2022 Fantasy Football Consistency Review: Production


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2022 Fantasy Football Consistency Review: Production

You might have noticed that our best ball rankings look a lot different than our season-long projections. That’s intentional, and primarily due to one reason: week-to-week consistency.

Take Amari Cooper for example. Cooper averaged 18.1 FPG at home in 2022 – a mark that would’ve made him the WR7 over the full season – but just 11.5 FPG on the road (WR38). He was either better than CeeDee Lamb, or slightly worse than Mecole Hardman, depending on the location of his game. That made Cooper a maddeningly inconsistent redraft asset on a weekly basis, but DFS players who targeted him at home drowned in cash. Cooper’s home/road splits last season are a unique example, but his history of inconsistency isn’t. Cooper was fantasy’s most inconsistent player in 2017 and 2018, and ranked among the top-10 most inconsistent players in 2021.

Another example is 2022 A.J. Brown. Brown averaged 30.1 FPG in his three best games in 2022, but just 9.1 FPG in his other 10 games. Just like Cooper, 2022’s version of Brown offered elite-tier upside, but absolutely crushed you in terms of week-to-week consistency. If you only played him during his boom weeks, he was a cheat code. But outside of those three big games, Brown was helping your fantasy team about as much as 2022 Jamison Crowder (9.1 FPG).

But perhaps the ultimate example – at least from last season – is Joe Mixon, who finished as the RB6 (17.1 FPG). Mixon scored 55.1 fantasy points in Week 9 (the 12th-best fantasy game by an RB ever), meaning the 98% of ESPN users who started him that week were all but guaranteed victory in redraft formats. But if you remove that game, Mixon was merely the RB16 (13.9 FPG), as he failed to exceed 21.5 fantasy points in any other contest. As a result, lineups with Joe Mixon made up just 3% of the 470 teams in the Best Ball Mania III finals – notably less than Tyler Allgeier (18%), Jamaal Williams (11%), and even Marlon Mack (6%). Despite one of the best single-week fantasy performances in NFL history, Mixon wasn’t helping your best ball tournament teams out more than Allgeier, who averaged 7.1 fewer FPG.

It should be easy to see why week-to-week consistency and predictability is so important for fantasy football – especially in start/sit leagues. That’s why Cooper and Brown rank higher in Graham Barfield’s best ball rankings than our season-long projections.

With all of that in mind, I wanted to look at 2022’s most- and least-consistent scorers in fantasy.

Tristan Cockroft does this yearly for ESPN, as does John Paulsen for 4for4. I’m going to approach this in a similar way to Paulsen. We’ll be looking at each player’s numbers in every week throughout a full season. We’ll then calculate a player’s standard deviation to determine how much variation there was in their fantasy scoring on a week-to-week basis. Then, we’ll standardize these scores across scale by dividing a player’s fantasy points per game into his standard deviation, to determine that player’s coefficient of variation (CV).

Among all non-QBs (min. 10.0 FPG), here were last season’s 20 least and then most consistent fantasy scorers by coefficient of variation:

Least Consistent

Quick Hits / Notes
  • It shouldn’t be surprising to see multiple Jaguars crack the top-5 most inconsistent flex players of 2022. The team averaged 21.6 PPG, 233.4 passing YPG, and 6.7 YPA, while Trevor Lawrence managed a pedestrian 63.9 PFF passing grade in the first 10 weeks of the season. But Jacksonville took a notable step forward in their final seven games, averaging 26.9 PPG, 259.1 passing YPG, and 7.3 YPA, while Lawrence earned an 81.2 PFF passing grade (9th-best). A 25% increase in scoring and an 11% increase in passing yardage combined with a massive jump in QB play is the primary reason behind Zay Jones’ and Evan Engram’s perceived inconsistency.

  • A number of committee RBs made this list, and I think it’s important to note that existing in a committee doesn’t necessarily kill a rusher's weekly upside. Miles Sanders, Jerick McKinnon, and Tony Pollard all had games of over 30.0 fantasy points despite playing in split backfields. Even JK Dobbins – who earned just 99 touches in eight games – scored over 22.0 fantasy points in Week 4. The one commonality between all these RBs? Explosive offenses. That said, it’s undeniable that these rushers were frustrating to own in season-long formats; just 23% of ESPN teams started Dobbins in Week 4, as an example.

