He is the No. 3 scorer in fantasy thus far, the leader in 400-yard passing games (two) and he ranks second in the league in Total QBR (81.4).
And despite that, Philip Rivers is as strong a sell-high candidate as there is.
Rivers, fresh off a 26-point fantasy Week 4, and two weeks removed from a career-best 29-point Week 2, might be a popular name right now. However, a quick look at his performance in terms of consistency metrics -- and that's not merely from a career perspective, but also this year -- raises questions, some of the same ones that surrounded him during the preseason.
Rivers is the only one of the top 12 fantasy scorers through four weeks to have registered a "Stiff" score -- bearing in mind that a quarterback must finish outside the top 20 at the position to be labeled that -- as he's nine days removed from an 11-point stinker at the Tennessee Titans (Week 3). Where was the Rivers love then? Granted, the Titans' defense is off to a hot start, allowing the sixth fewest fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks (11.0), but at the same time, Matt Schaub, owned in considerably fewer leagues (33.8 percent of ESPN leagues, compared to Rivers' 72.3), dropped 19 points on them in Week 2.
Rivers also has only the 13th-best Consistency Rating (40.4 percent) among quarterbacks since the beginning of 2010, his nine "Stiff" performances during that span second only to Eli Manning's 15 among those in the 40 percent-or-better group. Now let's break down Rivers' consistency stats by matchup:
Toughest 8: 11 G, 2 Start (18.2 percent), 0 Stud, 3 Stiff
Middle 16: 19 G, 8 Start (42.1 percent), 0 Stud, 6 Stiff
Easiest 8: 22 G, 11 Start (50.0 percent), 3 Stud, 0 Stiff
In addition, as arm strength was a question for him during his poor 2012, Rivers appears to be easing off deeper throws: He has averaged just 7.0 attempts of at least 15 yards and 3.0 of at least 20 yards downfield this season, within the ballpark of 2012's 6.8 and 3.6 and still beneath his 8.7 and 4.2 averages from 2009 to 2011. Consider that Rivers tallied 342 of his 802 yards in the Philadelphia Eagles (Week 2) and Dallas Cowboys (Week 4) games on throws of that depth, both of those representing two of the bottom-eight pass defenses in the game, and there's compelling evidence that he's again exploiting only his most favorable matchups.
Granted, Rivers' short-term schedule supports the notion of keeping him on hand: The San Diego Chargers' schedule goes @Oak, Ind, @Jac leading into their Week 8 bye, then @Wsh coming out of it. However, from Week 10 forward -- the critical fantasy weeks -- the Chargers have some potentially treacherous matchups: Den (Week 10), @KC (Week 12), Cin (Week 13), @Den (Week 15) and KC (Week 17).
Maybe the best move with Rivers is to hope he'll boost his trade stock leading into the Week 8 bye, with that Washington Redskins matchup after it a prime selling point. If you're formulating your late-season roster plans around him, however, you might be setting yourself up for disappointment.
Sticking with the theme of potential sell-high candidates, here are a few other players whose consistency numbers label them shaky long-term bets:
Dwayne Bowe, WR, Kansas City Chiefs: He's still 100 percent owned in ESPN leagues, he's the subject of countless weekly start-or-sit questions and perhaps his owners feel as if there's a little hope surrounding him now that he has multiple double-digit fantasy efforts in the past three weeks. Still, Bowe's history of inconsistency and, more importantly, of exploiting only the most favorable matchups, is disconcerting. Consider his 2010 to 2013 stats by matchup:
Toughest 8: 13 G, 1 Start (7.7 percent), 0 Stud, 5 Stiff
Middle 16: 21 G, 9 Start (42.9 percent), 5 Stud, 5 Stiff
Easiest 8: 15 G, 10 Start (66.7 percent), 2 Stud, 2 Stiff
Bowe has 453 fantasy points total since the beginning of 2010, or 9.2 per game. Nearly 40 percent of those came in games against the eight most favorable matchups for wide receivers in those seasons (38.9 percent to be exact), as he has averaged 11.7 fantasy points per game in those, but only 4.7 points per game against the eight toughest matchups for the position. That meaningless 34-yard score with approximately three minutes to play in Week 4 might have given Bowe's owners their last opportunity to cash in his chip.
