Quality Starts - Wide Receiver (PPR Scoring)
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 (Percy Harvin, 189.3 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 8.8
Quality Start
8.9 to 14.7
Excellent Start
14.8+

Table 1: WR Quality Start and Fantasy Point Ranges - PPR 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
Andre Johnson - HOU
9
4
3
16
Randy Moss - NEP
7
6
3
16
Reggie Wayne - IND
9
3
4
16
Larry Fitzgerald - ARI
8
6
2
16
Steve Smith - NYG
9
6
1
16
Roddy White - ATL
10
1
5
16
Sidney Rice - MIN
9
4
3
16
Hines Ward - PIT
8
3
5
16
Santonio Holmes - PIT
9
5
2
16
Marques Colston - NOS
7
6
3
16
Donald Driver - GBP
6
7
3
16
T.J. Houshmandzadeh - SEA
4
6
6
16
Santana Moss - WAS
3
6
7
16
Austin Collie - IND
3
8
5
16
Davone Bess - MIA
2
7
7
16
Lee Evans - BUF
4
3
9
16
Devery Henderson - NOS
2
6
8
16
Nate Washington - TEN
2
6
8
16
Earl Bennett - CHI
2
6
8
16
Donnie Avery - STL
3
3
10
16
Miles Austin - DAL
9
2
4
15
Brandon Marshall - DEN
8
4
3
15
DeSean Jackson - PHI
9
3
3
15
Vincent Jackson - SDC
8
5
2
15
Chad Ochocinco - CIN
7
7
1
15
Anquan Boldin - ARI
8
5
2
15
Derrick Mason - BAL
7
4
4
15
Steve Smith - CAR
8
4
3
15
Greg Jennings - GBP
5
8
2
15
Percy Harvin - MIN
7
3
5
15
Terrell Owens - BUF
5
4
6
15
Mike Wallace - PIT
4
4
7
15
Bernard Berrian - MIN
1
7
7
15
Braylon Edwards - NYJ
4
3
8
15
Patrick Crayton - DAL
2
4
9
15
Josh Morgan - SFO
2
5
8
15
Malcom Floyd - SDC
1
3
11
15
Torry Holt - JAC
2
4
9
15
Michael Jenkins - ATL
2
4
9
15
Mohamed Massaquoi - CLE
3
3
9
15
Greg Camarillo - MIA
1
5
9
15
Antwaan Randle El - WAS
1
4
10
15
Bryant Johnson - DET
1
2
12
15
Wes Welker - NEP
10
3
1
14
Calvin Johnson - DET
7
3
4
14
Mike Sims-Walker - JAC
6
3
5
14
Robert Meachem - NOS
6
5
3
14
Mario Manningham - NYG
4
7
3
14
Jerricho Cotchery - NYJ
5
5
4
14
Hakeem Nicks - NYG
4
7
3
14
Pierre Garcon - IND
4
6
4
14
Steve Breaston - ARI
4
5
5
14
Jabar Gaffney - DEN
2
2
10
14
Kenny Britt - TEN
2
6
6
14
Kevin Walter - HOU
1
5
8
14
Johnny Knox - CHI
2
4
8
14
Laveranues Coles - CIN
1
7
6
14
Jason Avant - PHI
2
4
8
14
Muhsin Muhammad - CAR
2
3
9
14
Andre Caldwell - CIN
1
5
8
14
Louis Murphy - OAK
2
3
9
14
Brian Hartline - MIA
0
6
8
14
Mike Thomas - JAC
0
7
7
14
Deion Branch - SEA
0
5
9
14
Jeremy Maclin - PHI
3
6
4
13
Devin Hester - CHI
6
2
5
13
Chris Chambers - KCC
4
4
5
13
Roy Williams - DAL
3
6
4
13
Antonio Bryant - TBB
2
5
6
13
James Jones - GBP
1
4
8
13
Nate Burleson - SEA
5
3
4
12
Jacoby Jones - HOU
3
4
5
12
Mark Clayton - BAL
2
3
7
12
Dwayne Bowe - KCC
5
5
1
11
Michael Crabtree - SFO
2
6
3
11
Totals
322
348
425