  • Among the 12 WRs on this list, five players (Jahan Dotson, DJ Moore, Mike Evans, Gabe Davis, and Garrett Wilson) appear among the bottom 20 WRs in catchable target rate. Consistently-good target quality isn’t a prerequisite for consistent fantasy production, but it certainly helps. Garrett Wilson going from a combination of Zach Wilson, Joe Flacco, and Mike White to future Hall of Fame QB Aaron Rodgers should only improve his week-to-week consistency. And if Jacoby Brissett (who threw catchable targets at a 77% rate, compared to 73% for Carson Wentz) starts for Washington at some point, Jahan Dotson’s weekly consistency should also improve. Both WRs profile as better redraft options in 2023 relative to last year.

  • A player’s standard deviation is tremendously important for both DFS and best ball. Higher standard deviations reflect a higher potential for an unbeatable score in a given week, at the cost of increased inconsistency. Many players responsible for their positions’ highest-scoring games of the season (Joe Mixon, Tony Pollard, Mike Evans, Mark Andrews) wind up on this list with extremely high standard deviations. These players can always be regarded as elite-tier DFS plays when their ownership sinks to single digits thanks to their position-leading ceilings.

Evan Engram, TE, Jacksonville Jaguars

I’ve already noted one clear reason for Engram’s inconsistency (significant offensive improvement in the 2nd-half of the year), but another reason jumped out: matchups.

HC Doug Pederson has long had a reputation as a TE whisperer. In five years as Eagles coach, Pederson's TEs collectively averaged 20.6 FPG. In three years as Kansas City OC, Pederson's TEs collectively averaged 13.0 FPG.

Evan Engram, meanwhile, dominated plus matchups. Three of his five best fantasy outings came against teams that ranked bottom-7 in schedule-adjusted FPG allowed to opposing TEs. Engram's best game (39.2 fantasy points, the 25th-best TE fantasy outing ever) came against Tennessee (+3.3 schedule-adjusted FPG allowed to TEs, 2nd-softest) – Jacksonville’s softest TE matchup of the season.

I’m not particularly optimistic about Engram’s season-long prospects, but he pops as an ideal DFS target in weeks where he faces a bottom-5 defense against TEs.

Christian Watson, WR, Green Bay Packers

Watson’s career got off to a slow start. He had a minor knee surgery on June 15th, 2022, that cost him a significant portion of camp and the entire preseason. He ran 29 routes in Week 1 (led Green Bay) but had a truly devastating drop in the first quarter of that contest – resulting in the famed ‘Aaron Rodgers death stare’ instead of a 75-yard walk-in TD. Then, a Week 2 hamstring injury cost him a game and turned Watson into a part-time player until Week 10.

But from Week 10 onward, Watson was one of the biggest forces in fantasy football. Among all WRs, he ranked 9th in FPG (17.2), 1st in YPRR (2.83), 5th in end zone targets (7), and 1st in fantasy points per route run (0.74, 23% better than the next-closest player). He ran far better than his expectation over that stretch (13.7 XFP/G, +3.5 FPOE), but he still earned the 2nd-best usage of any player on a per-route basis (0.59 XFP per route). It’s easy to argue Watson will regress back to his expectation (especially after a notable change in QBs), but we can’t argue against his usage being among the league’s best after Week 10 or even over the full season.

Based on per-route usage, Watson out-paced players like Justin Jefferson, AJ Brown, Ja’Marr Chase, Chris Olave, and CeeDee Lamb. Even if you think he’s a perfectly average player, evidence from last season suggests he could (should?) see WR1-type usage. But he isn’t average; he’s likely very, very good…

All the evidence points to Watson being a steal at his current ADP (WR21) – he represents one of my favorite mid-round WR selections. And if we throw out the first 9 weeks of his rookie season (which we should, given his hamstring injury and missed practices), he would’ve ranked almost perfectly average in production consistency, with a CV of 1.76 (positional average is 1.85).

Jerick McKinnon, RB, Kansas City Chiefs

We can clearly separate McKinnon’s 2022 into two halves: before the Chiefs' Week 8 bye and after.

Prior to the bye, McKinnon averaged 7.3 FPG, 5.0 targets per game, and a 41% snap share. Interestingly, the then-30-year-old McKinnon ran worse than his expectation (9.8 XFP/G, -2.5 PAR) over this stretch, only to become one of the league’s more efficient RBs post-bye.

After Week 8, McKinnon averaged 15.5 FPG, 12.3 XFP/G, 5.3 targets per game, and 48% snap share – marks that would’ve ranked 10th, 24th, 4th, and 34th among all RBs over the full season. And his +3.2 PAR over that stretch would have ranked only behind Tony Pollard (+3.6 PAR) and tied with Nick Chubb. Perhaps the bye helped the tricenarian regain his juice and become more efficient?

