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Fantasy Football: 2014 Kings of Consistency

Rich Hribar

Rich Hribar is a husband, father, sports meteorologist and a slave to statistics. A lifelong sports fan and fantasy gamer.

Last offseason I began my year in review pieces by looking at who were the most consistent performers at each position each week and out. During the offseason, analysts often look back on previous seasons as a large body of work when fantasy football is still about winning individual weeks and stacking those wins to reach the postseason. Instead of simply citing Ben Roethlisberger as the fifth highest scoring quarterback, and therefore deeming him the fifth best option by default, we’re going under the hood of how he stacked up weekly to his peers. This is also helpful instead of simply looking at raw points scored because of week to week scoring fluctuation. Often you’ll see the comment made “Well, Player X got me 12 points” when that 12 points may not even be average for that given week.

I’m doing a table for each position that you can filter yourself and also use the search field to pull up a player you want to take a peek at. The initial order of each chart is the average weekly placement each player had from lowest to highest for PPPR leagues and standard quarterback settings (4 points per Pass TD, -2 for INT). To avoid skewing the data at running back and receiver too greatly from a truly terrible week, all finishes below RB50 and WR50 were counted as 50. Also, week 17 has been removed across the board at each spot.

Quarterbacks

[table id=247 /]

*Average scoring output for QB16 for the season was 14.9 fantasy points per game.

  • 41 different quarterbacks this season posted a week in which they were among the top 12 scorers at the position and 19 different quarterbacks had five or more weeks as “starting” fantasy options that given week. On the opposite end, only seven quarterbacks who started 10 or more games this season finished in the top half of quarterback scoring every week for two thirds of their games.
  • His week 16 finish as QB35 likely sank many title ambitions, but Andrew Luck’s weekly consistency was a large reason owners were still playing that week in the first place. That was Luck’s only week in which he was outside of the top half of scoring as he finished as a top 12 scorer in 13 of 15 starts and he finished with the most top 3 scoring weeks and tied with Aaron Rodgers for top 6 finishes. His draft capital this past season was somewhat in purgatory and paid off big time as a mid-rounder, but Luck will likely be the first or second quarterback selected in 2015 drafts.
  • Most other mid to late rounder selections didn’t fare as well. With Matt Stafford, Colin Kaepernick, Tom Brady and Cam Newton all finishing as a top 12 scorer in less than half of their starts. Stafford actually finished in the bottom half of scoring in over half of his starts.
  • What could have been for Carson Palmer? Our own resident fantasy quarterback whisperer C.D. Carter believed he was destined to be a top 10 option prior to the season and although his sample was cut short, he was the 6th best quarterback in terms of weekly consistency while his replacement Drew Stanton came in at 38th.
  • One thing about quarterbacks for fantasy football is the position is driven by matchups and volume more than real individual talent more than ever before and owners sometimes have a hard time separating real football performance to fantasy performance because of the way the position is scored relative to the others. Jay Cutler is the perfect example of this. He had just three performances in the bottom half of scoring, the fifth fewest of all players who started double digit games and was the 7th best in weekly placement. It’s a reminder to keep tabs on wherever Marc Trestman lands in the offseason (even if it’s Jacksonville).

Running Backs

[table id=248 /]

*Average scoring output for RB36 for the season was 7.5 fantasy points per game.

  • The top 12 backs in terms of weekly consistency are split on early round options and in season finds with Mark Ingram really being the only true late round back that many were drafting. There’s pretty good support here that it’s best to go after backs in the beginning of your draft and then shy away after round two. The upcoming receiver table will have more evidence of this and why you have better odds in the middle of hitting on receivers than backs.
  • The only liberty taken here was I counted all of the Denver running backs games as starts only. Not only was Montee Ball one of the biggest first round flops of the season based on injury and C.J. Anderson nothing a perfect start rate over his six starts, but Ronnie Hillman also was a weekly top 10 option when he was the starter. The sponge effect was indeed real; we (and Denver) just had the wrong player in the position when the light was green.
  • Other obvious busts based on initial investment were Toby Gerhart, Doug Martin and Bishop Sankey. All three finished outside of the top 36 in scoring for over 60 percent of the season. On the positive end, Le’Veon Bell, Anderson, DeMarco Murray, Matt Forte and Arian Foster never finished below flex level production.
  • Role in an offense are also critical as evidence by Ahmad Bradshaw and Dan Herron. Bradshaw was a top 24 scorer eight of 10 games, while Herron was in three of five. Herron suffered from the touchdown regression that was surely going to happen along the way to Bradshaw, but collectively that role in the Colt’s offense was a weekly RB2 you could depend on.
  • You’ll also notice that only nine backs were top 12 performers in half of their games or more and only 12 backs were top 24 scorers in 70 percent or more of their games. You’ll find in the receiver section that there’s more variance, but having a consistent performer at running back is still advantage for owners even if when to acquire those backs is now a yearly debate.

