The fantasy football world has taken many lessons from the football analytics community over the years, with one of the most important lessons being not to expect repeat performances from outliers.
So, which players are the outliers from the 2021 campaign who might have difficulty repeating that performance? Let’s start by noting that the definition of outliers can vary, but for the sake of this article it means a statistical performance that stands head and shoulders above other players at a fantasy football position.
Using that criterion, here are five outliers to beware of in fantasy drafts.
Josh Allen, BUF
Outlier performances: 402.6 points, two straight seasons as the top fantasy QB
Allen was like the ship in “Spaceballs” last year, as he took his game to ludicrous speed by racking up 402.6 points. That total didn’t give him enough of a positional scoring edge to land Allen on this list, as three other quarterbacks tallied 361 or more points in 2021, but check out what the database at Stathead says about how often players have scored 400 or more points in a single season:
Only 13 players have ever scored 400+ points in a season. Merely three of those players were able to repeat the performance a second time and it has never been done on three occasions.
To be fair, this scoring pace is likely to become a bit more common in a 17-game season, but let’s also note that Allen is also an outlier when it comes to finishing first in fantasy QB scoring in back-to-back campaigns. Prior to this, no quarterback had posted consecutive seasons ranked first at this position since Daunte Culpepper did it in 2003-04.
Placing first in three straight seasons is also a huge historical rarity, as here are the only quarterbacks to do that:
- Tobin Rotate: 1954-56
- Johnny Unitas: 1957-59
- Steve Young: 1992-94
- Brett Favre: 1995-97
Add this to former Bills offense coordinator Brian Daboll’s rise to the Giants head coaching job and Buffalo’s late season lean on the ground game last year and it offers multiple reasons to think that Allen will see a bit of a fantasy scoring decline in 2022. It may be enough to reconsider investing a late second round pick in Allen, as there may be better return on draft investment quarterback options in later rounds.
Cooper Kupp, L.A.R.
Outlier performances: 439.5 PPR points, 191 targets
Kupp had a season for the ages last year by breaking Jerry Rice’s all-time WR PPR single season record of 414 points set in 1995, but to get an even better perspective on Kupp’s campaign, here are the only wide receivers to ever post 375+ PPR points in a single season:
|two||Jerry Rice||SFO||nineteen ninety five||414|
|7||isaac bruce||STL||nineteen ninety five||376.8|
Rice achieved this feat on but a single occasion despite having the best wide receiver career in NFL history. Moss and Brown were the only wideouts ever able to reach this level twice and they never came within 50 points of Kupp’s 2021 mark.
Kupp was also in rare air by posting 191 targets last season. The 190-target level has only been reached by 12 wide receivers since 1992 (the beginning of the target level database at Pro Football Reference) and no one has topped that bar on two occasions.
Kupp’s current early first-round ADP suggests that many fantasy managers are expecting a repeat performance, but the reality is his production pace last year was so off the charts that Kupp is almost certain to see a decline that may make him better suited as a late first-round draft pick.
Mark Andrews, BAL
Outlier performance: 301.1 PPR points
Andrews posted 301.1 PPR points last year, a total that was 38.3 points higher than Travis Kelce’s second place showing (262.8) and nearly 100 points higher than Dalton Schultz’s 208.8 third place mark.
It also rated as one of only four 300+ PPR point seasons by a tight end:
Andrews is a very good tight end, but fantasy managers have seen enough one-year wonders at this position to know better than to expect this to recur. This explains why Andrews generally ranks second in tight end ADP, as he is typically being selected nearly a full round later than Kelce in fantasy drafts.
Jonathan Taylor, IND
Outlier performances: 333 non-PPR points, 85 rush attempts inside the 20-yard line
It was a regular occurrence for a running back to post 330 or more non-PPR points in a season back in the early 2000s, but that hasn’t been the case for a while, as Taylor joined Christian McCaffrey as the only running backs to do this since the 2009 campaign.
That lands Taylor on this list, but he had another even more impressive outlier performance in the area of red zone rush attempts. Taylor posted 85 of these carries last year, a pace that obliterated Austin Ekeler’s second place mark of 46, but to truly get a measure of just how incredible this number is, look at where it places dating back to 1994, the first year that Stathead have red zone splits.
|Rank||player||Year||Team||RZ rush att|
|two||Curtis Martin||nineteen ninety five||N.W.E.||83|
|4||emmitt smith||nineteen ninety five||DAL||81|
|8||Ricky Watters||nineteen ninety six||PHI||75|
Smith is the only running back able to post 75+ red zone carries twice during this span, and he did so while playing for one of the greatest dynasties in NFL history. As great as Taylor is, a reduction here is almost certain and it may result in a lower point total than fantasy managers want out of the first pick in most draft rooms.
Tyler Lockett, SEA
Outlier performance: 7.5 PPR PPG on stretch vertical passes
Lockett was the best fantasy wide receiver in the league on stretch vertical passes (aerials that travel 20+ yards downfield) last year and it wasn’t even close. Here are the top five in this category, per TruMedia:
Lockett had a huge lead over Chase’s second place pace, but it’s the distance between Lockett and Kupp that really stands out, as Lockett beat Kupp’s total by 56.3 percent.
This would be very difficult to replicate if Russell Wilson was back as Seattle’s quarterback, but with Russ now cooking in Denver and Geno Smith or Drew Lock being under center for the Seahawks, Lockett’s stretch vertical PPR scoring level could collapse. It would not be a surprise to see Lockett lose four or five PPG off this pace and if that happens, he should be rated lower than his current low-end WR3 ADP.
(Top photo: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports)