With the trade deadline past and the waiver wire stripped barren, Apex owners that are battling for a playoff spot could be left feeling hopeless with a roster full of middling players. Rather than rolling out a lineup full of average players that’s unlikely to fall a league Goliath, owners that are decided underdogs should plug in players that are more volatile, which in turn gives the entire roster greater upside.

Targeting Player Upside

Two of my 4for4.com colleagues, John Paulsen and Chris Raybon, have done extensive work on player consistency and volatility using the Coefficient of Variation (CV). John gives a detailed explanation of CV here. The formula for calculating CV is:

CV = Standard Deviation / PPG


The ratio of standard deviation in weekly points scored to fantasy points per game tells us how consistent a player is. If you’re getting a glazed over look with all this math talk, all you need to know is that a lower CV means a player is more consistent, and a higher CV means a player is more volatile, and in turn has more upside.

Once we have the CV for each player, we can calculate approximate ceilings with this formula:

FP Ceiling = AVG PPG + (CV*AVG PPG)


This allows us to compare players with similar season long production and decide which player provides us with the highest upside.

I’ve done all the standard deviation and CV calculations through Week 11. Here’s a positional breakdown of player volatility:


PlayerPPG AVGStdDevCVCeiling
Andrew Luck26.24.717.85%30.9
Peyton Manning24.35.120.84%29.4
Aaron Rodgers23.98.435.13%32.3
Russell Wilson21.28.942.13%30.1
Ben Roethlisberger19.911.256.54%31.1
Drew Brees19.73.115.59%22.7
Jay Cutler19.65.427.32%25.0
Tom Brady19.59.347.85%28.9
Philip Rivers18.47.942.95%26.3
Ryan Tannehill18.15.530.25%23.6
Carson Palmer17.94.927.41%22.8
Matt Ryan17.96.033.59%23.9
Tony Romo17.64.928.04%22.6
Colin Kaepernick17.45.028.94%22.4
Cam Newton17.17.342.56%24.4
Eli Manning16.88.047.75%24.9
Kyle Orton16.76.035.65%22.7
Matthew Stafford16.77.544.84%24.1
Kirk Cousins16.68.651.85%25.2
Nick Foles16.56.942.02%23.5
Joe Flacco16.47.847.44%24.2
Mike Glennon15.94.024.91%19.9
Josh McCown15.78.353.05%24.0
Andy Dalton15.37.045.90%22.3
Ryan Fitzpatrick14.95.033.38%19.8
Blake Bortles14.44.329.95%18.7
Alex Smith14.35.236.48%19.5
Brian Hoyer13.94.733.62%18.6
Austin Davis13.37.455.57%20.7
Derek Carr13.26.448.54%19.5
Teddy Bridgewater12.35.847.09%18.0
Geno Smith11.38.171.56%19.5

