Quality Starts - Wide Receivers (PPR)
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 (Lance Moore, 190.3 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 8.9
Quality Start
9.0 to 14.8
Excellent Start
14.9+

Table 1: 2010 WR Quality Start and Fantasy Point Ranges - PPR 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
Roddy White - ATL
11
5
0
16
Brandon Lloyd - DEN
11
1
4
16
Reggie Wayne - IND
7
6
3
16
Dwayne Bowe - KCC
7
3
6
16
Greg Jennings - GBP
8
6
2
16
Calvin Johnson - DET
10
2
3
15
Andre Johnson - HOU
8
2
3
13
Hakeem Nicks - NYG
8
4
1
13
Mike Wallace - PIT
8
3
5
16
Steve Johnson - BUF
6
6
4
16
Larry Fitzgerald - ARI
8
5
3
16
Santana Moss - WAS
9
4
3
16
Miles Austin - DAL
6
4
6
16
Jeremy Maclin - PHI
7
5
4
16
Marques Colston - NOS
7
5
3
15
Mike Williams - TBB
6
7
3
16
Terrell Owens - CIN
7
2
5
14
Wes Welker - NEP
8
1
6
15
Mario Manningham - NYG
7
4
5
16
Percy Harvin - MIN
9
1
4
14
Brandon Marshall - MIA
4
7
3
14
DeSean Jackson - PHI
6
2
6
14
Davone Bess - MIA
4
8
4
16
Lance Moore - NOS
4
7
5
16
Anquan Boldin - BAL
6
1
9
16
Braylon Edwards - NYJ
6
5
5
16
Mike Thomas - JAC
5
5
6
16
Derrick Mason - BAL
4
4
8
16
Pierre Garcon - IND
4
6
4
14
Danny Amendola - STL
2
9
5
16
Deion Branch - NEP
4
4
7
15
Johnny Knox - CHI
5
4
7
16
Kenny Britt - TEN
5
4
3
12
Chad Ochocinco - CIN
3
3
8
14
Austin Collie - IND
5
3
1
9
Michael Crabtree - SFO
4
3
9
16
Jabar Gaffney - DEN
2
7
7
16
Hines Ward - PIT
6
2
8
16
Santonio Holmes - NYJ
5
3
4
12
Nate Burleson - DET
6
2
6
14
Mike Williams - SEA
4
3
7
14
Anthony Armstrong - WAS
4
3
8
15
James Jones - GBP
2
7
7
16
Nate Washington - TEN
3
4
9
16
Eddie Royal - DEN
4
2
10
16
Malcom Floyd - SDC
4
2
5
11
Kevin Walter - HOU
3
3
10
16
Mike Sims-Walker - JAC
3
3
8
14
Robert Meachem - NOS
5
1
10
16
Dez Bryant - DAL
4
4
4
12
Donald Driver - GBP
3
4
8
15
Jordan Shipley - CIN
1
4
10
15
Brandon Gibson - STL
2
5
7
14
Steve Breaston - ARI
2
4
7
13
Jacoby Jones - HOU
3
4
8
15
Josh Morgan - SFO
2
2
12
16
Roy Williams - DAL
3
2
10
15
Earl Bennett - CHI
3
1
10
14
Steve Smith - NYG
3
3
3
9
Lee Evans - BUF
2
4
7
13
Louis Murphy - OAK
3
1
10
14
Jason Avant - PHI
2
2
12
16
Jordy Nelson - GBP
2
2
12
16
Devin Hester - CHI
1
4
11
16
Steve Smith - CAR
3
1
10
14
Brian Hartline - MIA
0
8
4
12
Jacoby Ford - OAK
3
1
12
16
Ben Obomanu - SEA
2
3
10
15
David Gettis - CAR
2
1
12
15
Michael Jenkins - ATL
1
6
4
11
Mohamed Massaquoi - CLE
0
6
9
15
Blair White - IND
1
5
7
13
Deon Butler - SEA
2
2
9
13
Randy Moss - TEN
2
4
10
16
Jerricho Cotchery - NYJ
0
5
9
14
 Totals
332
281
489

