Consistency – The Key to Winning Fantasy Football, Part 1

If the key to success in real estate is location, location, location. Then the key to success in fantasy football must be consistency, consistency, consistency. For our purpose, consistency can be defined as the achievement of a level of performance that doesn’t vary greatly over time. With this in mind, let’s start our discussion with a multiple choice question: Which of the two running backs listed below was the more valuable fantasy running back during the 2012 season?

Running BackTeamGames PlayedFantasy PointsFantasy Points per Game
Jamaal CharlesKC16204.5012.8
Frank GoreSF16202.6012.7

A. Jamaal Charles
B. Frank Gore
C. Both were equally valuable
D. More information is needed to make a determination

At first glance, it would appear that Jamaal Charles and Frank Gore were equally valuable as both produced virtually identical fantasy points per game and neither player missed a game all season. However, with additional information you will read below, it will become apparent that Frank Gore was the more valuable running back. So, the correct answer to the question above was “D”, but if you answered, “B”, then you are also correct (but only if you showed your work!)

Consistency and the Standard Deviation

Assuming all other things equal, consistency of performance in any endeavor is usually the determining factor of success. This is especially true in fantasy football where consistency is an elusive commodity. Team owners prefer players who can significantly contribute week after week rather than the “home run hitter” or the “hit or miss” type of player.

Below is a fantasy performance chart for Jamaal Charles and Frank Gore. The data is presented as the total number of fantasy points for each of the 16 games in which they played during the 2012 season. Fantasy points are calculated using Yahoo! public league scoring settings. You can click on the “Show/Hide Table Data” button below the chart to see the actual data point values.


Although both players sport virtually the same number of fantasy points per game (shown as the horizontal blue line), it would appear there are large variations in the data points for Jamaal Charles and the data points for Frank Gore tend to be grouped more closely around the average or mean.  To quantify these variations, all one must do is calculate the standard deviation of each player’s data points. Without going into a full discussion of how to calculate the standard deviation of a population, suffice it to say that the standard deviation for Jamaal Charles’ data points is 9.2 and the standard deviation for Frank Gore’s data points is 5.1.

Since the standard deviation for Frank Gore is the smaller number, it can be stated that his weekly fantasy point production has more consistency than that of Jamaal Charles because the data points for Frank Gore are more closely grouped around the mean. Conversely, the larger standard deviation for Jamaal Charles’s fantasy point productions indicates larger swings in the data points – just like the chart above displays visually.

Another way to look at it…

So, you might say, just because Frank Gore’s standard deviation is smaller doesn’t mean that he is the more valuable fantasy running back. To empirically show he is the more valuable, one just needs to analyze the two data sets.

WeekJamaal CharlesFrank Gore
High score among all running backs that week
Ranked in the top 10 of all running backs that week
Ranked in the top 20 of all running backs that week

As shown in the table above, Jamaal Charles exploded for 34.8 fantasy points to lead all running backs in week 3. This is the kind of over-the-top performance that triggers cries like, “Where were these points last week?” or “Save some for next week!” from team owners of such “hit or miss” players. Six times, in weeks 4, 5, 10, 13, 14 and 16, Jamaal Charles ranked in the top 10 of running backs, and once, in week 11, he ranked in the top 20. Overall, in only eight of the 16 games of the season was Jamaal Charles worthy of a fantasy starting running back position – assuming a 10-team league with two starting running backs per team.

Frank Gore, on the other hand, had no weeks as the NFL’s highest scoring fantasy running back. He did, however, rank in the top 10 six times in weeks 1, 2, 5, 7, 10 and 15. He also ranked in the top 20 five times in weeks 4, 12, 13, 14 and 17. Overall, Frank Gore was worthy of a fantasy starting running back position in 11 of 16 games of the season.

Fantasy PointsJamaal Charles
(# of games)
Frank Gore
(# of games)
< 1075
10 - 14.934
15 - 19.937
20 - 24.91-
25 - 29.91-
30 +1-

As shown in the table above, Jamaal Charles scored less than 10 fantasy points in seven of 16 games while Frank Gore scored less than 10 fantasy points in just five of 16 games. Although Jamaal Charles had three very big games (22.5, 27.0 and 34.8 fantasy points), Frank Gore had 11 games in the very satisfactory 10 – 20 fantasy point range. Jamaal Charles had only six such games. Again, most fantasy football team owners, in general, would prefer more consistency of output from their players and Frank Gore is the more consistent running back in this example. In other words, team owners would usually prefer the 11 games in the 10 – 20 point range of Frank Gore than the three 20+ points games coupled with the seven games of less than 10 fantasy points scored of Jamaal Charles.

Consistency plus value!

This would now be an appropriate point to discuss value. During the 2012 fantasy football drafts, Jamaal Charles, on average, was drafted in the 3rd round of Yahoo! public standard drafts and cost $22.2 in Yahoo! public auction drafts. Frank Gore, on average, was drafted in the 6th round and cost $12.5. Those team owners who drafted Frank Gore were rewarded by not only matching the fantasy production of a player drafted much earlier and costing more, but also by more consistency of performance all season long. Now that is value!

This concludes part 1 of this article. Obviously players have vastly different means (averages) than the 12.8 and 12.7 of Jamaal Charles and Frank Gore. Please continue to “Consistency – The Key to Winning Fantasy Football, Part 2,” to learn how to evaluate the standard deviation of players whose mean are much less similar.  See you in Part 2!

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Disclaimer: Fantasy football is a game of speculation; therefore, Fantasy Football Impact disclaims all warranties, expressed or implied, regarding player performance or results associated with its opinions or advice.