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Best Ball Wide Receivers: The Definitive Start

Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Roddy White
Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Roddy White

Dec 9, 2012; Charlotte, NC, USA; Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Roddy White (84) makes a touchdown catch as Carolina Panthers outside linebacker Thomas Davis (58) defends in the second half at Bank of America Stadium. Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Calvin Johnson should be your first round target in all best ball drafts this summer.

Not only because he’s obviously the best option at his position, but because over the past three seasons Johnson is worth the most points year to year out of the entire league, not named Arian Foster or Aaron Rodgers.

For further info on what best ball leagues are and how to approach them, check out this great little number from J.J. Zachariason. If you listened to the latest “Living the Stream” podcast, I mentioned a simple new metric which I dubbed the Definitive Start.

A Definitive Start is any time a player finishes a week as a starter at his position. If your league starts more or less players at each position, adjust accordingly, but quarterbacks and tight ends that would be a top-12 finish, a top 24 finish for running backs and a top 36 finish for receivers.

The goal of looking at Definitive Starts is to see how many usable weeks you would be guaranteed from a player and, most importantly, how many points he can provide you.

If you interact with me on Twitter, or simply read my fake football ramblings here, you know that I always stress that any metric should be used as a helpful aid along with all of your other previously known knowledge, and not as a crutch. I also want to provide you with the truths about any stat I use and their inherent weaknesses.

Since we are only looking for the top performances, some undrafted players are going to slip through the cracks of a draft only league. A player like Armando Allen isn’t going to be drafted; Brady Quinn isn’t going to be drafted.

That’s alright, because we want to know how and who we deem as the best players that are consistently outscoring the entire league. It’s not entirely predictable in targeting elite breakout performance either (more on that later). But there’s still plenty of usefulness here to add into your Roto Bat Belt.

Let’s look at the wide receivers first, because that’s the position where you need to start the most players. Mainly we’ll look at the 2013 notable players and how they have performed over the past three years.

PLAYER

AVG ST

AV GP

AVG TOP12

AVG PTS

START PT%

PTS/START

T SMITH

5.5

15.0

2.3

131.6

74.0%

23.9

C. JOHNSON

12.3

15.0

8.0

285.4

93.6%

23.1

A.JOHNSON

8.0

11.3

5.0

183.2

89.1%

22.9

CRUZ

9.5

15.0

3.7

215.3

86.1%

22.7

WELKER

10.7

14.7

6.7

235.5

87.9%

22.1

JONES, JULIO

8.5

12.5

3.3

185.7

86.3%

21.8

MARSHALL

10.0

14.3

6.0

211.3

85.3%

21.1

BOWE

8.3

14.3

3.0

174.8

82.6%

21.0

NELSON

6.7

13.7

3.7

137.0

78.2%

20.6

WHITE

12.3

15.0

6.3

251.5

91.5%

20.4

V JAX

7.0

11.3

3.3

142.7

82.8%

20.4

HARVIN

8.7

12.3

3.7

175.7

90.2%

20.3

AJ GREEN

11.0

14.5

3.3

222.8

87.6%

20.3

NICKS

8.3

13.3

3.0

168.5

83.7%

20.2

BRYANT

8.7

13.7

3.3

173.3

84.0%

20.0

D. THOMAS

6.3

11.7

3.3

125.0

87.0%

19.7

WAYNE

9.7

15.0

4.0

190.4

81.7%

19.7

JENNINGS

8.0

11.7

4.0

155.6

86.3%

19.5

COLSTON

9.7

14.3

4.0

185.1

83.2%

19.1

AUSTIN

8.7

13.3

2.7

160.6

86.9%

18.5

FITZGERALD

9.3

15.0

3.3

172.2

82.1%

18.5

S SMITH

9.7

14.7

3.7

177.5

95.0%

18.4

M.WALLACE

11.0

15.0

3.7

199.6

90.0%

18.1

COBB

12.0

15.0

1.0

216.8

92.4%

18.1

M.WILLIAMS

10.0

15.0

3.7

177.3

95.2%

17.7

L.MOORE

7.7

14.3

2.7

135.6

76.3%

17.7

JONES, JAMES

7.3

15.0

2.7

128.7

80.3%

17.6

S JOHNSON

10.7

15.0

3.0

185.4

86.7%

17.4

 

The first column you want to look at is AVG ST. Keep in mind that Week 17 is excluded, so the maximum games played can only be 15. That is the number of weeks that the player finished in the top 36 on average per season. If you want to see just how elite they were, check the Top 12 column, which is how many times each player had a truly elite week.

While total points matter, the true takeaways are how many points a player scores per start (the table is organized top to bottom by this column) and how many of players’ season total points (Start Pt. %) you would’ve gotten.

It’s easy to choose a player over another because he outscored him in the previous season, or that you project him to outscore him in the upcoming season. But how many of those points are you really getting on your best ball team?

