Quality Starts - Wide Receiver (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 #24 WR for the year (DeSean Jackson, 134.1 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 6.2
Quality Start
6.3 to 10.4
Excellent Start
10.6+

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

Table 2 shows us the breakdown of all the Top 75 WRs from 2011 and how many of each type of start resulted for each:

Wide Receiver
Team
Type Of Start
Excellent
Quality
Bad
Total
Calvin Johnson
DET
12
2
2
16
Jordy Nelson
GBP
11
0
5
16
Wes Welker
NEP
10
1
5
16
Victor Cruz
NYG
8
4
4
16
Percy Harvin
MIN
9
4
3
16
Larry Fitzgerald
ARI
8
5
3
16
Steve Smith
CAR
10
2
4
16
Roddy White
ATL
9
4
3
16
Vincent Jackson
SDC
6
2
8
16
Mike Wallace
PIT
8
6
2
16
Antonio Brown
PIT
9
4
3
16
Hakeem Nicks
NYG
6
7
2
15
Marques Colston
NOS
6
4
4
14
Brandon Marshall
MIA
7
2
7
16
A.J. Green
CIN
8
3
4
15
Dez Bryant
DAL
8
3
4
15
Laurent Robinson
DAL
6
4
4
14
Nate Washington
TEN
6
4
6
16
Greg Jennings
GBP
9
2
2
13
Julio Jones
ATL
7
2
3
12
Dwayne Bowe
KCC
5
6
5
16
Steve Johnson
BUF
7
4
5
16
Josh Cribbs
CLE
5
4
7
16
DeSean Jackson
PHI
7
1
7
15
Pierre Garcon
IND
3
2
11
16
Torrey Smith
BAL
5
1
8
14
Brandon Lloyd
STL
6
4
5
15
Jabar Gaffney
WAS
4
4
7
15
Reggie Wayne
IND
3
5
8
16
Eric Decker
DEN
7
1
6
14
Darrius Heyward-Bey
OAK
4
5
4
13
Denarius Moore
OAK
4
3
5
12
Jeremy Maclin
PHI
6
3
4
13
Santonio Holmes
NYJ
4
6
5
15
Malcom Floyd
SDC
6
0
6
12
Lance Moore
NOS
4
2
8
14
Michael Crabtree
SFO
4
4
7
15
Plaxico Burress
NYJ
4
4
6
14
Anquan Boldin
BAL
3
6
5
14
Doug Baldwin
SEA
3
3
9
15
Early Doucet
ARI
2
6
8
16
James Jones
GBP
4
4
7
15
Nate Burleson
DET
2
7
7
16
Robert Meachem
NOS
5
2
7
14
Deion Branch
NEP
4
5
3
12
Devin Hester
CHI
3
2
11
16
Jerome Simpson
CIN
2
5
8
15
Miles Austin
DAL
4
2
4
10
Titus Young
DET
3
5
6
14
David Nelson
BUF
3
4
9
16
Jacoby Jones
HOU
3
2
11
16
Mike Williams
TBB
3
3
9
15
Johnny Knox
CHI
2
3
9
14
Steve Breaston
KCC
2
4
10
16
Preston Parker
TBB
3
3
8
14
Davone Bess
MIA
3
2
11
16
Randall Cobb
GBP
2
3
10
15
Damian Williams
TEN
2
4
9
15
Santana Moss
WAS
3
3
6
12
Greg Little
CLE
2
2
11
15
Ted Ginn Jr.
SFO
2
2
10
14
Brandon LaFell
CAR
2
3
9
14
Donald Driver
GBP
2
5
8
15
Andre Roberts
ARI
2
3
10
15
Demaryius Thomas
DEN
3
2
4
9
Dezmon Briscoe
TBB
2
3
8
13
Mario Manningham
NYG
3
1
7
11
Jason Avant
PHI
2
2
11
15
Brian Hartline
MIA
1
4
9
14
Kevin Walter
HOU
2
2
9
13
Devery Henderson
NOS
2
2
9
13
Roy Williams
CHI
2
1
10
13
Arrelious Benn
TBB
1
3
9
13
Sidney Rice
SEA
3
2
4
9
Andre Johnson
HOU
3
1
3
7
Totals
346
240
490

