Fantasy Football: 2013 Kings of Consistency

Josh Gordon fantasy football
Dec 8 2013 Foxborough MA USA Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon 12 warms up before the start of the game against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium David Butler II USA TODAY Sports

The freshly finished 2013 Fantasy Football season will largely be looked back on as a body of work in much of the draft prep that will happen from now until next August. All of the yardage, the touchdowns, the catches and most importantly, the fantasy points, will taken for what they added up to be.

That data is great for sure, but it can be misleading. Sure, Cam Newton scored the third most points at the quarterback position this season. But how did your team fare in the nine weeks he finished outside of the top 12 scorers at his position? Chris Johnson may have propelled you to single game victories in the four weeks he scored over 20 points, but those came along with eight weeks of subpar weekly production.

In a game that will never completely rid itself of element of fortune, good or bad, it’s important to know just who is consistently scoring amongst the best at their position on a week to week basis. Let’s look at which players were the kings of consistency at their position this season, and just how that may (or should) effect that position going into 2014 draft season. Because let’s face it, just like the real NFL, the fake football is a copy cat industry.

In the middle of the season, we did an update on Signature Starts for each position. If you’re unfamiliar, it’s the number of times a player finished the week as a sure fire starting option at his position in PPR leagues. Top 12 weeks for quarterbacks and tight ends and top 24 weeks from backs and receivers. Since we’re looking back on 16 weeks of awesome (or not, depending how things ended), we’re going to focus strictly on the players who finished with a Signature Start in over half of their games played.

Quarterbacks

Player

S.S.

S.S. %

TOP 6

PTS/SS

Foles

7

77.7

7

28.1

P. Manning

11

73.3

9

29.6

Brees

11

73.3

6

24.8

Stafford

10

66.7

4

21.5

Luck

9

60

4

22.2

QB Bears

9

60

4

21.9

*Min. 9 starts

Yep. That’s it. Only five quarterbacks (I had to throw QB Bears in there for grins and fulfilling our Team Trestman contract) total finished the season having more than half of their games worth weekly starting quality. In the world of one quarterback leagues, there’s absolutely no reason to invest heavily into the position at draft time. You’ll notice that Newton, Andy Dalton, Philip Rivers, Tony Romo, Russell Wilson, and Alex Smith are all missing from the list, all quarterbacks that finished in the top 10 of scoring overall. Forty five quarterbacks posted a top 12 week this season and 25 different ones scored 25 points or more in at least one week this season.

The NFL is averaging 23.7 touchdown passes per team, the highest mark ever for a season. On average, ten different quarterbacks have thrown for at least 25 touchdowns in a season every year since 2007. As the game moves forward offensively geared towards speed, space and tempo, quarterbacks are putting up total numbers that have never been done before.

Sure, those guys who grabbed Peyton Manning really made out well this season, but that only took a passing season that was unprecedented in the history of the league. Manning also wasn’t the consensus QB1 grab in drafts last year either, so he actually did provide solid value with enormous average weekly ceiling (PTS/SS column). Teams that ran into Nick Foles were likely the big winners though, as he was a top 6 play is seven of his nine starts with a ceiling near Manning, coming at the cost of a waiver add.

Tight Ends

Player

S.S.

S.S. %

TOP 6

PTS/SS

J. Graham

12

80

9

22.3

J. Thomas

10

76.9

6

18.4

V. Davis

9

64.3

6

19.3

Olsen

9

60

3

14.4

Cameron

8

57.1

6

20.6

 Going right into the other “onesie” position, you’ll notice a similar trend to tight end that was at quarterback. In most leagues, you’re only forced to start one, meaning that 11 other teams missed out on Jimmy Graham, too. You won’t play the Graham owner all thirteen weeks of your regular season, so don’t fret, the opportunity cost (you’ll see shortly when we get to backs and receivers) it took to land (and will next take in 2014) was far too great to extend yourself in many scenarios (as a small example, in my 13 redraft leagues not one Graham owned team made the championship game).

During weeks 5-15, Davis was better than Graham, totaling more yards and touchdowns, becoming the first tight end in NFL history to have two 12 touchdown seasons. Cameron stacked his great games early, having only one top 12 finish after week eight. He’d still be a bargain for his talent level next season, but it will be extremely hard to sink any single digit pick into a tight end.

You’re going to want to follow fellow XN writer, C.D. Carter and JJ Zachariason on the Twitter machine, because they host a weekly show that goes in depth on onesie position replacement level and the true dark arts of Living the Stream. Either way, there’s a high probability that you can build weekly quarterback and tight end Frankensteins through the end of your draft and waiver wire options that can match at the very least the consistency of these positions if not exactly reaching the apex of total points the leaders post.

