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Fantasy Football: Signature Starts in 2013

The Signature Start is used to measure consistency while also tracking what essentially is a player’s week to week ceiling.

Danny Woodhead
Danny Woodhead

Oct 14, 2013; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Chargers running back Danny Woodhead (39) attempts to elude Indianapolis Colts safety Antoine Bethea (41) at Qualcomm Stadium. Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Over the summer we ran a series on draft strategy for Best Ball leagues, using a simple metric called the Signature Start. In short, that is the number of times a player finished a given week as a starter at his position (top 12 for quarterbacks and tight ends, top 24 for backs and receivers).  The Signature Start was used to measure consistency while also tracking what essentially is a player’s week to week ceiling.

Using season long stats can be a tad misleading in season if a player is ranked high at a position based on only one monster game or two (sorry, Marvin Jones). Now that we have almost nearly a half of a season’s worth of data, we can use that tool for tough lineup calls and possibly in targeting or selling specific players in a trade.

Now, this isn’t the be all, end all to what will continue to happen. Players like Dez Bryant, Cam Newton and Russell Wilson were borderline poor fantasy options at this point in the season a year ago and then carried owners to Titletown over the second half. Still, the Signature Start data can be used for the powers of good going forward. While we all want to spot that crazy breakout before it happens, we also don’t want to make reckless decisions that can end our fake football dreams.

PLAYER

GP

S.S

S.S. PTS

PTS/SS

Peyton Manning

8

7

203.06

29.0

Drew Brees

7

6

154.02

25.7

Matthew Stafford

8

6

136.82

22.8

Aaron Rodgers

7

5

122.32

24.5

Andrew Luck

7

5

110.52

22.1

Tony Romo

8

4

101.52

25.4

Philip Rivers

7

4

97.94

24.5

Cam Newton

7

3

87.94

29.3

Matt Ryan

7

4

86.28

21.6

Jake Locker

5

3

70.36

23.5

Terrelle Pryor

6

4

74.78

18.7

Colin Kaepernick

8

3

79.4

26.5

Alex Smith

8

3

66.84

22.3

Russell Wilson

8

3

64.38

21.5

Robert Griffin III

7

2

49.22

24.6

Tom Brady

8

1

20.44

20.4

To no surprise, Manning not only has nearly the highest ceiling, but is ridiculously consistent on hitting it weekly. If you own him, you are likely sporting a pretty solid record thus far, creating an opportunity for two scenarios. You can either hold him, planning for his dominance to continue throughout the season, or you can sell now and solidify a hopeful championship run.

If you’re hurting at running back or receiver, you can possibly ship Manning to the Newton owner for him and another piece. Cam hasn’t been as consistent, but when he’s good, he’s just as good as Peyton has been on a points per game basis. If the Newton owner is holding, you can trade a per game drop off for a little more consistency in guys like Romo or Rivers.

Another note is that Alex Smith and Russell Wilson are the same player in fantasy football. That really shouldn’t be a shock as their real life football situations are fairly similar. Wilson obviously has the larger ceiling based on talent, but the real Seahawks cap his fantasy output in a frustrating way. The Chiefs let Smith throw it around with volume, but it’s more like a child firing a BB gun in his backyard. Both players will likely land as low end starting quarterbacks or high end backups when the season ends, but the ceiling and consistency just aren’t great to bank on weekly for either.

Locker has been getting a big push recently in the community, and for good reason. His season long totals are lower because he missed two games with a hip injury, but when he’s played, he’s played extremely well. His completion percentage (61.8), touchdown rate (5.3 percent), interception rate (.7) and adjusted yards per attempt (7.6) are all markedly improved in his third season. The schedule also opens up in a favorable fashion as he gets the Rams, Jags (twice, once in fantasy championship week 16), Raiders and Colts (twice).

One last thought is touching on two members of Team Konami Code, Pryor and Kaepernick. Pryor has been very consistent, finishing in the top 12 four of his six starts, and has shown he has a reasonably solid floor. His ceiling hasn’t proven to be that high however, never finishing higher than eighth in a given week and failing to top 20 points in any given week. If he keeps improving as a passer, that ceiling can grow, but right now he’s better suited as a high floor option.

Kaepernick is a different animal. His ceiling is among the highest of passers, but he’s been maddeningly volatile. He’s hampered in the same ilk as Wilson is from a real football standpoint. Attached to a great running game, a plus defense and a winning team, the opportunities for him to transform his fantasy season in the same fashion as Newton did last year just won’t present themselves as his real team doesn’t have to rely on him as much as Carolina did Newton last year to win real games.