Table 2: 2011 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 (346) than Quality Starts (240), which is comparable to last year's numbers of 334-222, 2009's 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 (490), 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
Team
Type Of Start
Net Value
Excellent
Quality
Bad
Total
Calvin Johnson
DET
12
2
2
16
10
Greg Jennings
GBP
9
2
2
13
7
Jordy Nelson
GBP
11
0
5
16
6
Percy Harvin
MIN
9
4
3
16
6
Steve Smith
CAR
10
2
4
16
6
Roddy White
ATL
9
4
3
16
6
Mike Wallace
PIT
8
6
2
16
6
Antonio Brown
PIT
9
4
3
16
6
Wes Welker
NEP
10
1
5
16
5
Larry Fitzgerald
ARI
8
5
3
16
5
Victor Cruz
NYG
8
4
4
16
4
Hakeem Nicks
NYG
6
7
2
15
4
A.J. Green
CIN
8
3
4
15
4
Dez Bryant
DAL
8
3
4
15
4
Julio Jones
ATL
7
2
3
12
4
Marques Colston
NOS
6
4
4
14
2
Laurent Robinson
DAL
6
4
4
14
2
Steve Johnson
BUF
7
4
5
16
2
Jeremy Maclin
PHI
6
3
4
13
2
Brandon Lloyd
STL
6
4
5
15
1
Eric Decker
DEN
7
1
6
14
1
Deion Branch
NEP
4
5
3
12
1
Brandon Marshall
MIA
7
2
7
16
0
Nate Washington
TEN
6
4
6
16
0
Dwayne Bowe
KCC
5
6
5
16
0
DeSean Jackson
PHI
7
1
7
15
0
Darrius Heyward-Bey
OAK
4
5
4
13
0
Malcom Floyd
SDC
6
0
6
12
0
Miles Austin
DAL
4
2
4
10
0
Andre Johnson
HOU
3
1
3
7
0
Denarius Moore
OAK
4
3
5
12
-1
Santonio Holmes
NYJ
4
6
5
15
-1
Demaryius Thomas
DEN
3
2
4
9
-1
Sidney Rice
SEA
3
2
4
9
-1
Vincent Jackson
SDC
6
2
8
16
-2
Josh Cribbs
CLE
5
4
7
16
-2
Plaxico Burress
NYJ
4
4
6
14
-2
Anquan Boldin
BAL
3
6
5
14
-2
Robert Meachem
NOS
5
2
7
14
-2
Torrey Smith
BAL
5
1
8
14
-3
Jabar Gaffney
WAS
4
4
7
15
-3
Michael Crabtree
SFO
4
4
7
15
-3
James Jones
GBP
4
4
7
15
-3
Titus Young
DET
3
5
6
14
-3
Santana Moss
WAS
3
3
6
12
-3
Lance Moore
NOS
4
2
8
14
-4
Mario Manningham
NYG
3
1
7
11
-4
Reggie Wayne
IND
3
5
8
16
-5
Nate Burleson
DET
2
7
7
16
-5
Preston Parker
TBB
3
3
8
14
-5
Doug Baldwin
SEA
3
3
9
15
-6
Early Doucet
ARI
2
6
8
16
-6
Jerome Simpson
CIN
2
5
8
15
-6
David Nelson
BUF
3
4
9
16
-6
Mike Williams
TBB
3
3
9
15
-6
Donald Driver
GBP
2
5
8
15
-6
Dezmon Briscoe
TBB
2
3
8
13
-6
Johnny Knox
CHI
2
3
9
14
-7
Damian Williams
TEN
2
4
9
15
-7
Brandon LaFell
CAR
2
3
9
14
-7
Kevin Walter
HOU
2
2
9
13
-7
Devery Henderson
NOS
2
2
9
13
-7
Pierre Garcon
IND
3
2
11
16
-8
Devin Hester
CHI
3
2
11
16
-8
Jacoby Jones
HOU
3
2
11
16
-8
Steve Breaston
KCC
2
4
10
16
-8
Davone Bess
MIA
3
2
11
16
-8
Randall Cobb
GBP
2
3
10
15
-8
Ted Ginn Jr.
SFO
2
2
10
14
-8
Andre Roberts
ARI
2
3
10
15
-8
Brian Hartline
MIA
1
4
9
14
-8
Roy Williams
CHI
2
1
10
13
-8
Arrelious Benn
TBB
1
3
9
13
-8
Greg Little
CLE
2
2
11
15
-9
Jason Avant
PHI
2
2
11
15
-9