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

That's a lot of info to digest, so let me help. First, we see that there are about as many Excellent Starts (322) as there are Quality Starts (348), a regression back to 2007 when it was about even as well (322-300) and not nearly as huge as the 384-282 score in 2008. (See both the 2009 article here as well as the 2008 article here). There are a lot of Bad Starts (425), 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
Wes Welker - NEP
10
3
1
14
9
Steve Smith - NYG
9
6
1
16
8
Santonio Holmes - PIT
9
5
2
16
7
Andre Johnson - HOU
9
4
3
16
6
Larry Fitzgerald - ARI
8
6
2
16
6
Sidney Rice - MIN
9
4
3
16
6
DeSean Jackson - PHI
9
3
3
15
6
Vincent Jackson - SDC
8
5
2
15
6
Chad Ochocinco - CIN
7
7
1
15
6
Anquan Boldin - ARI
8
5
2
15
6
Reggie Wayne - IND
9
3
4
16
5
Roddy White - ATL
10
1
5
16
5
Miles Austin - DAL
9
2
4
15
5
Brandon Marshall - DEN
8
4
3
15
5
Steve Smith - CAR
8
4
3
15
5
Randy Moss - NEP
7
6
3
16
4
Marques Colston - NOS
7
6
3
16
4
Dwayne Bowe - KCC
5
5
1
11
4
Hines Ward - PIT
8
3
5
16
3
Donald Driver - GBP
6
7
3
16
3
Derrick Mason - BAL
7
4
4
15
3
Greg Jennings - GBP
5
8
2
15
3
Calvin Johnson - DET
7
3
4
14
3
Robert Meachem - NOS
6
5
3
14
3
Percy Harvin - MIN
7
3
5
15
2
Mike Sims-Walker - JAC
6
3
5
14
1
Mario Manningham - NYG
4
7
3
14
1
Jerricho Cotchery - NYJ
5
5
4
14
1
Hakeem Nicks - NYG
4
7
3
14
1
Devin Hester - CHI
6
2
5
13
1
Nate Burleson - SEA
5
3
4
12
1
Pierre Garcon - IND
4
6
4
14
0
Terrell Owens - BUF
5
4
6
15
-1
Steve Breaston - ARI
4
5
5
14
-1
Jeremy Maclin - PHI
3
6
4
13
-1
Chris Chambers - KCC
4
4
5
13
-1
Roy Williams - DAL
3
6
4
13
-1
Michael Crabtree - SFO
2
6
3
11
-1
T.J. Houshmandzadeh - SEA
4
6
6
16
-2
Austin Collie - IND
3
8
5
16
-2
Jacoby Jones - HOU
3
4
5
12
-2
Mike Wallace - PIT
4
4
7
15
-3
Santana Moss - WAS
3
6
7
16
-4
Braylon Edwards - NYJ
4
3
8
15
-4
Kenny Britt - TEN
2
6
6
14
-4
Antonio Bryant - TBB
2
5
6
13
-4
Davone Bess - MIA
2
7
7
16
-5
Lee Evans - BUF
4
3
9
16
-5
Laveranues Coles - CIN
1
7
6
14
-5
Mark Clayton - BAL
2
3
7
12
-5
Devery Henderson - NOS
2
6
8
16
-6
Nate Washington - TEN
2
6
8
16
-6
Earl Bennett - CHI
2
6
8
16
-6
Bernard Berrian - MIN
1
7
7
15
-6
Josh Morgan - SFO
2
5
8
15
-6
Mohamed Massaquoi - CLE
3
3
9
15
-6
Johnny Knox - CHI
2
4
8
14
-6
Jason Avant - PHI
2
4
8
14
-6
Donnie Avery - STL
3
3
10
16
-7
Patrick Crayton - DAL
2
4
9
15
-7
Torry Holt - JAC
2
4
9
15
-7
Michael Jenkins - ATL
2
4
9
15
-7
Kevin Walter - HOU
1
5
8
14
-7
Muhsin Muhammad - CAR
2
3
9
14
-7
Andre Caldwell - CIN
1
5
8
14
-7
Louis Murphy - OAK
2
3
9
14
-7
Mike Thomas - JAC
0
7
7
14
-7
James Jones - GBP
1
4
8
13
-7
Greg Camarillo - MIA
1
5
9
15
-8
Jabar Gaffney - DEN
2
2
10
14
-8
Brian Hartline - MIA
0
6
8
14
-8
Antwaan Randle El - WAS
1
4
10
15
-9
Deion Branch - SEA
0
5
9
14
-9
Malcom Floyd - SDC
1
3
11
15
-10
Bryant Johnson - DET
1
2
12
15
-11

