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There are few things better at soothing a fantasy football manager’s worries than a consistent player: someone who you can plug into your lineup and know a solid performance awaits.
There are different ways to define “consistent” in fantasy football. Tyler Lockett, for example, has been extremely consistent year-over-year: Lockett and Mike Evans are the only two players with at least 950 receiving yards and eight receiving touchdowns each of the past four seasons. But he’s not week-over-week consistent. In Week 2, 2021, Lockett had 31.8 points, second to Cooper Kupp. In the five weeks after that, he averaged 6.6 points, which ranked WR84. In 2020, over one-third of his fantasy points for the entire season came in two games.
Building a championship-caliber fantasy football team requires a mix of boom-or-bust players and high-floor players. The following list isn’t who to draft in every round. You need to take some bigger swings than what’s below. But when you take those big swings, you need to balance it out with safer bets. Here are the players who can provide that.
Notes: Average Draft Position (ADP) is available here. All stats are based on point-per-reception (PPR) scoring.
Looking at the most basic metrics, Mixon ensures a strong floor if you’re picking late in the first round. Last year, he played 64% of his team’s offensive snaps, fourth among running backs. In an era where many teams use a by-committee approach at running back, Mixon is the main man in Cincinnati. Over the last three seasons, his 20.7 touches per game rank behind only Derrick Henry and Dalvin Cook (min. 30 games).
Of course, most first-round players are going to have a huge role. That’s why they’re going so early. Mixon’s opportunities, though, come in particularly advantageous positions. He had 25 touches in goal-to-go situations last year (only Jonathan Taylor and James Conner had more), and he played 89% of the team’s goal-to-go snaps, the highest rate among running backs. In the uber-valuable receiving category, Mixon set career highs in receiving yards (314) and routes run (300) while posting a career-low 2.1% drop rate.
In terms of week-to-week consistency, Mixon had 12 games with double-digit points last season, two more than Dalvin Cook, who is currently being drafted just ahead of Mixon. In terms of year-over-year consistency, Mixon has been a top-10 running back in points per game each of the last two years.
Finally, the Bengals massively upgraded their offensive line with three new starters. Cincinnati ball carriers averaged just 0.9 yards per rush before first contact last year, second-worst in the NFL. That won’t be the case again this season, which is a huge boost for Mixon, a high-volume player.
Mixon isn’t the most exciting pick late in the first round, but he’s likely to be among the most consistent.
Jones is another example of another early-round running back who presents an extremely high floor. Since becoming the full-time starter in 2019, he is the only player to register at least 1,150 yards from scrimmage and 10 touchdowns scored each of the past three years, and his game-to-game consistency is very strong as well.
Aaron Jones Since 2019
Rank Among RBs
Games with 10+ Points
Games with 15+ Points
Games with 30+ Points
Last year, Jones posted his fewest rushing yards in a season since 2018 and still managed to finish RB12 in total points and RB11 in points per game. A huge part of his consistency is his receiving chops: Jones and Alvin Kamara are the only two running backs who have run at least 250 routes and been targeted on at least 20% of those routes each of the last three seasons.
One area of concern for Jones would be A.J. Dillon’s presence, but Jones played 55% of snaps last year, in line with his 2019 (56%) and 2020 (57%) campaigns. He’s still very much in the lead role in Green Bay’s backfield.
There’s also a Davante Adams-size hole (169 targets) in the Green Bay offense, and Jones could play a large part in filling that hole. The Packers attempted 117 red zone passes last year, the third-most in the league. With Adams gone, they may be more run-heavy near the end zone.
I mentioned Evans’ season-over-season consistency in the intro, but it warrants even more discussion.
It’s no coincidence that Evans’ play has skyrocketed since Tom Brady’s arrival. Over the last two seasons, Brady has more attempts, completions and yards on throws at least 20 yards downfield than anyone else. His 17 touchdowns on those throws are tied for fourth. Evans — one of the league’s best deep threats — has 23 receptions (T-3rd) and eight touchdowns (2nd) on those types of throws.
Evans’ 17 games with at least 15 fantasy points over the last two seasons is tied for seventh among wide receivers. His yardage totals and his high touchdown rate make him a very safe option with plenty of upside as well.
Pittman Jr. broke out last year, more than doubling his receptions and receiving yards from his rookie year while also catching six touchdowns, up from just one in his rookie campaign. This came despite Indianapolis throwing the ball at the fifth-lowest rate in the NFL.
