Quality Starts - Wide Receiver (PPR 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 (Antonio Brown, 195.9 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 9.1
Quality Start
9.2 to 15.3
Excellent Start
15.4+

Table 1: 2011 WR Quality Start and Fantasy Point Ranges - PPR 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
11
4
1
16
Wes Welker
NEP
10
4
2
16
Victor Cruz
NYG
9
4
2
16
Jordy Nelson
GBP
10
2
4
16
Roddy White
ATL
8
7
1
16
Larry Fitzgerald
ARI
7
8
1
16
Steve Smith
CAR
10
2
4
16
Percy Harvin
MIN
9
3
4
16
Mike Wallace
PIT
8
7
1
16
Marques Colston
NOS
7
5
2
16
Brandon Marshall
MIA
8
6
2
16
Hakeem Nicks
NYG
7
6
2
16
Vincent Jackson
SDC
5
4
7
16
Dwayne Bowe
KCC
6
6
4
16
Nate Washington
TEN
7
3
6
16
Steve Johnson
BUF
6
7
3
16
A.J. Green
CIN
7
6
2
16
Greg Jennings
GBP
8
4
1
16
Dez Bryant
DAL
6
7
2
16
Laurent Robinson
DAL
6
4
4
16
Julio Jones
ATL
7
2
3
15
Pierre Garcon
IND
3
6
7
15
Brandon Lloyd
STL
5
6
4
15
Antonio Brown
PIT
4
8
4
15
Reggie Wayne
IND
3
8
5
15
Jabar Gaffney
WAS
3
9
3
15
Michael Crabtree
SFO
5
5
5
15
Darrius Heyward-Bey
OAK
4
5
4
15
DeSean Jackson
PHI
6
2
7
15
Torrey Smith
BAL
5
2
7
15
Jeremy Maclin
PHI
4
5
4
15
Nate Burleson
DET
5
5
6
15
Santonio Holmes
NYJ
2
9
4
15
Lance Moore
NOS
4
4
6
15
Anquan Boldin
BAL
4
6
4
15
Mike Williams
TBB
2
8
5
15
Malcom Floyd
SDC
6
0
6
15
David Nelson
BUF
2
7
7
15
Plaxico Burress
NYJ
3
5
6
15
Steve Breaston
KCC
2
5
9
15
Doug Baldwin
SEA
3
5
7
15
Eric Decker
DEN
4
4
6
15
Early Doucet
ARI
3
7
6
15
Deion Branch
NEP
5
4
3
14
Titus Young
DET
3
4
7
14
Jerome Simpson
CIN
3
4
7
14
Greg Little
CLE
3
4
8
14
James Jones
GBP
3
4
7
14
Miles Austin
DAL
4
3
3
14
Robert Meachem
NOS
4
4
6
14
Denarius Moore
OAK
4
3
4
14
Damian Williams
TEN
3
5
7
14
Santana Moss
WAS
2
6
4
14
Jason Avant
PHI
2
3
10
14
Andre Roberts
ARI
2
4
8
14
Davone Bess
MIA
0
7
9
14
Johnny Knox
CHI
2
3
9
14
Josh Cribbs
CLE
2
4
9
14
Donald Driver
GBP
1
5
9
14
Brandon LaFell
CAR
1
6
7
14
Mario Manningham
NYG
2
5
4
14
Preston Parker
TBB
2
3
9
14
Demaryius Thomas
DEN
3
3
3
14
Austin Collie
IND
1
2
11
14
Dezmon Briscoe
TBB
2
2
8
13
Kevin Walter
HOU
2
4
7
13
Michael Jenkins
MIN
2
2
7
13
Lavelle Hawkins
TEN
2
2
11
13
Roy Williams
CHI
2
3
7
13
Legedu Naanee
CAR
1
4
10
13
Brian Hartline
MIA
0
6
8
12
Jacoby Jones
HOU
2
1
11
12
Hines Ward
PIT
1
2
10
12
Sidney Rice
SEA
3
3
3
11
Devery Henderson
NOS
2
3
8
11
Totals
315
340
414

