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Which Players Will Carry You in the Fantasy Playoffs?

Through two weeks of the 2018 season, we’ve already been treated to 24 performances where a non-quarterback scored 25 or more points in PPR formats. Right now, wide receivers have a 14-7 lead over the running backs, with three tight ends sneaking in as well. Is this how we should expect the playoffs to play out, or will we see a return to massive scores from Todd Gurley and the RBs?

After relatively down seasons in 2016 and 2017, the WR position has enjoyed a mini-renaissance through the first two weeks of 2018. Using the RotoViz Screener, we can take a look at how this has manifested in individual performances of 25 points or more.

Alvin KamaraRB2018141.1
Michael ThomasWR2018140
Tyreek HillWR2018136.3
James ConnerRB2018136.2
Stefon DiggsWR2018233.9
Michael ThomasWR2018232.9
DeSean JacksonWR2018131.6
Adam ThielenWR2018231.1
Juju Smith-SchusterWR2018231.1
Melvin GordonRB2018230.6
A.J. GreenWR2018229.9
Travis KelceTE2018229.9
Emmanuel SandersWR2018129.5
Randall CobbWR2018129.2
Todd GurleyRB2018228.3
Julio JonesWR2018128
Christian McCaffreyRB2018227.9
Mike EvansWR2018127.7
Jared CookTE2018127
Kenny StillsWR2018126.6
Joe MixonRB2018125.9
Melvin GordonRB2018125.6
Rob GronkowskiTE2018125.3
Will FullerWR2018225.3

How does this fit within the context of overall weekly scoring, especially scoring at playoff time? This is an interesting question, because most of us hold a variety of competing theories that might hold partial answers to the question.

  • Intuition – Our brains tend to grab on to information that is recent, especially memorable, or emotionally relevant. Therefore we may think that RBs hold a big edge because of Todd Gurley’s monster 2017 performance where he scored 45 points in Week 15 and followed it up with 49.6 points in Week 16. That’s both recent and especially memorable as those scores account for two of the 10 highest scores of the past decade. If the 59-point game from Jamaal Charles in Week 15 of 2013 – the highest point total from this time period – was personally memorable to you, it might stick in your imagination and boost the importance of RBs.
  • Sim Scores – The top RBs had higher full-season ceilings for 2018 based on historically comparable players. This was one of the strongest reasons to go RB early in 2018 drafts and would suggest higher upside at the RB position.
  • Points Implied by ADP – Studies of the points you can get at various ADP levels consistently show that RBs are overvalued in drafts based on the points they actually return. This was one of the strongest reasons to select WRs early and would suggest more volume of top performances at the WR position.
  • InjuriesElite RBs suffer catastrophic injuries at a much higher rate than other positions. With fewer of the stars remaining by playoff time, this would argue in favor of the WRs.

How Does It Actually Play Out?

We can grab the top Week 14-16 performances for the last 10 years using the Screener.

