There is "consistent," and then there is "consistently productive."
They are not one and the same.
A player could manage an almost-identical fantasy point total each and every week and it'd be accurate to term him "consistent." But to take such an example, you might be talking about Tashard Choice, who scored between zero and three points in each and every one of the 15 games he played. Choice was never owned in greater than 0.4 percent of ESPN leagues in any of those 15 weeks, so clearly nobody would've wanted this literal definition of the consistent player.
CONSISTENCY RATINGS BENCHMARKS
Using 2013 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.
That's the clarification I routinely offer for the Consistency Ratings in this space. Perhaps it'd be more apt to call them "Consistently Productive" Ratings, but that simply doesn't have as nice a ring to it, does it? These measures are designed to help you identify the players who most consistently earned their places in your fantasy lineup, not to find you those ho-hum, five-points-every-week players.
That's not to say that those who call for the addition of a standard deviation, identifying those consistent, albeit less-productive, players don't have a point. It's for that reason, in this final 2013 edition of the Consistency Ratings, I've added a "standard deviation" -- as well as the player's per-game average -- to the charts below. To explain how those work, a lower score means the player's weekly fantasy point totals were clustered more tightly together, while a higher score means the player's scores probably varied wildly from week to week.
Use these measures in conjunction with the Consistency Ratings, with your goal being the higher Consistency Rating and lower standard deviation (though the former takes precedence because it signifies the healthier weekly totals).
This week let's break out the Consistency Ratings by position, in order to identify the 2013 "Consistency Kings" at each. These aren't necessarily players who managed the highest scores, but rather those who provided the greatest week-over-week consistency comparative to draft price.
Note that 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.
These statistics are for 2013 only. Statistics for games since 2010 can be found here.
There's no greater illustration of the rising value of the replacement-level fantasy quarterback than the Consistency Ratings below. Only five quarterbacks in 2013 managed to earn your "Start" -- they finished among the week's top 10 at the position in fantasy points -- more than half the time; in 2012, eight quarterbacks did so. Alex Smith, drafted in only 16.1 percent of ESPN leagues as of the NFL Week 1 kickoff, earned your start seven times, one more than Tom Brady, who was selected 19th overall, on average, and drafted in 100 percent of ESPN leagues.
Nevertheless, it was Peyton Manning who was the most consistently reliable starter. After topping the 2012 leaderboard with a 75.0 percent Consistency Rating, he did it again with a 68.8 percent number in 2013. There was a key difference between his first two seasons for the Denver Broncos, however. In 2013, he displayed sheer dominance, most simply demonstrated by his 102-point difference in fantasy points (304 in 2012, 406 in 2013). Whereas Manning didn't once earn a "Stud" point -- that earned with a top-two weekly fantasy point total among quarterbacks -- in 2012, he had seven in 2013, two more than any other quarterback.
Russell Wilson, however, earns the honor as 2013's consistency king among quarterbacks. The No. 10 quarterback off the board on draft day, Wilson finished the season eighth at the position in fantasy points, his Consistency Rating a solid 50.0 percent (third best). Only four times all season did he score fewer than 14 fantasy points, and while he scored 21 or 22 points on four occasions, he scored more than that just once (28 points in Week 15). Though Wilson's combined 43 fantasy points the final four weeks might have cost some of his owners a playoff matchup, he did provide precisely what was expected: reliable weekly output at a discounted price.
Only a healthy scratch in Week 17 -- which was completely understandable, considering his Kansas City Chiefs were locked into the AFC's No. 5 playoff seed entering the week -- stood in Jamaal Charles' path to a perfect Consistency Rating score. A perfect 15-for-15 in "Starts," he sat out the final game yet still managed a fantasy point total 33 points greater than anyone else at his position. And if you're seeking to criticize him for his 10.5 standard deviation, as shown below, bear in mind that number is heavily influenced by his 51-point Week 15. Take it out and he'd have had a 6.2 deviation, one of the lower such scores among running backs.
It was the rookies, Eddie Lacy and Le'Veon Bell, who were the consistency kings among running backs. In addition to the sixth-highest fantasy point total at the position, Lacy managed an 81.3 percent Consistency Rating and four Stud scores; those placed him fourth and sixth, respectively, at his position. Keeping in mind that he was injured early in Week 2 and missed Week 3 entirely, Lacy's performance becomes even more spectacular, and he chipped in 70 fantasy points in his final four weeks despite playing at less than full strength. He's a potential top-five running back for 2014.
