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Quality Starts: Quarterbacks

Quality Starts for 2015 Quarterbacks

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 that can give you a consistent performance week after week should 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 2015 season, I decided to take the #12 QB for the year (Ryan Fitzpatrick, 343.35 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 QB12 seems a bit arbitrary, but then again QB9 and QB13 are all within about 18 points of one another, but an even better reason is that if you are looking for a bare minimum of quality, the 12th QB 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 quarterback has given us a quality performance? Here is where it gets a bit murky, but looking at the distribution of QB performances by starters over the season and it becomes evident that the using the 12th QB average and adding or subtracting a percentage gives us a good range for a QB Quality Start.

Using the QB 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:

QB Start Type Fantasy Points
Bad Start 0 to 16.0
Quality Start 16.1 to 26.7
Excellent Start 26.8+

Table 1: 2015 QB Quality Start and Fantasy Point Ranges

We have one more issue in this study, and that is we need to sift through all the quarterbacks and only look at QBs that started an NFL game. That means if Peyton Manning started Week 10 last year but gets hurt, Manning is subject to the study (in Week 10) and Brock Osweiler (in Week 10) is not. That's an important distinction, as several QBs had great games in relief yet they should not get counted. Before we decide on a fantasy lineup, we usually only know the starters for each week, not who might come in if there is an injury.


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