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

That's a lot of info to digest, so let me help. First, we see that there are about as many Excellent Starts (332) as there are Quality Starts (281), which lines up well with 2009 numbers (322 and 348), the third time in four years where Excellent Starts have topped Quality Starts by a good margin. In 2007 (322 and 300) and 2008 (384 and 282) the numbers were similar to 2010, whereas in 2009 (322 and 348) the Excellent Starts dipped a little which led to higher Quality Starts. The net total of both categories was higher by almost 10% in 2008 and 2009, which might indicate that stud WRs are starting to separate themselves a bit more than the next few tiers of NFL wide receivers. There are also a lot of Bad Starts (489), 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
Roddy White - ATL
11
5
0
16
11
Brandon Lloyd - DEN
11
1
4
16
7
Calvin Johnson - DET
10
2
3
15
7
Hakeem Nicks - NYG
8
4
1
13
7
Greg Jennings - GBP
8
6
2
16
6
Santana Moss - WAS
9
4
3
16
6
Andre Johnson - HOU
8
2
3
13
5
Larry Fitzgerald - ARI
8
5
3
16
5
Percy Harvin - MIN
9
1
4
14
5
Reggie Wayne - IND
7
6
3
16
4
Marques Colston - NOS
7
5
3
15
4
Austin Collie - IND
5
3
1
9
4
Mike Wallace - PIT
8
3
5
16
3
Jeremy Maclin - PHI
7
5
4
16
3
Mike Williams - TBB
6
7
3
16
3
Steve Johnson - BUF
6
6
4
16
2
Terrell Owens - CIN
7
2
5
14
2
Wes Welker - NEP
8
1
6
15
2
Mario Manningham - NYG
7
4
5
16
2
Kenny Britt - TEN
5
4
3
12
2
Dwayne Bowe - KCC
7
3
6
16
1
Brandon Marshall - MIA
4
7
3
14
1
Braylon Edwards - NYJ
6
5
5
16
1
Santonio Holmes - NYJ
5
3
4
12
1
Miles Austin - DAL
6
4
6
16
0
DeSean Jackson - PHI
6
2
6
14
0
Davone Bess - MIA
4
8
4
16
0
Pierre Garcon - IND
4
6
4
14
0
Nate Burleson - DET
6
2
6
14
0
Dez Bryant - DAL
4
4
4
12
0
Steve Smith - NYG
3
3
3
9
0
Lance Moore - NOS
4
7
5
16
-1
Mike Thomas - JAC
5
5
6
16
-1
Malcom Floyd - SDC
4
2
5
11
-1
Johnny Knox - CHI
5
4
7
16
-2
Hines Ward - PIT
6
2
8
16
-2
Anquan Boldin - BAL
6
1
9
16
-3
Danny Amendola - STL
2
9
5
16
-3
Deion Branch - NEP
4
4
7
15
-3
Mike Williams - SEA
4
3
7
14
-3
Michael Jenkins - ATL
1
6
4
11
-3
Derrick Mason - BAL
4
4
8
16
-4
Anthony Armstrong - WAS
4
3
8
15
-4
Brian Hartline - MIA
0
8
4
12
-4
Chad Ochocinco - CIN
3
3
8
14
-5
Michael Crabtree - SFO
4
3
9
16
-5
Jabar Gaffney - DEN
2
7
7
16
-5
James Jones - GBP
2
7
7
16
-5
Mike Sims-Walker - JAC
3
3
8
14
-5
Robert Meachem - NOS
5
1
10
16
-5
Donald Driver - GBP
3
4
8
15
-5
Brandon Gibson - STL
2
5
7
14
-5
Steve Breaston - ARI
2
4
7
13
-5
Jacoby Jones - HOU
3
4
8
15
-5
Lee Evans - BUF
2
4
7
13
-5
Nate Washington - TEN
3
4
9
16
-6
Eddie Royal - DEN
4
2
10
16
-6
Blair White - IND
1
5
7
13
-6
Kevin Walter - HOU
3
3
10
16
-7
Roy Williams - DAL
3
2
10
15
-7
Earl Bennett - CHI
3
1
10
14
-7
Louis Murphy - OAK
3
1
10
14
-7
Steve Smith - CAR
3
1
10
14
-7
Deon Butler - SEA
2
2
9
13
-7
Ben Obomanu - SEA
2
3
10
15
-8
Randy Moss - TEN
2
4
10
16
-8
Jordan Shipley - CIN
1
4
10
15
-9
Jacoby Ford - OAK
3
1
12
16
-9
Mohamed Massaquoi - CLE
0
6
9
15
-9
Jerricho Cotchery - NYJ
0
5
9
14
-9
Josh Morgan - SFO
2
2
12
16
-10
Jason Avant - PHI
2
2
12
16
-10
Jordy Nelson - GBP
2
2
12
16
-10
Devin Hester - CHI
1
4
11
16
-10
David Gettis - CAR
2
1
12
15
-10

