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2020 Season in Review: Measuring Consistency (Fantasy Football)

by Jared Lese | @JaredL_FF | Featured Writer
Jan 14, 2021

Despite the weekly ambiguity and uneasiness that the 2020 season could end at any moment, the NFL pushed forward, and fantasy football lived on. This past season introduced significant hurdles, with several postponements and schedule accommodations forcing managers to react and adapt quickly. But all 16 games were played and, as such, I wanted to review some of the best and (somewhat) worst performers.

I analyzed every player’s weekly performance to understand their average production before clustering and indexing them against their respective positional groups. Normally, I analyze and use the data to formulate draft strategies, highlighting my favorite targets or fades based on current average draft positions (ADPs). However, I wanted to do a quick review to understand how each position fared and who were the league winners or league losers.

I focused on the top-producing players that were presumably startable in regular leagues (i.e., 1QB, 3WR, 2RB, 1TE). This includes the top-18 QBs, top-24 RBs, top-36 WRs, and top-18 TEs. Considering none of these players were particularly awful, I want to spotlight stellar and middling performances, since you were forced to start many of these players, across average production and coefficient of variation (CV).

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Examining the QB landscape presents a unique takeaway: most QB1s we generally safe and productive across the season. There were obviously some bad moments, like Russell Wilson cooking early before cooling late when managers needed him the most. On the opposite side of the spectrum, Lamar Jackson was somewhat underwhelming throughout most of the season but heated up in the fantasy playoffs.

In all, there were some great value picks. Josh Allen had an amazing third-year career rebound, and Aaron Rodgers is probably the favorite to win NFL MVP. Alternatively, many had high hopes for Matt Ryan this season, with a proven receiving back in Todd Gurley joining the Falcons and an anticipated third-year breakout from Calvin Ridley.

Cam Newton started hot, with a great Sunday Night Football performance in Week 3 against the Seahawks, only to struggle to throw the ball and get benched several times throughout the season.

League Winners:

  • Josh Allen (leading scorer; 24.0 PPG; 0.35 CV)
  • Aaron Rodgers (second highest scorer; 23.4 PPG; 0.27 CV)

League Losers:

  • Matt Ryan (13th highest scorer; 16.6 PPG; 0.49 CV)
  • Cam Newton (16th highest scorer; 16.5 PPG; 0.64 CV)

Running Backs

Running backs, generally the most valuable position in fantasy football, presented a bit more diversity than quarterbacks. We saw several top performers; Dalvin Cook, Alvin Kamara, and Derrick Henry were clearly in their own tier throughout the season. If you had Kamara on your team and made it to the Week 16 championship, you probably won your league. Furthermore, beast performances by Henry down the stretch definitely can’t be overlooked.

Beyond these behemoths, however, there were certain late risers. Jonathan Taylor played his way out of Frank Reich’s doghouse, Nick Chubb returned from a knee injury, and David Montgomery crushed a favorable schedule as a true bell-cow. If managers could withstand their poor – or absent – production throughout the season, these players won many leagues.

Alternatively, we can’t look past disappointing seasons from Kenyan Drake and the aforementioned Gurley. Both were touchdown-dependent plays, frustrating managers who spent high capital to draft them.

League Winners:

  • Nick Chubb (10th highest scorer; 16.6 PPG; 0.44 CV)
  • David Montgomery (fourth highest scorer; 16.1 PPG; 0.46 CV)

League Losers:

  • Todd Gurley (24th highest scorer; 10.0 PPG; 0.69 CV)
  • Kenyan Drake (14th highest scorer; 12.0 PPG; 0.56 CV)

Wide Receivers

Next are wide receivers, a positional group that seemingly gets deeper each year as more teams utilize 11 personnel (one running back and one tight end) and adopt pass-heavy strategies. We all know Davante Adams had an insane season and saw Tyreek Hill‘s massive ceiling. However, some wide receivers with relatively cheap costs could have (almost) single-handedly won leagues, mainly Minnesota’s Stefon Diggs and Justin Jefferson.

Although there are others, like D.K. Metcalf or Calvin Ridley, Diggs and Jefferson separated themselves considering their lower ADPs. Diggs led the league in targets, receptions, and receiving yards, while Jefferson set the rookie record for most receiving yards. Simply amazing.

We’d like to forget performances come from D.J. Moore and Tyler Lockett, who infuriated their managers with tepid results (Moore) or significant inconsistency (Lockett). Many thought Moore would take that next step to the elite group, only to see Joe Brady rely more heavily on Robby Anderson and Curtis Samuel. Lockett had a massive blow-up game against the Cardinals in Week 8, forcing managers to start him every game thereafter. He then put up disappointing numbers weekly, potentially due to injury and perhaps because the Seahawks’ tried to “establish the run.”

League Winners:

  • Stefon Diggs (third highest scorer; 16.6 PPG; 0.45 CV)
  • Justin Jefferson (seventh-highest scorer; 14.1 PPG; 0.63 CV)

League Losers:

  • D.J. Moore (22nd highest scorer; 11.9 PPG; 0.50 CV)
  • Tyler Lockett (eighth-highest scorer; 13.5 PPG; 0.88 CV)

Tight End

Last but not least, everyone’s favorite positional group: tight ends. In 2020, it was basically ebullient Travis Kelce managers, elated Darren Waller managers, and…everyone else.

People get hyped about the next up-and-coming tight end every season, only to see Kelce and George Kittle (or another tight end) lead their managers to victory with everyone else having to stream. This past season, the only truly stellar performances belonged to Kelce and Waller.

However, for the sake of this article, I’d like to highlight the consistency of T.J. Hockenson and the breakout of Pro Bowl snub Robert Tonyan. Alternatively, Tyler Higbee and “Pro Bowl” representative Evan Engram both underperformed and left sour tastes for their managers. They were seen as potential fantasy winners at middle-round ADPs, but neither lived up to expectations outside of a few weeks here or there.

League Winners:

  • T.J. Hockenson (sixth-highest scorer; 8.7 PPG; 0.48 CV)
  • Robert Tonyan (third highest scorer; 10.0 PPG; 0.72 CV)

League Losers:

  • Tyler Higbee (18th-highest scorer; 6.9 PPG; 0.90 CV)
  • Evan Engram (16th-highest scorer; 6.8 PPG; 0.56 CV)

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Whether you’re new to fantasy football or a seasoned pro, our Fantasy Football 101: Strategy Tips & Advice page is for you. You can get started with Starting Your Own Fantasy Football League or head to more advanced strategy — like What is the Right Amount of Risk to Absorb on Draft Day? — to learn more.

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