And yet this jump in production occurred without a significant increase to McKinnon’s snap share. Still, the reason behind the jump is clear: Kansas City was playing McKinnon in their highest-leverage spots, as his snap share on passing plays jumped +10% (to 59%, 15th-best among RBs over the full season), and his red zone involvement increased 57% from 1.4 red zone touches per game prior to the bye to 2.2 red zone touches per game post-bye (and 2.7 red zone touches per game after Week 12).

The result? McKinnon’s best performances came in the fantasy playoffs. He scored 32.4 fantasy points in Week 14, 34.2 in Week 15, and 22.6 in the fantasy championship (Week 17). The 25.5 FPG he averaged from Week 14 to Week 17 made him one of the few players who were borderline required to advance in best ball tournament formats. Those outlier scores down the stretch make McKinnon appear inconsistent, but what if that production (and the usage bump that led to it) was a purposeful move by Kansas City to preserve one of their best rushers for the most important weeks of the year?

If McKinnon’s usage in 2023 takes a similar shape as his 2022 usage, then he’s easily one of the top best ball tournament picks at cost in PPR formats.

Mecole Hardman, WR, New York Jets

Hardman was inconsistent across his eight games last year, but his ceiling was surprisingly impressive. Hardman averaged a meager 5.2 FPG in his first four games on an 8% target share and 55% route share. Even with the part-time role, it was still notable that 88% of his 17 targets over that stretch came on plays where Hardman was deemed the ‘first read’ – the value of which is explained here. Kansas City was very intentional in how they wanted to get Hardman the ball, even if it was in a limited capacity.

The Chiefs kept Hardman in a similarly limited role in Weeks 5 through 9, as his 11% target share and 52% route nearly mirrored what we saw earlier in the year. But the key difference was in his red zone role. Hardman earned 2 red zone touches in his first four games but 7 red zone touches from Week 5 onward. When a red zone role nearly quadruples, production will surely follow. Hardman’s XFP/G doubled in that split (going from 6.0 XFP/G to 12.2), but he also smashed his expectation – earning an impressive 18.3 FPG, including a 28.0-point performance (the 55th-best fantasy game by a WR last year).

We should be rightfully skeptical of Hardman in redraft this season. He likely occupies a similar part-time, mostly gimmick role in New York – like what we saw in Kansas City. But he’s also an incredible athlete who can post great scores on limited touches (he earned just 6 touches in his best game last year). With WR value drying up late in best ball drafts, he’s become one of my favorite selections in the final rounds (ADP: WR84).

TJ Hockenson, TE, Minnesota Vikings

TJ Hockenson was extremely inconsistent despite a mid-season trade and outstanding volume as a Viking. The veteran would have ranked as fantasy’s most inconsistent TE if we look at just his time in Detroit (1.00 CV). And he would’ve been the league’s 2nd-most inconsistent TE if we look at the entirety of his 2022 season (1.25 CV).

And the reason is this: Hockenson scored 35% of his fantasy points in two games – dropping 39.9 fantasy points in Week 4 and 35.9 points in Week 16 (the highest and 3rd-highest TE fantasy scores of 2022). His weekly target floor was better in Minnesota (at least 6 targets in nine of his 10 games) – but even the 2nd-most targets per game (8.4) from Week 9 on (among TEs) didn’t make him a consistent fantasy contributor (falling under double-digit fantasy points in 40% of his games as Viking).

That said, Hockenson’s usage – not production – was among the most consistent in the league during his time in Minnesota. His CV based on his weekly XFP scores was 2.33 – meaning if he had just scored fantasy points as expected, he would’ve been the NFL’s 3rd-most consistent TE (by production) and among the league’s most consistent players at any position. And remember, the 14.8 XFP/G Hockenson averaged a Viking was 97% of Travis Kelce’s workload over that same stretch (15.3 XFP/G).

The lesson? Don’t let Hockenson’s production inconsistency scare you off him in redraft, as he looks like a near-lock to post more consistent PPR scores in 2023 – if we assume the addition of Jordan Addison doesn’t notably hurt Hockenson’s volume.

Joe Mixon, RB, Cincinnati Bengals

Mixon’s production inconsistency stems from a single game: his 55.1-point outing in Week 9 (the 12th-best RB fantasy performance in NFL history). If we eliminate that game from our sample, Mixon was the league’s most consistent player at any position (3.18 CV), granted that move also lowers his FPG from 17.1 (RB6) to 13.9 (RB16). But Mixon feels as though he’s effectively priced at his floor (ADP: RB15).

Mixon ranked 2nd among all RBs in XFP/G (18.8), with that number nearly matching Austin Ekeler’s league-high 19.9 if we exclude the one game he left early due to injury (19.6).

