Draft Strategy: Optimal QBBC Pairings
In early June, we launched the Quarterback By Committee (QBBC) report, which allows fantasy owners to compare a duo of middle-tier QBs based on their weekly strength of schedule. The idea behind the report is to forecast when every QB has extreme matchups, both easy games (think Eagles Defense) and challenging ones (think Seahawks Defense). Assessing a QB’s schedule informs fantasy owners which QBs have particularly hard or easy schedules as compared to their peers. The QBBC report takes this evaluation a step further and allows owners to find complementary QB replacements who have an easy slate during the weeks your primary QB has a difficult matchup or bye week. QBBC essentially enables you to construct a piecemeal QB from two QBs, rotating between each one based on favorable weekly matchups. While the report offers hundreds of viable QB combinations, I have identified some of the most complementary QB pairs.
Before jumping into the analysis, let’s review my QBBC ground rules, strategy and methodology. This QBBC analysis excludes the six following early round QBs: Andrew Luck, Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Cam Newton. This group of QBs has an average draft position (ADP) of Round 6 or better. Therefore, owners who invest that much draft capital in an early round QB are likely to plug and play these QBs every week regardless of the matchup. For instance, you probably wouldn’t bench Andrew Luck playing at Seattle for Marcus Mariota playing against the Jaguars.
In 2014, over 40 QBs produced a top 12 QB performance in at least one week. Yes, that means at a minimum, eight backup QBs achieved a QB1 performance in a given week. This is just one statistic demonstrating the value that can be gleaned from the middle to late (or even backup QB) pool of quarterbacks. There are two primary factors that cause this phenomenon to occur only at the QB position.
- Positional roster requirements – Standard leagues only require one starting QB. Thus, there is a surplus of QBs available. They are not stashed away five and six deep like RBs and WRs on fantasy team rosters.
- Predictability – This is where your hometown friends’ fantasy league merges with statistics. The Law of Large Numbers states, “The average of the results obtained from a large number of trials should be close to the expected value, and will tend to become closer as more trials are performed.” Quarterbacks touch the ball more often than any other player in a football game and amongst other fantasy positions by quite a large margin. Because NFL QBs drop back 40 times a game to attempt a pass or run the ball, their performance over to long haul becomes very predictable. This is especially true when compared to RBs, WRs and TEs, who touch the ball significantly less in a game. The same predictive law of large numbers applies even more so to opposing defenses since they log 70-80 plays per game. In other words, it is quite apparent who the tough and soft defenses are after a couple games of data. Until we get 2015 early season stats, we’ll use 2014 defensive rankings as the baseline for assessing QB strength of schedule.
Combing the widespread availability of many QBs (late in drafts or free agency) with the predictability of opposing matchups creates the opportunity for weekly optimization of the QB position, using the QBBC method. Below are some favorable mid and late round QB pairings that offset one another’s difficult matchups over the course of the season. By alternating between the QBs during favorable matchups, you can increase your weekly QB production as opposed to blindly trotting out the same mid-range QB each week.
Matt Ryan (Falcons) and Marcus Mariota (Titans)
Matty Ice has a very favorable schedule in his own right. However, he does travel to San Fran in Week 9 followed by a Week 10 bye and what I view as a difficult matchup against the Vikings in Week 12. Marcus Mariota starts out with an early bye week and a few difficult matchups. Most importantly though, he has foreseeably weak opponents in two of those three weeks (Saints – Week 9, Panthers – Week 10, Raiders – Week 12). Matt Ryan is currently going at the turn between the seventh and eighth rounds, while Mariota costs virtually nothing as a 16th round selection.
Sam Bradford (Eagles) and Andy Dalton (Bengals)
This pairing is one of the most optimized duos that I found during the QBBC assessment. These two QBs complement one another almost seamlessly week in and week out. Considering Chip Kelly coaxed dozens of QB1 performances out of Michael Vick, Nick Foles and Mark Sanchez over the past two seasons, I would mark those as the floor for the more talented Sam Bradford. He should cruise during the first six weeks. In Week 8 he has the bye week, followed by alternating tough matchups in Weeks 10, 12 and 14. Conversely, Andy Dalton has a plus matchup in Weeks 8 and 14 versus the Steelers and home games in Weeks 10 and 12 against the Texans and Rams, respectively. This duo is also one of the cheapest, which allows owners to stockpile young RB and WR talent instead of drafting QBs in the middle rounds. Bradford is currently a 12th rounder but will steadily rise (due to the Chip Kelly mystique effect) as the season nears. On the other hand, Dalton has been left for dead as a 15th rounder despite finishing as the fifth overall QB in 2013. Dalton did regress last season (finishing as the 19th ranked QB). But he lost TE Tyler Eifert in Week 1, No. 2 WR Marvin Jones for the season, and No. 1 WR A.J. Green for four games. Most QBs take statistical hits when their top three targets miss extended time. All three of those primary Bengals skill players are set to be healthy for the start of this season, so don’t be surprised when Dalton bounces back in 2015.
