If you’ve checked out our 2019 fantasy football Expert Consensus Rankings (ECR) recently (and if you haven’t, please do. I’ll be your friend), you’ve likely noticed that they are formulated based on the opinions of 32 fantasy football pundits from multiple different platforms and publications. Whenever you’re drawing material from that many talented sources, there is always bound to be plenty of disagreement of opinion and this is where our standard deviation comes into play.
While all of the relevant NFL players have been assigned rankings using the data from all our experts, standard deviation illustrates how wide-ranging the opinions are about each player’s outlook. Therefore, a player with a higher standard deviation is someone whose ranking has a wide degree of variance from expert to expert. It’s important to remember that a standard deviation of 10 slots for a player ranked in the top 2o is more notable than a standard deviation of 15 slots for a player ranked outside the top 100. That’s only natural, considering that the majority of experts usually have very similar rankings at the top of the board. Once you get outside the first 50 to 75 players, the level of agreement should always be expected to diminish.
So, in my eyes, the fact that Cleveland Browns running back Nick Chubb is a top-15 ranked player with a standard deviation of 8.8 slots is far more noteworthy than the fact that Green Bay Packers tailback Jamaal Williams has a standard deviation of 23.6 slots as the 153rd-ranked player in our ECR. For this reason, greater attention will be paid to disparities closer to the top of the draft and only one player discussed below falls outside the top 125.
It’s also worth noting that some of the experts haven’t adjusted their rankings in the aftermath of the first wave of free agency, so we’ll try to focus on players whose value wasn’t as dramatically affected by the events of mid-March. For the purposes of our study, we’re looking solely at rankings for standard formats. But let’s not waste any more time. Let’s get right into it.
Carson Wentz (QB – PHI): ECR of QB14/101st Overall, Standard Deviation of 13.3
I was really tempted to talk about Baker Mayfield and his standard deviation of 14.5 here, but I decided that discrepancy likely has more to do with some of the experts not having updated their rankings in the aftermath of the blockbuster Odell Beckham Jr. trade. For that reason alone, I think it’s a virtual certainty that Mayfield will see his ranking rise in short order.
While the same can be said of Wentz with the recent addition of DeSean Jackson, I do find the disagreement about the former North Dakota standout to be more interesting, considering the number of quality pass-catchers the Eagles already had on the roster. Yes, it was a virtual certainty that Golden Tate would be moving on in free agency, but Wentz was still always going to have Alshon Jeffery, Zach Ertz, and a talented supporting cast around him. So why is he ranked as the QB14 and why is there so little consensus about his outlook?
Part of that has to do with the perception that he “played poorly” last season. It’s understandable, considering he never got back to the MVP-level of play he had produced prior to tearing his ACL down the stretch of the 2017 season, but it’s not an entirely fair statement either. In only 11 starts last season, he threw for 3,074 yards and 21 touchdowns against only seven interceptions, and his yards per pass attempt (7.7), passing yards per contest (279.5) completion percentage (69.6%), and quarterback rating (102.2) actually bested his numbers from his breakout season and set new career-highs.
Yes, his touchdown percentage regressed from a completely unsustainable 7.5% percent to a more reasonable 5.2%, but that was always going to happen, and still represents a healthy number. I’m not trying to actually imply he was better in 2018, but he played at a much higher level than most give him credit for. In my mind, he’s a complete steal at his QB14 ranking and as the offseason rolls on, I wouldn’t be surprised if the experts start to agree on his outlook more and more.
Kirk Cousins (QB – MIN): ECR of QB19/119th Overall, Standard Deviation of 14.0
Cousins’ first season with the Vikings is generally looked at as a disappointment since the team missed the playoffs after losing three of their last five games, but from a fantasy standpoint, it was much more successful. The prized free agent signing was a fringe QB1, finishing as the overall QB12 from Week 1 to Week 16, and scoring 272.1 fantasy points in the process. However, much of his production came in the first half of the season, and once the Vikings replaced John DiFilippo with Kevin Stefanski as offensive coordinator in Week 15, the team went run-heavy and Cousins attempted fewer than 30 passes in two of his final three games.
