Fantasy News & Analysis

Fantasy football stats: The most consistent fantasy options 2017-2018

Baltimore, MD, USA; Houston Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins (10) looks to the referee after having his jersey ripped on the previous play during the third quarter against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium. Baltimore Ravens defeated Houston Texans 23-16. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Much of fantasy football is the quest for predictability. The occasional boom-or-bust player is nice to have (particularly when he booms), but in the long run what you want is to know what to expect. You want consistency. Today, we’re looking at the players who were most “consistent” from 2017 to 2018 — where consistency is defined as putting up close to the same fantasy point totals.

That’s a shorthand, because players often get to their totals in wildly different ways. A player can play all 16 games in two straight years. He can put up exactly 5 points in every game one year, then have eight games with 10 and eight with 0 the next. In the end, his per-game average is the same, but the path is very different. So merely having the same points-per-game average at the end of the year isn’t necessarily indicative of predictability or consistency. But it’s as I said a shorthand, and it can be a useful one if handled correctly.

There were eight players we’ll call “fantasy relevant” who played at least 10 games in both 2017 and 2018 and put up fantasy points-per-game averages within 4% of each other. I’ll address all eight quickly below and see what we can learn.

Player Pos Team 2017 PPG 2018 PPG Diff
Todd Gurley RB LAR 25.6 26.6 +4.0%
Lamar Miller RB HOU 12.1 12.4 +2.5%
Kirk Cousins QB MIN 17.4 17.6 +1.7%
DeAndre Hopkins WR HOU 20.7 20.9 +1.0%
Derek Carr QB OAK 13.8 13.6 -1.5%
Mohamed Sanu WR ATL 11.6 11.4 -1.8%
Josh Doctson WR WAS 8.6 8.4 -1.8%
Antonio Brown WR PIT 22.2 21.6 -2.6%

Todd Gurley, RB, Los Angeles Rams

2017: 25.6 PPG
2018: 26.6 PPG
Difference: +4.0%

This isn’t supposed to be possible. On a points-per-game basis, Gurley was the No. 1 fantasy option across the skill positions in 2017 … and then did it again in 2018, only failing to finish atop the season-long leaderboard because he missed Weeks 16 and 17. The last player to average more than 25 PPR points per game across a two-season stretch was LaDainian Tomlinson in 2006 and 2007.

Gurley also just so happened to be the most consistent fantasy option in many ways. Across 29 games played over the two years, he had exactly two (Week 5 of 2017 and Week 14 of 2018) where he failed to reach 10 PPR points. He has a total of three games across the two seasons without 100 scrimmage yards or a touchdown. Basically, he spent a big chunk of the 2018 season chiseled into the top spot in the weekly rankings, and then we had to start thinking at No. 2. And there’s little reason to think he’ll fall much from that spot (if at all) in 2019.

Lamar Miller, RB, Houston Texans

2017: 12.1 PPG
2018: 12.4 PPG
Difference: +2.5%

Miller has now played three seasons with Houston. He has put up between 1,136 and 1,261 yards from scrimmage all three years. He has exactly six touchdowns each year. He has between 12.1 and 13.8 PPR points per game all three years. Miller might not have turned into what the Texans were hoping for when they signed him away from Miami, but for fantasy, he’s been perfectly predictable, perfectly adequate, perfectly … eh. You aren’t over the moon if you have Miller, but if he’s been your RB2 three straight years, you aren’t complaining too hard.

The problem, though, is how that’ll go moving forward. The Texans, even if they make no offseason additions at the position, should have a healthy D’Onta Foreman ready to go in 2019. Foreman missed almost all of 2018 after a 2017 Achilles injury. Prior to the injury, Foreman’s workload had climbed, to the point where there was talk he’d take Miller’s starting job if he hadn’t gotten hurt. Whether he takes it altogether or not, Foreman is like to take enough of what Miller has had the last three years that Miller’s era of predictability is likely behind us. (And yes, this is all before considering the chances Houston brings in a new option in the offseason.)

Kirk Cousins, QB, Minnesota Vikings

2017: 17.4 PPG
2018: 17.6 PPG
Difference: +1.7%

You probably didn’t guess that Cousins actually increased his fantasy point total in the move from Washington to Minnesota, but (negligibly, really) it’s true. The problem is that, because the quarterback position at large was so insanely good in 2018, Cousins’ ranking dropped from QB6 in 2017 to QB12 in 2018. The difference is in how he got there. Any slide for Cousins was largely in his rushing production — he threw three more touchdowns and three fewer interceptions in 2018 than 2017, but offset that by going from four rushing scores to one.