Fantasy Playoffs 2008-2017 – 25-Point Games

Jamaal CharlesRB20131559.5
Brandon MarshallWR20091453
Le'Veon BellRB20161451.8
Jerome HarrisonRB20091549.8
Todd GurleyRB20171649.6
Le'Veon BellRB20141447.5
Antonio BrownWR20151546.9
Todd GurleyRB20171545
David JohnsonRB20151544.9
Adam ThielenWR20161644.6
Odell Beckham Jr.WR20141544.3
Maurice Jones-DrewRB20111443.6
Dez BryantWR20121643.4
Julio JonesWR20141442.9
Andre JohnsonWR20091442.6
Calvin JohnsonWR20111542.4
Darren McFaddenRB20101441.9
Antonio BryantWR20081441
Ray RiceRB20101540.3
Chris JohnsonRB20091439.6
Kareem HuntRB20171539.6
Le'Veon BellRB20171439.5
A.J. GreenWR20141439.4
Brian WestbrookRB20081438.3
DeAndre HopkinsWR20171437.9
C.J. SpillerRB20111537.9
DeMarco MurrayRB20141437.8
Andre JohnsonWR20081537.7
Brandin CooksWR20161537.6
Ty HiltonWR20141437
Doug BaldwinWR20161636.7
Emmanuel SandersWR20151536.5
Jordy NelsonWR20161636.4
Devonta FreemanRB20171536.4
Danny WoodheadRB20151536
Odell Beckham Jr.WR20151435.6
David JohnsonRB20161635.6
DeSean JacksonWR20131535.5
Roddy WhiteWR20111535.5
Devonta FreemanRB20161535.5
Dez BryantWR20141535.4
Roddy WhiteWR20121635.3
Eric DeckerWR20131635.1
LeSean McCoyRB20131435.1
Andre JohnsonWR20101435
Bilal PowellRB20161434.9
Odell Beckham Jr.WR20141634.8
Jordy NelsonWR20141434.6
Vincent JacksonWR20101534.2
Shane VereenRB20131434.2
LeSean McCoyRB20131634.2
DeAngelo WilliamsRB20081634.1
Rob GronkowskiTE20111434
Roddy WhiteWR20091633.9
Jordan ReedTE20151633.9
Pierre ThomasRB20081533.6
Calvin JohnsonWR20121633.5
Marques ColstonWR20131433.5
Greg JenningsWR20131533.3
DeAngelo WilliamsRB20151633.3
Rod SmithRB20171433
Travis KelceTE20161633
Julian EdelmanWR20131532.9
Julio JonesWR20151632.8
Reggie BushRB20121632.7
Visanthe ShiancoeTE20081632.6
Steve SmithWR20081532.4
Antonio BrownWR20171432.3
Dez BryantWR20131532.3
Dion LewisRB20171632.3
Doug BaldwinWR20151432.2
DeAngelo WilliamsRB20081432.2
Dallas ClarkTE20081532.2
Andre JohnsonWR20121532.1
Brandon MarshallWR20081432.1
Roddy WhiteWR20131632.1
Mark IngramRB20171532.1
Brandon MarshallWR20121432
Ray RiceRB20091431.9
Chris JohnsonRB20101431.9
LeSean McCoyRB20161531.9
Tim HightowerRB20151631.9
DeSean JacksonWR20101431.6
Keelan ColeWR20171531.6
Brandon MarshallWR20151631.5
Josh GordonWR20131431.5
Dennis PittaTE20121531.5
Pierre GarconWR20131631.4
Michael TurnerRB20101431.4
Joique BellRB20131631.4
Mario ManninghamWR20101531.3
Jamaal CharlesRB20091431.1
Adrian PetersonRB20121431
Maurice Jones-DrewRB20091531
Marques ColstonWR20081630.9
Odell Beckham Jr.WR20141430.9
Sterling ShepardWR20171530.9
Jared CookTE20111630.9
Jamaal WilliamsRB20171430.8
Marshawn LynchRB20121430.8
Allen HurnsWR20151630.6
Matt ForteRB20131430.5
Davante AdamsWR20171430.4
Jerome SimpsonWR20101630.4
Joique BellRB20141430.3
Ty MontgomeryRB20161530.3
Mike WallaceWR20121430.2
Jonathan StewartRB20091630.2
Steve SmithWR20091530.1
Amari CooperWR20151530
Jamaal CharlesRB20121630
Jason WittenTE20101530
Jordan MatthewsWR20151529.9
Calvin JohnsonWR20141429.8
DeSean JacksonWR20091429.8
Jamaal CharlesRB20131429.8
Giovani BernardRB20171629.8
Michael CrabtreeWR20121529.7
LeSean McCoyRB20111529.7
Lex HilliardRB20091629.6
Darrius Heyward-BeyWR20111529.5
Jordy NelsonWR20111629.5
Marques ColstonWR20111429.5
Aaron HernandezTE20111529.5
Deion BranchWR20101429.1
Brandon LloydWR20121529
James JonesWR20121529
Le'Veon BellRB20141528.9
Melvin GordonRB20171528.9
Luke WillsonTE20141628.9
Kellen WinslowTE20101628.8
A.J. GreenWR20131628.7
Austin CollieWR20101528.7
Da'Rick RogersWR20131428.7
Adrian PetersonRB20091428.7
Adrian PetersonRB20091628.7
Le'Veon BellRB20161628.7
Charles ClayTE20131428.7
Andre JohnsonWR20091528.6
Cameron MeredithWR20161628.5
Golden TateWR20151428.5
Julian EdelmanWR20141428.5
Jordan HowardRB20171428.5
Todd GurleyRB20171428.5
Charles ClayTE20161628.5
Dallas ClarkTE20091528.5
Andre JohnsonWR20131428.4
Brandin CooksWR20151528.4
Sammy WatkinsWR20161628.4
Tyler LockettWR20151428.4
Isaiah CrowellRB20151428.4
Ryan GrantRB20091428.4
Jonathan StewartRB20171428.3
Jeremy HillRB20141528.2
Brandon JacobsRB20081628.2
Antonio GatesTE20141628.2
Sammy WatkinsWR20151528.1
Devin AromashoduWR20091628
Larry FitzgeraldWR20171627.95
Larry FitzgeraldWR20111427.9
Reggie BushRB20111527.9
Jay AjayiRB20161627.9
Danario AlexanderWR20121427.8