It’s not even being a contrarian, or saying you’ll go against the grain, zigging when draft mates are zagging. There’s little reason for you not to ride hot hands and current trends throughout the course of the campaign at these positions. Of course, you may play in a larger league where streaming a position isn’t an option, so those players on both leader boards provided you with a enormous weekly advantage of your large league mates this season.

Looking at the two positions above, it’s my recommendation that your 10 team leagues switch over to two starting quarterback spots (XN’s own, Mr. Sal Stefanile can cover you on the ins and outs if you need it), 12 team leagues go to a Superflex position (due to bye week constraints on QB) and roll tight ends and wide receivers into one receiver position. Look at the top consistent tight ends, that group is more receiver than tight end anyways, plus it puts the other tight ends smack into the middle of third receiver production, kind of like real life.  If not, then continue to work your way around the system at each spot.

Wide Receivers

Player

S.S.

S.S. %

TOP 12

PTS/SS

A. Brown

11

73.3

5

22.2

Gordon

9

69.2

8

28.9

Welker

9

69.2

3

19.7

Green

10

66.7

6

23.9

C. Johnson

9

64.3

7

28.7

Jeffery

9

60

4

24.5

A. Johnson

9

60

6

24.3

Marshall

9

60

7

24.3

D. Thomas

9

60

7

24.6

Bryant

9

60

6

23.8

K. Allen

7

53.8

4

21.7

D. Jackson

8

53.3

5

25.3

Edelman

8

53.3

3

23.3

Nelson

8

53.3

4

21.2

Fitzgerald

8

53.3

4

21.3

Josh Gordon was the mythical beast of 2013 fantasy football. He was a top 12 performer in eight of his 13 games, paired with the highest average ceiling out all receivers. He still only scored one touchdown inside of 20 yards on a team that ranked 30th in red zone attempts per game. Once the Browns find their quarterback and any semblance of a running game, those scoring opportunities will only increase his value, which will no doubt be a round one selection next season.

Teams that drafted Gordon and Jeffery late in their drafts were treated to lead receiver production at a pace as good as anyone else. If you snagged Keenan Allen or took a late flier on Julian Edelman with all of the rainclouds surrounding the Pats in the preseason, you also struck gold.

Landing an elite wide receiver at the start of your draft is almost as important as it’s ever been. In the current nature of the NFL:  increased spread offenses, more viable quarterback play (from a FF sense), and more players receiving targets than ever before, it’s unbelievably hard to find weekly consistent performers at the position. The receiver position is still just as volatile as ever and the volatility of the position jumps at a greater margin the deeper you go at the position, unlike running back.

There are still options that can score you points, but irregularly. That consistency is going to make the top flight options that are paired with solid ceilings big commodities at the start of the 2014 draft, but they’ll be names that didn’t make this list, or barely made it that will likely be overextended for, especially if you’re going to be ignoring running backs.

Running Backs

Player

S.S.

S.S. %

TOP 12

PTS/SS

Charles

14

93.3

13

26.4

Murray

12

92.3

5

19.5

L. Bell

11

91.7

6

17.5

McCoy

13

86.6

8

22.3

Forte

13

86.6

10

21.7

Lacy

11

78.6

7

19.1

Bush

10

76.9

5

20.2

Moreno

11

73.3

7

22.3

Bernard

10

66.7

6

17.9

Mathews

10

66.7

4

16.6

Lynch

10

66.7

6

22.2

F. Jackson

10

66.7

4

17.1

Peterson

9

64.3

8

22.3

Stacy

7

63.6

4

19.6

Woodhead

9

60

6

20.1

Morris

9

60

1

14.2

Gore

8

53.3

5

18.6

P Thomas

8

53.3

3

18.5

 

That’s right. In a world supposedly filled with doom and gloom, so much misery, the running back position was just as fine as ever, with 18 backs delivering starting weeks at over a 50 percent clip. They come in with a slightly lower ceiling that of the receivers, but the top scoring backs were more consistent week to week than other position. As always, they are still the most important players in our pretend game.

Running back scoring was actually up four percent this year compared to last out of the top 24 backs in PPR formats and just as many early round players missed as last year. Last year, only four of the top 12 backs selected finished inside the actual top 12 scorers at season’s end.

Mid to late round this year was extremely fruitful for landing top running scorers, and the increased amount of pass catching backs is something to monitor going forward. If Woodhead and Darren Sproles each catch one pass this Sunday (both have 69), 2013 will be only the second season in NFL history to have as many as five backs catch 70 passes.

The 2013 season was as great as ever, and as usual, a solid consistent approach to decision making will generally win out. When you enter your drafts next year, remember that just like that thought process, with players, consistency is king.

Stats used were provided from ProFootballFocus, Pro-Football-Reference, NFLData.com.

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