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Quality Starts: Tight Ends - Footballguys

Quality Starts for 2017 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 2017 season, I first decided to take the #12 TE for the year (Hunter Henry, 81.9 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, so I also looked at sorting the tight ends by points per game. That landed me on Tyler Kroft as TE12 with an average of 5.4 points per game - or 86.4 over 16 games. It is close, but I chose to go with the game average to allow for players who suffered injuries to be included more. 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 4.0
Quality Start
4.1 to 6.7
Excellent Start
6.9+

Table 1: 2017 TE Quality Start and Fantasy Point Ranges - Non-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 Starts
Quality Starts
Bad Starts
Total Starts
NEP
10
1
2
13
KCC
10
2
3
15
PHI
11
0
3
14
NYG
7
4
3
14
SEA
8
4
3
15
TEN
7
4
5
16
MIN
7
5
4
16
IND
5
6
3
14
TBB
6
2
8
16
LAC
8
0
4
12
TBB
5
1
5
11
CIN
6
1
7
14
BUF
4
2
7
13
DAL
5
4
7
16
DET
5
3
8
16
OAK
4
4
8
16
BAL
4
4
6
14
WAS
6
3
4
13
ATL
3
2
10
15
SFO
3
3
9
15
JAC
3
2
6
11
CLE
4
2
9
15
PHI
4
1
9
14
SFO
4
1
8
13
MIA
3
2
9
14
PIT
3
1
8
12
CAR
2
2
9
13
NYJ
3
2
8
13
LAC
3
1
9
13
CLE
1
4
9
14
ARI
2
1
11
14
Nick O\'Leary
BUF
1
3
8
12
SEA
3
1
5
9
HOU
2
1
9
12
NOS
3
1
4
8
ARI
2
1
3
6
Totals
167
81
233

Table 2: 2017 TE Start Types Sorted By Top 36 TEs - Non-PPR Scoring

That's a lot of info to digest, so let me help. First, we see that there are significantly more Excellent Starts (167) than Quality Starts (81), which is consistent with last year (165 Excellent, 129 Quality) and also aligns well with the recent trends (the prior three seasons (2013, 2014 and 2015) were 131 and 112, 176 and 111, and 165 and 129, respectively). 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. Eight different tight ends had seven or more elite starts last season, highlighted by Rob Gronkowski (10), Travis Kelce (10) and Zach Ertz (11). As for Bad Starts, there were plenty of those again this year with 233, 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 Starts
Quality Starts
Bad Starts
Total Starts
NetVal
NEP
10
1
2
13
8
PHI
11
0
3
14
8
KCC
10
2
3
15
7
SEA
8
4
3
15
5
NYG
7
4
3
14
4
LAC
8
0
4
12
4
MIN
7
5
4
16
3
TEN
7
4
5
16
2
IND
5
6
3
14
2
WAS
6
3
4
13
2
TBB
5
1
5
11
0
CIN
6
1
7
14
-1
NOS
3
1
4
8
-1
ARI
2
1
3
6
-1
TBB
6
2
8
16
-2
DAL
5
4
7
16
-2
BAL
4
4
6
14
-2
SEA
3
1
5
9
-2
BUF
4
2
7
13
-3
DET
5
3
8
16
-3
JAC
3
2
6
11
-3
OAK
4
4
8
16
-4
SFO
4
1
8
13
-4
CLE
4
2
9
15
-5
PHI
4
1
9
14
-5
PIT
3
1
8
12
-5
NYJ
3
2
8
13
-5
SFO
3
3
9
15
-6
MIA
3
2
9
14
-6
LAC
3
1
9
13
-6
ATL
3
2
10
15
-7
CAR
2
2
9
13
-7
Nick O\'Leary
BUF
1
3
8
12
-7
HOU
2
1
9
12
-7
CLE
1
4
9
14
-8
ARI
2
1
11
14
-9

Table 3: 2017 TE Start Types Sorted By Value - Non-PPR Scoring

This is a lot of information once again, but some names leap out at us. For example, the Top 10 tight ends blew the competition away, as they accounted for all of the positive net value tight ends in the league (a combined +45 Net Value). Rob Gronkowski had a +8 in just 13 contests, cementing him atop this list. That said, Travis Kelce and Zach Ertz were just behind. 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 2018 ADP list.

Tight End
Team
Excellent Starts
Quality Starts
Bad Starts
Total Starts
NetVal
ADP
NEP
10
1
2
13
8
22
KCC
10
2
3
15
7
27
PHI
11
0
3
14
8
34
SEA
8
4
3
15
5
59
NYG
7
4
3
14
4
63
MIN
7
5
4
16
3
72
TEN
7
4
5
16
2
78
PHI
4
1
9
14
-5
92
IND
5
6
3
14
2
119
SFO
3
3
9
15
-6
130
CLE
4
2
9
15
-5
141
TBB
6
2
8
16
-2
TE15
TBB
5
1
5
11
0
TE16
NYJ
3
2
8
13
-5
TE17
BUF
4
2
7
13
-3
TE18
DET
5
3
8
16
-3
TE19
OAK
4
4
8
16
-4
TE20
BAL
4
4
6
14
-2
TE21
ATL
3
2
10
15
-7
TE23
ARI
2
1
3
6
-1
TE24

Table 4: 2018 Top Drafted TEs Sorted By 2017 Value - Non-PPR Scoring

Note that three other players (rookie Hayden Hurst, Vance MacDonald, and Tyler Eifert) are not on the list either due to their first pro season upcoming or due to injury (Eifert) or new situation (MacDonald). Another top option - Greg Olsen - is notable by his absence due to playing only seven games last year.

Lots of information can be gathered from our final table. First, 2017 numbers are a reasonably good predictive measure of ADP this year. Gronkowski, Kelce, Ertz, and Walker are all at or near the top of most tight end draft lists. Jimmy Graham is not far off the pace even with his move to Green Bay. Evan Engram is also in the Top 10, but changes made by the New York Giants may cap his upside. Lots of fluctuation is expected at tight end, especially after the Top 10-12. Similar to last season, I once again believe that several tight ends in the TE13-24+ ADP range this year will push for TE1 fantasy value - so 2017 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 2018 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.