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Quality Starts: Wide Receivers (PPR) - Footballguys

Quality Starts for 2017 for Wide Receivers Using PPR 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 Michael Crabtree (171.8 fantasy points, or 12.3 per game over 15 games) instead of Nelson Agholor (187.7 points or 11.7 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 8.0
Quality Start
8.1 to 13.4
Excellent Start
13.5+

Table 1: 2017 WR Quality Start and Fantasy Point Ranges - PPR 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
PIT
9
2
3
14
HOU
12
3
0
15
Odell Beckham
NYG
3
0
1
4
LAC
7
8
1
16
MIA
8
8
0
16
ARI
6
7
3
16
NOS
7
8
1
16
KCC
7
7
1
15
GBP
8
4
2
14
ATL
6
8
2
16
MIN
7
7
2
16
CIN
5
7
4
16
MIN
5
4
5
14
DET
8
2
6
16
DET
6
6
4
16
SEA
5
8
3
16
NEP
6
4
6
16
LAR
5
4
3
12
PIT
5
5
3
13
TBB
6
6
3
15
NYG
3
5
3
11
DEN
7
5
4
16
NYJ
5
6
5
16
OAK
4
5
3
12
PHI
6
6
3
15
CAR
5
6
5
16
NEP
4
2
3
9
LAR
5
5
5
15
DAL
5
4
7
16
PHI
5
4
7
16
ATL
3
7
5
15
HOU
3
2
5
10
OAK
4
3
6
13
SFO
2
3
3
8
TEN
4
3
7
14
MIA
3
6
7
16
WAS
3
6
6
15
IND
4
4
8
16
NYJ
3
6
7
16
Jr. Ginn
Ted
4
5
6
15
GBP
4
5
5
14
JAC
3
6
3
12
SFO
5
5
5
15
BAL
4
6
5
15
MIA
1
7
5
13
JAC
1
4
5
10
TBB
2
6
6
14
LAR
2
6
6
14
BUF
2
6
6
14
JAC
1
3
3
7
DEN
2
3
7
12
SEA
2
7
6
15
NEP
4
2
9
15
GBP
3
2
9
14
KCC
1
6
5
12
PIT
2
6
7
15
LAC
3
4
9
16
DET
2
2
7
11
BAL
1
5
6
12
JAC
3
3
9
15
TBB
2
5
9
16
CHI
1
5
8
14
WAS
1
6
9
16
CIN
1
5
10
16
LAC
3
4
7
14
NYG
1
1
6
8
WAS
0
7
7
14
SEA
2
4
10
16
CLE
2
2
4
8
TEN
1
5
9
15
ARI
0
4
5
9
DAL
1
3
11
15
HOU
1
3
6
10
BUF
2
3
10
15
SFO
0
5
10
15
Totals
279
357
402

Table 2: 2017 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 fewer Excellent Starts (279) than Quality Starts (357), a difference of -78 starts. That is very similar to 2016 where the difference was also negative (-90) between Excellent (267) and Quality Starts (357). Some of this can be attributed to injuries to elite receivers, but also the line for Excellent Starts changed dramatically, with the threshold for excellence far lower than any of the previous four seasons. That will inflate Excellent Starts while also reducing Quality Starts, since the range is 1-2 points smaller for Quality Starts last year (only 5.4 points vs. 6.6 or more in prior seasons). There were also a lot of Bad Starts in 2017 (402), 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. Table 3 below gives a quick summary of the data from the past seasons:

Year
Excellent Starts
Quality Starts
Excellent Start Threshold
2017
279
357
15.4
2016
267
357
16.7
2015
310
305
16.6
2014
325
290
16.4
2013
322
281
15.8
2012
355
319
15.4