Table 2: 2011 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 (315) as there are Quality Starts (340), which lines up well with 2010 numbers (332 and 281) and 2009 numbers (322 and 348). There are also a lot of Bad Starts (414), 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
11
4
1
16
10
Wes Welker
NEP
10
4
2
16
8
Victor Cruz
NYG
9
4
2
16
7
Roddy White
ATL
8
7
1
16
7
Mike Wallace
PIT
8
7
1
16
7
Greg Jennings
GBP
8
4
1
16
7
Jordy Nelson
GBP
10
2
4
16
6
Larry Fitzgerald
ARI
7
8
1
16
6
Steve Smith
CAR
10
2
4
16
6
Brandon Marshall
MIA
8
6
2
16
6
Percy Harvin
MIN
9
3
4
16
5
Marques Colston
NOS
7
5
2
16
5
Hakeem Nicks
NYG
7
6
2
16
5
A.J. Green
CIN
7
6
2
16
5
Dez Bryant
DAL
6
7
2
16
4
Julio Jones
ATL
7
2
3
15
4
Steve Johnson
BUF
6
7
3
16
3
Dwayne Bowe
KCC
6
6
4
16
2
Laurent Robinson
DAL
6
4
4
16
2
Deion Branch
NEP
5
4
3
14
2
Nate Washington
TEN
7
3
6
16
1
Brandon Lloyd
STL
5
6
4
15
1
Miles Austin
DAL
4
3
3
14
1
Antonio Brown
PIT
4
8
4
15
0
Jabar Gaffney
WAS
3
9
3
15
0
Michael Crabtree
SFO
5
5
5
15
0
Darrius Heyward-Bey
OAK
4
5
4
15
0
Jeremy Maclin
PHI
4
5
4
15
0
Anquan Boldin
BAL
4
6
4
15
0
Malcom Floyd
SDC
6
0
6
15
0
Denarius Moore
OAK
4
3
4
14
0
Demaryius Thomas
DEN
3
3
3
14
0
Sidney Rice
SEA
3
3
3
11
0
DeSean Jackson
PHI
6
2
7
15
-1
Nate Burleson
DET
5
5
6
15
-1
Vincent Jackson
SDC
5
4
7
16
-2
Reggie Wayne
IND
3
8
5
15
-2
Torrey Smith
BAL
5
2
7
15
-2
Santonio Holmes
NYJ
2
9
4
15
-2
Lance Moore
NOS
4
4
6
15
-2
Eric Decker
DEN
4
4
6
15
-2
Robert Meachem
NOS
4
4
6
14
-2
Santana Moss
WAS
2
6
4
14
-2
Mario Manningham
NYG
2
5
4
14
-2
Mike Williams
TBB
2
8
5
15
-3
Plaxico Burress
NYJ
3
5
6
15
-3
Early Doucet
ARI
3
7
6
15
-3
Pierre Garcon
IND
3
6
7
15
-4
Doug Baldwin
SEA
3
5
7
15
-4
Titus Young
DET
3
4
7
14
-4
Jerome Simpson
CIN
3
4
7
14
-4
James Jones
GBP
3
4
7
14
-4
Damian Williams
TEN
3
5
7
14
-4
David Nelson
BUF
2
7
7
15
-5
Greg Little
CLE
3
4
8
14
-5
Kevin Walter
HOU
2
4
7
13
-5
Michael Jenkins
MIN
2
2
7
13
-5
Roy Williams
CHI
2
3
7
13
-5
Andre Roberts
ARI
2
4
8
14
-6
Brandon LaFell
CAR
1
6
7
14
-6
Dezmon Briscoe
TBB
2
2
8
13
-6
Devery Henderson
NOS
2
3
8
11
-6
Steve Breaston
KCC
2
5
9
15
-7
Johnny Knox
CHI
2
3
9
14
-7
Josh Cribbs
CLE
2
4
9
14
-7
Preston Parker
TBB
2
3
9
14
-7
Jason Avant
PHI
2
3
10
14
-8
Donald Driver
GBP
1
5
9
14
-8
Brian Hartline
MIA
0
6
8
12
-8
Davone Bess
MIA
0
7
9
14
-9
Lavelle Hawkins
TEN
2
2
11
13
-9
Legedu Naanee
CAR
1
4
10
13
-9
Jacoby Jones
HOU
2
1
11
12
-9
Hines Ward
PIT
1
2
10
12
-9
Austin Collie
IND
1
2
11
14
-10

