Winning Your Fantasy League Starts With Waiting On QBs
By Jake Ciely
Back in March, I explained why drafting running backs early is the only way to go in fantasy football. Today, I’m taking it a step further and am going to show why waiting on QBs – no matter your choice of early-round strategy – is the wisest decision you can make.
The allure of having a “set it and forget it” (thanks Ron Popeil – c’mon, you know you yelled it in your head) player at QB has created a fantasy landscape where multiple quarterbacks come off the board in Round 1. In fact, we saw four QBs with an ADP in the Top 12 last year; Matthew Stafford narrowly edged out Jimmy Graham at 12th. The Top Three were Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady and Drew Brees. In 2010-11, we only saw two each year, and prior to that, we saw one or sometimes none. As you can see, this is a new trend, but one you want to avoid.
If you have been reading along this offseason, you likely know the statistic I’m about to rattle off. Since 2008 (five fantasy seasons) only five quarterbacks have finished in the Top 10 four times. Rodgers, Brees, Brady, Peyton Manning, and wait for it… Tony Romo. Rodgers actually checked into the Top 10 all five years, and he’ll likely keep right on rolling the next five years. And no, this isn’t going to turn into another pro-Romo rant; I’ve done that enough already. The point is that the quarterback position isn’t as consistent as you think it is.
Let’s pause here for a moment and focus on the consistency factor. Likely, you’re sitting there saying, “Those few QBs are exactly why you SHOULD take one early.” Hold your horses there Kemo Sabe. First, let’s check in on last year’s group. Rodgers (1.02) finished dead on in second. Brady (1.05) finished third, Brees (1.07) first, but here’s the kicker, Stafford (1.12) finished 12th overall, even with a severely disappointing season.
So, a quarterback that was hated by the majority of his owners, finished in the Top 12, even though he was 70 fantasy points behind Rodgers and 68 off his own 2011 mark. Looking at Stafford’s season, we see his missed the QB1 mark just six times. If we look at the season overall, we see that on average, a score of 16 or better meant QB1 results for all QBs.
Mid-piece swerve. I was originally going to use the average and paint a broader stroke, but I’m going to do the actually work, right here, right now… hold on… one more minute… okay, done.
We saw 37, yes THIRTY SEVEN, different quarterbacks make the QB1 grade at least one week last year. Now, I understand we can’t take all of those seriously, as Terrelle Pryor, Brady Quinn and face-to-center’s-butt Mark Sanchez all made the list. Yet, even if we only include QBs that saw one-fourth of their games being QB1-worthy, we still have 25 players. As for the “set-it-and-forget-it” guys, no one topped 12 games, and only three even broke 10 (Brees 12, Peyton Manning 12, Tom Brady 11). Rodgers checked in at 10 with Cam Newton, Stafford and Robert Griffin III.
Before you move on to your next thought and say, “Well, sure, if you actually could predict the non-elite quarterbacks having QB1 days.” Well, Mr. Mister, if you read You Could Have Won Using FPA, you’d know full well that you actually could have done just that. Carson Palmer had six QB1 games, and two of those came against the Saints and Buccaneers – the two worst defenses for Fantasy Points Allowed (FPA) to QBs, respectively. Christian Ponder had five games in QB1 territory; two coming against the Redskins (eight worst) and Titans (ninth). Romo put up seven QB1 games, making his mark against the Giants twice (10th), Redskins, Eagles twice (third) and Saints. Are you catching the hint?
If you were/are an intelligent fantasy owner, you can essentially stream quarterbacks. Fantasy baseball owners just started hissing and booing, but it’s a tactic that works. Even if you didn’t run to the wire every week, you easily could have drafted a duo of Romo and Flacco and topped everyone with 14 QB1-worthy weeks combined.
If you want more numbers and proof (who doesn’t), check out my March piece on the aforementioned Not Drafting RBs Early Is A Mistake, and you can see how the numbers play out. The fact is that the QB position is extremely more replaceable than the running back position. After all, you would have done much better with a grouping of Matt Forte, Marshawn Lynch and those two QBs than Tom Brady, Lynch and Michael Turner or Ahmad Bradshaw (common third round RBs). Actually, even if you went off the RB trail and took Calvin Johnson or Julio Jones with Lynch and that QB duo, you were still better off!
Talking about those players brings up my favorite aspect about waiting on quarterbacks: the ability to load up at other positions for potential trades. Now, I rail against drafting in order to trade – i.e. you already drafted Jason Witten, and instead of taking your second running back, you draft Tony Gonzalez or Aaron Hernandez with the sole intent of throwing out offers post draft. That is not going to work or win you any titles. What will work is having third, fourth and fifth RBs or WRs with upside for RB2 or WR2 value filling out your roster.
Think about how great your team depth was if you had Forte, Lynch, a WR pair such as Roddy White (3.06) and Marques Colston (4.10), plus Stevan Ridley (5.08), Romo, Justin Blackmon (7.08), Tony Gonzalez (8.06), Mikel Leshoure (9.08) and Flacco. You’re telling me you couldn’t have spun a deal for Brees, Manning or even Rodgers with a package of a QB plus a RB or WR from the bench above? Owners were tripping over themselves trying to get to Leshoure midseason, and Ridley alone could have netted a low-end QB1.
Sure, you could be in a league that hates to trade, or hates you for being “too good” and colludes against you (I get that a lot). But so what? We already discussed how you would have been an easy favorite with that team already, so being stuck with it is far from a bad thing.
If you want the best bet at winning your league, there is only one way to draft this upcoming season, and it’s by waiting on your team’s QB. Okay, well two, since you should be drafting running backs early already.
Seems like a great strategy, what round should I target a QB?
Romo is the example, I agree, but in past years it was Big Ben and Eli. Carson Palmer could be a steal as a backup this year. Lots of options on the table.