Running Backs

PlayerPPG AVGStdDevCVCeiling
Arian Foster23.69.138.54%32.7
Matt Forte23.59.841.72%33.3
DeMarco Murray22.44.419.39%26.8
Le'Veon Bell20.46.531.83%26.9
Marshawn Lynch20.211.456.58%31.6
Jamaal Charles18.210.457.07%28.6
Mark Ingram17.96.536.42%24.5
Andre Ellington16.76.639.62%23.3
Giovani Bernard16.48.753.09%25.0
Ahmad Bradshaw15.76.440.99%22.1
Justin Forsett15.55.233.21%20.7
Eddie Lacy15.59.460.95%24.9
Jonas Gray14.320.0140.42%34.3
Rashad Jennings13.96.647.64%20.5
Ronnie Hillman13.69.972.47%23.5
Lamar Miller13.45.540.92%18.8
Fred Jackson13.26.650.06%19.9
Pierre Thomas13.09.976.75%22.9
Alfred Morris12.77.256.67%19.8
Darren Sproles12.48.165.37%20.5
Branden Oliver12.411.089.24%23.4
Shane Vereen12.27.863.94%20.1
Matt Asiata11.711.094.01%22.7
LeSean McCoy11.76.252.67%17.8
Jeremy Hill11.78.371.54%20.0
Joique Bell11.34.842.12%16.0
Chris Ivory10.76.863.30%17.5
Trent Richardson10.35.048.65%15.3
Bobby Rainey10.16.261.31%16.3
Frank Gore10.07.373.32%17.3
Darren McFadden9.84.444.96%14.1
Reggie Bush9.76.263.64%15.9
Roy Helu9.73.839.12%13.4
Denard Robinson9.47.377.98%16.7
Tre Mason9.44.144.23%13.5
Knile Davis9.49.6102.11%18.9
Jonathan Stewart9.33.941.89%13.2
Steven Jackson9.35.558.89%14.7
C.J. Spiller9.25.155.73%14.4
Benny Cunningham9.14.650.45%13.6
Ben Tate9.06.673.48%15.7
Stevan Ridley8.76.473.76%15.1
Jerick McKinnon8.55.260.82%13.7
Terrance West8.46.273.26%14.6
Khiry Robinson8.35.768.92%14.0
Antone Smith7.96.886.93%14.7
Chris Johnson7.66.281.82%13.7
Isaiah Crowell7.35.372.21%12.6
Zac Stacy7.35.981.04%13.2
Bishop Sankey7.34.460.35%11.6
Theo Riddick7.28.8122.66%15.9
Andre Williams7.25.576.56%12.6
C.J. Anderson6.89.6140.70%16.4
Lorenzo Taliaferro6.57.3112.85%13.9
Travaris Cadet6.24.369.03%10.5
Toby Gerhart5.73.764.24%9.4
Alfred Blue5.74.985.69%10.5
Devonta Freeman5.63.562.87%9.1
Carlos Hyde5.23.464.93%8.6
LeGarrette Blount4.35.1118.84%9.4
Jacquizz Rodgers4.22.969.09%7.2
Robert Turbin4.23.686.69%7.8
James Starks4.13.891.75%7.9
Dexter McCluster4.03.791.65%7.7

Wide Receivers

PlayerPPG AVGStdDevCVCeiling
Antonio Brown23.97.832.59%31.7
Demaryius Thomas22.111.050.06%33.1
Jordy Nelson21.410.348.07%31.7
Emmanuel Sanders20.78.942.99%29.6
Jeremy Maclin20.312.461.26%32.8
Randall Cobb19.47.036.07%26.4
Mike Evans18.611.260.29%29.8
Dez Bryant18.38.546.51%26.9
Golden Tate18.28.546.90%26.8
Julio Jones17.58.347.24%25.8
T.Y. Hilton17.49.252.81%26.5
Odell Beckham16.36.640.39%22.9
Kelvin Benjamin16.07.848.89%23.8
Alshon Jeffery15.87.748.42%23.5
Brandon Marshall15.59.561.71%25.0
Calvin Johnson14.911.879.48%26.7
Roddy White14.87.047.19%21.8
A.J. Green14.79.564.45%24.2
Mohamed Sanu14.77.853.15%22.5
Julian Edelman14.68.256.35%22.8
DeSean Jackson14.69.061.61%23.5
DeAndre Hopkins14.55.739.26%20.2
Steve Smith14.59.363.94%23.7
Anquan Boldin14.36.041.84%20.3
Sammy Watkins14.010.574.59%24.5
Brandin Cooks13.97.755.42%21.7
Mike Wallace13.64.532.70%18.1
Jordan Matthews13.69.972.82%23.5
Reggie Wayne13.26.549.60%19.7
Andrew Hawkins13.17.657.72%20.7
Brandon LaFell12.710.885.34%23.5
Eric Decker12.45.846.68%18.3
Larry Fitzgerald12.38.669.94%20.9
Andre Johnson12.25.040.92%17.2
Michael Crabtree11.87.261.01%19.0
Kendall Wright11.87.261.35%19.0
Allen Robinson11.75.244.16%16.8
James Jones11.66.153.04%17.7
Percy Harvin11.56.758.58%18.2
Keenan Allen11.56.859.25%18.3
Rueben Randle11.44.841.66%16.2
Malcom Floyd11.35.548.28%16.8
Vincent Jackson11.15.549.43%16.6
John Brown11.07.567.91%18.5
Torrey Smith10.87.469.21%18.2
Allen Hurns10.810.295.03%21.0
Pierre Garcon10.79.588.50%20.2
Terrance Williams10.67.369.15%17.9
Doug Baldwin10.56.360.22%16.7
Dwayne Bowe10.24.442.66%14.6
Jarvis Landry10.05.858.13%15.7
Eddie Royal10.08.786.94%18.6
Kenny Stills9.65.557.68%15.1
Michael Floyd9.67.578.05%17.0
Greg Jennings9.45.659.33%15.0
Andre Holmes9.39.399.58%18.5
Marques Colston9.34.751.28%14.0
Stevie Johnson9.15.863.55%14.8
Taylor Gabriel8.95.460.45%14.3
Kenny Britt8.86.877.05%15.7
Miles Austin8.84.651.93%13.3
Markus Wheaton8.65.665.84%14.2
Robert Woods8.56.576.14%15.0
Cordarrelle Patterson8.56.273.86%14.7

