In part three of this series on Consistency Rankings, we will take a look at the Wide Receiver position. If you missed the previous two columns, you can find them here: Quarterbacks and Running Backs.
WR and RB are arguably the two most important positions in fantasy football. In comparing WR and RB consistency, I noticed a significant difference in the number of elite options at each position. There were three times as many RBs that I would call elite as there were elite WRs. Elite meaning they finished the fantasy season (Weeks 1-16) with ten or more weeks in the Top 24 of their position. Looking back at the past three seasons, this elite disparity between the two positions was very consistently in favor of the RB position. In 2012, 12 different RBs finished as elite rushers, while just four WRs (Calvin, Marshall, AJ Green and Reggie Wayne) posted ten or more weeks of WR24 or better production. While conventional wisdom says to lock up your RBs early and often (there are fewer overall RB options than WR options), if you have the opportunity to grab an elite WR, history shows that it might not be a bad idea to do so and gain a weekly advantage over your opponents.
The information from this column comes from the wonderful data available at ProFootballFocus.com and is based on their PPR scoring during the fantasy relevant Weeks 1-16. The full excel spreadsheet is available here to download. Below is an abbreviated version of this spreadsheet which focuses only on WRs who finished at least four weeks as a Top 24 WR. Now, on to some observations…
• Rather than start at the top of this chart, let’s begin at the bottom, with what I found to be the most surprising stat. It turns out, that Marques Colston, the model of consistency (70+ catches, 1,000+ yards in six of his seven years in the league), was not a very reliable WR on a week to week basis. While he did finish the fantasy season as a Top 24 WR, he was a Top 24 WR for just four weeks during that span. Even worse, those four weeks accounted for 49% of his fantasy points during Weeks 1-16. Worse still is that this seems to be part of a downward trend: in 2011, Colston had six Top 24 weeks and eight in 2010. Hopefully that trend ended in 2012, and his week to week numbers will improve in 2013.
• From the bottom, let’s go to the top of the list, to Calvin Johnson. Despite a record-breaking year, Johnson still laid some eggs. This just goes to show that even great WRs are still dependent on QB play, and week to week bounce is much more likely here than at the RB position. Johnson absolutely exploded in the second half of the year. He was a Top 12 WR each week during Weeks 9-16, and a Top 6 WR during five of those eight weeks. From 2010-2012 during Weeks 1-16, Johnson played in 45 games, and in 34 of those games he was a Top 24 WR, and a Top 12 WR 24 times. The next closest WR during that span was Roddy White with 28 Top 24 weeks and 19 Top 12 weeks.
• Also exploding in the second half of 2012 was Dez Bryant. While Calvin dominated the last eight weeks of the fantasy season, Bryant was the #1 WR for the final six, finishing as a Top 12 WR during four of those weeks, including three 30+ point weeks. While Bryant was enjoying a lot of late season success, his teammate on the other side of the field, Miles Austin, was not. Over those final six weeks, Austin only finished as a Top 24 WR one time. Austin was much more productive at the beginning of the year, while Bryant was still catching on. Through the first seven games, Austin was a Top 20 WR. After that, Bryant had more than twice as many points as Austin.
• Reggie Wayne is another WR who suffered from a late season fade, or so we have been told. Much has been made of Wayne’s hot start and cold finish last year. Luck’s increased comfort with T.Y. Hilton and other receivers was one explanation for Wayne’s statistical decline. The truth is, during the last eight weeks of the fantasy season, Wayne was a Top 24 WR six times and Hilton was up there four times. Not such a bad finish after all.
• If there is a WR who really did fade down the stretch it was Larry Fitzgerald. From his Week 10 bye through Week 16, Fitzgerald scored a total of 38 fantasy points and not surprisingly finished in the Top 24 just once over those six weeks. Prior to the bye, Fitzgerald was much more productive, posting Top 24 numbers during five of nine weeks. Clearly the bye week was not well spent. Andre Roberts is further proof of Arizona’s late season futility. Roberts was a Top 24 WR four of those first nine weeks, but just once after that. While big things are expected of Michael Floyd in 2013, don’t sleep on Roberts who continues to hang around in Arizona.
• Another late round WR worth keeping an eye on is Brandon LaFell (a player featured in a Fake Football, Real Questions column earlier this summer). Each year seems to be the year that people predict LaFell will emerge as Carolina’s true number two. He got off to a good start last year, finishing as a Top 24 WR in each of the first two weeks. For the fantasy season, LaFell had five Top 24 weeks, which for someone going in the 14th round, is pretty good value.
• One player you won’t be drafting this year, but is worth at least a mention is Percy Harvin. He only played in nine games in 2012, but he dominated them, finishing as a Top 24 WR seven times and Top 12 four times. If you exclude the game he left due to injury, that’s seven out of eight games. While you won’t be drafting him; as the season progresses, it’s worth keeping tabs on Harvin. When he did play, Harvin was a highly consistent fantasy option and could be a difference maker in the fantasy playoffs.
• Also off to a hot start in 2012 was Victor Cruz, who was the only WR to outscore Harvin through the first eight weeks of the year. Helping Cruz along his way was his oft absent teammate, Hakeem Nicks. During three of those first eight weeks Nicks was out with injury. Cruz took advantage. In those three weeks, Cruz was Top 6 WR two times. It can be difficult to predict how a #2 WR will respond when the #1 WR goes down. While the remaining WR will see more targets, he will also get more attention from the defense. In Victor Cruz’s case, he seems to thrive when his partner in crime is riding the pine.
• Finally, two players who will never be confused for one another, actually have a very impressive stat in common. Looking at games in which they played at least 25% of the snaps, Randall Cobb and Brandon Marshall each had only one week in which they posted under ten points. Cobb was 12/13 and Marshall was an even more impressive 14/15.
A lot of WRs did not make the abbreviated chart on this page. Some of those names include DeSean Jackson, Chris Givens, Dwayne Bowe, Golden Tate, Kendall Wright, Kenny Britt and Pierre Garcon. The reason for their omission is because they posted less than four Top 24 weeks. To see how they did, and all the other qualifying WRs, download the full spreadsheet here.
Next week will be the final week of this series where we take a look at the Consistency Rankings of Tight Ends. Until then, good luck with your drafts!
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