Samaje Perine (8.1 XFP/G) is no longer with the team. And Cincinnati’s decision to wait until Round 5 to add another RB to the room means Mixon is only competing with rookie Chase Brown, Trayveon Henderson (55 career touches in four seasons), and Chris Evans (most notable for being +1400 to date Kim Kardashian last offseason).

In other words, Mixon is locked into a top-6 workload at his position at an RB2 price tag. He’s an outstanding value in virtually every format.

Most Consistent

Quick Hits / Notes
  • It’s no coincidence we see a large number of low-aDOT, high-volume pass catchers on this list; players like Chris Godwin, Cooper Kupp, Dallas Goedert, Travis Kelce, Deebo Samuel, and Zach Ertz. All of these players saw remarkably consistent volume close to the line of scrimmage, which increases their percentage of targets caught, and decreases their week-to-week volatility. Basically, these players rely on a high volume of high-probability but low-upside events (catching a pass close to the LoS), and, thus, can be safely relied upon in season-long fantasy leagues. Interestingly, Godwin, Samuel, and Kupp all ranked top-3 in designed targets (e.g., screens), demonstrating one of the many unique insights the Fantasy Points Data Suite provides.
Najee Harris, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers

Najee Harris ranked as fantasy’s most consistent player last season, granted his 4.9 standard deviation ranked as the 5th-lowest in our sample (93 qualifiers), so he wasn’t providing much in terms of a ceiling.

This shouldn’t be surprising. Harris had some of the league’s most consistent touch volume – recording at least 10 touches in every contest and ranking 4th in games with 20 or more touches (8). But he was never efficient. He posted a YPC over 4.0 in just six games (3.8 over the full season), and just 0.4% of his 272 carries went for over 20 yards (worst of 42 qualifiers).

Sure, playing with a steel plate in his shoe for the first five weeks of the season after a training camp Lisfranc injury will naturally lead to an inefficient rushing season. But Harris was also inefficient as a rookie. Of 50 qualifiers, Harris ranked 38th in YPC (3.9), 30th in PFF rushing grade (71.4), and 20th in yards after contact per attempt (2.97). Even at full health in his age-23 season, Harris was little more than an average NFL rusher.

The emergence of Jaylen Warren (who earned 27% of backfield XFP when active last year) destroyed Harris’ upside (just two games of more than 20 fantasy points). Since Warren was dramatically more efficient (4.9 YPC), could he simply beat Harris out on talent in 2023? I’m not sure, but I am certain I’d rather take shots on Warren at ADP (RB45) than Harris (RB13), regardless of format.

Chris Olave, WR New Orleans Saints

I noted above that low-aDOT receivers have a natural advantage in production consistency. But that didn’t stop Chris Olave – who posted the 5th-highest aDOT of any player (14.9) – from popping as one of fantasy football’s most consistent contributors.

Olave scored double-digit fantasy points in 11 of his 15 games while never posting a score lower than 7.0 fantasy points. He earned the 14th-highest share of his team’s air yards (38%) and the 5th-most air yards per game (110.8). Interestingly, every other player who ranked top-10 in air yards per game had at least one contest where they scored over 30.0 fantasy points – meaning Olave was the only high-volume, downfield threat who didn’t post a massive spike week.

Olave will continue to rank among the league’s best target earners, and that should keep him fairly consistent (similar to the other high-volume players on this list). But I would be shocked if he didn’t manage some real spike weeks (30+ fantasy points) in 2023, at least based on the downfield nature of his role.

Austin Ekeler, RB, Los Angeles Chargers

Ekeler was one of the top-10 most consistent players in fantasy for the 2nd consecutive year. 2022 was Ekeler’s best fantasy season to date, as he earned the 5th-most RB targets ever (127) while leading the league in XFP/G (19.9) en route to an RB1 finish (22.1 FPG).

His consistency shouldn’t surprise anyone. Earning 7.5 targets per game alongside a dozen carries per game (plus an elite red zone role) is going to give any rusher – especially one as efficient as Ekeler – an amazing floor.

But it’s a bit surprising (to me) that Ekeler (ADP: 7.3) isn’t in the RB1 conversation this season, with ADP greatly preferring Christian McCaffrey (ADP: 3.5).

Remember, Ekeler has a higher rate of top-10 weekly finishes (58%) than any other RB over the last two seasons. He scored over 30.0 fantasy points four times last season – twice as often as McCaffrey. And Ekeler’s floor was better; he recorded double-digit fantasy points in 94% of his games last year, while McCaffrey only hit that mark in 82% of his games with San Francisco.