Perhaps no player in the league will have as stable a situation from 2018 to 2019 than Cousins. His top two receivers, Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs, should continue to dominate the team’s receiving production, with a little Kyle Rudolph seasoned in to taste. The team doesn’t have much of a third wide receiver option at present, and maybe there is a signing or draft pick to offer depth, but the chances someone comes or goes in that corps that will materially change his prospects is slim. A full healthy season of Dalvin Cook can’t hurt, but then Latavius Murray was productive enough when Cook missed time. All told, it amounts to a Kirk Cousins who has as little gap between ceiling and floor as just about any player. Assuming health, he’s almost guaranteed to finish as QB14/15 at worst, and it’s hard to see him going much above QB5 even in the best-case. If you take Cousins, you know what you’re getting.

DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Houston Texans

2017: 20.7 PPG
2018: 20.9 PPG
Difference: +1.0%

Hopkins succeeded with Deshaun Watson in 2017 … but he also succeeded with Tom Savage and T.J. Yates, and probably would have succeeded if the Texans had signed Vinny Testaverde and put him under center. Across the last two seasons, Hopkins has had exactly one game in which he failed to reach 10 PPR points — Week 6 of 2017, when he put up 9.9. He had two games over 30 PPG points in each season. He didn’t play in Week 17 of 2017, but otherwise he hasn’t missed any time, hasn’t really had a bad game.

Hopkins might not be the WR1 (but he might be! He’s one of the few names in the running), but he also isn’t going to be the WR10. High ceiling, high floor. It’s all you could ever want.

Derek Carr, QB, Oakland Raiders

2017: 13.8 PPG
2018: 13.6 PPG
Difference: -1.5%

Carr’s another of the “Wait, really?” All-Stars in this topic, because I doubt many people guessed that, fantasy-wise, he was virtually the same quarterback from 2017 to 2018. He had five different single-digit fantasy outings in 2017 (and missed a game altogether), with seven such games in 2018. He topped 20 twice in 2017, 30 once. He topped 20 three times in 2018, 30 once.

Really, the lesson of Carr in recent seasons is that while his overall numbers stay steady, week to week he’s extremely frustrating. He topped 30 fantasy points in Week 4 of 2018, sandwiched between two 13-point outings. His Week 7 30-pointer in 2017 had a 7-pointer on one side, a 12 on the other. If this is the Carr we have, he makes sense as a best-ball second option, but beyond that he’s a stay-away in fantasy, especially considering the deteriorated supporting cast he’s working with.

Mohamed Sanu, WR, Atlanta Falcons

2017: 11.6 PPG
2018: 11.4 PPG
Difference: -1.8%

Replacing Taylor Gabriel with Calvin Ridley didn’t affect Sanu in fantasy like we might have expected. He had two 20-point fantasy days each season, putting up almost an identical average from year to year. The biggest difference (and this makes sense) is that the addition of Ridley and development of Austin Hooper lowered Sanu’s floor; he had single-digit PPR points five times in 15 games in 2017 (33%), but eight in 16 games in 2018 (50%).

Altogether, Sanu dropping to third on the Falcons’ receiver chart means he’s probably not a fantasy option outside of the deepest leagues, because even his big weeks are going to be tough to predict. But as an occasional DFS flyer, he’s going to be cheap, and in tournaments he can pay off.

Josh Doctson, WR, Washington

2017: 8.6 PPG
2018: 8.4 PPG
Difference: -1.8%

It’s tempting to write off just about everything about the Washington receiving game in 2018. Paul Richardson got hurt, Alex Smith was bad before he got hurt, and things just got worse as it progressed. But this was supposed to be the year Doctson developed. He tied for the fifth-most end-zone targets among receivers in 2017 with 18, and with a little more success on those, his numbers were due to rise.

Instead, he had only six end-zone targets in 2018, and in most other ways, he was basically the same guy. PFF grade of 62.5 in 2017, 63.3 in 2018. 72 targets, then 75. He scored four fewer touchdowns in 2018 (6 to 2) but offset that with nine extra receptions and 30 extra yards. And with all of that, his best game in two years is a 14.6-PPR-point outing.

As a former first-rounder, maybe Doctson can still hit that next gear if Washington gets all its other problems sorted out. But in fantasy, I’m letting the waiver wire enjoy his first successful games. He’s undraftable.

Antonio Brown, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers

2017: 22.2 PPG
2018: 21.6 PPG
Difference: -2.6%

After everything we’ve heard about him for the last couple months, calling Brown “predictable” seems almost farcical, but for fantasy, that’s definitely what he has been. The problem is that’s just about the only way Brown was predictable in 2018. Most of his numbers dropped noticeably from 2017:

  • Yards (1,533 to 1,297);
  • Passer rating with targeted (100.8 to 90.4);
  • PFF grade (91.2 to 79.3)

Those changed were offset by Brown scoring six extra touchdowns in 2018, setting a new career-high with 15. Now, with his future with Pittsburgh uncertain at best, forecasting Brown’s immediate future feels almost foolish. He’ll be a WR1 in 2019 no matter what team he is on. But will he be the WR1? Or will he be a second-tier star? That depends on the Steelers right now.

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