so it’s not that he’s a bad player. But if he or Kirk Cousins chose not to deliver, the dud could be coming his way.
Week 13 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 Joe Burrow (Cincinnati Bengals)
I know you might be a little bit worried about Burrow’s back-to-back bad performances around Cincinnati’s Bye (W10). All Burrow could do back then was finish with 8.4 and 9.0 FP respectively in the weeks before and after that short vacation. And that, sucked. But that’s also why Burrow is part of this group instead of the next one; Burrow is pretty steady and plays to fantastic levels more often than not, but the nightmarish/odd game is eventually going to pop. The good news, though, is that those two games might already be all in which Good Ol’ Joe stinks this year, and it’s all rosy ROS. Burrow rebounded nicely last weekend against Pittsburgh with another 17.4, top-10 at the position performance—he even scored his first rushing TD of the year. Burrow scored 18+ FP in all but one of his first eight games of the season before those two in which he failed to reach double-digit marks, and the last time we saw him he was this close to hitting 18 once more. Trust Joe, he knows what he’s doing.
Week 13 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.
TE Tyler Conklin (Minnesota Vikings)
I’m sorry to tell you, but I’m afraid there is no such thing as a “ultra-risk-averse” tight end. The position is too wild for that, so there will always be weekly swings when it comes to TE fantasy production. It was what it is, we accept, then move on to other more interesting stuff. In any case, though, you can’t do much better than rostering/starting Conklin at the position if you at least want some solid/predictable outcome from your tight end. Excluding last weekend’s 3.5 PPR-point stinker (he still caught 2-of-3 targets for 25 yards, though) Conklin had strung five games of TE2 levels of play at the very least, finishing with 6.5 PPR points or more in each of those getting back to W6 and always finishing into the top-23 players at the position in each and every one of those slates. Conklin’s floor is probably around that mark (4-to-6 PPR points) but he’s averaging 8.9 fantasy points on the season and has topped 9.5 in four of his last six games played.