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Quality Starts: Wide Receivers - Footballguys

Quality Starts for 2017 for Wide Receivers 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 decided to take the #24 WR for the year based on a points per game ranking, rather than based on total points as I had done in some previous years. The reason is simple - when stud wide receivers are available (like Odell Beckham), you play them - but when they are hurt, you don't. So rather than exclude studs who get hurt for several games from the analysis, elite receivers with high averages are now included even though he missed time. That changes our outlook just slightly, as now our WR24 is Chris Hogan (76.6 fantasy points, or 8.5 over 9 games) instead of Kenny Stills (119.7 points or 7.5 per game). It is a subtle change, but I think a better one, so I will use that for receivers going forwards. 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 wide receiver 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:

WR Start Type
Fantasy Points
Bad Start
0 to 6.3
Quality Start
6.4 to 10.6
Excellent Start
10.7+

Table 1: 2017 WR Quality Start and Fantasy Point Ranges - Standard Scoring

Table 2 shows us the breakdown of all the Top 75 WRs from 2017 and how many of each type of start resulted for each:

Wide Receiver
Team
Excellent Starts
Quality Starts
Bad Starts
Total Starts
DeAndre Hopkins HOU 11 4 0 15
Antonio Brown PIT 9 1 4 14
Keenan Allen LAC 7 3 6 16
Odell Beckham NYG 2 1 1 4
Tyreek Hill KCC 8 3 4 15
JuJu Smith-Schuster PIT 6 3 5 14
Davante Adams GBP 8 1 5 14
Julio Jones ATL 6 6 4 16
Marvin Jones Jr DET 6 5 5 16
Michael Thomas NOS 6 7 3 16
Jarvis Landry MIA 6 5 5 16
Brandin Cooks NEP 6 4 6 16
Stefon Diggs MIN 5 4 5 14
A.J. Green CIN 6 5 5 16
Larry Fitzgerald ARI 6 3 7 16
Doug Baldwin SEA 5 4 7 16
Adam Thielen MIN 5 3 8 16
Will Fuller V HOU 4 0 6 10
Mike Evans TBB 6 4 5 15
Robert Woods LAR 3 3 6 12
Alshon Jeffery PHI 7 2 6 15
Robby Anderson NYJ 6 2 8 16
Chris Hogan NEP 4 1 4 9
Golden Tate DET 7 2 7 16
Nelson Agholor PHI 6 3 6 15
Devin Funchess CAR 7 2 7 16
Michael Crabtree OAK 4 5 3 12
Amari Cooper OAK 4 2 7 13
Sterling Shepard NYG 3 1 7 11
Cooper Kupp LAR 6 2 7 15
Demaryius Thomas DEN 5 6 5 16
Ted Ginn Jr NOS 5 3 7 15
Rishard Matthews TEN 4 2 8 14
Kenny Stills MIA 4 3 9 16
T.Y. Hilton IND 4 1 11 16
Dez Bryant DAL 5 5 6 16
Mohamed Sanu ATL 3 6 6 15
Marquise Goodwin SFO 3 6 6 15
Tyler Lockett SEA 3 5 8 16
Sammy Watkins LAR 3 4 7 14
Jermaine Kearse NYJ 3 3 10 16
Jamison Crowder WAS 4 2 7 13
Travis Benjamin LAC 4 3 9 16
Marqise Lee JAC 4 4 5 13
Mike Wallace BAL 4 4 7 15
Paul Richardson Jr SEA 3 4 8 15
DeSean Jackson TBB 1 6 7 14
Randall Cobb GBP 3 3 8 14
Pierre Garcon SFO 1 2 5 8
Allen Hurns JAC 1 3 6 10
Kelvin Benjamin BUF 1 7 6 14
Kenny Golladay DET 2 1 8 11
Danny Amendola NEP 1 5 9 15
Tyrell Williams LAC 4 0 12 16
Keelan Cole JAC 4 1 10 15
Martavis Bryant PIT 3 2 10 15
Albert Wilson KCC 2 4 6 12
Emmanuel Sanders DEN 2 3 7 12
Jordy Nelson GBP 3 2 9 14
DeVante Parker MIA 1 6 6 13
Josh Doctson WAS 2 4 8 14
Tavarres King NYG 1 1 5 7
Jeremy Maclin BAL 2 2 8 12
Ryan Grant WAS 2 3 11 16
John Brown ARI 1 2 6 9
Jaron Brown ARI 1 4 10 15
Corey Coleman CLE 2 2 4 8
Adam Humphries TBB 1 3 12 16
Cody Latimer DEN 2 0 9 11
Trent Taylor SFO 0 4 11 15
Brandon LaFell CIN 1 2 13 16
Bruce Ellington HOU 2 1 7 10
Deonte Thompson BUF 3 1 12 16
Cordarrelle Patterson OAK 3 1 12 16
Chris Moore BAL 1 2 7 10
Totals 289 229 522

