Leveraging the NFL’s most volatile wide receivers for fantasy football upside

by Matthew M. Stevens ·

Unlocking the potential of weekly player volatility in fantasy football gives gamers a competitive edge. Using matchup, volume and usage data combined with advanced stats, metrics, and analytics to pinpoint the best matchups will yield the best ROI from volatile players. A key metric on PlayerProfiler.com, Weekly Volatility measures a player’s week-to-week fantasy point scoring oscillation. Throughout the season, this article will track fantasy football’s most volatile players and provide insight on how to deploy them. The focus will be on those highly volatile players who make ideal buy-low and sell-high targets, and those whose low ownership percentages make them speculative waiver wire and free-agent adds.

Adam Thielen can’t sustain current pace

Adam Thielen faces an uphill battle to maintain his current pace of production. Through three weeks he’s thrived off unsustainable efficiency and touchdowns. When you factor in Thielen’s average Weekly Volatility mark (8.97) over the past three seasons it becomes clear he’s a screaming sell-high in redraft leagues.

The Vikings rank dead last in pass attempts per game (21.7) and No. 3 in rush attempts per game (34.3). Thielen’s 16 targets so far won’t cut it. After Week 3 of 2018, Thielen had 32 targets. He eclipsed 100 receiving yards in each of his first eight games but failed to post more than 75 receiving yards in a game this season. With Dalvin Cook leading the league with 375 rush yards the Vikings want to lean on the run game and continue to let Kirk Cousins play the role of a game manager. You like that!? Not if you rostered Thielen.


In previous seasons, Thielen relied on volume to distill out volatility. But that volume appears to have dried up, and that coupled with his extreme efficiency to start the season signals a looming downturn in production. His 18.2-percent TD rate (three scores on 16 targets/11 receptions) sounds the regression alarm, and he’s caught every passed deemed catchable thrown his way, evidenced by his 100-percent True Catch Rate. Thielen’s accounted for 50.6-percent of the Vikings’ receiving yards and TDs.

Teammate Stefon Diggs also figures to cut into Thielen’s workload. Diggs finished inside the top-20 at WR in PPR scoring each of the past two seasons and recorded his first 1,000-yard season in 2018. His target share (26-percent, No. 11) mirrored Thielen’s (26.2-percent, No. 10) almost exactly. Unlike Thielen, Diggs (12 targets, six receptions, 101 yards, one TD) looks ripe for positive regression. In redraft leagues, sell high on Thielen and buy low on Diggs.

Mike Williams & Robert Woods find themselves in boom territory

Mike Williams truthers rejoice, he looks primed for a fantasy outburst. He played 100-percent of the snaps in Week 3 and doubled the number of routes he ran from Week 1 (21-42). The Chargers rank No. 7 in pass plays per game and Williams is averaging a healthy 19.6 YPR, among the best in the league (No. 11). The quality targets he’s seeing from Philip Rivers reflect a 93.3-percent catchable target rate. His production just hasn’t caught up yet, which will change this week.

All the factors outlined above signal a breakout game looming for Williams. The upcoming matchup against the hapless Dolphins amplified that to another dimension. According to Football Outsiders, the 2019 Miami Dolphins possess the worst total DVOA after three games from 1986-2019. Miami gives up the fourth-most fantasy points per game to opposing receivers (31.5).

Check out Robert Woods & Mike Williams on PlayerProfiler’s Weekly Rankings & Projections:

2018 marked the fist season Williams saw a significant number of targets (66), and he recorded a Weekly Volatility of 9.0, which ranked No. 12. Williams had five games with 13 or more fantasy points and eight games with fewer than 10 fantasy points. Boom or bust is his modus operandi, and a boom week is on tap. He draws Xavien Howard as his primary CB matchup. Howard allows an 80-percent catch rate and his -29.7 Coverage Rating ranks No. 68.

Robert Woods finds himself in bounce-back territory. After a Week 1 game in which he led the Rams with 13 targets, he produced two down games. He’s seen one more target than Brandin Cooks (23-22), racked up 50 more YAC than Cooks and averages an almost identical YPR to Cooper Kupp (11.7 for Cupp, 11.0 for Woods). Kupp’s inflated target share – he leads the team with a 29.8-percent mark – figures to even out to the benefit of Woods. He also hasn’t caught a TD yet, causing gamers to panic.

At first glance, his matchup against the Bucs looks difficult. Tampa Bay held opposing WRs to an average of 21.4 fantasy points per game, the thrid-fewest in the league according to FantasyPros. But their competition underwhelms. The Bucs faced the 49ers, Panthers with an injured Cam Newton and the Giants. Woods should see the most of Carlton Davis, ranked No. 4 among CBs with a +76.5 Coverage Rating. However, he matched up against Marquise Goodwin aginst the Niners and avoided Sterling Shepard against the Giants. It’s an inflated rating, especially when you consider he finished 2018 ranked No. 63 in that department (+0.8). Don’t let the matchup push you off Woods.

Can Kyler Murray conquer the deep ball and unleash Damiere Byrd?

Damiere Byrd played every offensive snap for Arizona this season and ranks No. 5 in total snaps, per FantasyPros. He benefits from the most pass-heavy offense in the NFL: The Cardinals average 51 attempts per game. He’s run 121 routes but received just 15 targets. A true boom-or-bust burner archetype, Byrd’s 4.32 40-yard dash time ranks in the 99th-percentile. Furthermore, he’s an athletic freak with Burst and Agility Scores in the 98th-percentile. The undrafted second-year pro from South Carolina averaged a robust 16.4 college YPR. He possesses the necessary tools to become a legit NFL deep threat.

Damiere Byrd Advanced Stats & Metrics Profile

A key component in Byrd’s breakout potential is QB Kyler Murray.  Murray’s 19 deep ball attempts (No. 6), and his completion percentage on those passes ranks No. 10 (47.4). With Byrd’s weaponized speed and Murray’s willingness to go deep, Byrd saw only one of those deep ball attempts. Byrd is nursing a hamstring injury and looks doubtful for Week 4, making him even easier to acquire if he’s not a free agent. He’s a slow play, so practice patience.