Quality Starts - Tight End (Standard Scoring)
By Jeff Pasquino
Jul 18th, 2012

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 2011 season, I decided to take the #12 TE for the year (Fred Davis, 98.6 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 TE12 seems a bit arbitrary, but if you are looking for a bare minimum of quality, the 12th TE should be the "worst starter" in your fantasy league.

So now we move on to the next question - one of quantifying the quality. At what point do we decide whether or not a tight end has given us a quality performance? Here is where it gets a bit murky, but looking at the distribution of TE performances by starters over the season and it becomes evident that the using the 12th TE average and adding or subtracting a percentage gives us a good range for a TE Quality Start.

Using the TE 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:

TE Start Type
Fantasy Points
Bad Start
0 to 4.6
Quality Start
4.7 to 7.7
Excellent Start
7.8+

Table 1: 2011 TE Quality Start and Fantasy Point Ranges - Standard Scoring

Table 2 shows us the breakdown of all the Top 36 TEs and how many of each type of start resulted for each:

Tight End
Team
Type Of Start
Excellent
Quality
Bad
Total
Rob Gronkowski
NEP
12
2
2
16
Jimmy Graham
NOS
14
1
1
16
Aaron Hernandez
NEP
7
3
4
14
Tony Gonzalez
ATL
9
3
4
16
Jason Witten
DAL
7
5
4
16
Jermichael Finley
GBP
6
5
4
15
Antonio Gates
SDC
8
2
2
12
Brent Celek
PHI
5
4
7
16
Vernon Davis
SFO
7
2
7
16
Brandon Pettigrew
DET
7
4
5
16
Dustin Keller
NYJ
5
5
6
16
Fred Davis
WAS
7
1
4
12
Jermaine Gresham
CIN
6
4
4
14
Jared Cook
TEN
4
3
8
15
Kellen Winslow
TBB
3
5
8
16
Greg Olsen
CAR
6
0
8
14
Jake Ballard
NYG
5
4
5
14
Owen Daniels
HOU
5
2
8
15
Ed Dickson
BAL
3
4
9
16
Heath Miller
PIT
5
2
9
16
Anthony Fasano
MIA
4
4
6
14
Tony Scheffler
DET
5
2
7
14
Scott Chandler
BUF
3
3
6
12
Joel Dreessen
HOU
5
1
7
13
Jeremy Shockey
CAR
1
6
8
15
Dennis Pitta
BAL
3
1
10
14
Visanthe Shiancoe
MIN
2
2
8
12
Evan Moore
CLE
3
3
7
13
Kevin Boss
OAK
4
1
7
12
Ben Watson
CLE
2
2
9
13
Kellen Davis
CHI
4
1
4
9
Jeff King
ARI
2
1
10
13
Delanie Walker
SFO
3
1
7
11
Dallas Clark
IND
2
2
6
10
Marcedes Lewis
JAC
1
2
11
14
Daniel Fells
DEN
2
2
8
12
Totals
177
95
230

Table 2: 2011 TE Start Types Sorted By Top 36 TEs - Standard Scoring

That's a lot of info to digest, so let me help. First, we see that there far more Excellent Starts (177) as Quality Starts (95), and the numbers are similar to both 2010 (148 and 96) and 2009 (141 and 87), so that gives me a good idea that the ranges are in line. Yes there are a large number of Bad Starts (230) 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 tight end in this system. We want a TE 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 tight end. Here is the formula:

Starting Fantasy TE 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 TE 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:

