Not all players who give you 18 fantasy points per game are created equal.
Some will give you around 18 points in each of the next four weeks. But there are others who will give you 30 one week and six the next, followed by 32 and four. Sure, that’s exciting, and you probably won in the first and third games of that stretch. But you probably got clobbered in the second and fourth.
ESPN’s fantasy football consistency ratings have a slew of gold nuggets worth mining.
Here are just a few:
Quarterbacks and wide receivers are far more consistent fantasy producers than running backs and tight ends. Of these four positions, tight ends are the least consistent.
The league’s most consistent player in terms of fantasy points per game is Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Diontae Johnson. He has only two 20-plus point games, but he has delivered less than 13.3 only once (11.7). Of the seven receivers who average more FPPG than Johnson, every single one has had a worse game than 11.7 this season. Kansas City’s Tyreek Hill has had three single-digit games.
The league’s most consistent running back in 2021 by a wide margin is Las Vegas’ Josh Jacobs. He might be only 21st in FPPG for RBs, but he has had only one game with less than 10.7 fantasy points. Indianapolis’ Jonathan Taylor has two.
Quarterbacks occupy Nos. 5-9 on the overall consistency chart, led by Tennessee’s Ryan Tannehill.
Kansas City’s Travis Kelce has been the most consistent tight end. He ranks 29th overall.
ESPN fantasy sports researcher Kyle Soppe has some challenging questions for our Nation reporters this week, including what to make of new Ram Odell Beckham Jr., the Kansas City offense as a whole and what’s happening to the passing game in Seattle.
Don’t look for questions about Cleveland, Tennessee, Green Bay or Carolina. They have byes this week. Every other team was fair game. Let’s get after it.
Emmanuel Sanders‘ usage is trending down. Think it recovers, or are his best days this season behind him?
A breakout game could still come, but putting up numbers consistently as he did at the start of the year? Less likely. Sanders’ targets have decreased as the Bills continue to get Stefon Diggs and others more involved. The emergence of tight end Dawson Knox as one of Josh Allen‘s top receiving options has not benefited the likes of Sanders and receiver Gabriel Davis. The Bills’ offense always has a potential to get hot and involve a variety of players on a given day, but Sanders is unlikely to put together back-to-back big touchdown days as he did earlier this season. — Alaina Getzenberg
Do you expect Jaylen Waddle to dominate the pass-game usage, like he did on Sunday, consistently?
There’s a chance DeVante Parker returns from injury this week, but even if he does, this passing game runs through Waddle now. He may draw the attention of Pro Bowl cornerback James Bradberry, but it shouldn’t deter fantasy managers from firing him up in every lineup against the Giants. — Marcel Louis-Jacques
Matthew Berry and Field Yates react to Jaylen Waddle finishing as WR1 in Week 12.
Which Patriots running back would you pick to lead this backfield in fantasy points for the rest of the season (PPR)?
Still going with Damien Harris. Yes, the Patriots have gone to more of a true 50-50 split in snaps over the last two weeks between Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson, but it’s still Harris leading off games. Harris also gets the nod from an experience standpoint (third year vs. rookie). — Mike Reiss
If you had to roster one Jet not named Elijah Moore for the rest of the season, his name is …
There’s a dropoff after Moore, mainly due to others being injured, but the choice is WR Jamison Crowder. He’s averaging 6.25 targets and 4.8 receptions per game. He hasn’t had any explosive games like he did last year, but he’s a fairly steady presence. RB Michael Carter (ankle) and WR Corey Davis (groin) would be better choices if they were healthy. — Rich Cimini
Should the return of Lamar Jackson have us not even rostering any Ravens running back?
