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2011 Draft Prep: Why consistency matters

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It sounds obvious, but to win your Fantasy leagues year in and year out, you must first make the playoffs. That has to be the goal from Day 1: to build a team that will do well enough week in and week out to get you into the dance and give you a chance to take home the biggest prize.

Show me an owner who has made the playoffs 10 out of 10 years and never won the big one versus a player who won two titles during that span and missed the playoffs the other eight times and I'd tell you the ringless wonder is actually the better Fantasy player. Why? Because he is consistently productive and consistently in the hunt for the money and the title.

For more from Nathan check out his website at thefantasyconsultant.com

Many people are too hung up on the final season totals of a player and are not focused nearly enough on how players got to those totals. The journey to those totals is at the very least as important as the totals themselves because you need consistency on your team to win week in and week out. For example, Player A has 130 points after 13 weeks and so does Player B. Player A just chugged along with 10 solid points every single week. Player B, on the other hand, had five games of 21 points and eight games of 3.1 points. They both would finish in the exact place in the rankings, but Player A would have been the better player in eight of the 13 weeks and Player B would have had those Fantasy crippling duds in 61.5 percent of his games. Yuck.

Here is a better real world example from the last few years: In 2005 Santana Moss was the third-ranked Fantasy receiver and yet he only gave you 100-plus yards or a touchdown in six games. A closer inspection reveals that eight of his nine total touchdowns and 108 of his 202 Fantasy points came in four monster games. That's right, over 50 percent of his production occured in just four games. He had only six games of double digit Fantasy points and in his other 10 games he averaged just 7.0 points per game and had four duds with less than 60 yards and without a score.

So yes, Moss was the third-ranked Fantasy wide receiver that year, but in 10 of his 16 games he was average at best. Not surprisingly, Moss was not even among the top 20 players in terms of being on the highest percentage of championship teams that year.

In that same year, Larry Fitzgerald produced 205 Fantasy points (so he was basically the same as Moss), but he was far more consistent. Fitzgerald gave you 100-plus yards or a touchdown in 12 games that year, best among all wide receivers. He had four big games like Moss (although not quite as big) and had three duds himself, but in 12 of the 16 games you got solid, consistent and winning double-digit production. Does it shock you to learn that Fitz was the receiver on the highest percentage of championship teams from that season? Of course not, and if you had to pick between the two on Draft Day, Fitz would be the easy obvious choice despite averaging just .18 points more per week based on the end of season totals.

So how do I quantify consistency among the various positions? While we can debate on what the thresholds should be, the following is how I have been determining the consistency of a player at the various positions.

For quarterbacks: Any game with 300 yards passing (as many leagues give a nice bonus at 300 yards) or 300 total yards (to help running QBs) with a touchdown or any game with 200-plus yards and two-plus touchdowns will count.
For running backs: Any game with 100 yards rushing, 150 total yards or a game with a touchdown will count as a good game.
For wide receivers: A game with 100 yards or a touchdown.
For tight ends: A game with 60-plus yards or a touchdown.
For kickers: A game with multiple field goals made.

It should also be noted that games missed due to injury or suspension do not help your Fantasy teams, so they do not help the players in the consistency rating. It truly tells the flat percentage out of 16 games every year that a player will deliver a solid Fantasy total to your team whether they are active or not ... period. After all, truly being consistent means being on the field and producing points week after week.

So now that you can see why this matters, how do you use it to your advantage? I find that the consistency rate data is very helpful both in the preseason when drafting and also during the regular season when seeking out trade targets. For drafting purposes, a player's historical consistency rate both in the prior season and over the previous three years helps me choose between similarly ranked players and as you may have guessed, early on in my drafts, I will always go for the more consistent player to anchor my roster.

Charting the consistency data has also allowed me to identify trends among the positions which have helped me to shape my draft strategies. In a nutshell, I have found that the elite quarterbacks and the elite tight ends are the most consistent producers each year (definitely on a games played basis) and are the most reliably consistent producers year after year. On the flip side, the running back and wide receiver positions have lower consistency rates each year among the starters than the other positions, while also having much more turnover at the top year in and year out (to the tune of 50 percent year over year).

Not only do you have big bunches of running backs and wide receivers with similar consistency rates, but the individual players who are in the top 24 changes dramatically year after year. That is why, in a nutshell, I think you want to have a consistent stud quarterback and an wlite tight end on your teams while loading up on as many good running back and receiver candidates as you can possibly get. Sure, you need target some consistent anchors at running back and receiver early in the draft, but then you want to grab as many good options as possible at those spots and hope you hit on some lottery tickets.

Now that you have a little background on what the consistency rates are and how they can be helpful to you, here is a look at the consistency leaders by position in 2008, 2009, 2010 and then across all three years.

Glossary
Target Conversion Rate or Catch Rate (TCR): The percentage of a player's targets (passes thrown to them) that are converted into receptions. Over 60 percent is excellent, 66 percent is elite and under 52.5 percent is worrisome.
Yards per Target (YPT): A player's receiving yards divided by his targets. In other words, the numbers of yards a team gains on average every time they attempt a pass to a certain player. Over 10 is exceptional, over 8 is solid and 6 or lower is horrendous.
Red Zone Opportunities: A player's total number of pass+rush+targets inside the opponent's 20 yard line
Red Zone TD Rate: The percentage of a player's Red Zone opportunities that result in a TD
Goal Line Opportunities: A player's total number of pass+rush+targets inside the opponent's 5 yard line
Goal Line TD Rate: The percentage of a player's Goal Line opportunities that result in a TD
Consistency Rate: The percentage of quality starts a player gives you out of 16 games. For QBs that is a game with 300+ yards passing OR multiple TDs. For RBs/WRs: A game with 100+ yards rush/rec or a game with a TD. For TEs: A game with 60+ yards receiving or a TD. For a Kicker: A game with multiple FGs.
Big Game Rate: The percentage of dominant starts a player gives you out of 16 games (games missed with injury count as a bad game since they do not help your Fantasy teams). For a QB that is a game with 300+ yards and 2+ TDs or 200+ yards and 3+ TDs. For a RB/WR that is a game with 100+ combined rush/rec yards and a TD or a game with multiple TDs. For a TE that is a game of 60+ yards and a TD, 100+ yards or a game with multiple TDs.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter @CBSFantasyFB . You can also follow Nathan at @TFConsultant .

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