Quality Starts - Wide Receivers
By Jeff Pasquino
July 20th, 2011

There are some fantasy football players that believe that the lineup you pick can lose you a game just as much as it can win a contest. Having a player give you a consistent performance week after week can be considered more valuable than a player who goes off every third week and then takes two weeks off between those fantastic performances. Consistency has a value, and it does not take much of a leap to understand that players that you can rely on for solid games when you need them (such as in your postseason) are a huge advantage.

Baseball has a term called "Quality Starts" for pitchers, which is a statistic that represents how often a starting pitcher will put up a good (not great, just good) performance in a given game. The bar is set neither high nor low (six innings pitched, three earned runs or fewer) so as to gauge a decent performance. The theory behind it is that if your pitcher gives you a Quality Start, your team has a fighting chance to win a given game.

So now we need to translate this to football. What is "quality" for each position? How do we define a "Quality Start" for quarterbacks or running backs or any other position? Looking back at the 2010 season, I decided to take the #24 WR for the year (Braylon Edwards, 136.8 fantasy points) and take that fantasy total and divide it by 16 for a per game average. Now a case can be made to argue against doing this. I did not account for missed games or a per-start performance metric, but I believe that the numbers will get averaged out by doing this method. Also, taking WR24 seems a bit arbitrary, but if you are looking for a bare minimum of quality, the 24th WR should be the "worst starter" in your fantasy league as a WR2 and a great WR3.

So now we move on to the next question - one of quantifying the quality. At what point do we decide whether or not a wide receiver has given us a quality performance? Here is where it gets a bit murky, but looking at the distribution of WR performances by starters over the season and it becomes evident that the using the 24th WR average and adding or subtracting a percentage gives us a good range for a WR Quality Start.

Using the WR Quality Start range, we can also define a bad performance or an excellent performance as either falling below or exceeding the Quality Start range. Table 1 gives us the fantasy points that it takes to fall in each of the three areas:

WR Start Type
Fantasy Points
Bad Start
0 to 6.4
Quality Start
6.5 to 10.6
Excellent Start
10.7+

Table 1: 2010 WR Quality Start and Fantasy Point Ranges - Standard Scoring

Table 2 shows us the breakdown of all the Top 75 WRs from 2010 and how many of each type of start resulted for each:

Wide Receiver
Type Of Start
Excellent
Quality
Bad
Total
Brandon Lloyd - DEN
11
1
4
16
Dwayne Bowe - KCC
8
2
6
16
Roddy White - ATL
9
5
2
16
Greg Jennings - GBP
8
5
3
16
Calvin Johnson - DET
10
0
5
15
Mike Wallace - PIT
9
2
5
16
DeSean Jackson - PHI
7
1
6
14
Hakeem Nicks - NYG
7
4
2
13
Andre Johnson - HOU
8
2
3
13
Reggie Wayne - IND
6
6
4
16
Steve Johnson - BUF
6
4
6
16
Percy Harvin - MIN
8
3
3
14
Miles Austin - DAL
8
1
7
16
Jeremy Maclin - PHI
7
5
4
16
Mike Williams - TBB
8
4
4
16
Terrell Owens - CIN
7
0
7
14
Larry Fitzgerald - ARI
6
7
3
16
Mario Manningham - NYG
7
3
6
16
Santana Moss - WAS
6
4
6
16
Marques Colston - NOS
5
5
5
15
Danny Amendola - STL
5
7
4
16
Mike Thomas - JAC
5
4
7
16
Jacoby Ford - OAK
5
1
10
16
Braylon Edwards - NYJ
6
5
5
16
Johnny Knox - CHI
6
4
6
16
Kenny Britt - TEN
5
3
4
12
Devin Hester - CHI
7
0
9
16
Lance Moore - NOS
4
4
8
16
Wes Welker - NEP
5
4
6
15
Anquan Boldin - BAL
6
1
9
16
Davone Bess - MIA
4
6
6
16
Derrick Mason - BAL
5
3
8
16
Dez Bryant - DAL
4
3
5
12
Brandon Marshall - MIA
3
4
7
14
Pierre Garcon - IND
4
4
6
14
Deion Branch - NEP
4
3
8
15
Michael Crabtree - SFO
6
0
10
16
Santonio Holmes - NYJ
4
4
4
12
Anthony Armstrong - WAS
3
5
7
15
Austin Collie - IND
4
2
3
9
Chad Ochocinco - CIN
3
3
8
14
Malcom Floyd - SDC
4
2
5
11
Hines Ward - PIT
5
2
9
16
Nate Washington - TEN
3
4
9
16
Brad Smith - NYJ
1
5
10
16
Nate Burleson - DET
5
1
8
14
Brandon Tate - NEP
4
2
10
16
Jabar Gaffney - DEN
2
4
10
16
Eddie Royal - DEN
3
3
10
16
Jacoby Jones - HOU
3
3
9
15
Mike Sims-Walker - JAC
3
3
8
14
Robert Meachem - NOS
4
2
10
16
James Jones - GBP
4
3
9
16
Steve Breaston - ARI
4
2
7
13
Kevin Walter - HOU
3
2
11
16
Mike Williams - SEA
4
2
8
14
Ben Obomanu - SEA
2
3
10
15
Lee Evans - BUF
2
2
9
13
Josh Morgan - SFO
1
4
11
16
Roy Williams - DAL
3
0
12
15
Donald Driver - GBP
2
3
10
15
Micheal Spurlock - TBB
2
2
12
16
Brandon Gibson - STL
1
5
8
14
Jordan Shipley - CIN
1
3
11
15
Louis Murphy - OAK
3
1
10
14
Earl Bennett - CHI
2
2
10
14
Jordy Nelson - GBP
2
1
13
16
Emmanuel Sanders - PIT
1
3
9
13
David Gettis - CAR
2
1
12
15
Blair White - IND
1
3
9
13
Ted Ginn - SFO
2
2
9
13
Brian Hartline - MIA
0
7
5
12
Randy Moss - TEN
3
1
12
16
Eric Weems - ATL
1
2
13
16
Steve Smith - NYG
2
3
4
9
 Totals
334
222
553

