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Fantasy Football: Why You Shouldn’t Draft a Wide Receiver Early

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Jonathan Bales

One of the major themes of my book is utilizing season-to-season consistency in your fantasy football draft. I’m not a big believer in week-to-week consistency (actually, stats show it is an illusion), but all other things being equal, you should seek as little volatility as possible with your draft choices. There are times to take on risk in an effort to increase upside, but obtaining players with high ceilings and consistent year-to-year play is optimal.

I just posted an article on the consistency of various positions over at Roto Info. The numbers are pretty shocking. In my book, I wrote that quarterback and tight end are the most consistent positions in fantasy football. Running back is next, and wide receiver is actually quite volatile. These stats back up that idea. . .

The top five quarterbacks are projected to move just a single spot each. It’s barely more at 1.4 spots per player for the running backs. In practical terms, it means both quarterbacks and running backs are very consistent, and thus safe, near the start of the draft.

This idea fits with common sense; we see the same signal-callers—Aaron Rodgers, Tom BradyDrew Brees—at the top of the quarterback rankings each season. The running back position, although relatively unstable as a whole, has the same sort of top-tier consistency. We often see the workhorse backs like Ray Rice and Arian Foster dominate the top of drafts each year.

Even more startling than the quarterback and running back consistency is the volatility of the top fantasy receivers. The top five receivers from 2011 are projected to move an average 5.6 spots each in 2012. The risk associated with early wide receivers is so great that the top 10 and top 20 receivers are actually projected to move fewer spots in the rankings than the top five players at the position.

Also note the consistency of the running back position diminishes outside of the top tier. With more and more teams switching to “running back by committee” attacks, the value of the position, although lower in general, is ironically higher than ever at the beginning of drafts.

For fantasy owners, this means you should target a top-tier running back or quarterback early. If you miss out on Ray Rice, LeSean McCoy, or another stud back, wait it out. The player you can get in the fifth round will be rather comparable to the back you can get in the third.

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