Table 2: 2017 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 (289) than Quality Starts (229), a difference of 60 starts. That difference is comparable to the last two seasons (60 in 2016, 64 in 2015) and the threshold for excellence is comparable to prior years. The line for Excellent Starts has been reasonably consistent for the past several years, as shown in Table 3 below:

Year
Excellent Starts
Quality Starts
Excellent Start Threshold
2017
289
229
10.6
2016
332
272
10.8
2015
316
252
11.5
2014
331
223
10.6
2013
318
240
11.0
2012
355
251
10.6
2011
346
240
10.7
2010
334
222
10.5

Table 3: Excellent and Quality Starts - 2009 to 2017 - Standard Scoring

Now, to dig deeper, let's look at the numbers distributed in two different ways. First, I need to define a valuable starting wide receiver 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:

STARTING FANTASY 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
Team
Excellent Starts
Quality Starts
Bad Starts
Total Starts
NetVal
HOU
11
4
0
15
11
PIT
9
1
4
14
5
KCC
8
3
4
15
4
GBP
8
1
5
14
3
NOS
6
7
3
16
3
ATL
6
6
4
16
2
LAC
7
3
6
16
1
Odell Beckham
NYG
2
1
1
4
1
PIT
6
3
5
14
1
DET
6
5
5
16
1
MIA
6
5
5
16
1
CIN
6
5
5
16
1
TBB
6
4
5
15
1
PHI
7
2
6
15
1
OAK
4
5
3
12
1
NEP
6
4
6
16
0
MIN
5
4
5
14
0
NEP
4
1
4
9
0
DET
7
2
7
16
0
PHI
6
3
6
15
0
CAR
7
2
7
16
0
DEN
5
6
5
16
0
ARI
6
3
7
16
-1
LAR
6
2
7
15
-1
DAL
5
5
6
16
-1
JAC
4
4
5
13
-1
SEA
5
4
7
16
-2
HOU
4
0
6
10
-2
NYJ
6
2
8
16
-2
NOS
5
3
7
15
-2
CLE
2
2
4
8
-2
MIN
5
3
8
16
-3
LAR
3
3
6
12
-3
OAK
4
2
7
13
-3
ATL
3
6
6
15
-3
SFO
3
6
6
15
-3
WAS
4
2
7
13
-3
BAL
4
4
7
15
-3
NYG
3
1
7
11
-4
TEN
4
2
8
14
-4
LAR
3
4
7
14
-4
SFO
1
2
5
8
-4
KCC
2
4
6
12
-4
NYG
1
1
5
7
-4
MIA
4
3
9
16
-5
SEA
3
5
8
16
-5
LAC
4
3
9
16
-5
SEA
3
4
8
15
-5
GBP
3
3
8
14
-5
JAC
1
3
6
10
-5
BUF
1
7
6
14
-5
DEN
2
3
7
12
-5
MIA
1
6
6
13
-5
ARI
1
2
6
9
-5
HOU
2
1
7
10
-5
TBB
1
6
7
14
-6
DET
2
1
8
11
-6
JAC
4
1
10
15
-6
GBP
3
2
9
14
-6
WAS
2
4
8
14
-6
BAL
2
2
8
12
-6
BAL
1
2
7
10
-6
IND
4
1
11
16
-7
NYJ
3
3
10
16
-7
PIT
3
2
10
15
-7
DEN
2
0
9
11
-7
NEP
1
5
9
15
-8
LAC
4
0
12
16
-8
WAS
2
3
11
16
-9
ARI
1
4
10
15
-9
BUF
3
1
12
16
-9
OAK
3
1
12
16
-9
TBB
1
3
12
16
-11
SFO
0
4
11
15
-11
CIN
1
2
13
16
-12