Stefanski is back as the full-time O.C. in 2019, and the Vikings are expected to keep focusing the ground game as the main point of emphasis, which would likely lead to decreased fantasy production from their franchise quarterback. It seems unimaginable that Cousins could be ranked as the QB19, but the experts are clearly divided on his outlook. After all the negativity surrounding the team over the last few months, the eighth-year pro could actually wind up being a bargain for drafters choosing to punt the quarterback position in the early rounds (or altogether). With Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen likely to remain one the game’s best receiving duos, Cousins could be a fringe starter, even with less volume than he enjoyed a year ago.
Damien Williams (RB – KC): ECR of RB21/43rd Overall, Standard Deviation of 17.1
In many ways, I feel like Williams’ standard deviation of 17.1 is the most notable disparity on this entire list, for the simple reason that it’s an enormous variance for a player ranked in the top 45. Williams was fantastic for Kansas City down the stretch, taking over as the starter in Week 15 and accumulating 362 rushing yards and five rushing touchdowns on only 69 carries, to go along with 24 receptions for 210 yards and three additional scores in five contests (including the postseason). That’s RB1-caliber production in one of the game’s most dynamic offenses.
Kansas City signed Williams to a two-year contract extension in late-December and he entered the offseason as the team’s lead back, which general manager Brett Veach confirmed in February. However, the level of concern is somewhat understandable. I actually think the disagreement among the experts is less about the team’s free-agent addition of Carlos Hyde and more focused on the potential that the franchise could add competition in the 2019 NFL Draft.
It’s certainly a possibility, considering Williams entered 2018 as the team’s third-string tailback, but at the moment, he’s the unquestioned starter and a much better fit for the offense than Hyde. Kareem Hunt is in Cleveland and Spencer Ware remains a free agent. Until further notice, Williams is a legitimate fourth-round option, even in standard formats.
Rashaad Penny (RB – SEA): ECR of RB33/89th Overall, Standard Deviation of 17.8
The Seahawks spent the 27th overall pick of the 2018 NFL Draft on Penny and entered the season poised to re-emphasize the ground game. As training camp opened, Penny was fully expected to beat out former seventh-round pick Chris Carson and claim the top spot on the Seahawks’ depth chart. As such, expectations were high for the former first-team All-American. So what went wrong?
Well, it’s simple. Penny missed most of the preseason with a broken bone in his hand, and Carson had an unbelievable camp, cementing himself as the team’s lead back. Both men appeared in 14 contests in 2018, but Carson led the way with 247 carries en route to his first 1,000-plus yard season, while Penny only received 85. In fact, even Mike Davis (now of the Chicago Bears) out-carried him with 112 totes on the year. But something was ignored in the disappointment of his virtual relegation to third-string tailback in a campaign where he struggled to stay healthy. Any time he was given an opportunity, Penny performed well. Very well.
In fact, his 4.9 yards per carry was best on the team among running backs, as was his 8.3 yards per reception. Over his last seven games (including playoffs), he averaged over 5.5 yards per tote on five different occasions. The dude can flat out play football, and there was never any question about that. That incredibly large standard deviation of 17.8 is simply due to the fact that we don’t really know what his role will be in 2019. Carson was very good in his own right last season, and it’s no certainty that Penny will supplant him as the team’s RB1. A committee is the most likely outcome, but Davis’ exit left a lot of available carries on the table, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Penny receive the bulk of them. The Seahawks know they need to get their first-round runner more involved and I expect them to do just that.
Allen Robinson (WR – CHI): ECR of WR22/50th Overall, Standard Deviation of 14.4
Robinson’s first season in Chicago was a mixed bag, as the former Pro Bowler secured 55 of 94 targets for 754 yards and four touchdowns in 13 contests. While those numbers are perfectly acceptable, the Bears probably hoped for more when they signed him to a three-year, $42 million contract a year ago. However, there’s considerably more to this story beneath the surface, and plenty of cause for optimism going forward when you take all of it into account.