Bell's freshman campaign was also injury-limited, which cast greater doubt upon his 2013 prospects considering its severity: A Lisfranc injury cost him the season's first three weeks and at one point appeared to threaten a lengthier absence. Nevertheless, he tied for the ninth-best Consistency Rating among running backs, with 68.8 percent. Even better: Eight of his 13 healthy games resulted in a fantasy point total between 10 and 19, and only twice did he score fewer than eight points. His 3.5-yards-per-carry average might not impress, but as a 22-year-old sure to get between 250 and 300 carries plus the majority of the goal-line work in 2014, his consistency certainly bodes well.
In no way should it come as a shock that the most consistently start-worthy wide receiver was one of Peyton Manning's; yes, a Bronco was the 2013 consistency king. What might've been unexpected, considering Peyton's statistical output, is that another of his receivers was one of the most boom/bust receivers of the year.
Demaryius Thomas earned his Start on 12 occasions and was a Stud five times, both of those tied for the lead at his position (Brandon Marshall had 12 Starts, Calvin Johnson five Studs), was second in fantasy points and third in fantasy points per game. But it was Wes Welker, despite his absences from Weeks 15-17, who was the most consistently reliable player. He managed a 50.0 percent Consistency Rating, but more important, eight of his 13 healthy games resulted in a fantasy point total between nine and 16. Welker also had the ninth-best Consistency Rating in PPR scoring (56.3 percent), extending his history of annual high catch totals despite there being so many mouths for Manning to feed in Denver.
Eric Decker, meanwhile, was as boom-or-bust as they come: His four "Stud" games -- that's a top-five weekly score among wide receivers -- was tied for third, and he was a "Stiff" -- that's a score outside the top 50 -- on three occasions. Perhaps nothing illustrates that better than this: Decker managed a big fat zero in Week 12, only to rebound with one of the season's best single-week fantasy point totals in Week 13 (41). Raise your hand if you were one of the unlucky ones to have had him benched.
He finished eighth at his position in fantasy points, he never once managed a weekly fantasy point total that ranked among the top two tight ends, and his season high for points was 14 (in Week 2), but Greg Olsen was nevertheless the consistency king among tight ends in a season that qualified as anything but consistent for the position as a whole.
Only five tight ends managed even a 50.0 percent Consistency Rating in 2013, and none of those players were named Gates, Gonzalez or Witten. The top 10 tight ends selected in ESPN drafts combined for 39 games missed. And as noted in this space several weeks ago, numerous high-profile tight ends who had "questionable" injury-status tags were scratched in late games.
Meanwhile, Olsen, the No. 8 tight end selected, on average, managed nine performances of a fantasy total between seven and 14 points. No one would ever mistake him for a week-winner player, but having him to securely lock down this position might've eased many a fantasy owner's mind.
Considering the weekly unpredictability of kickers' fantasy point totals -- they're so reliant upon their team's offensive performance -- that Stephen Gostkowski managed a 68.8 percent Consistency Rating is quite remarkable. It meant he was a "Start" -- a top-10 kicker for the week -- two more times than anyone else was in 2012, and more often than any other kicker since Adam Vinatieri also had 68.8 percent in 2004. Gostkowski's 176 fantasy points also tied for the third best by any kicker since 1960.
It was a remarkably consistent year for defenses … at least once the season began. Here's why we remind you, year after year, to wait on defenses: The Nos. 2 and 3 defenses in terms of fantasy points, the Carolina Panthers and Kansas City Chiefs, were drafted in just 3.9 and 3.5 percent of ESPN leagues as of the NFL Kickoff. They both ranked among the most consistent defenses; the problem is that nobody knew they'd be that productive entering the year.
Even in this year of the out-of-nowhere defense -- though the case could be made that's true every year -- it was the Seattle Seahawks who were the consistency kings at this position. Yes, that's an easy call because they were the top scorers, but they also managed a whopping 12 games of double-digit fantasy points, the only team to do that, and they managed a positive fantasy point total in all 16 weeks, joining the Arizona Cardinals as the only teams to do that.