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Quality Starts - Tight Ends

Quality Starts for 2012 for Tight Ends Using Standard Scoring

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 2012 season, I decided to take the #12 TE for the year (Antonio Gates, 97.8 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 TypeFantasy Points
Bad Start 0 to 4.5
Quality Start 4.6 to 7.6
Excellent Start 7.7+

Table 1: 2012 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 Excellent Start Quality Start Bad Start Total
Jimmy Graham - NOS 8 5 2 15
Tony Gonzalez - ATL 8 4 4 16
Rob Gronkowski - NEP 8 1 2 11
Heath Miller - PIT 8 5 3 16
Jason Witten - DAL 5 8 3 16
Greg Olsen - CAR 5 6 5 16
Owen Daniels - HOU 8 3 4 15
Dennis Pitta - BAL 6 3 6 15
Kyle Rudolph - MIN 8 2 4 14
Brandon Myers - OAK 4 6 6 16
Jermaine Gresham - CIN 4 8 4 16
Antonio Gates - SDC 5 3 7 15
Martellus Bennett - NYG 6 1 9 16
Scott Chandler - BUF 6 3 7 16
Vernon Davis - SFO 5 1 9 15
Lance Kendricks - STL 3 4 9 16
Marcedes Lewis - JAC 3 3 9 15
Aaron Hernandez - NEP 6 1 2 9
Jermichael Finley - GBP 2 7 7 16
Jared Cook - TEN 4 5 4 13
Brandon Pettigrew - DET 4 4 5 13
Brent Celek - PHI 1 5 9 15
Dwayne Allen - IND 2 5 8 15
Jacob Tamme - DEN 3 5 7 15
Dallas Clark - TBB 3 3 8 14
Anthony Fasano - MIA 3 3 10 16
Ben Watson - CLE 2 3 11 16
Joel Dreessen - DEN 5 1 8 14
Tony Scheffler - DET 2 3 9 14
Zach Miller - SEA 3 2 10 15
Delanie Walker - SFO 3 1 11 15
James Casey - HOU 2 3 11 16
Jeff Cumberland - NYJ 3 1 8 12
Tony Moeaki - KCC 1 4 8 13
Garrett Graham - HOU 1 2 8 11
Anthony McCoy - SEA 3 1 5 9
Totals 153 125 242  

Table 2: 2012 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 are definitely more Excellent Starts (153) than Quality Starts (125), and the numbers are similar to 2011 (177 and 95), 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 (244) 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 RB 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 Excellent Start Quality Start Bad Start Total NetVal
Jimmy Graham - NOS 8 5 2 15 6
Rob Gronkowski - NEP 8 1 2 11 6
Heath Miller - PIT 8 5 3 16 5
Tony Gonzalez - ATL 8 4 4 16 4
Owen Daniels - HOU 8 3 4 15 4
Kyle Rudolph - MIN 8 2 4 14 4
Aaron Hernandez - NEP 6 1 2 9 4
Jason Witten - DAL 5 8 3 16 2
Greg Olsen - CAR 5 6 5 16 0
Dennis Pitta - BAL 6 3 6 15 0
Jermaine Gresham - CIN 4 8 4 16 0
Jared Cook - TEN 4 5 4 13 0
Scott Chandler - BUF 6 3 7 16 -1
Brandon Pettigrew - DET 4 4 5 13 -1
Brandon Myers - OAK 4 6 6 16 -2
Antonio Gates - SDC 5 3 7 15 -2
Anthony McCoy - SEA 3 1 5 9 -2
Martellus Bennett - NYG 6 1 9 16 -3
Joel Dreessen - DEN 5 1 8 14 -3
Vernon Davis - SFO 5 1 9 15 -4
Jacob Tamme - DEN 3 5 7 15 -4
Jermichael Finley - GBP 2 7 7 16 -5
Dallas Clark - TBB 3 3 8 14 -5
Jeff Cumberland - NYJ 3 1 8 12 -5
Lance Kendricks - STL 3 4 9 16 -6
Marcedes Lewis - JAC 3 3 9 15 -6
Dwayne Allen - IND 2 5 8 15 -6
Anthony Fasano - MIA 3 3 10 16 -7
Tony Scheffler - DET 2 3 9 14 -7
Zach Miller - SEA 3 2 10 15 -7
Tony Moeaki - KCC 1 4 8 13 -7
Garrett Graham - HOU 1 2 8 11 -7
Brent Celek - PHI 1 5 9 15 -8
Delanie Walker - SFO 3 1 11 15 -8
Ben Watson - CLE 2 3 11 16 -9
James Casey - HOU 2 3 11 16 -9

Table 3: 2012 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 7 tight ends blew the competition away, but health issues for Heath Miller this year cannot be ignored.  Several names on this list have to be looked upon with caution either due to lost targets to rookies (Owen Daniels, Jermaine Gresham) or scratched off entirely due to injury (Dennis Pitta) or legal problems (Aaron Hernandez). 

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 2013 ADP list.

Tight End Excellent Start Quality Start Bad Start Total NetVal ADP
Jimmy Graham - NOS 8 5 2 15 6 19
Rob Gronkowski - NEP 8 1 2 11 6 35
Heath Miller - PIT 8 5 3 16 5 TE19 (174)
Tony Gonzalez - ATL 8 4 4 16 4 54
Owen Daniels - HOU 8 3 4 15 4 106
Kyle Rudolph - MIN 8 2 4 14 4 82
Jason Witten - DAL 5 8 3 16 2 51
Greg Olsen - CAR 5 6 5 16 0 90
Jermaine Gresham - CIN 4 8 4 16 0 160
Jared Cook - TEN 4 5 4 13 0 101
Brandon Pettigrew - DET 4 4 5 13 -1 138
Brandon Myers - OAK 4 6 6 16 -2 125
Antonio Gates - SDC 5 3 7 15 -2 96
Martellus Bennett - NYG 6 1 9 16 -3 121
Vernon Davis - SFO 5 1 9 15 -4 61
Jermichael Finley - GBP 2 7 7 16 -5 102

Table 4: 2013 Top Drafted TEs Sorted By 2012 Value - Standard Scoring

Note that Fred Davis (ADP of 156, TE15) does not appear on this list due to injury last season.  Heath Miller is on the list, but I have to scream “buyer beware” as he is coming back from a devastating knee injury and it still remains to be seen if and when he can play this season. Judging from last year, it would appear that Owen Daniels is the best value amongst the Top 12 TEs going off the draft board, but the threat of rookie WR DeAndre Hopkins for targets is very real for Daniels.  Brandon Pettigrew is a close second, and the Lions will definitely throw to him often this year once again.  Jermaine Gresham looks like a value, but rookie Tyler Eifert could eat into his chances.  On the other side, Jermichael Finley seems to still be overdrafted by those who want to hope that he can become a top tight end in Green Bay, but they may be sorely disappointed for selecting him in the eighth or ninth round based on his 2011 numbers.  That brings up an important point, which is that this is based solely on last year's results. There is no reason to believe in these numbers as indications of 2013 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.


More from Jeff Pasquino:

NFC Running Back Handcuff Grades - July 22
AFC Running Back Handcuff Grades - July 18
Running Back Handcuff Grades - July 17
Quality Starts: Quarterbacks - July 15
Points Per Deception: A Look at PPR Scoring - June 26
High Stakes Contest Profile: The FFPC - June 24
Survivor Pool Strategy - June 23
Defending Reality: Team Defense Scoring - June 6
Nomination Strategies - June 4
Auction Day - June 4