Vincent JacksonWR20091527.8
Ezekiel ElliottRB20161527.8
C.J. AndersonRB20141627.8
Ray RiceRB20121627.8
Michael ThomasWR20171427.7
Shonn GreeneRB20111427.7
Todd GurleyRB20151427.7
Arian FosterRB20111527.7
Jamaal CharlesRB20101627.7
Brandon MarshallWR20101527.6
Brandon MarshallWR20111627.6
Larry FitzgeraldWR20131427.6
Eddie LacyRB20141427.6
Dominic RhodesRB20081527.6
Matt AsiataRB20131527.6
Dez BryantWR20161627.5
Le'Veon BellRB20171527.5
Jordan ReedTE20151527.4
DeSean JacksonWR20151527.3
Dwayne BoweWR20101627.3
Eric DeckerWR20121527.3
Pierre GarconWR20101427.3
Theo RiddickRB20171427.3
Dallas ClarkTE20091427.3
Julio JonesWR20121527.2
Bilal PowellRB20161527.2
Adrian PetersonRB20121527.2
Allen RobinsonWR20151627.1
Santana MossWR20101527.1
Eddie LacyRB20131527.1
Maurice MorrisRB20091527.1
Jordan CameronTE20131427.1
Emmanuel SandersWR20161427
Kendall WrightWR20131527
Carlos HydeRB20161427
Marshawn LynchRB20121627
Jordan ReedTE20151427
DeSean JacksonWR20091526.9
Miles AustinWR20091526.9
Percy HarvinWR20111426.9
Ray RiceRB20111426.9
Chris JohnsonRB20091626.9
Matt ForteRB20101626.9
Julio JonesWR20151526.8
Julio JonesWR20111626.8
Kamar AikenWR20151526.8
Wes WelkerWR20091626.8
Tim HightowerRB20101426.8
David JohnsonRB20161526.8
Roddy WhiteWR20121426.7
Steve SmithWR20081426.7
Knowshon MorenoRB20121426.7
Kevin WalterWR20081426.6
Chris JohnsonRB20081426.6
Brent CelekTE20111526.6
Greg OlsenTE20171526.6
Randy MossWR20091626.5
Ted GinnWR20151426.5
Ted GinnWR20151526.5
Ty HiltonWR20161426.5
Wes WelkerWR20111626.5
Zach ErtzTE20141626.5
Roddy WhiteWR20081426.4
Arian FosterRB20111626.4
Martellus BennettTE20141426.4
Charles JohnsonWR20141426.3
Demaryius ThomasWR20131626.3
Jordy NelsonWR20141626.3
James StarksRB20151426.3
Jonathan StewartRB20091526.3
C.J. AndersonRB20171626.3
Mike WilliamsWR20121626.2
Michael TurnerRB20081526.2
Antonio BrownWR20111426.1
Lance MooreWR20111526.1
Victor CruzWR20121426.1
DeMarco MurrayRB20131626.1
Darren SprolesRB20091626.1
Calvin JohnsonWR20081526
Odell Beckham Jr.WR20161626
Rod StreaterWR20131426
Tyler LockettWR20161526
Lamar MillerRB20141626
Jabar GaffneyWR20091625.9
Pierre GarconWR20131525.9
Vincent JacksonWR20141425.9
Reggie BushRB20091425.9
Kahlil BellRB20111625.9
Jason WittenTE20101425.9
Derrick MasonWR20101425.8
Doug BaldwinWR20151625.8
Vincent JacksonWR20081425.8
DeAngelo WilliamsRB20131525.8
Rob GronkowskiTE20171525.8
Antonio GatesTE20111425.8
Aaron HernandezTE20121425.8
Cordarrelle PattersonWR20131425.7
Eric DeckerWR20131425.7
Wes WelkerWR20121625.7
Frank GoreRB20091425.7
Antonio BrownWR20161625.6
Jeremy MaclinWR20121625.6
Christian McCaffreyRB20171525.6
LeSean McCoyRB20171525.6
Steve JohnsonWR20121525.5
Eddie RoyalWR20141625.4
Jeremy MaclinWR20121425.4
Julio JonesWR20111425.4
Victor CruzWR20111625.4
Wes WelkerWR20081425.4
Danny WoodheadRB20121525.4
Jamaal CharlesRB20131625.4
Marques ColstonWR20121625.3
DeMarco MurrayRB20131525.3
Rashad JenningsRB20131525.3
A.J. GreenWR20151425.2
Calvin JohnsonWR20101525.2
Demaryius ThomasWR20121625.2
Johnny KnoxWR20101625.2
Rueben RandleWR20141625.2
Frank GoreRB20091625.2
Zach ErtzTE20151625.2
Aaron HernandezTE20121525.2
Vincent JacksonWR20121425.1
Jamaal CharlesRB20141425.1
LeSean McCoyRB20161625.1
Brandon LaFellWR20161625
Emmanuel SandersWR20141625
Nate WashingtonWR20111425
Jamaal CharlesRB20091525
Donald BrownRB20131625

The advantage at the very top goes to the RBs, and the presence of Gurley, Le’Veon Bell, and David Johnson helps to explain why the Big 3 went early in 2018 drafts despite serious questions for Bell and Johnson. When we zoom out slightly, the picture balances.

25+ 30+ 35+ 40+ 50+
RB 114 48 21 10 2
WR 151 56 24 9 1
TE 29 13 0 0 0

Receivers hold a substantial advantage in games with 25 or more points, and they hold their own at the top levels with almost as many 40-plus games.

This is only one part of a much larger equation, but it’s interesting as it relates to an important question for fantasy owners: How do I roster those championship-winning games? We’ll continue to look at this in the future, and I encourage you to check out Blair Andrews’ series on how to exploit ADP. It continues to have relevance as you consider in-season roster management and construction.

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