The first thing that jumps out is just how amazing Calvin Johnson is. He has the highest start percentage out of all receivers, and in an average season you’d get 12 starts for 285 points (in fact, in 2012, he had 12 Definite Starts for 305 points). Also, note the Top 12 column and where Calvin ranks.

Over half of his games played result in an elite finish. Additionally, you would’ve accumulated nearly 94 percent of his total output. If you want your Best Ball team to be like Optimus Prime, you better select Megatron early.

The main takeaway I get from this is that the boring, reliable types of receivers have the same relative Definitive Start Points per Start as the explosive studs. Not only does Wes Welker give you more weeks in your lineup than Julio Jones, but he also scores as many points as him when each is at their best.

This makes guys like Andre Johnson (ADP 28.3) and Roddy White (32.0) extremely useful commodities for their cost. An average season for White has been 12 starts for 245 points. Compare that to a guy like Brandon Marshall who has averaged 10 starts for 211 points.

In terms of points per start, Torrey Smith leads. That’s not really surprising, as we know exactly what type of player Smith is. You should notice that his start percentage is dreadful however. An average Smith season would net you six starts for 143.6 points.

Small sample size or not, that’s not endearing.

Smith currently costs you a fifth round draft choice for those six starts. You can get Mike Williams two to three rounds later and an average season for him would be 10 starts for 177.3 points.

Before you go and point the finger by saying “Well, I’d get Smith’s six starts and then four other weeks of another player to make up the difference of Williams,” realize that that is a two way street. You aren’t guaranteed of owning another player that outscores Smith in all of his lousy weeks, so you may be stuck with one or more of those dud weeks.

He has plenty too; Smith has scored 17 single digit weeks in PPR over the past two years. Williams and his high floor and decent start percentage combined with his draft cost is the right play unless you are projecting a breakout increase in Smith’s week to week efficiency in year three like the following two players did.

Last season there were two breakout dynamos whose three year stats disguise their current value a bit. In his first two seasons, Demaryius Thomas was saddled with Kyle Orton and Tim Tebow throwing him the ball. Many expected Peyton Manning to increase his production, and it did. Thomas posted 13 Definitive Starts for 256.5 points. You would’ve gotten 96 percent of his entire season totals last year.

The other player was Dez Bryant, who had only 15 Definitive Starts through his first two years. He would’ve given you 11 starts (seven over the final eight weeks) for 265.5 points (92 percent of his season’s total). There’s a reason they are being drafted where they are currently at. Both Bryant and Thomas warrant selections over most of the running backs.

Let’s for a moment pretend we live in a perfect world. Not one with world peace or without diseases, that’s not really important to us, but a fantasy utopia. What would a season be like if we removed all injuries and everyone played a full season?

PLAYER

STARTS

TOP 12

PTS

PTS/START

C. JOHNSON

12

8

277.7

23.1

BRYANT

11

5

265.1

24.1

D. THOMAS

13

7

256.1

19.7

A.JOHNSON

11

7

251.9

22.9

WHITE

12

6

244.7

20.4

WELKER

11

7

242.8

22.1

CRUZ

10

6

226.6

22.7

HARVIN

11

4

223.0

20.3

AJ GREEN

11

5

222.8

20.3

JONES, JULIO

10

6

218.5

21.8

NELSON

11

7

217.8

19.8

COBB

12

3

216.8

18.1

MARSHALL

10

6

211.3

21.1

M.WALLACE

11

4

199.6

18.1

WAYNE

10

4

197.0

19.7

FITZGERALD

11

4

196.9

17.9

JENNINGS

10

5

194.5

19.5

COLSTON

10

4

191.4

19.1

S JOHNSON

11

3

191.2

17.4

BOWE

9

3

188.8

21.0

AUSTIN

10

3

185.3

18.5

S SMITH

10

4

183.6

18.4

V JAX

9

4

183.4

20.4

NICKS

9

3

182.0

20.2

M.WILLIAMS

10

4

177.3

17.7

T SMITH

6

4

143.6

23.9

L.MOORE

8

3

141.5

17.7

JONES, JAMES

7

3

122.9

17.6

Just for grins, I removed Thomas and Bryant’s 2010 and 2011 seasons, as well as Jordy Nelson’s 2010 and Larry Fitzgerald’s 2012. Even with last season removed, Fitzgerald still doesn’t rank high on per game basis in points scored per start. That is pretty troubling considering he’s a late second round pick in most drafts.

The Definitive Start offers you a production probability, but can’t always provide unprecedented breakout predictability. If you believe a guy will break out on those levels, by all means draft him where you are comfortably taking him at. But if you’re an owner who looks at long term consistent value, then the Definitive Start can be used to your drafting advantage.

Throughout the week, I will post running backs and tight ends and show you how to build your Best Ball quarter back Frankenstein. Then we’ll go through an entire draft and I’ll  offer up what I deem as an optimal best ball team.

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