Table 3: Excellent and Quality Starts - 2009 to 2017 - PPR 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
14
1
0
15
14
MIA
11
5
0
16
11
NOS
12
3
1
16
11
LAC
8
7
1
16
7
KCC
8
6
1
15
7
PIT
9
2
3
14
6
GBP
8
4
2
14
6
MIN
8
6
2
16
6
TBB
9
3
3
15
6
ATL
7
7
2
16
5
ARI
7
6
3
16
4
SEA
7
6
3
16
4
PHI
7
5
3
15
4
CIN
7
5
4
16
3
DET
9
1
6
16
3
PIT
6
4
3
13
3
DEN
7
5
4
16
3
OAK
6
3
3
12
3
Odell Beckham
NYG
3
0
1
4
2
MIN
7
2
5
14
2
DET
6
6
4
16
2
NEP
8
2
6
16
2
LAR
5
4
3
12
2
CAR
7
4
5
16
2
JAC
5
4
3
12
2
NYJ
6
5
5
16
1
NEP
4
2
3
9
1
LAR
6
4
5
15
1
NOS
7
2
6
15
1
BAL
6
4
5
15
1
NYG
3
5
3
11
0
DAL
7
2
7
16
0
PHI
7
2
7
16
0
ATL
5
5
5
15
0
SFO
3
2
3
8
0
GBP
5
4
5
14
0
SFO
5
5
5
15
0
HOU
4
1
5
10
-1
WAS
5
4
6
15
-1
JAC
2
2
3
7
-1
CLE
3
1
4
8
-1
OAK
4
3
6
13
-2
JAC
3
2
5
10
-2
TBB
4
4
6
14
-2
BUF
4
4
6
14
-2
TEN
4
3
7
14
-3
MIA
4
5
7
16
-3
IND
5
3
8
16
-3
NYJ
4
5
7
16
-3
MIA
2
6
5
13
-3
LAR
3
5
6
14
-3
DEN
4
1
7
12
-3
SEA
3
6
6
15
-3
BAL
3
3
6
12
-3
NEP
5
1
9
15
-4
KCC
1
6
5
12
-4
PIT
3
5
7
15
-4
CHI
4
2
8
14
-4
LAC
3
4
7
14
-4
ARI
1
3
5
9
-4
HOU
2
2
6
10
-4
LAC
4
3
9
16
-5
DET
2
2
7
11
-5
JAC
4
2
9
15
-5
NYG
1
1
6
8
-5
GBP
3
2
9
14
-6
WAS
1
6
7
14
-6
TBB
2
5
9
16
-7
WAS
2
5
9
16
-7
BUF
3
2
10
15
-7
SEA
2
4
10
16
-8
TEN
1
5
9
15
-8
CIN
1
5
10
16
-9
SFO
1
4
10
15
-9
DAL
1
3
11
15
-10

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 were only two receivers on the entire list with just zero bad starts (DeAndre Hopkins and Jarvis Landry) and only four with just one Bad Start (Michael Thomas, Keenan Allen, and Tyreek Hill - plus Odell Beckham) - and Beckham missed most of the year. Hopkins, Landry, and Thomas dominated the Net Value at +11 or more, while Hill and Allen rounded out the Top 5 at +7. 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. Despite 30 receivers having a positive Net Value last year, 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
14
1
0
15
14
7
NOS
12
3
1
16
11
13
MIA
11
5
0
16
11
45
LAC
8
7
1
16
7
15
KCC
8
6
1
15
7
29
PIT
9
2
3
14
6
5
GBP
8
4
2
14
6
18
TBB
9
3
3
15
6
21
MIN
8
6
2
16
6
28
ATL
7
7
2
16
5
12
SEA
7
6
3
16
4
25
ARI
7
6
3
16
4
31
PHI
7
5
3
15
4
47
CIN
7
5
4
16
3
17
DEN
7
5
4
16
3
38
DET
9
1
6
16
3
41
PIT
6
4
3
13
3
43
OAK
6
3
3
12
3
61
Odell Beckham
NYG
3
0
1
4
2
8
MIN
7
2
5
14
2
35
NEP
8
2
6
16
2
48
DET
6
6
4
16
2
51
LAR
5
4
3
12
2
80
CAR
7
4
5
16
2
88
NEP
4
2
3
9
1
72
LAR
6
4
5
15
1
85
SFO
3
2
3
8
0
69
WAS
5
4
6
15
-1
83
OAK
4
3
6
13
-2
33
IND
5
3
8
16
-3
27
LAR
3
5
6
14
-3
65
DEN
4
1
7
12
-3
74
TEN
Limited action
73
NEP
Injury
68
JAX
Injury
44
CLE
Suspension
37

Table 5: 2018 Top Drafted WRs Sorted By 2017 Value - PPR 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. Jarvis Landry is going near the end of the fourth round in most 12-team drafts, yet he had 11 Excellent Starts and no Bad Starts in a full 16-game campaign last year. Of course, he is now in Cleveland, so there is that level of risk - but Landry is much more of a PPR receiver than a big-play option, so the downside risk may be lower than perceived. Robert Woods may be a questionable WR3 option for some, but in Rounds 7-8 there are not many more reliable (few Bad Starts) options than Woods. Minimizing downside risk is more important at the top of the draft, so avoid the receivers that have too many Bad Starts - such as Golden Tate last year with six. Tate is one of only two receivers (Brandin Cooks) that had a positive Net Value with six Bad Starts, which means they are very much "Boom/Bust" wide receiver options. Cooks moving to the Rams may help that situation, but he still represents a risk based on 2017 numbers. Lastly, players coming off of disappointing or injury-related seasons (such as Emmanuel Sanders of the Broncos) can also provide value. 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.