Table 4: 2017 WR Start Types Sorted By Value - PPR Scoring

This is a lot of information once again, but some names leap out at us. The first observation is that there was just one receiver on the entire list with just zero bad starts (DeAndre Hopkins) and only one with one Bad Start (Odell Beckham) - and he missed most of the year. Hopkins dominated the Net Value at +11, more than double the next elite receiver in Antonio Brown (+5). Only three other receivers (Tyreek Hill, Davante Adams and Michael Thomas) had +3 or +4 Net Values. Further, only 15 receivers had a positive Net Value last year, and even if you had a fantasy roster completely comprised of this short and elite list, your wide receivers would still underperform roughly 25% of the time. That shows how difficult it was to find reliable, quality receivers once again last season. It is decidedly clear that getting 2-4 top notch receivers on your fantasy team is critical to success in today's pass-happy NFL.

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 48 WRs on the 2018 ADP list.

Wide Receiver
Team
Excellent Starts
Quality Starts
Bad Starts
Total Starts
NetVal
ADP
HOU
11
4
0
15
11
7
PIT
9
1
4
14
5
5
KCC
8
3
4
15
4
30
NOS
6
7
3
16
3
15
GBP
8
1
5
14
3
19
ATL
6
6
4
16
2
13
Odell Beckham
NYG
2
1
1
4
1
11
LAC
7
3
6
16
1
16
CIN
6
5
5
16
1
17
TBB
6
4
5
15
1
21
PIT
6
3
5
14
1
45
PHI
7
2
6
15
1
47
DET
6
5
5
16
1
54
MIA
6
5
5
16
1
61
OAK
4
5
3
12
1
66
MIN
5
4
5
14
0
40
DEN
5
6
5
16
0
43
NEP
6
4
6
16
0
48
DET
7
2
7
16
0
51
NEP
4
1
4
9
0
74
CAR
7
2
7
16
0
78
ARI
6
3
7
16
-1
39
LAR
6
2
7
15
-1
90
SEA
5
4
7
16
-2
27
MIN
5
3
8
16
-3
31
OAK
4
2
7
13
-3
35
LAR
3
3
6
12
-3
82
WAS
4
2
7
13
-3
100
LAR
3
4
7
14
-4
67
SFO
1
2
5
8
-4
83
DEN
2
3
7
12
-5
86
IND
4
1
11
16
-7
28
TEN
Limited action
73
NEP
Injury
77
JAX
Injury
46
CLE
Suspension
37

Table 5: 2018 Top Drafted WRs Sorted By 2017 Value - Standard Scoring

Note that two players that had major injuries (Allen Robinson, Julian Edelman), one that was suspended most of the year (Josh Gordon) and one 2017 rookie that received limited playing time (Corey Davis) are all listed at the bottom of this table for full coverage of the Top 36 options on the wide receiver ADP list.

Judging from 2017, there appear to be a few values at the top end of fantasy drafts at the wide receiver position. JuJu Smith-Schuster is about to step up as the clear WR2 in Pittsburgh, while Marvin Jones Jr is already the WR1 (or at least 1A to Golden Tate's 1B) in Detroit. Both receivers finished 2017 at a +1 Net Value, but the concerns are the 11 combined Bad Starts, which can wreck any weekly fantasy performance matchups. Michael Crabtree could offer even better value with his new role in Baltimore if he continues to be a big Red Zone threat this year. On the other side, I cannot see a reasonable justification for drafting T.Y. Hilton early, especially with questions about Andrew Luck's arm. Amari Cooper is another concern, as he struggled to dominate as a WR1 last year in Oakland while splitting targets with Crabtree. Now Jordy Nelson is in the mix and who knows how the chances will be split for the Raiders. That reminds me to provide the annual warning with this data - there is no reason to believe in these numbers as 100% indications of 2017 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.