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Consistency ratings: Week 3

9/20/2011

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice…

Cam Newton might not have earned fantasy owners' trust with his historic Week 1 outburst, so many -- myself included -- attributing his performance to mere matchups exploitation; the Arizona Cardinals' pass defense ranks among the worst in the league. But after a Week 2 in which he managed a second consecutive week of more than 25 ESPN standard fantasy points, Newton has our attention; this time he did it against a much stouter defense, that of the Green Bay Packers.

Understand the challenge in facing the Packers, who, thanks to Charles Woodson, Tramon Williams (granted, inactive in Week 2) and Sam Shields, boast one of the game's best pass defenses. In 2010, the Packers allowed the sixth fewest fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks, and in their past 17 regular-season games -- the Week 2 contest included -- they have allowed 208 fantasy points to the position, still a fairly stingy average of 12.2 per game.

What Newton has done these past two weeks is historic. To wit:

• His 29 fantasy points in his NFL debut would rank as the second most by any quarterback in an NFL debut since 1950, behind Fran Tarkenton's performance on Sept. 17, 1961, which would have been worth 33 points in a standard ESPN league.

• He's the first quarterback since 1950 to have had back-to-back games of at least 25 ESPN standard fantasy points to begin his NFL career.

When it comes to consistency, Newton's impact is clear: He has been consistently studly, at least so far, a perfect 2-for-2 in "Stud" points to begin his career. That's no small feat. Only 11 players since 1950 -- again, not one of them a quarterback -- have managed two consecutive Stud performances to start their NFL careers. Take a second to digest that fact; it means Newton has just done something that we tend to witness only once per half decade.

But, as it's the most important aspect of fantasy football, it's Newton's future we're concerned about. Do such performances portend equally positive things ahead? Here's how the previous 11 hot starters fared the remainder of those years:

Granted, not one of these players is a quarterback, so a direct comparison is unfair. But it's interesting to note that six of the 11 were "Stiffs" more often than Studs and that the group totaled five more Stiffs (32) than Studs (27). Conversely, the four players who were top-three picks in the draft, Campbell, Faulk, Sims and Warner, were Stiffs only three times in 55 games and were "Starts" 44 times (80.0 percent of the time) and "Studs" 16 times (29.1 percent). So if you believe in draft position as an accurate assessment of talent … hmmm.

At the bare minimum, Newton has earned himself matchups consideration in every fantasy league, and he has a favorable matchup against the Jacksonville Jaguars up next. The Jaguars, after all, afforded opposing quarterbacks the sixth most fantasy points in 2010, and they served up 16 and 13 to Matt Hasselbeck and Mark Sanchez, respectively, the past two weeks. It might not be a one-time thing, either; Newton and the suddenly pass-happy Carolina Panthers might surprise a few more foes.

The addition of 'VBD'

In addition to the return of the "Stack" rating -- you can read how the Stack formula is calculated in the Week 1 edition -- I'm bringing VBD (value based drafting) ratings to the table beginning this week. Christopher Harris has discussed this tool in depth in the past; Footballguys.com has its own formulation; and Pro Football Reference even provides handy statistics for the category each week. What VBD does is demonstrate a player's value relative to a replacement-level player at his position; it's a smarter way of comparing values of players at two different positions than simply going by our overall scoring leaders.

VBD methodology, however, is a matter of debate, and this is mine: Take the fantasy point total of the No. 15 quarterback, No. 35 running back, No. 35 wide receiver, No. 15 tight end, No. 15 kicker and No. 15 defense, accounting for 150 percent of the active lineup spots for each position in a standard ESPN league to account for players who might have been owned but not activated.

VBD numbers are only for 2011, are included in each position below and are sortable by position.

Position benchmarks

As always, the following chart lists the benchmarks for each of the Consistency Ratings designations. Players are rated for their 2011 performances alone as well as for their performances in the past 34 regular-season weeks (from Week 3 of the 2009 season through Week 2 of 2011).

Players' 2011 numbers are initially ranked by their VBD. Players' numbers in the past 34 weeks are initially ranked by the percentage of their teams' scheduled games in which their weekly point total was classified a Start. All statistics are sortable by category.

Quarterbacks: 2011

A note on quarterbacks: Notice the VBDs of quarterbacks this season, which reflect the fact that the position has exploded, through two weeks at least, in terms of fantasy production. Quarterbacks might occupy 14 of the top 28 positions on our Scoring Leaders page, but all that means is that Jay Cutler's and Mark Sanchez's 30 fantasy points represent the VBD baselines for the position, a number at least twice that of the baselines at running back, wide receiver or tight end.

Ranking all positions by VBD, there isn't a quarterback in the top 10, with top-ranked passer Tom Brady (30) at 14th, and there are only three quarterbacks (Brady, plus Cam Newton, 36th with 23, and Drew Brees, 46th with 18) in the top 50 in VBD. Needless to say, if you were among those who waited on a quarterback in a standard ESPN league, you probably have fared well through two weeks.

Quarterbacks: Past 34 weeks

Running backs: 2011

Running backs: Past 34 weeks

Wide receivers: 2011

Wide receivers: Past 34 weeks

Tight ends: 2011

Tight ends: Past 34 weeks

Kickers: 2011

Kickers: Past 34 weeks

Tristan H. Cockcroft is a fantasy football analyst for ESPN.com. You can email him here, or follow him on Twitter @SultanofStat.