Fantasy football is a rather simple concept, which lends to its massive popularity. Score more points than your opponent in a given week and you win. But if it's all about scoring the most points, why do you hear so many stories of the manager with the most points in the league having a sub-.500 record?
Two concepts are primarily to blame: luck, which we’re not going to get into here, and the uneven distribution of fantasy points. All fantasy points in a given league—touchdowns, yards, receptions, field goals, interceptions—are created equally, but not all points are distributed equally.
The poster boy for this concept is living up to his boom-or-bust nature once again this season. Seahawks receiver Tyler Lockett averages 13 points per game (PPG) in points per reception (PPR) leagues. That mark is 35th-best among receivers, but he’s only scored more than his average twice this season. His respectable position ranking is buoyed by 26- and 31.8-point performances in Weeks 1 and 2. Lockett has scored more than 10 points only once since then.
Conversely, Raiders wideout Hunter Renfrow is one spot behind Lockett in scoring average (12.8) despite never eclipsing 20 points this season. That’s where the importance of point distribution comes into play—Renfrow has fallen short of double-digit points once all season, something Lockett has now done four times.
The question becomes: Which performance are you willing to stomach? While Renfrow isn’t losing you any weeks, he’s not winning them in the same fashion that Lockett, who scored 50 fantasy points in a single game last season, is. If you’re going into Monday Night Football and need five points to win, someone like Renfrow is likely to deliver and a Lockett-type may let you down.
Enough about the WR35 and WR36; how do the top scoring players at each position stack up in their level of consistency this season?
Let’s start with Derrick Henry. The Titans running back is second among all scorers in average points (26.6) and total points scored (186.5). He’s on pace to shatter carry totals, his own rushing yardage record and a bunch of other records. That’s all great, but is he consistent?
Charted out, it looks like Henry’s points are all over the place—and they are, to an extent. There’s a massive gap between his Week 2 output, when he totaled 47.7 points, and his Week 1 performance, when he managed 10.7 points. But 10 is respectable as far as scoring floors go. Henry is the only one of the top 12 qualified running backs who has yet to score in single digits. A few in that range have fallen below that number multiple times: Jonathan Taylor, James Robinson and Aaron Jones.
Jones’ graph spikes similarly to Henry’s, but it bottoms out much lower and much more frequently. The Packers running back averages 17 PPG and is RB11 in average scoring despite two games below 10 and two above 20. A 41.5-point, four-touchdown night certainly helps anchor you as a top scorer.
While Jones is among the best scorers at his position, you might prefer having a player like Nick Chubb or Leonard Fournette -- more consistent players with a higher floor despite scoring fewer points per game.
Rams receiver Cooper Kupp, the top scoring player in all of fantasy football, gives you spike weeks and a rock-solid floor, much like Henry. Kupp averages 27.2 PPG and has zero games with less than 10, only two games with less than 20 and four games with more than 30.
Chiefs speedster Tyreek Hill is just a few spots behind Kupp. He began the season with 37.1 points after going for nearly 200 yards against the Browns. Hill nearly broke the 200-yard mark a few weeks later again and added three touchdown receptions to finish with 47.1 points. In between those outings, however, Hill combined for just 15.6 points.
There’s a bit more consistency in scoring among the top receivers since they’re less touchdown dependent and simply lean on scores for their spike weeks. Deebo Samuel, Ja’Marr Chase, Davante Adams, Justin Jefferson and Dionate Johnson all have established solid floors and are among the top 12 scorers at their position. Players like Mike Williams, Antonio Brown, Marquise Brown and Mike Evans have relied more on spike weeks and have a propensity to lose you a week or two with a dud.
Remember this when making midseason trades. Yes, Jones is an RB1, but how many weeks has he finished top 12 at his position?
The same logic should be applied when scanning the waiver wire for your next pickup. Robert Tonyan and C.J. Uzomah were two of the high tight end scorers this past week available in many leagues. Uzomah’s big day even boosted him into the top 12 tight ends. But look at the consistency, or lack thereof, for Cincinnati’s tight end.
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When possible, you’re better off chasing a player with a high floor with a chance to go off than a player with the highest possible ceiling but a floor of zero. Tight end is notoriously boom or bust—you don’t want your other skill positions to be, too.
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