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Fantasy Football’s Most Inconsistent Players of 2017

by Andrew Gould | @andrewgould4 | Featured Writer
Jan 31, 2018

The NFL season’s final fantasy tallies don’t always tell the entire story about a player’s dependability. Navigating a weekly game places a premium on consistency, but some contributors failed to properly distribute their production.

Rather than get too bogged down on overly complicated calculations, I simply looked for players with wide ranges of outcomes. In search of the ultimate boom-or-bust talents, I’ve extended the gap between FantasyPros’s Quality Start measurements. Rather than seeking quality and poor, I searched for above-average and terrible.

Also, this article details volatile players rather than consistently bad performers. They must have been fantasy relevant to get highlighted, eliminating a guy like DeShone Kizer who tossed a couple gems into a mediocre year. Playing time was also considered to avoid cases like Jamaal Williams, who received 11 carries in the first eight games and 142 in the final eight.

Yet many of the spotlighted players starred and fizzled in bunches rather than trading off good and bad efforts. It proved hard to stay mad at other inclusions who won a few matchups despite disappearing for others. Let’s look back on some of 2017’s most maddening players, excluding kickers and defenses since inconsistency is mostly the norm.

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Player 24+ 14- Peak Low PPG
Kirk Cousins 7 6 36.80 7.52 17.4
Dak Prescott 6 6 35.96 -1.20 16.3
Blake Bortles 5 6 35.56 2.70 15.6
Cam Newton 5 4 44.46 7.44 18.7
Jared Goff 5 4 37.44 8.72 17.0

While Kirk Cousins’ floor wasn’t as low as other inconsistent performers, it’s noteworthy for a top-10 drafted quarterback on a pass-heavy offense to log seven “Poor” games, which FantasyPros defines as fewer than 15.3 points. He eclipsed 30 fantasy points in all five of his outings with over 300 passing yards but also went seven games with zero or one touchdown.

Midway through 2017, Dak Prescott averaged 29.23 fantasy points per game. Topping 30 three times and veering below 19 just once, he looked to have ascended into top-tier territory. Then he unraveled, averaging 12.8 points over the final eight games. He reached his nadir by accumulating minus-1.2 fantasy points in Week 11’s disastrous loss to the Eagles. One of his single-digit outings came in Ezekiel Elliott’s return from a four-game suspension, so the running back does not secure a more stable 2018 for Prescott.

Cam Newton netted two weeks as the top quarterback with two more top-five showings. Brief spurts of his old MVP form made his bad days all the more frustrating. He relinquished three interceptions on three separate occasions and tossed two more in Week 7’s 17-3 loss to Chicago. Carolina’s quarterback could become the position’s highest scorer in 2018 by elevating his floor. To do that, Newton will need more help from his supporting cast.

In defense of Jared Goff, he had his worst games against Seattle (twice), Jacksonville, and Minnesota. Nobody drafted him as their top option – if they drafted him at all – so investors should have avoided those brutal matchups. The sophomore conversely exploited some of the league’s worst secondaries (Giants, 49ers, Texans, and Titans) to earn his four 30-plus point games.

Running Back

Player 12+ 7- Peak Low PPG
Jordan Howard 8 7 31.5 0.7 11.0
LeSean McCoy 7 5 27.3 2.5 12.8
Alex Collins 5 6 23.6 2.2 9.9
Derrick Henry 4 9 24.6 0.7 7.8
C.J. Anderson 5 7 28.4 1.2 9.2

LeSean McCoy stockpiled 346 touches with a game-low of 11. He accounted for 31 percent of Buffalo’s offense. Fantasy players can only dream of rostering such a steadfast RB1 who played every game for a run-orientated postseason squad. Yet they absorbed his elite production in bunches, receiving five weeks with 20-plus standard points and four with six or fewer. He twice totaled fewer rushing yards than carries. McCoy’s 59 catches shielded PPR investors from this inconsistency, but standard gamers had to frequently overcome uncharacteristic hiccups from the safe first-round pick.

Jordan Howard showed the pitfalls of trusting a running back on a mediocre team with no passing attack. While the 23-year-old compiled 125 carries for 563 yards and six touchdowns in five Bears victories, he recorded 151 rushes for 559 yards and three scores in 11 losses. He produced the NFL’s sixth-most rushing yards (1,112) despite getting held to single-digit tallies three times. Howard remained an RB2 due to the league’s lack of workhorses, but investors endured a wide range of outcomes to receive the occasional high-volume prizes.

