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 2015 season, I decided to take the #12 TE for the year (Antonio Gates, 149 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 6.9|
|Quality Start||7.0 to 11.6|
Table 1: 2015 TE Quality Start and Fantasy Point Ranges - PPR Scoring
Table 2 shows us the breakdown of all the Top 36 TEs and how many of each type for each:
|Tight End||Team||Excellent Start||Quality Start||Bad Start||Total|
Table 2: 2015 TE Start Types Sorted By Top 36 TEs - PPR Scoring
That's a lot of info to digest, so let me help. First, we see that there significantly more Excellent Starts (176) than Quality Starts (111), which is consistent with the recent trend (2014 was 131 and 112, respectively, while 2013 was 171 and 124) and a much bigger difference than in the past. The numbers in 2012 were closer with about as many Excellent Starts (165) as Quality Starts (156), and the numbers are similar to two other recent seasons (2010, 146 and 128; 2009, 143 and 119). In 2011, the numbers were closer and actually a little inverted (more Quality Starts at 147 than the 137 Excellent starts), so this tells me that there are more and more elite tight ends pushing the top of the chart higher. Rob Gronkowski and Greg Olsen alone had a combined 21 Excellent starts (and justfive bad starts, or a +16 net) for these two studs. As for Bad Starts, there were plenty of those again this year with 189, 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.
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||Excellent Start||Quality Start||Bad Start||Total||NetVal|
Table 3: 2015 TE Start Types Sorted By Value - PPR Scoring
This is a lot of information once again, but some names leap out at us. For example, the Top 8 tight ends blew the competition away, as they accounted for over 90% of all of the positive net value tight ends in the league (a combined +61 Net Value). Tyler Eifert had a +6 in just 12 games, while fellow Pro Bowl tight end Antonio Gates had a +5 in 11 contests. Several newer names are near the top of this chart, hinting that there are more and more valuable tight ends across the league.
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 2016 ADP list.
|Tight End||Team||Excellent Start||Quality Start||Bad Start||Total||NetVal||ADP|
Table 4: 2016 Top Drafted TEs Sorted By 2015 Value - PPR Scoring
Note that two rookies (Austin Hooper of the Atlanta Falcons, and Hunter Henry of the San Diego Chargers) make their first appearance in this article, since they did not have any 2015 NFL statistics.
Lots of information can be gathered from our final table. First, 2015 numbers are not at all a good predictive measure of ADP this year. Why? Lots of change at the position. Coby Fleener is now in New Orleans, which elevates Fleener's perceived value (ADP of TE7, 76th overall) now that he will start for Drew Brees - but do not forget the impact to Fleener's former teammate, Dwayne Allen. Allen will now be the top tight end for Andrew Luck, and Luck loves to utilize the tight end on offense (which even goes back to Luck's days at Stanford). Allen has a lofty ADP of TE17 even though his 2015 numbers support no such ranking. Lots of fantasy TE2's this year are impacted, as Martellus Bennett (TE14) moved from Chicago to New England, opening opportunity for Zach Miller (TE19) for the Bears. Richard Rodgers (TE30) will now compete with Jared Cook (TE21). Even Ladarius Green (ADP of 96, TE9) moved from San Diego to Pittsburgh to start for the Steelers. I believe that several tight ends in the TE13-24+ ADP range this year will push for TE1 fantasy value - so 2015 numbers have to be taken with a massive grain of salt. That brings up an important point, which is that the numbers in this analysis article are based solely on last year's results. There is no reason to believe in these numbers as indications of 2016 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.
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