It took six long years, but finally Reggie Bush has earned the title he seemed destined to one day claim when he was selected second overall in the 2006 NFL draft: Championship-caliber fantasy football starter.
HOW CONSISTENCY RATINGS WORK
Using both the past 34 weeks -- Week 16 of 2009 through Week 15 of 2011 -- of data, as well as 2011 alone, and fantasy points determined by ESPN's standard scoring, the charts contained in this column rate players based upon how consistently reliable they are. To familiarize you with some of the terminology:
Start: The number of times that the player's point total in a given week was worthy of having had him active in an ESPN standard league.
Stud: The number of times the player's point total ranked among the top at his position.
Stiff: The number of times the player's point total ranked among the worst at his position, making almost any waiver-wire option a smarter choice.
These are the benchmarks for what constitutes a "Start," "Stud" or "Stiff" performance:
Sat: The number of times the player missed a game. Players are not charged "Stiff" points for sitting out, but it hurts their overall Consistency Rating.
%: The player's overall Consistency Rating, calculated as number of "Start" performances divided by scheduled team games.
Stack: A formula designed to weigh how much of the player's 2011/past-34-weeks fantasy point total was driven by matchups, this compares his weekly point totals to the average weekly amount his opponent typically allows to a player at his position (RBs and WRs are weighted differently). Higher scores mean the player succeeded beyond the strength of his matchups; lower (or negative) scores mean the player might have been a matchups product.
VBD (or Value Based Draft score): This compares the player's season fantasy point total to that of a replacement-level player at his position, to demonstrate relative value across different positions. My methodology for "replacement level": No. 15 QB, No. 35 RB, No. 35 WR, No. 15 TE, No. 15 K, No. 15 D/ST.
His raw numbers alone -- 1,243 yards from scrimmage and seven touchdowns, which rank 14th and 31st, respectively, in the NFL -- might not support the argument, but one thing is clear: They do put him on pace for career bests in both categories, surpassing his 1,307 yards of 2006 and eight scores of both 2006 and 2009.
Bush's fantasy numbers the past eight weeks of the season, coinciding with both Daniel Thomas' last game missed due to injury and Steve Slaton's one and only game as the Miami Dolphins' goal-line back (in Week 8), certainly exhibit a stud back. In eight games since that date, Bush has averaged 15.0 fantasy points per contest, ranking sixth among running backs in total fantasy points (120).
Most importantly, from a consistency angle, Bush has been nothing short of outstanding since that week, coinciding with the most critical weeks of our fantasy seasons. Yes, this dabbles in the follies of small samples -- though eight weeks is still a healthy, and telling, time frame in fantasy football -- but Bush is one of five players to have managed a perfect (100 percent) Consistency Rating since Week 8, and one of only three who is a perfect 8-for-8 during that span (the others are 7-for-7).
Bush also has a 40 VBD (Value Based Drafting score), seventh-best in the league, demonstrating his impact in fantasy football across all positions, and a 47.7 Stack score during that span, 17th in the league, which demonstrates that he's hardly a matchups product. Go ahead and write off those Buffalo Bills (Weeks 11 and 15), Kansas City Chiefs (Week 9) and Oakland Raiders (Week 13) matchups if you wish -- he totaled 72 of his 120 points in those four games -- but in his other games, he still performed like a surefire weekly starter.
That's a plus, because Bush's final two matchups, during the championship matchups of ESPN standard leagues, come against the New England Patriots and New York Jets. Those defenses have allowed the 15th- and 10th-most fantasy points to opposing running backs, meaning that, while you should temper your expectations from Bush in those games, double-digit points are still possible.
If nothing else, be aware of this: Bush has averaged 5.5 yards per carry in his past eight games. At no other point in his career has he managed that high an average during an eight-game stretch of at least 30 carries.
Speaking of those past eight weeks, Bush isn't the only player who has been surprisingly consistent. Here are three other players whose performances since Week 8 should earn them firm places in your lineup:
Laurent Robinson: He has been a fantasy Start in seven of eight games (87.5 percent Consistency Rating) and a Stud four times, and he has 27 points combined in two games since Miles Austin's return to the lineup. Austin's presence pushes Robinson to third on the Dallas Cowboys' wide receiver depth chart, but there's apparently still enough targets to go around to keep Robinson as a useful lower-tier option.
Antonio Brown: Would you believe that, in the past eight weeks, Brown has warranted a fantasy Start twice as often as fellow Pittsburgh Steelers wideout Mike Wallace (6-3)? It's true, as Brown's 85.7 percent ranks him among the most reliable in the game, while Wallace's number sits at 42.9. That's not to say Brown is clearly a better starter than Wallace -- remember that Wallace possesses similar home run skills -- but it's certainly debatable.
Matt Ryan: Only two quarterbacks, Tom Brady (8) and Aaron Rodgers (7), have warranted a fantasy Start more often than Ryan (6), and Rodgers (6) is the only one who has been a Stud more often (5). Ryan's fantasy numbers have peaked at the perfect time for our purposes, and they coincide with the decline in performance by running back Michael Turner in recent weeks.
Consistency Ratings charts
Each position has two charts below: One for 2011 statistics alone, and one for the past 34 NFL weeks (Week 16 of 2009 through Week 15 of 2011). All categories are sortable both ascending and descending; just click on the headers to sort.