Yes, but wait until after Sunday’s game against the Steelers, who have the NFL’s 28th-ranked run defense. WIth Lamar Jackson coming off a four-interception game, the Ravens should give a big workload to Devonta Freeman and Latavius Murray against a Pittsburgh defense that has given up 586 yards rushing over a three-game winless streak. After Sunday, no one should expect consistent production from Baltimore’s running backs, because the Ravens’ next four games are against teams who rank in the top 11 in run defense. — Jamison Hensley
Rookie wall for Ja’Marr Chase, or simply a blip on the radar with better games ahead?
It’s not as much a rookie wall as defenses adjusting their schemes to take Chase and his big plays out of the game. Bengals coaches and players have spoken about Chase commanding more respect, which has led to WR Tee Higgins and RB Joe Mixon getting more opportunities to be productive. It’ll be up to the Bengals to scheme Chase more open and create more chances to recapture those early-season plays. — Ben Baby
Field Yates and Daniel Dopp still consider Ja’Marr Chase a lock even with his decline in production.
Back-to-back good-yardage games for Chase Claypool. Can he sustain it?
If he can stay on his feet and hold on to the ball, sure. Claypool’s biggest issue this season is consistency, and while it’s encouraging that he has had back-to-back games with at least 80 yards, he could’ve picked up even more yards with better ball placement and fewer drops. Not all of it is his fault — Ben Roethlisberger‘s first interception happened when Claypool broke inside and the quarterback threw outside — but both he and Roethlisberger have to be more consistent for us to trust Claypool’s fantasy value. — Brooke Pryor
Fifteen touches for Rex Burkhead: Is he worthy of a roster spot?
Probably. Since trading Mark Ingram II, David Culley has stuck with Rex Burkhead as his lead running back. Burkhead has been hit-or-miss with his production, but the volume is there. However, Burkhead doesn’t have a very high ceiling, as the veteran running back has only one touchdown this season. — Sarah Barshop
Are we ready to call Jack Doyle not only the TE to roster in Indy, but a good source of targets on a weekly basis?
You can say that, based off Doyle’s performance the past two weeks. He had six catches on seven targets for 81 yards — all season highs — against Tampa. That followed three catches for 30 yards the week prior against Buffalo. Doyle is the most consistent of the three tight ends on the active roster because of his blocking and catching ability. Mo Alie-Cox and Kyle Granson are strong in one area or the other, but not in both. — Mike Wells
Nine targets for Laviska Shenault Jr. after the coaching staff talked him up. Should we expect this sort of usage the rest of the way?
Nine may be a little much to expect each week, but Shenault and Marvin Jones Jr. definitely will get the bulk of the targets each week because, frankly, there are few other options. WR Jamal Agnew (hip) and TE Dan Arnold (knee) are on injured reserve, and the other options are Laquon Treadwell and Tavon Austin. Those two have a combined 31 targets and 16 receptions, so Shenault should get a lot of work. — Michael DiRocco
Is Javonte Williams now the 1A in this backfield, and should we expect his role to grow down the stretch?
Williams might be 1A in people’s hearts after they see him scatter defenders on run after run, but the Broncos very much enjoy their division of labor at running back, with Melvin Gordon III and Williams splitting the duties almost 50-50 each week. The only thing that will impact that is injury, and Gordon is dealing with hip and shoulder injuries and might not play this weekend. But if he’s healthy, the Broncos will keep doing what they’ve been doing. — Jeff Legwold
Field Yates and Daniel Dopp examine the Broncos’ running back situation with Melvin Gordon III and Javonte Williams.
After a few tough offensive weeks, it’s impossible to predict the Chiefs are going to turn back the clock and consistently be the high-flying, high-scoring team they were even earlier in the season. Expectations should be more modest, at least from a fantasy perspective. But give up on them at your own peril. They’re capable of posting big numbers, as they showed in Week 10 against the Raiders. — Adam Teicher
Seven targets for Zay Jones on Thanksgiving: Something or nothing?
