It’s a tasty gamble that can be made in fantasy football: In any given season, no athlete is certain of a high point total. While it may appear like picking certain elite professionals at each position is a no-brainer, it is still a gamble. Just ask any 2017 fantasy football player who banked on Aaron Rodgers or Odell Beckham Jr. It’s tough to predict which fantasy players will consistently please their owners due to factors like injuries and coaching decisions.
However, given this unpredictability, the consistency of some professionals is all the more remarkable. We set out to identify the players from throughout the league who have made their respective owners the most proud over the course of the last three years. We did this by tallying up the points scored by players across multiple positions in fantasy football from 2015 to 2017, and then averaging those totals. Our findings indicate the top point producers at each position year after year, information that no fantasy player can afford to overlook.
Positional Point Leaders
There are interesting distinctions in our rankings, even if the top point producers at each position include several of the league’s biggest talents. For instance, among quarterbacks, dual-threat passers like Russell Wilson and Cam Newton have surpassed pass-only specialists like Tom Brady in terms of scoring production. Todd Gurley, who has only been in the game for three years, has already amassed more fantasy points than any other rushing back in the history of the league. Second place went to four-year veteran LeSean McCoy, while Devonta Freeman, another rising star, finished a distant third.
Other positions also included a large number of veterans, such as the top two receivers, Antonio Brown and Julio Jones. Although both wideouts have been Pro Bowlers for the past three years, third-ranked DeAndre Hopkins is hungry to take their place. It’s no secret that Rob Gronkowski has been the top tight end in recent seasons, but since 2015, Travis Kelce has given him a run for his money. Only three-time Pro Bowler Delanie Walker scored as many points as these two did while playing tight end.
The best players in each position still see their output fluctuate over the year. Injuries can often provide a straightforward rationale: Everyone expected Aaron Rodgers’ numbers to drop in an injury-plagued 2017, just as they expected Gronk’s to drop after he had back surgery in 2016. For others, their best performance came within a single season, after which they went back to Earth. Matt Ryan falls into this class: Some fantasy experts predicted that he would return to his old production levels, and he did. Even for less unknown players like Mike Evans, the analysts’ predictions came true: the Bucs wide receiver scored 74 fewer points in 2017 than the year before.
However, there are a select few men who seem to improve with age. For example, two great tight ends, Zach Ertz and Travis Kelce, both improved their point totals from 2015 to 2016 and then again in 2017. Mark Ingram Jr. and Melvin Gordon have both improved consistently at running back, but Todd Gurley may have made the biggest leap this year. It appears that Gurley’s head coach Sean McVay was the only person who saw his breakout 2017 season coming, when the running back became a fantasy football superstar.
Where We Now Regret Not Choosing Them
It’s easy to be impressed by the individual point totals of these individuals, but much harder to put together a winning fantasy team. So, we used ESPN’s Average selection Position to figure out when individual players would still be available in a 12-team selection based on their average fantasy points over the prior three seasons. If you’re into imagination, our findings will blow your mind.
Could Antonio Brown and DeAndre Hopkins be a more dangerous receiving duo? How about the trio of Todd Gurley, Mark Ingram Jr., and Latavius Murray at running back? Our findings indicate that these selections are feasible for the astute (and lucky) player. As an added bonus, our research may convince people who always pick last to change their strategy. We found that the 12th overall choice, if used optimally, could produce a maximum of 1,505 fantasy points, which is 102 more than our first-round fantasy powerhouse. Just how random is that?
How about a repeat performance next year?
If you’re looking for consistent scoring, these veterans have been coming through for us week after week. However, whether or not their current level of performance can be maintained is a concern for both casual and fantasy fans. Can their success last for several years, or can it be ended by one bad game? No so-called “expert” can ever claim certainty.
Perhaps with fantasy football there are no sure bets: Longevity is a rare quality among players in a league driven by home runs and the search for new talent. Fantasy fans may be afraid of the unknown, but they must realize it’s necessary for their enjoyment. After example, there wouldn’t be much talent or excitement involved in fantasy if outcomes could be accurately predicted. Isn’t that the whole point of the game?
We looked at the rosters of every quarterback, running back, wide receiver, and tight end who appeared in at least one game during the 2015, 2016, or 2017 regular seasons of the NFL on pro-football-reference.com. To calculate the standard format fantasy football point total for each player in each of those seasons, we consulted data from ESPN.com. The aforementioned rankings were determined by averaging the points earned throughout each season. We used data from ESPN.com about average draft positions for the above athletes to determine their optimal fantasy draft positions. As no statistical analysis was conducted for this project, all results reported here are based solely on mean values.
Declaration of Fair Use
Our photographs and content may be used for personal, noncommercial purposes. But if you do, please include a link back to this page so that we get the attribution we deserve. It’s only fair to give credit when credit is due, such as when a player’s performance results in a fantasy victory.