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

This is a lot of information once again, but some names leap out at us. For example, Steve Smith (NYG) and Miles Austin far exceeded their ADP value last year, which certainly makes sense given how many fantasy championship teams had one or both on their roster. Also, even with Dwayne Bowe missing a few starts, his per-game net value makes him a reasonably good gamble to draft for this year. On the low side, several players that are high picks this year like Santana Moss and Lee Evans 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 Santana Moss or Evans 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
Wes Welker - NEP
10
3
1
14
9
72
Steve Smith - NYG
9
6
1
16
8
36
Vincent Jackson - SDC
8
5
2
15
6
48
Chad Ochocinco - CIN
7
7
1
15
6
46
Anquan Boldin - ARI
8
5
2
15
6
38
Sidney Rice - MIN
9
4
3
16
6
24
DeSean Jackson - PHI
9
3
3
15
6
21
Larry Fitzgerald - ARI
8
6
2
16
6
8
Andre Johnson - HOU
9
4
3
16
6
5
Steve Smith - CAR
8
4
3
15
5
35
Roddy White - ATL
10
1
5
16
5
19
Miles Austin - DAL
9
2
4
15
5
17
Brandon Marshall - DEN
8
4
3
15
5
16
Reggie Wayne - IND
9
3
4
16
5
11
Dwayne Bowe - KCC
5
5
1
11
4
58
Marques Colston - NOS
7
6
3
16
4
26
Randy Moss - NEP
7
6
3
16
4
15
Robert Meachem - NOS
6
5
3
14
3
75
Donald Driver - GBP
6
7
3
16
3
71
Hines Ward - PIT
8
3
5
16
3
59
Greg Jennings - GBP
5
8
2
15
3
22
Calvin Johnson - DET
7
3
4
14
3
13
Percy Harvin - MIN
7
3
5
15
2
56
Mike Sims-Walker - JAC
6
3
5
14
1
57
Hakeem Nicks - NYG
4
7
3
14
1
55
Pierre Garcon - IND
4
6
4
14
0
70
Steve Breaston - ARI
4
5
5
14
-1
92
Jeremy Maclin - PHI
3
6
4
13
-1
61
Michael Crabtree - SFO
2
6
3
11
-1
44
T.J. Houshmandzadeh - SEA
4
6
6
16
-2
88
Mike Wallace - PIT
4
4
7
15
-3
68
Braylon Edwards - NYJ
4
3
8
15
-4
99
Santana Moss - WAS
3
6
7
16
-4
86
Kenny Britt - TEN
2
6
6
14
-4
85

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

Note that Dez Bryant is not included simply because of his rookie status and also Devin Aromashodu is excluded due to many 2009 games as a non-starter.

Judging form last season, it would appear that Wes Welker is the best value amongst the Top 20 WRs going off the draft board, while Dwayne Bowe, Hines Ward, Donald Driver and Robert Meachem could all prove to be a huge steal if they can keep up the 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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