It’s Monday night week 13 and despite battling injuries all season your dream team is just 5 points away from making the fantasy playoffs. It comes down to your flex position, and you’re stuck between two players scoring around the same points per game. You feel conviction down through your soul that if this team of destiny can just get a chance at the dance, it is built to finally win you that trophy you’ve always coveted. You choose the player who averages more points per game.
He scores 3.
But what if you had a more powerful tool than average points per game that could have predicted this happening? Just like the unpredictable nature of Wall Street, where stocks soar and plummet, the realm of fantasy football has its own peaks and valleys. Enter the stage: the 'Boom or Bust' players. These are the high-risk, high-reward performers like Will Fuller and David Johnson, who will electrify the field one game and leave you hanging the next. Their potential for explosive plays is undeniable, yet their inconsistency can send your fantasy hopes into a tailspin.
Everyone who has played Fantasy Football has their own story of how Breshad Perriman won them their fantasy championship or how Desean Jackson’s 2 point performance tanked their season. It’s a tale as old as Fantasy itself, and while the highs of a great performance are exceptional, it’s not sustainable for long term success within a season.
Just as Wall Street sharks like Warren Buffet and Jordan Belfort employ data to gauge risk and potential return, you too can harness a tool that navigates the tumultuous waves that are volatility. It's called the coefficient of variance, a behind-the-scenes metric that sheds light on the hidden patterns of player performance. This metric, akin to the market volatility index, provides a window into the reliability of the league’s top players, and shows that not all top 25 finishes are built the same.
Let’s begin with last season’s running back position. Joe Mixon finished the season 6th in fantasy points per game with 17.1 PPR points per game. An elite season on paper, but lets dive deeper into his stats. Despite finishing 6th in points per game, he was only a top 10 running back 4 times in 2022. Let’s compare that to Nick Chubb, who actually scored less points per game than Joe Mixon at 16.5, and yet had nearly double the amount of Joe Mixon’s top 10 finishes at 7 games. The key to sustainable fantasy success is who scores the most points in the most amount of games, and while Nick Chubb did not have any 55 point outbursts like Joe Mixon did last season, his overall consistency led to a more valuable season.
Using the Coefficient of Variance, we can also see what a dependably rock solid season Derrick Henry had last season. Despite finishing fourth in fantasy points per game, with the 9th least volatility, and adding Deandre Hopkins into the offense, many people are fading Derrick Henry into the second and sometimes third rounds this 2023 season. As one of the few true work-horse backs left in the league in an improved offense, he has a great chance to lead the league in rushing yards once again.
James Conner is another ultra dependable RB2. In 13 games last season James Conner was one of the most reliable performers for getting you 15 points per game. He wasn’t going to single handedly win you any weeks by putting your team on his back, however at the RB2 position consistency is key and he was one of the few players you could set and forget last season. Currently Conner is sitting at an ADP of 65th overall, behind the likes of Kyle Pitts, Miles Sanders and JK Dobbins. If you want consistency in your lineup Conner is a great addition to your line up rounds 5/6.
At Wide Receiver, there is currently an ongoing debate on who should be the first overall pick, Ja’Marr Chase or Justin Jefferson. Last season Jefferson just edged out Ja’Marr Chase in points per game at 21.7 vs Chase’s 20.2, however Justin Jefferson’s came with a standard deviation of 12 vs Chase’s 8.5. When we dive deeper into Justin Jefferson’s 2022 season we’ll see he had several weeks scoring in single digits, in week 3 he had 4.4 points, week 11 he had 6.3, and week 17 (the fantasy championship for many people) he had 2.5 points. Compare this to Chase, whose lowest total the entire season was 10.8 points. This volatility is accounted for by the coefficient of variance, which shows Chase is significantly more valuable at .41 vs Jefferson at .55. For Fantasy players who are more risk averse, the data actually shows the real battle for the number one receiver off the board shouldn’t be Justin Jefferson vs Ja’Marr Chase, but instead Cooper Kupp vs Chase.
This metric also can help identify potential breakout candidates. Chris Olave, for example, was the least volatile fantasy performer at the Wide Receiver position among players who finished in the top 30. This is despite having Andy Dalton at quarterback and a bottom 20 offense in the NFL. Olave’s new Quarterback Derek Carr, on the other hand, has now supported 2 straight top ten receiver finishes in fantasy, one of which being Hunter Renfrow in 2021. If Olave can maintain that same consistency in a more potent offense he should finish as a top 10 performer in PPR leagues this year as well.
At Quarterback, there was a clear top 3 at the position last season between Josh Allen, Patrick Mahomes, and Jalen Hurts with Joe Burrow finishing as a close 4th. Not only were they the best performers on a week by week basis, they were also the most consistent in doing so. After that Lamar Jackson and Justin Fields are a tier of their own, and if you are unable to get any of those players you are best off waiting until the end of the draft and streaming the QB position.
Where the position gets very interesting however, is when we look at it from weeks 5 until the end of the season, after giving young quarterbacks some time to settle into their new offense. When viewing from this perspective, Justin Fields firmly asserts himself into the top 5 fantasy quarterbacks in the entire league. From week 5 onward, Fields actually scored more points than both Joe Burrow and Josh Allen. This is despite having the WORST passing game in the league, throwing nearly 500 yeards less than the next closest team in the Atlanta Falcons. With DJ Moore being added into the mix, expect Justin Fields to explode onto the scene in 2023 much like Jalen Hurts asserted himself into the quarterback ruling class last season.
Lastly, the TE position shows once again that there is Travis Kelce and then there is everyone else at the position. Kelce outscored the next closest tight end by over 5 points per game and was the second most consistent tight end overall. Kelce from a Value over Replacement perspective, is the most valuable player in all of fantasy football, and if you are unable to draft him, given the volatility and futility of the position, you are much better off drafting Pat Freiermuth in round 10, than taking a second tier tight end like Kittle or Andrews in rounds 3 or 4.
In the world of fantasy football, the nature of week to week volatility adds a layer of excitement to the game, mirroring the unpredictability of financial markets. Drawing parallels between the strategies of seasoned Wall Street traders and the application of the coefficient of variance in fantasy football, highlights the importance of informed decision-making amidst uncertainty. As you venture into your drafts and lineups, remember that while the thrill of high-stakes players can be irresistible, a calculated approach, much like that of the trading floor, is the key to unlocking consistent success.