Although the most consistent point producers at each position include many of the league's biggest stars, interesting nuances emerge in our rankings. Among quarterbacks, for example, aerial experts like Tom Brady took a backseat to dual-threat passers Russell Wilson and Cam Newton , who can rack up points running as well . Speaking of running, Todd Gurley bested more experienced pros at his position: Over his three seasons in the league, he's put up more fantasy points than any other running back. Devonta Freeman, another young gun with just four seasons under his belt, took second place, well ahead of veteran LeSean McCoy in third.
Experienced players were well-represented at other positions, including Antonio Brown and Julio Jones taking the top two spots among receivers. Both wideouts are aging well with Pro Bowl selections in each of the last three seasons, still, third-ranked DeAndre Hopkins is surely eager to inherit their throne. Rob Gronkowski's reign among tight ends will come as no surprise to those fortunate enough to have picked him in recent seasons, although Travis Kelce has given him a run for his money since 2015. Delanie Walker, a Pro Bowl selection for the last three years, was the only tight end to come close to the point totals put up by these two.
Even among the very best at each position, production varies by season. Sometimes, injury provides a simple explanation : No one's surprised that Aaron Rodgers' numbers took a nosedive in an injury-plagued 2017, or that Gronk's production dipped in the 2016 season that necessitated back surgery . Other players peaked in a special season, then returned to Earth the following year. Matt Ryan is consigned to this category: Despite an excellent 2016, his production returned to previous levels as some fantasy gurus expected. The pundits' warnings also proved true for lesser-known pros like Mike Evans; the Bucs wide receiver put up 74 fewer points in 2017 than the year before.
On the other hand, some guys just keep getting better. This was the case for a couple of impressive tight ends: Zach Ertz and the aforementioned Kelce posted higher points totals in 2016 than in 2015, and even better numbers in 2017. Among running backs, Mark Ingram Jr. and Melvin Gordon can claim a sustained improvement, although the most impressive leap of 2017 may go to Todd Gurley. Apparently, his coach Sean McVay was the only one to see Gurley's star turn coming in 2017 – making the running back the fantasy sensation of the season.
It's one thing to admire the point totals of these players, and another to combine them in a holistically dominant fantasy squad. So we decided to determine the best possible team we could create by their average fantasy points over the last three seasons, using ESPN's Average Draft Position to determine when specific players would still be available in a 12-team draft. Our results are the stuff of dreams for the fantasy faithful.
Can you imagine a more lethal receiver combo than Antonio Brown and DeAndre Hopkins? What about a trio of running backs including Todd Gurley, Mark Ingram Jr., and Latavius Murray? According to our results, these picks are possible for the savvy (and lucky) player. And for those overcome with frustration when they pick last, our findings may be cause to reconsider. In our models, the ideal use of the 12th-place pick would yield a maximum of 1,505 fantasy points, or 102 more than our first-pick dream team. How's that for luck of the draw?
If you're in search of points you can count on, our data suggest these pros have delivered week after week. For casual fans and fantasy fanatics alike, however, the question is whether their peak performance can continue. Will their productivity persist for seasons, or will their streak be snapped on a single disastrous play? No expert can truly claim to know.
Perhaps there are no sure things in fantasy football: In an ever-shifting league propelled by big hits and the hunt for new talent, longevity is a rare virtue among players. But as much as fantasy diehards fear the unknown, they have to admit some element of uncertainty is essential to their enjoyment . After all, if results could be narrowly predicted, fantasy would entail little skill or intrigue. Isn't that what makes this game fun in the first place?
We studied pro-football-reference.com records from 2015, 2016, and 2017 NFL regular seasons to determine all players who played in the following positions in any of those years: quarterback, running back, wide receiver, and tight end. We then used ESPN.com data to determine the standard format fantasy football point total for each of those players in each of those seasons. We then calculated the average of those seasonal point totals to arrive at the rankings presented above. For the section detailing ideal fantasy draft positions for the players cited, we relied on ESPN.com data relating to their average draft position. No statistical testing was performed as a part of this project, so the findings presented here are based on averages alone.
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