In the weekly Fantasy Trends, we leverage the Trends tool to find quarterbacks, wide receivers and running backs with notable data points for the upcoming DFS slate. For more of our weekly football content, visit our NFL homepage.
Utilizing trends for late-season play can be tricky. On one hand, we now have a robust sample size to draw inferences from, and while that might aid us in making sharper projections for individual players, it could also reduce our edge against the public and fantasy marketplace.
This effect is likely most pronounced for the wide receiver position. Wide receivers’ inherent volatility creates an entropic and confusing marketplace early in the season — which is ideal for DFS tournament play, of course. However, after playing 13-plus games, metrics like target share, air yards market share, RACR and WOPR have likely stabilized sufficiently to eliminate that marketplace inefficiency.
For these reasons, I’ve chosen to evaluate wide receivers’ season-long consistency, upside and duds to tease out potential value at the position in late-season games. Of course, this effort is not without its limitations. Certain players — such as DaeSean Hamilton, Tim Patrick or Dante Pettis — benefit from increased playing time as a result of injuries to their teammates. These players will likely have skewed results due to this profound alteration to their roles in their respective offenses.
Accordingly, all players should be evaluated on an individual basis using a variety of sources, data and opinions. By reporting historical trends, I’m by no means implying that all individual players with positive results are destined for elevated production. Rather, historical and holistic trends can help define the playing field for those individual discussions and reduce individual biases in player evaluation.
My goal in this analysis is to identify low-priced wide receivers to target and mid-priced wide receivers to avoid based on their season-long consistency, duds and upside rates. These statistical filters can be found under the “Fantasy Year Filters” tab in our Trends tool. Definitions for each of these metrics can be found below.
Note that as part of my methodology, I chose to evaluate samples based on quartiles of approximately the same number of individuals rather than percentile rank. I have included sample size for each quartile in all forthcoming results to reinforce this point.
I have also limited our results to the final four games of the season, which is a necessary requirement if we intend to analyze season-long performance. This should be readily apparent, but in Week 1 of the regular season, players do not have any season-long statistics. It’s only toward the end of the regular season that we stand to gain anything at all from an analysis of season-long performance.
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Consistency: The percentage of games in which a player has produced within a standard deviation of his expected points based on historical scoring and pricing.
Duds: The percentage of games in which a player is one-half of a standard deviation below his salary-based expected output.
Upside: The percentage of games in which a player is one-half of a standard deviation above his salary-based expected output.
Wide receivers with high season-long consistency boast elevated actual points and Plus/Minus scores. Importantly, these players do not feature inflated DraftKings pricing or player ownership. This second finding is especially valuable if we seek to target players for tournament consideration.
Therein lies an implicit assumption that these types of receivers are more resilient to matchup and game script. This can be a good quality, but it’s not always. As we’ve seen with players like Courtland Sutton, for example, individual matchups or perceived target share increases due to injuries (Emmanuel Sanders) or trades (Demaryius Thomas) do not always translate to increased scoring.
This principle also applies to players such as Justin Jackson (Melvin Gordon) and Spencer Ware (Kareem Hunt). Our results for wide receiver consistency suggest that perhaps fantasy players — and DraftKings, for that matter — undervalue players’ inherent skillset and overvalue their game situations. Consistency, while a bit uninspiring, seems to be under-represented in player evaluation.
Embrace players who thrive in all circumstances, especially when targeting lower-priced wide receivers, and also especially in cash games.
As expected, wide receivers with an above-average dud rate perform poorly in their final four games. However, the fantasy marketplace somewhat adjusts for this, because these kinds of players have the lowest average expected points and Ownership of any group.
Players with a dud rate of 25% or less boast positive Plus/Minus scores, but this comes at an ownership premium. The most appropriate interpretation of these results may also be painfully obvious: Avoid players who bust frequently.
Wide receivers with high upside rates boast by far the highest average actual points of any group — and a positive Plus/Minus to boot. However, the value of these players is mitigated by elevated DraftKings salaries and inflated ownership percentages. The big takeaway here is similar to our conclusion for duds: Avoid players with poor upside rates. The bottom quartile of players in our analysis yield poor results across the board.
Among the three metrics analyzed, Consistency stands out as the strongest overall determinant of fantasy success in late-season games.
The following wide receivers boast positive splits for two or more of the trends in this analysis. These players are priced at or below $4,000 on DraftKings and currently have no injury designation for Week 15.
- Chris Conley, Kansas City Chiefs: $4,000 DraftKings
- Bruce Ellington, Detroit Lions: $4,000 DraftKings
- Willie Snead IV, Baltimore Ravens: $3,900 DraftKings
- Antonio Callaway, Cleveland Browns: $3,900 DraftKings
- Dontrelle Inman, Indianapolis Colts: $3,800 DraftKings
- Seth Roberts, Oakland Raiders: $3,700 DraftKings
- Cole Beasley, Dallas Cowboys: $3,700 DraftKings
- Nelson Agholor, Philadelphia Eagles: $3,600 DraftKings
- Michael Gallup, Dallas Cowboys: $3,600 DraftKings
- Kendrick Bourne, San Francisco 49ers: $3,500 DraftKings
The following wide receivers feature negative splits for two or more of the trends in this analysis. These players are priced at or above $4,000 on DraftKings and currently have no injury designation for Week 15.
- Josh Reynolds, Los Angeles Rams: $4,700 DraftKings
- John Brown, Baltimore Ravens: $4,400 DraftKings
- Dante Pettis, San Franciso 49ers: $4,400 DraftKings
- Kenny Stills, Miami Dolphins: $4,300 DraftKings
- Robert Foster, Buffalo Bills: $4,300 DraftKings
- Jordy Nelson, Oakland Raiders: $4,200 DraftKings
- Robby Anderson, New York Jets: $4,200 DraftKings
After this piece is published, FantasyLabs is likely to provide news updates on a number of players mentioned here. Be sure to stay ahead of your competition with our NFL news feed.
Photo Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Pictured Above: Chris Conley