Table 3: 2011 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, only four wide receivers had a positive Net Value with just two Bad Starts in all of 2011 Calvin Johnson, Greg Jennings, Mike Wallace and Hakeem Nicks. Jennings gets the added boost because he played in 13 games, which makes his +7 even more remarkable. DeSean Jackson and Brandon Marshall are concerning with their "boom / bust" results from last year, having almost 50% of their games end in Bad Starts.

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 2012 ADP list.

Wide Receiver
Team
Type Of Start
Net Value
ADP
Excellent
Quality
Bad
Total
Calvin Johnson
DET
12
2
2
16
10
5
Greg Jennings
GBP
9
2
2
13
7
23
Roddy White
ATL
9
4
3
16
6
22
Mike Wallace
PIT
8
6
2
16
6
30
Jordy Nelson
GBP
11
0
5
16
6
32
Percy Harvin
MIN
9
4
3
16
6
42
Steve Smith
CAR
10
2
4
16
6
43
Antonio Brown
PIT
9
4
3
16
6
65
Larry Fitzgerald
ARI
8
5
3
16
5
12
Wes Welker
NEP
10
1
5
16
5
24
Hakeem Nicks
NYG
6
7
2
15
4
28
A.J. Green
CIN
8
3
4
15
4
29
Victor Cruz
NYG
8
4
4
16
4
36
Julio Jones
ATL
7
2
3
12
4
38
Dez Bryant
DAL
8
3
4
15
4
41
Marques Colston
NOS
6
4
4
14
2
44
Jeremy Maclin
PHI
6
3
4
13
2
57
Steve Johnson
BUF
7
4
5
16
2
58
Brandon Lloyd
STL
6
4
5
15
1
66
Eric Decker
DEN
7
1
6
14
1
74
Andre Johnson
HOU
3
1
3
7
0
16
Brandon Marshall
MIA
7
2
7
16
0
33
Miles Austin
DAL
4
2
4
10
0
45
Dwayne Bowe
KCC
5
6
5
16
0
49
DeSean Jackson
PHI
7
1
7
15
0
61
Demaryius Thomas
DEN
3
2
4
9
-1
50
Denarius Moore
OAK
4
3
5
12
-1
88
Santonio Holmes
NYJ
4
6
5
15
-1
91
Sidney Rice
SEA
3
2
4
9
-1
94
Vincent Jackson
SDC
6
2
8
16
-2
46
Robert Meachem
NOS
5
2
7
14
-2
83
Anquan Boldin
BAL
3
6
5
14
-2
93
Torrey Smith
BAL
5
1
8
14
-3
78
Reggie Wayne
IND
3
5
8
16
-5
81
Pierre Garcon
IND
3
2
11
16
-8
82

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

Note that Kenny Britt is not included due to his injury last year that prematurely ended his 2011 season. Judging from last year, it would appear that Antonio Brown would be the best value by far if he was a lock to repeat his fantastic numbers and his value is increasing day by day. There is also one wide receiver that is on the list that is now outside the ADP Top 36 Laurent Robinson (WR44). While it is hard to expect Robinson to repeat his Dallas numbers in Jacksonville, but I felt that it would be a terrible oversight to omit a great value wide receiver that can be had after many lesser quality 2011 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. Andre Johnson had just seven games played last year and had a neutral 2011 campaign. Miles Austin, Dwayne Bowe, DeSean Jackson, and Brandon Marshall also all had net zero values in 2011, but a case could be made that Marshall's return to working with Jay Cutler does increase his value. While a similar argument can be made for Demaryius Thomas working with Peyton Manning, Vincent Jackson's migration to Tampa Bay is hard to justify a Top 50 WR pick for a negative value wideout from 2011. 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 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.

© 2012 Footballguys - All Rights Reserved