Um, both? QB Derek Carr has long held trust in Jones’ ability to produce. But with Pro Bowl TE Darren Waller lost before halftime in Dallas with back and knee injuries, and a more daring Carr needing another downfield target this side of DeSean Jackson, Jones got the call. Carr spread the love to his wideouts, as even Hunter Renfrow had career highs in catches (8) and receiving yards (134). So if Waller remains out against Washington, at least Jones has shown he can produce. — Paul Gutierrez
Any optimism for Mike Williams to regain his consistency from earlier this season, or should he be viewed strictly as a boom-bust type for the rest of the year?
Williams should have a big game vs. the Bengals. Their defense suits his game. He should see enough targets and latch onto some deep throws. — Shelley Smith
Was the pass-heavy approach on Thursday a result of opponent or a general scheme change with all three receivers healthy?
It certainly helped that Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb and Michael Gallup were together for just the third game of the season. But most of it had to do with the defense they were facing. New Orleans apparently only allows Philadelphia to run well. The Cowboys had two big runs, but one was supposed to be a screen to Lamb that was later deemed a run. The second was Tony Pollard‘s 58-yard touchdown. The Cowboys have to find a way to get the run game going. It has been far too long. Perhaps the return of the receivers will force defenses to back off, which will make things easier for Ezekiel Elliott and Pollard. — Todd Archer
Are we approaching 100%-healthy Saquon Barkley as the schedule lightens up down the stretch?
He’s getting closer, but Barkley admitted last week this was an injury that could “nag” for the remainder of the season. It still bodes well for his outlook down the stretch. Barkley is healthy enough to hit big plays this week against Miami. He faces the 32nd-ranked run defense the following week in the Los Angeles Chargers. Barring another setback, Barkley should have a huge fantasy impact down the stretch. — Jordan Raanan
Is Jalen Hurts a good-enough passer for any pass-catcher to maintain consistent value?
Hurts’ inconsistency as a passer and the Eagles’ run-heavy approach are factors. And now, teams appear to be paying greater attention to his top targets in DeVonta Smith and Dallas Goedert. Still, both are capable of having big days at the office and are facing the third-worst pass defense in the Jets this week. — Tim McManus
Stephania Bell is concerned about Jalen Hurts playing on an injured ankle.
Washington has found a formula it loves, and as long as it can keep games close, it will stick with being a ball-control offense. That means Gibson could perhaps get close to touches per game — he has averaged 27 touches in the past three weeks. As long as he stays healthy, they’ll continue to play a certain style. The tricky one for now is McKissic because he’s in the concussion protocol and will miss Sunday’s game. When healthy, he’ll be in the 7-10 touches per game range. Gibson is a lot easier to predict than McKissic. Often, his success comes when teams start taking away deeper routes and the checkdowns become crucial. But he’s valuable to this offense and would be one of the harder players to replace. — John Keim
I do. I feel the Bears have been mindful of getting Kmet the ball. Only in Year 2, Kmet is a talented athlete and a proven pass-catcher. No matter the quarterback (Justin Fields or Andy Dalton), he should hit that target range of 6-8 attempts per game. Kmet has emerged as one of the better Bears skill-position players. Why not use him? — Jeff Dickerson
An underwhelming target count for the second time in three weeks for T.J. Hockenson. Cause for concern?
Yes. It’s certainly a cause for concern because with Hockenson’s talent and size, the Lions have to do a better job at targeting him more and putting him in better positions to succeed. Hockenson was able to score a touchdown on Thanksgiving, but prior to that, he hadn’t scored one since Week 2 at Green Bay. That’s an issue. The ground game has flourished since coach Dan Campbell took over the offensive playcalling, but they definitely need to get Hockenson more involved. — Eric Woodyard
How much does playcalling change with Dalvin Cook sidelined?