For starters, Robinson spent much of the year working his way back from an ACL tear that he sustained at the start of the 2017 season. To boot, he sustained hip, groin, and rib injuries that cost him three games and nagged him throughout the season. Furthermore, he was in a new offense and working to establish chemistry with his new quarterback, sophomore slinger Mitchell Trubisky. Simply put, there were a lot of factors working against the former Jaguars standout. With that said, the last time we saw Robinson, he looked healthy and up to speed, torching the Philadelphia Eagles secondary to the tune of 10 receptions for 143 yards and a touchdown on Wild Card Weekend.
Robinson’s potential in Matt Nagy’s offense is evident and if Trubisky takes another step forward in his third year, the talented wideout could easily surpass 1,000 yards once again. The young veteran doesn’t even turn 26 until late August and has several prime years ahead of him. Until we’ve seen sustained production it’s hard to rank him aggressively, but the upside is certainly there.
Doug Baldwin (WR – SEA): ECR of WR23/53rd overall, Standard Deviation of 14.7
Last season, Baldwin produced his lowest yardage total since 2012, snaring 50 receptions for 618 yards and five touchdowns in an increasingly run-heavy Seahawks offense. Those surface stats only tell a small portion of the story, though. Like the aforementioned Robinson, Baldwin was dinged up all season. The veteran injured his knee during camp and never really got back to full health at any point during the campaign. While he played in 13 contests, he was severely limited and never really found any sustained success. Recently, head coach Pete Carroll revealed that Baldwin has had shoulder and knee operations since the conclusion of the 2018 season, a clear indicator of how much difficulty he endured during the year.
While the Stanford product has the talent and work ethic to get back on track in 2019, the Seahawks attempted fewer passes than any other team a season ago (427), and seem committed to the run, even with an All-Pro caliber quarterback like Wilson at the helm. For this reason, as well as the continued emergence of Tyler Lockett, some of the experts are a little hesitant to get behind Baldwin in their early projections, in spite of his stable, consistent production over the past several seasons.
Delanie Walker (TE – TEN): ECR of TE10/111th Overall, Standard Deviation of 19.6
Walker has long been one of the game’s most reliable tight ends, having played in at least 15 games and secured over 100 targets, 60 receptions, and 800 receiving yards in all of his last four healthy seasons prior to 2018, with his career apex coming in the form of a 94-catch, 1,088-yard, six-touchdown campaign in 2015. It looked like he was in for another productive year with seven targets, four receptions, and 52 yards in the fourth quarter of the Titans’ opener, but then it all came crashing down. Walker suffered a horrific ankle injury that ended his season before it ever really began.
By all accounts, Walker is ready to get back to the game he loves in 2019, and is very optimistic about what the future holds. For what it’s worth, I like his chances of getting back on track, but the lack of consensus about his outlook is completely understandable. Walker will be 35 when Week 1 rolls around and is coming off a devastating injury. Questions about what he’s capable of after missing so much time are valid. However, Walker has proven time and time again that it’s a mistake to bet against him. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to see him produce another 60-catch performance in the coming season.
Austin Hooper (TE – ATL): ECR of TE12/126th Overall, Standard Deviation of 22.9
Hooper had a career year in 2018, catching 71 passes for 660 yards and four touchdowns, en route to earning his first Pro Bowl berth. Things really seemed to click for the third-year pro, and his connection with Matt Ryan blossomed before our eyes. And yet, there doesn’t seem to be much agreement about his outlook as far as our experts are concerned. Hooper’s ranking of TE12 isn’t egregious by any means, but the standard deviation of 22.9 is considerable.
Some of the disagreement likely stems from the fact that the Falcons spent a ton of time playing catch-up in 2018 and that led to Ryan attempting his most passes since 2015. With Devonta Freeman back in the mix and the expected continued emergence of Calvin Ridley, it would stand to reason that Hooper will return to a more complementary role in a less voluminous passing attack. Frankly, that school of thought is valid, but it doesn’t undermine Hooper’s performance either. In a tight end landscape that features few sure things outside of the top three, he’s still a quality late-round target.