Table 2: 2010 WR Start Types Sorted By Top 75 WRs - Standard Scoring

That's a lot of info to digest, so let me help. First, we see that there are far more Excellent Starts (334) than Quality Starts (222), which is comparable to last year's numbers of 328-263, 2008's 316-232 and 2007's 340-240. The disparity does start to rise since there is no PPR in the equation now - touchdowns for six big points are a much larger factor. The scoring range is also smaller and the range of a Quality Start is small due to lower scores, so more touchdowns would lead to bigger "Excellent Starts". There are a lot of Bad Starts (553), but we are only looking for the best here, plus a "start" is not as definitive for a positional player that may just see partial playing time. The net results look like a good trend, which means that our distribution is close to normal and that our baseline point range does make sense.

Now, to dig deeper, let's look at the numbers distributed in two different ways. First, I need to define a valuable starting wide receiver in this system. We want a WR that will win more fantasy games than lose them, so we want either "Quality" or "Excellent" starts. Using a simple formula of scoring each type of start, we can define the value of a given NFL wide receiver. Here is the formula:

Starting Fantasy WR Value = Excellent Starts - Bad Starts

We neglect to look at Quality Starts because they neither win games nor lose them on average - they are just average WR performances. We only really care about how often he helps our team vs. how often he hurts it. Giving a "-1" value to bad starts and "+1" to excellent ones does this for us.

On with the results, sorted by value:

Wide Receiver
Type Of Start
Net Value
Excellent
Quality
Bad
Total
Brandon Lloyd - DEN
11
1
4
16
7
Roddy White - ATL
9
5
2
16
7
Greg Jennings - GBP
8
5
3
16
5
Calvin Johnson - DET
10
0
5
15
5
Hakeem Nicks - NYG
7
4
2
13
5
Andre Johnson - HOU
8
2
3
13
5
Percy Harvin - MIN
8
3
3
14
5
Mike Wallace - PIT
9
2
5
16
4
Mike Williams - TBB
8
4
4
16
4
Jeremy Maclin - PHI
7
5
4
16
3
Larry Fitzgerald - ARI
6
7
3
16
3
Dwayne Bowe - KCC
8
2
6
16
2
Reggie Wayne - IND
6
6
4
16
2
DeSean Jackson - PHI
7
1
6
14
1
Miles Austin - DAL
8
1
7
16
1
Mario Manningham - NYG
7
3
6
16
1
Danny Amendola - STL
5
7
4
16
1
Braylon Edwards - NYJ
6
5
5
16
1
Kenny Britt - TEN
5
3
4
12
1
Austin Collie - IND
4
2
3
9
1
Steve Johnson - BUF
6
4
6
16
0
Terrell Owens - CIN
7
0
7
14
0
Santana Moss - WAS
6
4
6
16
0
Marques Colston - NOS
5
5
5
15
0
Johnny Knox - CHI
6
4
6
16
0
Santonio Holmes - NYJ
4
4
4
12
0
Wes Welker - NEP
5
4
6
15
-1
Dez Bryant - DAL
4
3
5
12
-1
Malcom Floyd - SDC
4
2
5
11
-1
Mike Thomas - JAC
5
4
7
16
-2
Devin Hester - CHI
7
0
9
16
-2
Davone Bess - MIA
4
6
6
16
-2
Pierre Garcon - IND
4
4
6
14
-2
Steve Smith - NYG
2
3
4
9
-2
Anquan Boldin - BAL
6
1
9
16
-3
Derrick Mason - BAL
5
3
8
16
-3
Nate Burleson - DET
5
1
8
14
-3
Steve Breaston - ARI
4
2
7
13
-3
Lance Moore - NOS
4
4
8
16
-4
Brandon Marshall - MIA
3
4
7
14
-4
Deion Branch - NEP
4
3
8
15
-4
Michael Crabtree - SFO
6
0
10
16
-4
Anthony Armstrong - WAS
3
5
7
15
-4
Hines Ward - PIT
5
2
9
16
-4
Mike Williams - SEA
4
2
8
14
-4
Jacoby Ford - OAK
5
1
10
16
-5
Chad Ochocinco - CIN
3
3
8
14
-5
Mike Sims-Walker - JAC
3
3
8
14
-5
James Jones - GBP
4
3
9
16
-5
Brian Hartline - MIA
0
7
5
12
-5
Nate Washington - TEN
3
4
9
16
-6
Brandon Tate - NEP
4
2
10
16
-6
Jacoby Jones - HOU
3
3
9
15
-6
Robert Meachem - NOS
4
2
10
16
-6
Eddie Royal - DEN
3
3
10
16
-7
Lee Evans - BUF
2
2
9
13
-7
Brandon Gibson - STL
1
5
8
14
-7
Louis Murphy - OAK
3
1
10
14
-7
Ted Ginn - SFO
2
2
9
13
-7
Jabar Gaffney - DEN
2
4
10
16
-8
Kevin Walter - HOU
3
2
11
16
-8
Ben Obomanu - SEA
2
3
10
15
-8
Donald Driver - GBP
2
3
10
15
-8
Earl Bennett - CHI
2
2
10
14
-8
Emmanuel Sanders - PIT
1
3
9
13
-8
Blair White - IND
1
3
9
13
-8
Brad Smith - NYJ
1
5
10
16
-9
Roy Williams - DAL
3
0
12
15
-9
Randy Moss - TEN
3
1
12
16
-9
Josh Morgan - SFO
1
4
11
16
-10
Micheal Spurlock - TBB
2
2
12
16
-10
Jordan Shipley - CIN
1
3
11
15
-10
David Gettis - CAR
2
1
12
15
-10
Jordy Nelson - GBP
2
1
13
16
-11
Eric Weems - ATL
1
2
13
16
-12

Table 3: 2010 WR Start Types Sorted By Value - Standard Scoring

This is a lot of information once again, but some names leap out at us. For example, Roddy White and Hakeem Nicks are the only wide receivers with a positive Net Value that had just two Bad Starts in all of 2010. Nicks gets the added boost because he played in 13 games, which makes his +5 even more remarkable. DeSean Jackson and Miles Austin are concerning with their "boom / bust" results from last year, having almost 50% of their games end in Bad Starts. The biggest risk for 2011 would appear to be Dwayne Bowe, who was the WR2 last year but with seven Bad Starts last season it would be very risky to rely on him every week this year.

Lastly I will sift through it for you and get right to the heart of the matter with our final table. Here we have the results sorted by value for the Top 36 WRs on the 2011 ADP list.

