SITE NEWS: We are moving all of our site and company news into a single blog for Sports-Reference.com. We'll tag all PFR content, so you can quickly and easily find the content you want.

Also, our existing PFR blog rss feed will be redirected to the new site's feed.

Pro-Football-Reference.com ยป Sports Reference

For more from Chase and Jason, check out their work at Football Perspective and The Big Lead.

Slow starters

Posted by Doug on September 25, 2006

Three weeks of football are in the books (well, almost), and nobody seems to have told your first-round pick that the regular season has started. Is it time to cut bait on your slow starters, or can you sit tight and hope they'll get it turned around?

The historical data, as usual, reveals a lot of guys who you should have given up on, and a lot of others who flipped the switch started producing right away. In 2000, Tony Gonzalez had a miserable first three games, compiling less than 100 total yards and no touchdowns. He heated up in week four and never cooled down, finishing the season as the league's top-scoring fantasy tight end.

Marshall Faulk's 2002 paints a different picture. After having had two of the best fantasy seasons in history the previous two years, Faulk started the season with three underwhelming (for him) games. He never stopped the slide, ending the season even less productively than the first three weeks had been.

But are there more Gonzos or more Faulks? Only when we collect all these stories do the trends start to show themselves. I searched the archives for all players since 2000 who (a) finished the previous season in the top 10 in fantasy points per game, (b) played in all of the first three weeks, and (c) had a substantially lower points per game average in the first three weeks than in the previous year (five points per game for QBs, RBs, and WRs, three points for TEs). Then I asked: was their points per game average for the remainder of the season closer to last year's average, or was it closer to their average for the first three disappointing weeks?

The results: 30 of the 40 players rest-of-season averages were closer to the previous year's. So the good news is that most of these guys got their acts together. And a lot of the ones who didn't were obvious: Mike Anderson in 2001 (he lost his job to Clinton Portis) and Muhsin Muhammad (who was Orton-ized) in 2005, for example.

The bad news is that most of them didn't get their acts all the way back together. Only 16 of the 40 had a rest-of-season average that was as good as their previous season's average. Bill James once said (something like): if a guy hits .300 one year, and .250 the next, I'm going to project him to hit .275 in the following year. It's essentially the same story here.

Here is the data:


--Prev Yr- --First 3- -- Rest ---
Player YR RNK PPG RNK PPG RNK PPG
==============================================================
Jon Kitna 2000 8 16.6 15 9.6 13 14.7
Jeff Garcia 2001 2 24.6 8 18.7 1 22.5
Mark Brunell 2001 7 17.7 17 12.3 7 18.3
Jeff Garcia 2002 2 21.8 16 13.1 4 19.6
Drew Bledsoe 2003 5 19.9 13 14.0 16 11.4
Trent Green 2003 8 19.0 14 14.0 5 20.3
Peyton Manning 2003 4 20.4 16 12.9 2 21.8
Trent Green 2004 6 19.1 14 13.4 3 22.2
Trent Green 2005 5 20.6 16 12.0 4 17.8
Peyton Manning 2005 2 26.1 17 11.9 1 19.9

Emmitt Smith 2000 6 15.3 18 7.7 13 12.2
James Stewart 2000 8 13.0 19 6.0 6 15.0
Stephen Davis 2001 9 15.3 15 7.6 8 13.1
Mike Anderson 2001 5 18.3 22 5.4 23 6.2
Marshall Faulk 2002 1 24.3 5 17.0 9 14.4
Shaun Alexander 2002 4 16.4 17 8.7 5 18.9
Curtis Martin 2002 5 15.5 30 4.1 12 13.5
LaDainian Tomlinson 2003 3 19.2 9 13.2 1 23.4
Deuce McAllister 2003 5 18.0 14 11.2 7 17.7
Charlie Garner 2003 9 16.0 15 10.1 21 8.0
LaDainian Tomlinson 2004 3 21.5 7 16.3 1 19.9
Fred Taylor 2004 10 14.8 15 8.9 8 13.5
Michael Pittman 2005 9 14.7 38 2.3 27 6.1

Terrell Owens 2001 1 16.0 15 8.3 1 16.5
Randy Moss 2001 2 14.6 23 6.8 3 12.9
Terrell Owens 2002 2 15.0 22 9.3 1 17.6
Terrell Owens 2003 1 15.8 15 10.2 8 11.1
Marvin Harrison 2003 2 14.9 33 6.5 3 14.0
Peerless Price 2003 7 11.1 50 3.4 26 7.1
Muhsin Muhammad 2005 1 14.9 23 8.6 36 6.1
Marvin Harrison 2005 5 12.6 27 7.3 3 13.7
Reggie Wayne 2005 8 12.0 41 5.5 15 9.1

Tony Gonzalez 2000 1 10.1 7 3.1 1 13.7
Rickey Dudley 2000 3 6.8 9 1.8 4 4.9
Tony Gonzalez 2003 2 7.5 9 2.6 1 11.1
Bubba Franks 2003 4 5.7 12 2.0 10 4.2
Billy Miller 2003 6 5.0 17 1.3 11 4.1
Alge Crumpler 2005 4 8.1 10 4.7 2 8.0
Tony Gonzalez 2005 2 10.5 12 4.1 4 6.9
Jermaine Wiggins 2005 6 6.8 13 3.7 12 4.0

This entry was posted on Monday, September 25th, 2006 at 3:41 am and is filed under Fantasy. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.