Quality Starts - Wide Receiver
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 #24 WR for the year (Calvin Johnson, 133.7 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 quarterback 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:

QB Start Type
Fantasy Points
Bad Start
0 to 6.2
Quality Start
6.3 to 10.4
Excellent Start
10.5+

Table 1: WR Quality Start and Fantasy Point Ranges - Standard Scoring

Table 2 shows us the breakdown of all the Top 75 WRs and how many of each type of start resulted for each:

Wide Receiver
Type Of Start
Excellent
Quality
Bad
Total
DeSean Jackson - PHI
11
1
3
15
Andre Johnson - HOU
9
5
2
16
Randy Moss - NEP
9
5
2
16
Miles Austin - DAL
8
3
5
16
Larry Fitzgerald - ARI
8
6
2
16
Reggie Wayne - IND
8
2
6
16
Roddy White - ATL
9
1
6
16
Wes Welker - NEP
8
4
2
14
Sidney Rice - MIN
8
3
5
16
Brandon Marshall - DEN
8
1
6
15
Vincent Jackson - SDC
9
1
5
15
Percy Harvin - MIN
8
4
3
15
Steve Smith - NYG
6
8
2
16
Marques Colston - NOS
7
5
4
16
Chad Ochocinco - CIN
6
5
4
15
Santonio Holmes - PIT
4
7
5
16
Robert Meachem - NOS
8
0
6
14
Josh Cribbs - CLE
7
3
6
16
Hines Ward - PIT
7
2
7
16
Steve Smith - CAR
7
4
4
15
Derrick Mason - BAL
7
3
5
15
Donald Driver - GBP
6
4
6
16
Greg Jennings - GBP
5
4
6
15
Calvin Johnson - DET
5
4
5
14
Anquan Boldin - ARI
6
3
6
15
Mike Sims-Walker - JAC
7
0
7
14
Jacoby Jones - HOU
6
3
5
14
Patrick Crayton - DAL
4
5
7
16
Terrell Owens - BUF
5
2
8
15
Jerricho Cotchery - NYJ
4
5
5
14
Hakeem Nicks - NYG
5
4
4
13
Mike Wallace - PIT
5
3
7
15
Johnny Knox - CHI
5
3
7
15
Mario Manningham - NYG
4
3
7
14
Santana Moss - WAS
2
4
10
16
Austin Collie - IND
2
7
7
16
Nate Burleson - SEA
4
5
4
13
T.J. Houshmandzadeh - SEA
2
4
10
16
Chris Chambers - KCC
4
3
6
13
Lee Evans - BUF
4
3
9
16
Jeremy Maclin - PHI
3
4
6
13
Steve Breaston - ARI
3
5
7
15
Ted Ginn, Jr - MIA
4
1
10
15
Devin Hester - CHI
5
2
6
13
Pierre Garcon - IND
5
2
7
14
Earl Bennett - CHI
2
6
8
16
Roy Williams - DAL
3
6
4
13
Kenny Britt - TEN
3
3
8
14
Braylon Edwards - NYJ
4
2
10
16
Danny Amendola - STL
1
9
4
14
Devery Henderson - NOS
2
5
9
16
Nate Washington - TEN
2
6
7
15
Davone Bess - MIA
2
3
11
16
Josh Morgan - SFO
2
3
10
15
Donnie Avery - STL
3
2
10
15
Brian Hartline - MIA
4
2
8
14
Laveranues Coles - CIN
1
7
6
14
Malcom Floyd - SDC
1
5
9
15
Bernard Berrian - MIN
2
3
10
15
Jabar Gaffney - DEN
2
2
10
14
Antonio Bryant - TBB
3
2
8
13
Jason Avant - PHI
2
3
10
15
Mohamed Massaquoi - CLE
3
2
10
15
Dwayne Bowe - KCC
3
4
4
11
Louis Murphy - OAK
2
2
10
14
Mike Thomas - JAC
1
4
9
14
Eddie Royal - DEN
1
4
9
14
Domenik Hixon - NYG
3
2
8
13
James Jones - GBP
2
3
8
13
Kevin Walter - HOU
1
3
10
14
Andre Caldwell - CIN
2
3
10
15
Michael Crabtree - SFO
2
1
8
11
Michael Jenkins - ATL
1
4
10
15
Eric Weems - ATL
1
2
13
16
Torry Holt - JAC
0
4
11
15
Totals
328
263
514