But really, the argument for Ekeler over McCaffrey is as simple as this: Ekeler has zero legitimate competition for touches while McCaffrey is dealing with Elijah Mitchell.

Unless we think Joshua Kelley (3.5 career YPC) will take a notable step forward in his age-26 season, give me Ekeler over McCaffrey at cost.

James Conner, RB, Arizona Cardinals

Conner feels like the easiest bet on volume this season, especially relative to his current ADP (RB26).

From Week 10 on, Conner averaged 19.8 FPG last year (behind only Christian McCaffrey). Over the last two seasons, Conner averages 15.9 carries, 5.1 targets, and 21.4 FPG (would have ranked 2nd-best last year) when playing on at least 60% of the team’s snaps. Over the last two seasons (regardless of snap share), Conner averages 21.6 FPG (would have ranked 2nd-best last year) in games Kyler Murray either sat out or attempted fewer than 2 passes.

Conner has minimal competition for backfield touches, and HC Jonathan Gannon said he’s “100 percent comfortable” with Conner being Arizona’s bell cow this season. Conner is a great fit for Arizona’s zone-heavy run game, and does have an impressive bell cow resume – he was the only RB to hit a 95% snap share more than once last season, and he did it four separate times.

The offense (and offensive line) will both probably be terrible. But volume is king; only one RB (of 137 qualifiers) since 2000 (2001 Eddie George) has failed to record over 11.5 FPG while earning over 300 touches and over 50 targets in a season. 11.5 FPG would have been good for RB26 last season – meaning Conner is being drafted at his floor if we give him the benefit of full health and presume a bell cow workload.

Nick Chubb, RB, Cleveland Browns

Chubb’s consistency was almost entirely the result of his rushing – the Georgia Bulldog scored 80% of his fantasy points on the ground in 2022. Since a target is worth 2.53 times as much as a carry in PPR leagues, it’s a bit of a miracle Chubb was able to finish as the RB7 by FPG (16.5) on just 33 targets (35th-most among RBs).

But really, it just shows how incredible Chubb is as a runner. It isn’t difficult to argue he might be the greatest RB of all time…

Chubb has never posted a PFF rushing grade worse than 80.6 in any of his five seasons, has never ranked worse than 8th among RBs in yards after contact per attempt, and has ranked 2nd, 5th, 3rd, 3rd, and 4th in missed tackles forced since his rookie year in 2018. He’s posted truly eye-popping efficiency numbers in every season of his career.

He’s, at worst, a mid-range RB1 in 2023 if his usage remains static. But what if Chubb finally carves out more of a pass-game role? Browns RB coach Stump Mitchell has hinted at exactly that, and if Chubb could steal a decent chunk of Kareem Hunt’s 2022 receiving role (worth 3.7 FPG), he would be in the overall RB1 conversation thanks to his legendary efficiency.

I think that argument has merit. But I still have a tough time pulling the trigger on Chubb at an RB3 price tag, as he’s never recorded more than 63% of backfield usage over a sustained period of games, even if we isolate for games that Kareen Hunt missed.

The Cleveland RB I’m the most interested in is Jerome Ford (Kareem Hunt 2.0?). But I’ll still take some shots on Chubb, who could break fantasy this year if he is utilized more as a receiver.

Latavius Murray, RB, Buffalo Bills

Latavius Murray was one of fantasy football’s most consistent players last year? Yes, yes, he was.

Despite being signed off the Saints’ practice squad in early October, Murray still played in 13 games, earning at least 10 touches in 12 (!) of those games, while scoring double-digit fantasy points in nine contests. He finished the season as the RB25 by FPG (11.9).

Murray wasn’t just consistent; he was also surprisingly good. His 4.4 YPC and 86.0 PFF rushing grade were easily the best of any Broncos rusher with over 20 carries. Despite being 33 years old, Murray clearly still has juice left.

Murray is now locked in a battle with Damien Harris to be the RB2 in Buffalo. And that’s a battle Murray should win. Both players offer the necessary size to earn goal-line carries, but Harris is a total non-factor in the receiving game (and is currently dealing with a minor knee issue). If we assume Murray is the direct backup to James Cook, he could be a borderline bell cow if Cook goes down – or, at the very least, earn far better contingent volume than his current ADP implies. That assumption looks better after recent camp reports, so I’ve been taking my shots on Murray as he’s totally free (ADP: RB82).

Jake Tribbey is the 2022 FSWA Football Writer of the Year and the leading Spring Football expert in the fantasy industry. He is a lifelong football fan obsessed with extracting every edge possible from DFS, Best Ball, and player props/futures.