The Vikings have already been here this season, and they are 2-0 when Cook hasn’t played because of injury. Alexander Mattison will again step up in place of Cook, but behind Mattison is rookie Kene Nwangwu, whose speed and athleticism should inject a jolt into a run game that has grown stagnant the last few weeks (86.7 yards per game in Minnesota’s last three games). Nwangwu is more than just a “gadget guy” or change-of-pace back, according to offensive coordinator Klint Kubiak. The Vikings feel his skill set lends to him being an every-down back, and Minnesota could utilize him every so often in the passing game, too. — Courtney Cronin
Stephania Bell discusses Dalvin Cook’s shoulder injury, and Field Yates chooses Alexander Mattison as his top waiver-wire pickup this week at running back.
Is Russell Gage worth a roster spot, or was his production a one-week thing?
A roster spot — sure. Go one step further if you’re in a bind and potentially start him. Gage has been targeted seven or more times in three of his last four games and gone over 60 yards in two of them. He had some success against Tampa Bay in Week 2 as well (despite playing on an injured ankle that ended up costing him the next three weeks), with five catches for 28 yards on seven targets. So the target share should be there for Gage, especially since the Falcons might be playing from behind. But it seems like Gage is rounding into form in the final few weeks of his rookie contract with Atlanta. — Michael Rothstein
Unfortunately for managers, I do think Kamara’s fantasy value will take a small hit with Hill at quarterback, since he showed last season that throwing to running backs isn’t his specialty, and he’ll often scramble instead of checking down. I also wonder if Kamara’s usage will be limited because of his knee injury. But he’ll still be a must-start, and he’ll still be heavily involved in every game plan as a runner or pass-catcher. — Mike Triplett
Do you think Tom Brady featuring the RBs and TEs was a matchup-based game plan or something we should take note of moving forward?
With Brady, it really boils down to who gets open and taking what the defenses give him, and tight end Rob Gronkowski was open all game long against the Colts. The Colts also left running back Leonard Fournette unaccounted for in the flat a few times. If teams are going to be adamant about trying to take away Mike Evans and Chris Godwin down the field, Gronk and Fournette should continue to get more looks underneath, as both were terrific with YAC Sunday. — Jenna Laine
Mike Clay says the Falcons’ defense will likely struggle against Tampa Bay’s wide receiving corp.
What are your expectations for this offense coming out of the bye?
This is a good question when you consider how poorly the Cards played after their byes in Kliff Kingsbury’s first two seasons. I think it’ll look more like the high-flying, potent offense from earlier in the season now that it appears Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins will be back. — Josh Weinfuss
Two games in … what are your expectations for Odell Beckham Jr. the rest of the way?
As the Rams attempt to get their offense back on track, expect Beckham’s role to be similar to what we saw in the loss to the Packers. He was targeted 10 times and caught five passes for 81 yards, including a 54-yard touchdown pass. And as he continues to develop a rapport with quarterback Matthew Stafford, expect his receptions per target to increase. Beckham is now dealing with a hip injury and is questionable to play against the Jaguars. — Lindsey Thiry
Safe to call Brandon Aiyuk the top threat in the passing game?
Safe? No. But it does feel safe to say Aiyuk is going to consistently play a prominent role in the passing game, and that fantasy managers can trust him again. Aiyuk is blossoming into the player the Niners believed they had at the end of last season. Over the past four games, Aiyuk has 19 catches for 291 yards and two touchdowns. That yardage total ranks No. 9 in the NFL in that span. There’s no reason to believe that’s going to tail off now, especially with Deebo Samuel dealing with a groin injury. — Nick Wagoner
Field Yates and Daniel Dopp expect Brandon Aiyuk’s performance to remain consistent.
Is this Seattle offense so broken that we should bench DK Metcalf until we see something change?
As wild as it sounds, it’s worth considering depending on your alternatives. The problem is twofold: Seattle’s offense has been so bad in general, particularly on third down, that they’re not running enough plays for Metcalf (or anyone) to consistently get his targets. And with Russell Wilson‘s accuracy as spotty as it has been since his return in Week 10, there’s no guarantee that whatever targets Metcalf gets will result in production. — Brady Henderson