Tight End
Team
Type Of Start
Net Value
Excellent
Quality
Bad
Total
Jimmy Graham
NOS
14
1
1
16
13
Rob Gronkowski
NEP
12
2
2
16
10
Antonio Gates
SDC
8
2
2
12
6
Tony Gonzalez
ATL
9
3
4
16
5
Aaron Hernandez
NEP
7
3
4
14
3
Jason Witten
DAL
7
5
4
16
3
Fred Davis
WAS
7
1
4
12
3
Jermichael Finley
GBP
6
5
4
15
2
Brandon Pettigrew
DET
7
4
5
16
2
Jermaine Gresham
CIN
6
4
4
14
2
Vernon Davis
SFO
7
2
7
16
0
Jake Ballard
NYG
5
4
5
14
0
Kellen Davis
CHI
4
1
4
9
0
Dustin Keller
NYJ
5
5
6
16
-1
Brent Celek
PHI
5
4
7
16
-2
Greg Olsen
CAR
6
0
8
14
-2
Anthony Fasano
MIA
4
4
6
14
-2
Tony Scheffler
DET
5
2
7
14
-2
Joel Dreessen
HOU
5
1
7
13
-2
Owen Daniels
HOU
5
2
8
15
-3
Scott Chandler
BUF
3
3
6
12
-3
Kevin Boss
OAK
4
1
7
12
-3
Jared Cook
TEN
4
3
8
15
-4
Heath Miller
PIT
5
2
9
16
-4
Evan Moore
CLE
3
3
7
13
-4
Delanie Walker
SFO
3
1
7
11
-4
Dallas Clark
IND
2
2
6
10
-4
Kellen Winslow
TBB
3
5
8
16
-5
Ed Dickson
BAL
3
4
9
16
-6
Visanthe Shiancoe
MIN
2
2
8
12
-6
Daniel Fells
DEN
2
2
8
12
-6
Jeremy Shockey
CAR
1
6
8
15
-7
Dennis Pitta
BAL
3
1
10
14
-7
Ben Watson
CLE
2
2
9
13
-7
Jeff King
ARI
2
1
10
13
-8
Marcedes Lewis
JAC
1
2
11
14
-10

Table 3: 2011 TE Start Types Sorted By Value - Standard Scoring

This is a lot of information once again, but some names leap out at us. For example, the Top 2 tight ends blew the competition away. Both Jimmy Graham (13) and Rob Gronkowski (10) had more net value than almost any other two tight ends in the NFL combined. Antonio Gates (6) and Fred Davis (3) should not be overlooked due to their fewer games.

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 TEs on the 2012 ADP list.

Tight End
Team
Type Of Start
Net Value
ADP
Excellent
Quality
Bad
Total
Jimmy Graham
NOS
14
1
1
16
13
17
Rob Gronkowski
NEP
12
2
2
16
10
14
Antonio Gates
SDC
8
2
2
12
6
56
Tony Gonzalez
ATL
9
3
4
16
5
98
Fred Davis
WAS
7
1
4
12
3
86
Jason Witten
DAL
7
5
4
16
3
67
Aaron Hernandez
NEP
7
3
4
14
3
59
Jermaine Gresham
CIN
6
4
4
14
2
124
Brandon Pettigrew
DET
7
4
5
16
2
87
Jermichael Finley
GBP
6
5
4
15
2
68
Vernon Davis
SFO
7
2
7
16
0
64
Dustin Keller
NYJ
5
5
6
16
-1
143
Greg Olsen
CAR
6
0
8
14
-2
164
Brent Celek
PHI
5
4
7
16
-2
116
Scott Chandler
BUF
3
3
6
12
-3
273
Owen Daniels
HOU
5
2
8
15
-3
133
Heath Miller
PIT
5
2
9
16
-4
254
Dallas Clark
IND
2
2
6
10
-4
223
Jared Cook
TEN
4
3
8
15
-4
123
Kellen Winslow
TBB
3
5
8
16
-5
206
Marcedes Lewis
JAC
1
2
11
14
-10
269

Table 4: 2012 Top Drafted TEs Sorted By 2011 Value - Standard Scoring

Note that rookies Coby Fleener (Ind), Dwayne Allen (Ind), and Ladarius Green (SD) are missing from the list for the simple reason that they have not played an NFL contest yet. Tony Moeaki is also conspicuous by his absence, but his injury kept him from being anywhere close to the Top 36 last season. Both Jacob Tamme (Ind to Den) and Martellus Bennett (Dal to NYG) switched teams, resulting in some favorable outlooks and ADP for this year despite both not making the Top 36 last season. Judging from last year, it would appear that Tony Gonzalez is the best value amongst the Top 7 TEs going off the draft board. Jermaine Gresham represents great value right after that tier with an ADP of 124, presenting a solid option in the back half of most fantasy drafts. Keep in mind that all of these numbers are based solely on last year's results. There is no reason to believe in these numbers as indications of 2012 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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