Wide Receivers

[table id=249 /]

*Average scoring output for WR36 for the season was 11.4 fantasy points per game.

  • The main thing that jumped out at me when looking at the receivers in conjunction with the quarterbacks is that the floor of points seems higher than ever. I’ll take the time to go back and further explore this, but double digit points in a week at receiver doesn’t mean a whole lot. If we stretch out the baseline to four levels of wide receiver, the weekly WR48 on average posted 8.7 points. The baseline even for the studliest receivers was three to four games of dud production, with only Antonio Brown and Odell Beckham pitching perfect or near prefect games.
  • I’m not for certain how far Calvin Johnson will end up falling next summer because I’m sure many don’t want to believe that a unicorn could have an expiration date, but he’s very likely not going to be a player I will actively pursue to use major draft capital on in 2015. For the season, teammate Golden Tate was just as reliable and had the same number of ceiling performances. Johnson’s career has gone through the career arc that the majority of receivers go through and has declined on a weekly dependability standpoint as well. Is he capable of turning in an ungodly season like he did at ages 26 and 27 in 2015? Absolutely. But his ceiling is not something I am willing to spend on at this stage of his career when the position is lettered with high end options in their career apex.
  • Speaking of career arcs, let this be a lesson to all those who took Brandon Marshall (me) and Andre Johnson (me again) over Alshon Jeffery and DeAndre Hopkins this past year. The elevator up is always more enjoyable to ride than the one going down.
  • One thing I believe today that will be overlooked by many come drafts next summer is that Mike Evans wasn’t nearly as stable of a commodity that people will see when looking back at his yearly production. Evans finished 2014 as the WR13 in overall scoring, yet 23rd in consistency ranking. Kelvin Benjamin was a similar producer to Evans week in and out, but I can guarantee he’ll be selected significantly after Evans in 2015. That’s not necessarily short changing Evans, who definitely projects to be a top shelf fantasy commodity for a long time, but it’s very possible he’s a player that owners over extend for next summer.
  • This table is one last rub of salt into the investment wounds of those who selected Cordarrelle Patterson, Percy Harvin, Justin Hunter, Michael Floyd, Terrance Williams and Michael Crabtree, all of whom were outside of the top 36 scorers in over two thirds of their games played and cost a single digit round draft selection.

 

Tight Ends

[table id=250 /]

*Average scoring output for TE16 for the season was 8.3 fantasy points per game.

  • This is just as bad as you probably thought it was going to look. After Gronk’s excellence, the position was a nightmare, especially for the guys who cost the most during drafts. Julius Thomas, Jimmy Graham, Jordan Cameron and Vernon Davis all disappointed relative to their sticker price. I’m a firm believer in Gronk being head and shoulders above Jimmy Graham as a fantasy asset, but I think it’s also important to remember that selecting a tight end in the first round has worked out maybe once or twice ever. As much of a four leaf clover that I believe Gronk is, I can’t imagine having him rostered in 2015 seasonal leagues.
  • Greg Olsen was right in line with Gronk in terms of high end production actually, but had had a few more flame outs along the way. Olsen, Martellus Bennett and Antonio Gates were the best purchases made in the offseason.
  • For as much as his lack of weekly usage was discussed, Travis Kelce was quite the useful tight end this season. If anything, 2014 displayed his floor than his ceiling, which is encouraging heading into next season. His draft slot may ultimately end up too rich in the end, but I can see Kelce being the second tight end next season after Gronk.
  • Let this be a lesson to all of those owners who selected Ladarius Green (me) over Antonio Gates. 64 percent of all of the top 12 scoring tight ends since 1970 came at the age of 26 or later with only 22 percent coming from players 24 years or younger.

I have more bullet points to make, but I will extend off of some of this initial consistency review in later efficiency walkthroughs that have a 2015 spin as well. In the meantime, use the tables for yourself and find me on twitter or in the comments for anything you find.