Table 2: 2009 WR Start Types Sorted By Top 75 WRs - Standard Scoring

That's a lot of info to digest, so let me help. First, we see that there are far more Excellent Starts (328) than Quality Starts (263), which is comparable to last year's numbers of 316-232 and 2007’s 340-240. The disparity does start to rise since there is no PPR in the equation now - touchdowns for six big points are a much larger factor. The scoring range is also smaller and the range of a Quality Start is small due to lower scores, so more touchdowns would lead to bigger "Excellent Starts". There are a lot of Bad Starts (514), 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 quarterback 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:

NFL 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
Type Of Start
Net Value
Excellent
Quality
Bad
Total
DeSean Jackson - PHI
11
1
3
15
8
Andre Johnson - HOU
9
5
2
16
7
Randy Moss - NEP
9
5
2
16
7
Larry Fitzgerald - ARI
8
6
2
16
6
Wes Welker - NEP
8
4
2
14
6
Percy Harvin - MIN
8
4
3
15
5
Vincent Jackson - SDC
9
1
5
15
4
Steve Smith - NYG
6
8
2
16
4
Miles Austin - DAL
8
3
5
16
3
Roddy White - ATL
9
1
6
16
3
Sidney Rice - MIN
8
3
5
16
3
Marques Colston - NOS
7
5
4
16
3
Steve Smith - CAR
7
4
4
15
3
Reggie Wayne - IND
8
2
6
16
2
Brandon Marshall - DEN
8
1
6
15
2
Chad Ochocinco - CIN
6
5
4
15
2
Robert Meachem - NOS
8
0
6
14
2
Derrick Mason - BAL
7
3
5
15
2
Josh Cribbs - CLE
7
3
6
16
1
Jacoby Jones - HOU
6
3
5
14
1
Hakeem Nicks - NYG
5
4
4
13
1
Hines Ward - PIT
7
2
7
16
0
Donald Driver - GBP
6
4
6
16
0
Calvin Johnson - DET
5
4
5
14
0
Anquan Boldin - ARI
6
3
6
15
0
Mike Sims-Walker - JAC
7
0
7
14
0
Nate Burleson - SEA
4
5
4
13
0
Santonio Holmes - PIT
4
7
5
16
-1
Greg Jennings - GBP
5
4
6
15
-1
Jerricho Cotchery - NYJ
4
5
5
14
-1
Devin Hester - CHI
5
2
6
13
-1
Roy Williams - DAL
3
6
4
13
-1
Dwayne Bowe - KCC
3
4
4
11
-1
Mike Wallace - PIT
5
3
7
15
-2
Johnny Knox - CHI
5
3
7
15
-2
Chris Chambers - KCC
4
3
6
13
-2
Pierre Garcon - IND
5
2
7
14
-2
Patrick Crayton - DAL
4
5
7
16
-3
Terrell Owens - BUF
5
2
8
15
-3
Mario Manningham - NYG
4
3
7
14
-3
Jeremy Maclin - PHI
3
4
6
13
-3
Danny Amendola - STL
1
9
4
14
-3
Steve Breaston - ARI
3
5
7
15
-4
Brian Hartline - MIA
4
2
8
14
-4
Austin Collie - IND
2
7
7
16
-5
Lee Evans - BUF
4
3
9
16
-5
Kenny Britt - TEN
3
3
8
14
-5
Nate Washington - TEN
2
6
7
15
-5
Laveranues Coles - CIN
1
7
6
14
-5
Antonio Bryant - TBB
3
2
8
13
-5
Domenik Hixon - NYG
3
2
8
13
-5
Ted Ginn, Jr. - MIA
4
1
10
15
-6
Earl Bennett - CHI
2
6
8
16
-6
Braylon Edwards - NYJ
4
2
10
16
-6
James Jones - GBP
2
3
8
13
-6
Michael Crabtree - SFO
2
1
8
11
-6
Devery Henderson - NOS
2
5
9
16
-7
Donnie Avery - STL
3
2
10
15
-7
Mohamed Massaquoi - CLE
3
2
10
15
-7
Santana Moss - WAS
2
4
10
16
-8
T.J. Houshmandzadeh - SEA
2
4
10
16
-8
Josh Morgan - SFO
2
3
10
15
-8
Malcom Floyd - SDC
1
5
9
15
-8
Bernard Berrian - MIN
2
3
10
15
-8
Jabar Gaffney - DEN
2
2
10
14
-8
Jason Avant - PHI
2
3
10
15
-8
Louis Murphy - OAK
2
2
10
14
-8
Mike Thomas - JAC
1
4
9
14
-8
Eddie Royal - DEN
1
4
9
14
-8
Andre Caldwell - CIN
2
3
10
15
-8
Davone Bess - MIA
2
3
11
16
-9
Kevin Walter - HOU
1
3
10
14
-9
Michael Jenkins - ATL
1
4
10
15
-9
Torry Holt - JAC
0
4
11
15
-11
Eric Weems - ATL
1
2
13
16
-12