Wide Receiver
Type Of Start
Net Value
ADP
Excellent
Quality
Bad
Total
Brandon Lloyd - DEN
11
1
4
16
7
41
Roddy White - ATL
9
5
2
16
7
9
Greg Jennings - GBP
8
5
3
16
5
18
Calvin Johnson - DET
10
0
5
15
5
10
Hakeem Nicks - NYG
7
4
2
13
5
15
Andre Johnson - HOU
8
2
3
13
5
7
Percy Harvin - MIN
8
3
3
14
5
54
Mike Wallace - PIT
9
2
5
16
4
24
Mike Williams - TBB
8
4
4
16
4
36
Jeremy Maclin - PHI
7
5
4
16
3
39
Larry Fitzgerald - ARI
6
7
3
16
3
16
Dwayne Bowe - KCC
8
2
6
16
2
25
Reggie Wayne - IND
6
6
4
16
2
20
DeSean Jackson - PHI
7
1
6
14
1
28
Miles Austin - DAL
8
1
7
16
1
26
Mario Manningham - NYG
7
3
6
16
1
89
Danny Amendola - STL
5
7
4
16
1
WR55 
Braylon Edwards - NYJ
6
5
5
16
1
WR38
Kenny Britt - TEN
5
3
4
12
1
67
Austin Collie - IND
4
2
3
9
1
60
Steve Johnson - BUF
6
4
6
16
0
51
Santana Moss - WAS
6
4
6
16
0
82
Marques Colston - NOS
5
5
5
15
0
38
Johnny Knox - CHI
6
4
6
16
0
70
Santonio Holmes - NYJ
4
4
4
12
0
59
Wes Welker - NEP
5
4
6
15
-1
29
Dez Bryant - DAL
4
3
5
12
-1
49
Pierre Garcon - IND
4
4
6
14
-2
65
Steve Smith - NYG
2
3
4
9
-2
77
Anquan Boldin - BAL
6
1
9
16
-3
56
Brandon Marshall - MIA
3
4
7
14
-4
37
Deion Branch - NEP
4
3
8
15
-4
90
Michael Crabtree - SFO
6
0
10
16
-4
68

Table 4: 2011 Top Drafted WRs Sorted By 2010 Value - Standard Scoring

Note that both Julio Jones and AJ Green are not included simply because of their rookie status. There are also three wide receivers that are in the Top 36 ADP list but fell short of a Top 75 ranking in 2010. Carolina's Steve Smith (WR77) just missed the cut thanks mostly to a miserable passing game for the Panthers last year. Vincent Jackson (WR100) and Sidney Rice (WR105) both missed significant time last year, so the expected rebounds for both are not without merit.

Judging form 2010, it would appear that Brandon Lloyd would be the best value by far if he was a lock to repeat his fantastic numbers - but not many would expect such a repeat performance. Lloyd does have some upside, especially if he can be snared after Round 3 as a strong WR2. Mike Williams in Tampa Bay and Percy Harvin in Minnesota also look like solid value selections, but they will need a second strong target on the other side of the field to draw away coverages. As I personally expected, Jeremy Maclin is the better wide receiver to own in Philadelphia, as he is a better value no matter how you look at it. Mario Manningham of the Giants is also a very solid (and possibly sneaky) wide receiver to grab as a WR3 (or strong, strong WR4) - and he has more value than Steve Smith. Santana Moss may have been a net zero in 2010, but his numbers are pretty strong considering you can own him 2-3 rounds later than other wideouts of comparable value in Table 4. Lastly there are two wide receivers that are on the list that are not in the Top 36 - Danny Amendola (WR55) of the Rams and Braylon Edwards (WR38). I felt that it would be a terrible oversight to omit these great value wide receivers that can be had after many lesser quality 2010 WRs go off the board.

On the flip side, we have to take a long look at the wide receivers in the Top 36 that are hard to justify their place here based on Quality Starts from last season. Marques Colston barely had a neutral 2010, and the threat of a bigger role for TE Jimmy Graham in 2011 further threatens Colston's numbers. Wes Welker (-1 Net Value) was even worse last year, and even if he fares slightly better it is hard to see any justification for a Round 3 selection of Welker in a non-PPR league. Deion Branch is another head scratcher, especially when you consider Welker's diminished impact. Brandon Marshall might be the biggest reach of them all, as the struggles of the Miami passing game and in the absence of PPR, Marshall is not much better (or possibly even worse) that other wide receivers available several rounds later. If Miami has issues with their passing offense as they did in 2010, Marshall owners will surely be disappointed. That brings up an important point, which is that all of this is based solely on last year's results. There is no reason to believe in these numbers as indications of 2011 performance, but having this information available should give you more to think about when deciding who you will have leading your fantasy team this year.

Questions, suggestions and comments are always welcome to pasquino@footballguys.com.

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