Tony Romo, QB, Dallas Cowboys: He was a smart mid-to-late-round pick, or quarterback in the 10-12 range at his position, in the preseason, but no one should've mistaken that for significant growth potential. Through four weeks, Romo ranks 10th in fantasy points (67), averaging 16.8 per game. Last season, he averaged 16.9 fantasy points per contest. The Consistency Ratings have always underscored how maddeningly unpredictable he can be; since the beginning of 2010 he has warranted being in your starting lineup in only 42.9 percent of the games he has played (keeping in mind that he sat 10 games during that time).
Breaking down Romo's consistency stats also shows how difficult he is to predict even when the matchups suggest he's worth a look:
Toughest 8: 10 G, 3 Start (30.0 percent), 0 Stud, 2 Stiff
Middle 16: 20 G, 9 Start (45.0 percent), 2 Stud, 3 Stiff
Easiest 8: 12 G, 6 Start (50.0 percent), 1 Stud, 1 Stiff
It might seem as if Romo's passing stats will receive a boost when he's playing within the division, as the NFC East places all four of its teams within the top six in terms of fantasy points per game allowed to opposing quarterbacks, but those numbers hint that it's no guarantee. It's the most favorable case to be made for him -- adding the fact his remaining out-of-division games are Den (Week 5), @Det (Week 8), Min (Week 9), @NO (Week 10), Oak (Week 13), @Chi (Week 14) and GB (Week 15) -- but one that could be as much a sell-high as a stick-with case.
CONSISTENCY RATINGS BENCHMARKS
Using 2012 statistics, and fantasy points determined by ESPN's standard scoring, the charts contained in this column rate players based upon how consistently reliable they are. To familiarize you with some of the terminology:
Start: The number of times that the player's point total in a given week was worthy of having had him active in an ESPN standard league.
Stud: The number of times the player's point total ranked among the top at his position.
Stiff: The number of times the player's point total ranked among the worst at his position, making almost any waiver-wire option a smarter choice.
These are the benchmarks for what constitutes a "Start," "Stud" or "Stiff" performance, numbers identifying the player's rank at his position:
Sat: The number of times the player missed a game. Players are not charged "Stiff" points for sitting out, but it hurts their overall Consistency Rating.
%: The player's overall Consistency Rating, calculated as number of "Start" performances divided by scheduled team games.
Matt Forte, RB, Chicago Bears: In a season during which running back production is down, it might be tempting to treat Forte as a top-five option at his position, considering that he ranks fourth in fantasy scoring at the position thus far (61 points). The problem with that, however, is that he is traditionally not a strong bet for touchdown production, and his fantasy production has been inflated by his having already scored half as many this year (three) as last (six). Once again, let's go to those consistency matchups breakdowns, though in Forte's case, bear in mind that his percentages will be higher here because of the five games he has missed since the beginning of 2010:
Toughest 8: 11 G, 6 Start (54.5 percent), 3 Stud, 1 Stiff
Middle 16: 20 G, 15 Start (75.0 percent), 1 Stud, 0 Stiff
Easiest 8: 16 G, 14 Start (87.5 percent), 6 Stud, 1 Stiff
Here's why these numbers matter with Forte:
• During that time span, he has two multi-TD games. All of his TDs in those games were of 18 yards or greater and both games were against bottom-eight D's.
• Twelve of Forte's 22 total TDs during that time came against bottom-eight D's, and all but one was of greater than 5 yards in distance.
Forte's production -- or in his case lack thereof -- at the goal line represents the most significant argument against him ever being a top-five running back … except possibly in PPR formats. His three touchdowns this season have been 1, 5 and 53 yards in length, and the following stats show how poor a performer he has been at the goal line since 2010:
• 20.0 percent TD conversion rate at the 1-yard line (league average 52.3 percent)
• 18.8 percent TD conversion rate inside the 3 (league average 44.8)
• 18.5 percent TD conversion rate inside the 5 (league average 38.4)
(minimum 10 attempts for each of these statistics)
Consistency Ratings chart
Players are initially ranked in order of their Consistency Rating, calculated as the percentage of the player's scheduled games -- not games played, scheduled games -- in which his fantasy point total registered a "Start" score. All categories are sortable both ascending and descending; just click on the headers to sort. Players must have met at least one of the following minimums for inclusion in the chart: 25.0 percent Consistency Rating in standard scoring leagues, 25.0 percent Consistency Rating in PPR formats. All defense/special teams are included, regardless of whether they met those minimums.
These statistics are for 2013 only. Statistics for games since 2010 can be found here.