Quality Starts - Tight End
By Jeff Pasquino
July 20th, 2010

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 2009 season, I decided to take the #12 TE for the year (Zach Miller, 100.5 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:

QB Start Type
Fantasy Points
Bad Start
0 to 4.7
Quality Start
4.8 to 7.8
Excellent Start
7.9+

Table 1: 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
Type Of Start
Excellent
Quality
Bad
Total
Dallas Clark - IND
11
3
2
16
Vernon Davis - SFO
10
2
4
16
Antonio Gates - SDC
7
8
1
16
Brent Celek - PHI
9
4
3
16
Tony Gonzalez - ATL
8
4
4
16
Visanthe Shiancoe - MIN
6
4
6
16
Kellen Winslow - TBB
8
2
6
16
Heath Miller - PIT
7
1
8
16
Jason Witten - DAL
5
5
6
16
Greg Olsen - CHI
5
2
9
16
John Carlson - SEA
5
2
8
15
Zach Miller - OAK
5
3
6
14
Jermichael Finley - GBP
5
4
3
12
Todd Heap - BAL
3
3
10
16
Kevin Boss - NYG
3
4
8
15
Fred Davis - WAS
5
1
7
13
Owen Daniels - HOU
5
1
2
8
Jeremy Shockey - NOS
3
4
6
13
Ben Watson - NEP
3
3
6
12
Dustin Keller - NYJ
3
3
9
15
Marcedes Lewis - JAC
2
3
9
14
Tony Scheffler - DEN
1
4
9
14
Spencer Havner - GBP
3
0
10
13
Dante Rosario - CAR
2
1
9
12
Bo Scaife - TEN
1
1
10
12
Brandon Pettigrew - DET
2
1
6
9
Will Heller - DET
2
1
11
14
Daniel Fells - STL
2
1
10
13
Chris Cooley - WAS
3
1
2
6
Anthony Fasano - MIA
2
2
8
12
Joel Dreessen - HOU
1
2
10
13
Dave Thomas - NOS
1
2
8
11
Randy McMichael - STL
1
0
15
16
Jeff King - CAR
1
2
12
15
Zach Miller - JAC
1
1
10
12
Delanie Walker - SFO
0
2
13
15
Totals
141
87
266

Table 2: 2009 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 about as many Excellent Starts (141) combined with Quality Starts (87) as Bad Starts (266), so that gives me a good idea that the ranges are in line. Yes there are a large number of Bad Starts 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:

NFL 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
Type Of Start
Net Value
Excellent
Quality
Bad
Total
Tony Gonzalez - KCC
11
3
2
16
9
Jason Witten - DAL
8
4
4
16
4
John Carlson - SEA
9
2
5
16
4
Dallas Clark - IND
7
4
4
15
3
Antonio Gates - SDC
8
3
5
16
3
Tony Scheffler - DEN
6
2
5
13
1
Visanthe Shiancoe - MIN
7
2
7
16
0
Chris Cooley - WAS
6
4
6
16
0
Greg Olsen - CHI
6
4
6
16
0
Zach Miller - OAK
5
6
5
16
0
Heath Miller - PIT
6
2
6
14
0
Kellen Winslow - CLE
4
2
4
10
0
Owen Daniels - HOU
6
3
7
16
-1
Kevin Boss - NYG
6
1
8
15
-2
Billy Miller - NOS
4
5
6
15
-2
Anthony Fasano - MIA
6
1
9
16
-3
David Martin - MIA
6
1
9
16
-3
Dustin Keller - NYJ
5
2
9
16
-4
L.J. Smith - PHI
3
3
7
13
-4
Jeremy Shockey - NOS
2
4
6
12
-4
Bo Scaife - TEN
4
3
9
16
-5
Daniel Graham - DEN
4
3
9
16
-5
Donald Lee - GBP
5
1
10
16
-5
Marcedes Lewis - JAC
4
2
10
16
-6
Jerramy Stevens - TBB
3
1
10
14
-7
Alex Smith - TBB
3
1
10
14
-7
Martellus Bennett - DAL
3
2
11
16
-8
Vernon Davis - SFO
2
4
10
16
-8
Ben Watson - NEP
2
2
10
14
-8
Todd Heap - BAL
2
2
12
16
-10
Desmond Clark - CHI
1
4
11
16
-10
Delanie Walker - SFO
1
3
11
15
-10
Robert Royal - BUF
2
1
12
15
-10
Brent Celek - PHI
2
0
14
16
-12
Alge Crumpler - TEN
1
0
14
15
-13
Dante Rosario - CAR
1
1
14
16
-13

Table 3: 2009 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, Brent Celek was a pleasant surprise last year, and Owen Daniels was on a tear until he was injured after just eight games. On the low side, Tony Scheffler fans have to hope that the move to Detroit will revitalize his career and fantasy production.

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 2010 ADP list.

Tight End
Type Of Start
Net Value
ADP
Excellent
Quality
Bad
Total
Dallas Clark - IND
11
3
2
16
9
41
Vernon Davis - SFO
10
2
4
16
6
47
Antonio Gates - SDC
7
8
1
16
6
43
Brent Celek - PHI
9
4
3
16
6
61
Tony Gonzalez - ATL
8
4
4
16
4
65
Owen Daniels - HOU
5
1
2
8
3
94
Kellen Winslow - TBB
8
2
6
16
2
99
Jermichael Finley - GBP
5
4
3
12
2
58
Chris Cooley - WAS
3
1
2
6
1
103
Visanthe Shiancoe - MIN
6
4
6
16
0
104
Heath Miller - PIT
7
1
8
16
-1
136
Jason Witten - DAL
5
5
6
16
-1
56
Zach Miller - OAK
5
3
6
14
-1
110
Fred Davis - WAS
5
1
7
13
-2
237
John Carlson - SEA
5
2
8
15
-3
149
Jeremy Shockey - NOS
3
4
6
13
-3
167
Greg Olsen - CHI
5
2
9
16
-4
165
Brandon Pettigrew - DET
2
1
6
9
-4
206
Kevin Boss - NYG
3
4
8
15
-5
193
Dustin Keller - NYJ
3
3
9
15
-6
137
Tony Scheffler - DEN
1
4
9
14
-8
246

Table 4: 2010 Top Drafted TEs Sorted By 2009 Value - PPR Scoring

Note that rookie tight end Jermaine Gresham of the Bengals is missing from the Top 250 ADP list for the simple reason that he has not played an NFL contest yet in his career. Judging from last season, it would appear that Brent Celek and Tony Gonzalez are the best values in the Top 10 TEs going off the draft board, while Owen Daniels could prove to be a huge steal if he can match last year's pace for a full season. 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 2010 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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