Table 3: 2011 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, Calvin Johnson, Roddy White, Mike Wallace, Greg Jennings and Larry Fitzgerald are the only wide receivers with a positive Net Value that had fewer than two Bad Starts in all of 2011. Players like DeSean Jackson and Torrey Smith are concerning with their "boom / bust" results from last year, as each of them had seven of their games end in Bad Starts. If these receivers can figure out how to be more consistent in 2012 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 2012 ADP list.

Wide Receiver
Team
Type Of Start
Net Value
ADP
Excellent
Quality
Bad
Total
Calvin Johnson
DET
11
4
1
16
10
4
Wes Welker
NEP
10
4
2
16
8
24
Roddy White
ATL
8
7
1
16
7
19
Greg Jennings
GBP
8
4
1
16
7
24
Victor Cruz
NYG
9
4
2
16
7
31
Mike Wallace
PIT
8
7
1
16
7
34
Larry Fitzgerald
ARI
7
8
1
16
6
10
Brandon Marshall
MIA
8
6
2
16
6
29
Jordy Nelson
GBP
10
2
4
16
6
35
Steve Smith
CAR
10
2
4
16
6
43
Hakeem Nicks
NYG
7
6
2
16
5
26
A.J. Green
CIN
7
6
2
16
5
27
Percy Harvin
MIN
9
3
4
16
5
40
Marques Colston
NOS
7
5
2
16
5
42
Julio Jones
ATL
7
2
3
15
4
33
Dez Bryant
DAL
6
7
2
16
4
39
Steve Johnson
BUF
6
7
3
16
3
57
Dwayne Bowe
KCC
6
6
4
16
2
49
Laurent Robinson
DAL
6
4
4
16
2
WR47
Deion Branch
NEP
5
4
3
14
2
N/A
Miles Austin
DAL
4
3
3
14
1
44
Brandon Lloyd
STL
5
6
4
15
1
70
Nate Washington
TEN
7
3
6
16
1
WR49
Demaryius Thomas
DEN
3
3
3
14
0
48
Jeremy Maclin
PHI
4
5
4
15
0
58
Antonio Brown
PIT
4
8
4
15
0
64
Denarius Moore
OAK
4
3
4
14
0
87
Sidney Rice
SEA
3
3
3
11
0
93
Malcom Floyd
SDC
6
0
6
15
0
WR37
Anquan Boldin
BAL
4
6
4
15
0
WR39
Michael Crabtree
SFO
5
5
5
15
0
WR40
Darrius Heyward-Bey
OAK
4
5
4
15
0
WR44
Jabar Gaffney
WAS
3
9
3
15
0
N/A
DeSean Jackson
PHI
6
2
7
15
-1
61
Vincent Jackson
SDC
5
4
7
16
-2
51
Eric Decker
DEN
4
4
6
15
-2
72
Torrey Smith
BAL
5
2
7
15
-2
75
Reggie Wayne
IND
3
8
5
15
-2
79
Robert Meachem
NOS
4
4
6
14
-2
91
Santonio Holmes
NYJ
2
9
4
15
-2
98
Lance Moore
NOS
4
4
6
15
-2
WR43
Mike Williams
TBB
2
8
5
15
-3
WR38
Pierre Garcon
IND
3
6
7
15
-4
82
Greg Little
CLE
3
4
8
14
-5
WR41

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

Note that both Justin Blackmon and Michael Floyd 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 2011. Andre Johnson and Kenny Britt both missed significant time last year, so the expected rebounds for both are not without merit. There is also one wide receiver with an above-average +2 Net Value that is on the list but has an ADP outside of the Top 36 Laurent Robinson (WR47). 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. Players like Pierre Garcon and Vincent Jackson are expected to step right in and become the top targets on their new teams. Based on the 2011 data, that does not look like a strong possibility for this season. 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.

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