Tight Ends

PlayerPPG AVGStdDevCVCeiling
Rob Gronkowski18.09.955.02%28.0
Jimmy Graham16.210.866.52%27.0
Julius Thomas15.510.668.45%26.0
Martellus Bennett14.47.249.79%21.6
Greg Olsen14.47.451.44%21.7
Antonio Gates14.010.071.83%24.0
Delanie Walker12.68.063.60%20.6
Larry Donnell12.18.671.32%20.7
Travis Kelce10.85.753.46%16.5
Dwayne Allen10.56.258.75%16.7
Jason Witten10.04.343.34%14.3
Owen Daniels9.86.162.36%15.8
Coby Fleener9.76.769.39%16.4
Heath Miller9.57.983.36%17.4
Mychal Rivera8.77.890.45%16.5
Charles Clay8.65.260.53%13.7
Jared Cook8.54.755.59%13.2
Zach Ertz8.45.059.89%13.4
Clay Harbor8.36.376.05%14.6
Niles Paul8.36.781.08%15.0
Jermaine Gresham7.94.962.05%12.8
Jordan Reed7.86.177.88%13.9
Jace Amaro7.56.586.51%14.0
Chase Ford6.86.392.67%13.1
Austin Seferian-Jenkins6.34.876.29%11.1
Scott Chandler6.35.181.90%11.4
Lance Kendricks6.24.166.20%10.3
Tim Wright6.07.5124.62%13.5
Vernon Davis6.06.1101.43%12.1
Andrew Quarless5.54.377.77%9.8
Anthony Fasano5.54.480.91%9.9
John Carlson5.42.037.15%7.5

Putting CV into Action

The most effective way to use this information is to group players together by PPG average and compare player CV. The player’s with the higher CV will have the higher upside, as illustrated by their calculated ceiling.

Let’s assume that we need to win out to make the playoffs and are facing the first place team in our league this week. We’re trying to decide between Torrey Smith and Allen Hurns as our WR3, two wide receivers that average 10.8 PPR FP per game and have similar Week 12 projections. The numbers suggest that as the underdog, we should embrace Hurns’ volatile week-to-week play because we need a high ceiling play to keep up with the league juggernaut.

For an even more dynamic use of CV, owners can look to their favorite weekly projections and compare the CV of players with close projections. In order to calculate a weekly ceiling simply substitute the weekly projection for AVG PPG in the CV formula:

Weekly Ceiling = Projected FP + (CV*Projected FP)

This even works across positions, such as when we are deciding between a running back or wide receiver for our flex spot. As mentioned in the intro, fantasy owners that are clear underdogs should embrace the highly volatile play, while favorites can usually stick to their steady top tier talent.