PLAYER

GP

SS

S.S. PTS

Top 12

PTS/SS

Jamaal Charles

8

8

186.8

8

23.4

Matt Forte

7

7

151.5

7

21.6

Knowshon Moreno

8

6

142.3

4

23.7

Reggie Bush

8

6

128.4

4

21.4

LeSean McCoy

8

6

121.8

4

20.3

Fred Jackson

8

7

116.8

2

16.7

Marshawn Lynch

8

5

115.4

3

23.1

Adrian Peterson

7

5

109.2

4

21.8

Danny Woodhead

7

6

105

3

17.5

Frank Gore

8

6

103.3

4

17.2

Arian Foster

8

5

101.2

3

20.2

Demarco Murray

6

5

88.8

2

17.8

Gio Bernard

8

5

85.8

3

17.2

Eddie Lacy

7

5

79.4

2

15.9

Alfred Morris

7

5

67.1

1

13.4

Darren Sproles

7

3

61.5

2

20.5

Chris Johnson

7

2

39

2

19.5

Chris Johnson is an example of his current ranking (running back 22) being accumulated by middling stats paired with two monster weeks. If you are a believer in his upcoming schedule, by all means buy, but don’t expect a complete metamorphosis from the player he’s always been.

The running back ahead of him in season total points, Eddie Lacy, has done it in entirely different way. Lacy has been rock solid in an unspectacular way. Even when he doesn’t score or catch passes, Lacy has proven to be a high floor option based on the amount of volume he’s getting in one of the best offenses in the league.

Interestingly, it seems that Woodhead and Sproles have changed fantasy bodies. Sproles still ranks as the 15th highest scorer coming into week nine, but has only two top 24 finishes and is anchored by a 31 point game in week four. Sproles isn’t scoring touchdowns like he has in the past, but he just simply isn’t playing either. He’s only played on 38.8 percent of the Saints offensive plays so far, after averaging 46.5 percent in his first two seasons in New Orleans.

Woodhead is playing more than ever in his career, participating on 44 percent of snaps. Last season in New England, when he was a top 24 PPR back, he played only 32.5 percent of plays. He’s been the ultimate glue guy for your roster under Mike McCoy.

PLAYER

GP

SS

S.S. PTS

Top 12

PTS/SS

Calvin Johnson

8

5

155.9

4

31.2

Wes Welker

8

7

144.6

3

20.7

Jordy Nelson

7

6

132.7

3

22.1

Dez Bryant

8

5

126.6

5

25.3

A.J. Green

9

5

125.3

3

25.1

Desean Jackson

8

5

122.6

3

24.5

Demaryius Thomas

8

5

120.8

4

24.2

Victor Cruz

8

4

102.6

2

25.7

Antonio Brown

7

4

98

2

24.5

Brandon Marshall

7

4

95.3

3

23.8

Josh Gordon

6

4

95.2

3

23.8

Eric Decker

8

4

91.7

2

22.9

Vincent Jackson

7

3

90.6

2

30.2

Cecil Shorts

8

5

88.4

1

17.7

Larry Fitzgerald

8

4

83.7

2

20.9

Andre Johnson

7

4

78

1

19.5

Pierre Garcon

7

3

62.5

1

20.8

Torrey Smith

7

3

61.2

1

20.4

The receiver chart really illustrates just how much of a weekly roller coaster ride the position is. After Welker and Nelson, every other wideout has had at least two weeks of failing to crack the top 24. The chart also shows just how much the PPR format changes the ceiling of a top flight receiver to that of a running back.  When these guys hit big, they are topping 20 points regularly, and remarkably almost as consistently as running backs are. As C.D. Cater pointed out earlier in the week, you can shop your backs for receivers if other owners still value them as in years past.

The one guy who really pops out is Josh Gordon. After missing the first two weeks of the season while suspended, he’s had three top 12 weeks with three different quarterbacks. Outside of one egg in Green Bay, he’s shown to be virtually matchup proof and is easily a top 10 weekly play no matter who is throwing the football.

PLAYER

GP

SS

S.S. PTS

PTS/SS

Jimmy Graham

7

6

151

25.2

Jordan Cameron

8

7

138

19.7

Julius Thomas

8

6

117.9

19.7

Vernon Davis

7

5

108

21.6

Antonio Gates

7

4

78.9

19.7

Martellus Bennett

7

4

70.3

17.6

Jordan Reed

7

4

65.2

16.3

Jason Witten

8

3

63.8

21.3

Charles Clay

7

4

61.2

15.3

Tony Gonzalez

7

2

58.6

29.3

Just like Gordon, Cameron has been unaffected by the Cleveland carousel of quarterbacks. There was a brief moment in weeks five through seven that with both Gordon and Weeden, that Cameron may have been returning to a mortal state. One thing we know is that Browns are not going to run the football, making both guys viable the rest of the season.

Good luck trying to pry away Reed from owners, who has finished as the first or second tight end in two of his past three games. But one guy you may be able to buy is Davis. His ceiling is wide receiver-esque and he’s been the only reliable option attached to the San Francisco passing game. Despite missing one game entirely and playing through two questionable tags the following weeks, Davis has 60 yards or a touchdown in every game played other than one.

Don’t be fooled by that lofty ranking of six that Gonzalez sports as a season total or his insane points per start. Forty-one percent of his season total of 95.5 points came in his 39 point week four contest in New England. Owners should be looking to separate themselves from Gonzo since he can’t separate himself from defenders any longer.

It’s impossible to give you an update on everyone, but use these leaderboard  charts for your final trade negotiations and in setting your lineups depending if you’re chasing a player’s floor or trying to hit a home run. I do have signature start info on every player this year, so if you have a question on someone that is not listed, feel free to send me a message here or on the Twitter machine.

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