Exit Carson Wentz and enter Matt Ryan, whom the Colts coaching staff will certainly trust more, and Pittman Jr. will benefit. Last year, Pittman Jr. accounted for 27% of the team’s catches (third in the NFL), 30% of its receiving yards (ninth) and 26% of its targets (10th). Ryan supported a top-tier wide receiver in his career before in Julio Jones, and while there’s no comparing the two, Pittman Jr. is clearly getting No. 1 target work so far from Ryan in training camp.
In the four games in which Pittman Jr. saw over 10 targets last year, he averaged 20.2 points. Expect many more high-target opportunities in 2022.
Moore is on a historic streak that’s both good and bad. He’s the only player in NFL history with three straight seasons of at least 1,100 receiving yards and no more than four receiving touchdowns. You can look at that as glass half-full or glass half-empty; you should probably look at it as a little bit of both.
He’s been a top-25 wide receiver in terms of total points each of the last three seasons. His 416 targets over that span rank fifth among wide receivers. His 33 double-digit fantasy points over that span are tied for seventh among wide receivers. Given his quarterbacks, that’s remarkable; Baker Mayfield could be his best quarterback yet.
If you believe even somewhat in positive touchdown regression, Moore will exceed his ADP. Even if he continues to not find the end zone, he’ll provide steady production.
Here’s a list — just something for you to chew on.
Most 1,000-Yard Receiving Seasons – Since 2015
Here’s another one, just for fun.
Most Finishes as Top-20 WR in Fantasy PPG – Since 2015
Now, why is Cooks going so low? He’s not suspended (like Hopkins), nor on the clear downside of his career (like Jones) nor coming off a major injury (like Woods). Rather, he’s just not a big name. He’s bounced around several teams, his current team is not likely to be a good one, and he has never been a Pro Bowler. All he does, though, is produce.
Last year, Cooks had double-digit fantasy points in 10 games, the same number as CeeDee Lamb, one more than Mike Williams and four more than A.J. Brown. One day, your fellow drafters will realize how consistent Cooks is. Until then, you can gain an advantage by drafting him.
The case for Hurts is a simple one: Last year, he finished with 12 games of at least 15 points — tied for fourth among QBs — and nine games of at least 20 points, tied for fifth. The Eagles proceeded to add wide receiver A.J. Brown this offseason, and yet Hurts is still only the seventh quarterback off the board.
Last year, Hurts’ 136.4 fantasy points off rushes were by far the most of any quarterback — nearly 30 more than second-place Josh Allen. Hurts has played well in training camp and the preseason and still benefits from one of the NFL’s best offensive lines. His rushing ability brings both a high floor and high ceiling in 2022.
Back-to-back Eagles? Indeed. Goedert finished last year as TE8 overall but TE5 from Week 7 on, following the Zach Ertz trade. And that’s even with Goedert sitting out Week 18, with Philadelphia’s starters resting.
Goedert finished second among tight ends in yards per route run last year, only behind George Kittle, and Goedert’s 14 receptions of at least 20 yards were fourth at the position. Following the Ertz trade, Goedert accounted for 29% of his team’s receiving yards, second among tight ends. From Weeks 7-14 last year, Goedert was the fantasy TE1.
While Brown’s arrival could cut into his target share, Goedert’s proven big play ability and strong rapport with Hurts make him an attractive high-floor candidate in the middle rounds.
Since arriving in the NFL in 2012, Wilson’s 292 passing touchdowns trail only Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers, despite Seattle throwing the ball on an NFL-low 53% of snaps. Wilson has a very strong floor thanks to his remarkable touchdown rate; he’s the only player to post a 6% touchdown rate each of the last four seasons.
Wilson has only finished worse than QB13 on a points-per-game basis once in his career. He has been a top-10 quarterback four of the last five seasons. Still, he’s being drafted as QB10 despite going to a Denver offense that will throw the ball more often and feature one of the NFL’s best skill position supporting casts. He’s essentially being taken at his absolute floor, making him a great candidate to exceed his ADP.
If you’re a Javonte Williams fan, Gordon III’s inclusion on this list is a frustrating but inconvenient truth. Last season, Gordon III finished RB23 on a per-game basis (Williams was RB25), and the two were nearly identical in terms of touches per game (14.5 for Williams, 14.4 for Gordon III).
Gordon III has never finished worse than RB25 since 2016, and while it’s true that he’s always had a bigger role than what he’s projected to have this year, he’s currently the 36th running back off the board, which makes him a strong value as a high-floor contributor.
Gordon III had nine games with double-digit fantasy points last year, the same number as Williams more than Nick Chubb. When you get to this point in the draft, you’re looking for either breakout candidates or solid depth. Williams provides the latter, even if his role is reduced.
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