Table 3: 2009 WR Start Types Sorted By Value - Standard Scoring

This is a lot of information once again, but some names leap out at us. For example, Percy Harvin and Steve Smith (CAR) are Top 10 WRs as far as Quality Starts are concerned but both fell down into the WR11-WR20 range last year based on their total stats. On the low side, several players that are high picks this year like Santana Moss and TJ Houshmandzadeh need to step up and fill their starter roles. Granted this is a new season, but based on Table 3 it is not surprising if you drafted Moss or Houshmandzadeh and missed your fantasy playoffs last year.

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 2010 ADP list.

Wide Receiver
Type Of Start
Net Value
ADP
Excellent
Quality
Bad
Total
DeSean Jackson - PHI
11
1
3
15
8
24
Andre Johnson - HOU
9
5
2
16
7
6
Randy Moss - NEP
9
5
2
16
7
12
Larry Fitzgerald - ARI
8
6
2
16
6
13
Wes Welker - NEP
8
4
2
14
6
92
Percy Harvin - MIN
8
4
3
15
5
57
Steve Smith - NYG
6
8
2
16
4
43
Vincent Jackson - SDC
9
1
5
15
4
45
Roddy White - ATL
9
1
6
16
3
19
Miles Austin - DAL
8
3
5
16
3
21
Marques Colston - NOS
7
5
4
16
3
29
Sidney Rice - MIN
8
3
5
16
3
36
Steve Smith - CAR
7
4
4
15
3
40
Reggie Wayne - IND
8
2
6
16
2
14
Brandon Marshall - DEN
8
1
6
15
2
22
Chad Ochocinco - CIN
6
5
4
15
2
46
Robert Meachem - NOS
8
0
6
14
2
86
Hakeem Nicks - NYG
5
4
4
13
1
54
Calvin Johnson - DET
5
4
5
14
0
17
Anquan Boldin - ARI
6
3
6
15
0
39
Mike Sims-Walker - JAC
7
0
7
14
0
53
Hines Ward - PIT
7
2
7
16
0
60
Donald Driver - GBP
6
4
6
16
0
63
Greg Jennings - GBP
5
4
6
15
-1
31
Dwayne Bowe - KCC
3
4
4
11
-1
58
Santonio Holmes - PIT
4
7
5
16
-1
104
Pierre Garcon - IND
5
2
7
14
-2
79
Mike Wallace - PIT
5
3
7
15
-2
80
Jeremy Maclin - PHI
3
4
6
13
-3
85
Steve Breaston - ARI
3
5
7
15
-4
90
Antonio Bryant - TBB
3
2
8
13
-5
102
Michael Crabtree - SFO
2
1
8
11
-6
51
Braylon Edwards - NYJ
4
2
10
16
-6
98
Santana Moss - WAS
2
4
10
16
-8
81
T.J. Houshmandzadeh - SEA
2
4
10
16
-8
91

Table 4: 2010 Top Drafted WRs Sorted By 2009 Value - Standard Scoring

Note that Dez Bryant is not included simply because of his rookie status.

Judging form last season, it would appear that DeSean Jackson is the best value amongst the Top 10 WRs going off the draft board, while Percy Harvin could prove to be a huge steal if he can keep up his 2009 pace all 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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