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

This is a lot of information once again, but some names leap out at us. For example, Roddy White, Hakeem Nicks and Austin Collie are the only wide receivers with a positive Net Value that had fewer than two Bad Starts in all of 2010. Nicks gets the added boost because he played in 13 games, which makes his +7 even more remarkable. Austin Collie is in a similar boat (+4 in nine games), but the concussion history there is a major concern DeSean Jackson, Wes Welker, Dwayne Bowe and Miles Austin are concerning with their "boom / bust" results from last year, having six or more of their games end in Bad Starts. If these receivers can figure out how to be more consistent in 2011 then they would become far less risky weekly plays this season.

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
Roddy White - ATL
11
5
0
16
11
9
Brandon Lloyd - DEN
11
1
4
16
7
42
Calvin Johnson - DET
10
2
3
15
7
10
Hakeem Nicks - NYG
8
4
1
13
7
15
Greg Jennings - GBP
8
6
2
16
6
18
Santana Moss - WAS
9
4
3
16
6
84
Andre Johnson - HOU
8
2
3
13
5
7
Larry Fitzgerald - ARI
8
5
3
16
5
16
Percy Harvin - MIN
9
1
4
14
5
55
Reggie Wayne - IND
7
6
3
16
4
20
Marques Colston - NOS
7
5
3
15
4
38
Austin Collie - IND
5
3
1
9
4
57
Mike Wallace - PIT
8
3
5
16
3
24
Jeremy Maclin - PHI
7
5
4
16
3
39
Mike Williams - TBB
6
7
3
16
3
37
Steve Johnson - BUF
6
6
4
16
2
51
Terrell Owens - CIN
7
2
5
14
2
WR49
Wes Welker - NEP
8
1
6
15
2
30
Mario Manningham - NYG
7
4
5
16
2
89
Kenny Britt - TEN
5
4
3
12
2
68
Dwayne Bowe - KCC
7
3
6
16
1
25
Brandon Marshall - MIA
4
7
3
14
1
35
Braylon Edwards - NYJ
6
5
5
16
1
WR38
Santonio Holmes - NYJ
5
3
4
12
1
53
Miles Austin - DAL
6
4
6
16
0
26
DeSean Jackson - PHI
6
2
6
14
0
29
Davone Bess - MIA
4
8
4
16
0
WR45
Pierre Garcon - IND
4
6
4
14
0
66
Nate Burleson - DET
6
2
6
14
0
WR65
Dez Bryant - DAL
4
4
4
12
0
47
Steve Smith - NYG
3
3
3
9
0
79
Johnny Knox - CHI
5
4
7
16
-2
72
Anquan Boldin - BAL
6
1
9
16
-3
60
Deion Branch - NEP
4
4
7
15
-3
90
Michael Crabtree - SFO
4
3
9
16
-5
69
Steve Smith - CAR
3
1
10
14
-7
82

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 two wide receivers that are in the Top 36 ADP list but fell short of a Top 75 ranking in 2010. Vincent Jackson (WR98) and Sidney Rice (WR101) 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. Percy Harvin in Minnesota also looks like a solid value selection, but if Sidney Rice moves on from the Vikings then it may be a different story. Austin Collie also has great value if he can show that he has fully recovered from his concussions in 2010. 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. Kenny Britt could be a steal after Round 7 if he can stay out of trouble off the field (and Tennessee improves at quarterback). Santana Moss may have been a net zero in 2010 without PPR, but his numbers with a point per catch were very strong. His value is very high considering you can own him 2-3 rounds later than other wideouts of comparable value in Table 4. Lastly there are four wide receivers that are on the list that are not in the Top 36 - Terrell Owens (WR49), Davone Bess (WR45), Nate Burleson (WR65) 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. Dwayne Bowe (+1 Net Value) relied so much on touchdowns (and relatively so little on catches) that picking him as your WR1 in PPR leagues could be a very bad move. Wes Welker (+2 Net Value) struggled without a true WR1 on the field with him last year, and even if he fares slightly better in 2011 it is hard to see any justification for a Round 3 selection of Welker even in a 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 his own off the field issues (that are starting to find their way into his abilities between the lines) make him a questionable pick considering the 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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