One of nine players to clear 1,000 rushing yards, C.J. Anderson took a bumpy path to the increasingly elusive milestone. After opening 2017 with 330 rushing yards through four games, he took nine games to compile 370 more. Frustrated managers might have abandoned the Broncos back before he ended the season with 352 total yards (307 rushing) and a touchdown over the final three tilts. Anderson received 20 or more handoffs five times but ended another five contests with 10 or fewer carries.

Not even Mike Mularkey could have accurately projected Tennessee’s backfield production. Either DeMarco Murray or Derrick Henry (or in one instance both) submitted double-digit fantasy points in eight games, but there was no rhyme or reason to their timeshare. Henry needed three touchdowns of 66 yards or more to intermittently steal the spotlight. Murray relied on more volume and red-zone usage to remain relevant. Although Murray and Henry finished No. 23 and 25 at running back, respectively, locking either into the flex spot always represented a major gamble. Henry teased a star fantasy ceiling if given the spotlight next year with a 191-yard Wild Card Weekend.

Wide Receiver

Player 11+ 5- Peak Low PPG
Golden Tate 7 7 19.4 1.4 8.3
Brandin Cooks 6 6 31.1 2.6 9.8
Nelson Agholor 6 6 24.1 -0.2 8.2
T.Y. Hilton 5 11 33.5 1.4 7.4
Robby Anderson 5 6 30.6 0.3 8.6
Stefon Diggs 5 5 33.3 0.4  9.6

It was surprising to see my search lead to Golden Tate, who submitted 1,003 yards and his fourth consecutive 90-reception season. Although a high-ceiling PPR play, he accrued 33 or fewer yards in six games. Matthew Stafford’s security blanket also didn’t flaunt the same ceiling as the other highlighted wideouts, so his value depends heavily on league format.

While Brandin Cooks compiled 1,082 yards and seven scores, investors probably expected more from his move to New England. The former Saints star received just three fewer targets (114) than in 2016, but he snagged 13 fewer catches (65) after swapping future Hall of Fame quarterbacks. Starting with Week 2’s 43-yard outing against his old team, he fell flat six times. PPR gamers weren’t spared, as he secured three or fewer catches in all but one of those duds. He still finished as the No. 7 WR in standard formats but dropped to No. 15 in PPR.

When picturing inconsistent fantasy players, T.Y. Hilton immediately comes to mind. A highly volatile option even with Andrew Luck under center, the big-play wideout vanished too often to comfortably use on a weekly basis. He collected 605 of his 966 yards in four games and produced 30 or fewer yards in eight others. His four touchdowns went for 40, 45, 61, and 80 yards. Hilton had an all-or-nothing season with too much nothing.

An honorable mention goes to Tyreek Hill, who netted a combined 150 receiving yards and 12.7 fantasy points in his four worst performances. Having finished with 1,183 yards, seven touchdowns, and eight 11-plus point tallies, his highs made up for the lows.

Tight End

Player 8+ 4- Peak Low PPG
Eric Ebron 5 9 15.3 0.6 5.0
Cameron Brate 5 8 15.9 0.6 5.9
Vernon Davis 5 7 11.8 -0.2 4.9
Hunter Henry 5 6 14.6 0.0 6.8
Jared Cook 4 9 16.6 0.2 4.9
Tyler Kroft 4 8 18.8 0.0 5.3
Jason Witten 4 7 16.7 0.3 5.3

Anyone who did not draft a stud tight end (or pick up Evan Engram) spent the season anxiously monitoring the position. Only five players averaged more points per game (6.8) than Hunter Henry, who had two catchless games. Tyler Kroft, who finished as the position’s No. 11 total scorer, ended six games with five or fewer yards.

Scoring a touchdown in four consecutive games gave Cameron Brate a legitimate TE1 aurora. Then Jameis Winston got hurt, and the tight end stopped finding the end zone. Like most non-elite tight ends, he relied almost entirely on touchdowns. Despite finishing No. 8, he scored 29.5 combined points in 11 games in which he failed to find pay dirt. He only helped those who played him early and cut bait when Winston went down.

A beacon of consistency throughout his incredible career, Jason Witten has not missed a game since 2003. While the 35-year-old notched a No. 10 finish at tight end, he often got lost in the shuffle. After amassing 22 catches for 156 yards and two touchdowns during the first two games, he followed with two catches for 12 yards in the next pair of bouts. The veteran ended six more games with exactly one catch. At least two of them were touchdowns.

Andrew Gould is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Andrew, check out his archive and follow him @andrewgould4.

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