Tony Romo (Cowboys) and Teddy Bridgewater (Vikings)
This is another highly complementary QB twosome. While Teddy Bridgewater starts the season with some tough matchups and an early bye week, Tony Romo starts out with five great matchups before entering the Week 6 bye. Teddy does face KC at home in Week 6, which isn’t ideal. However, these two QBs can be mixed and matched the rest of the way to face CHI, PHI, OAK, GB, ATL, WAS, GB, CHI and NYG from Weeks 7-16. This tandem could very well win you a fantasy championship with a very favorable stretch run. In 2014, Teddy averaged 16.1 fantasy points during his final six games, which put him in the Joe Flacco (QB16) and Colin Kaepernick (QB17) territory in points per game. He now has TE Kyle Rudolph back from injury, RB Adrian Peterson back from suspension and newly added WRs Mike Wallace and Charles Johnson. Entering his second season with an improved supporting cast, I expect numerous QB1 caliber weeks for Bridgewater. I look for Romo to do what Romo does and post another low-end QB1 type of season. I would feel confident rolling Romo out each week except against the Seahawks, Dolphins and Bills in Weeks 8, 11 and 16. This tandem is a bit more expensive than some of the other QB pairings. Romo currently has an eighth-round ADP and Bridgewater is going in the 11th round but is one of the more stable, high floor QBBC groupings.
Ryan Tannehill (Dolphins) and Robert Griffin III (Redskins)
Ryan Tannehill is one of the more intriguing QBs on the rise in the fantasy community. His rushing ability assures him a very safe fantasy point floor each week. In fact, Tannehill has posted double-digit fantasy points in 29 of his past 32 games. He’s nearly become an every-week fantasy starter but has tough intra-divisional matchups against BUF and NYJ twice a year. Though NYJ displays as a favorable matchup, the additions of CBs Antonio Cromartie and Darrelle Revis, as well as defensive-minded HC Todd Bowles, will transform them into an above average defensive opponent. While Tannehill is widely viewed as an ascending QB, RGIII faces a make or break season in 2015. He struggled mightily in a new offense last season, and RGIII was eventually replaced by Kirk Cousins and Colt McCoy, both of whom produced QB1 stats (top 12 QB) in at least one game. By Week 3 this year, we’ll know if RGIII has turned the corner in his QB development, but the Redskins schedule pairs nicely with Tannehill’s. When Miami faces BUF, NYJ, and has a bye in Weeks 3-5, Washington takes on NYG, PHI and ATL – all favorable matchups. Whether it’s RGIII, Cousins or McCoy, the Redskins’ signal caller will offer serviceable production during Miami’s tough contests.
Tannehill currently has a ninth-round ADP and RGIII can be selected as your final pick or off of waivers prior to Week 3, so he’ll cost you nothing.
Tom Brady (Patriots) and Colin Kaepernick (49ers)
Tom Terrific is presently scheduled to serve four games time for air pressure tampering allegations. Since New England has a Week 4 bye, Brady wouldn’t be back until Week 6 against Indianapolis. Until then, those Brady truthers will have to find a quality replacement for the first five weeks. Enter Colin Kaepernick who starts the season with one of the easiest schedules in the NFL. Facing MIN, PIT, ARI, GB and NYG to open the season, Kaepernick should start 2015 at a torrid pace and will serve as the perfect Tom Brady complement if his four-game suspension stands. Kaepernick will cost you a 12th round pick, and Brady currently has an eighth-round ADP. However, Brady’s price could continue to drop as the season nears or even rebound if the suspension is cut to two as some media outlets speculate. If the suspension is cut in half, I would take a gander at Carson Palmer as an alternate two-game fill in.
Palmer begins 2015 with two cupcakes – Saints at home and Bears on the road. Palmer averaged 19.1 fantasy points in the five full games he played last year, which equated to Peyton Manning’s 2014 point per game average.
Eli Manning (Giants) and Jameis Winston (Bucs)
Eli Manning rode the Odell Beckham Jr. train to fantasy relevance in the latter half of 2014. With WR Victor Cruz coming back from injury and the addition of receiving RB Shane Vereen, Eli Manning is a coveted QB sleeper entering 2015. His schedule opens up nicely for the first three weeks before taking on BUF and SF in Weeks 4 and 5. Manning also has a Week 11 bye and tough outings against NYJ and MIA during the fantasy playoffs. Who better to trust with your fantasy playoff fate than Jameis Winston? When you finish dead last in the NFL as the Bucs did in 2014, not only do you receive the first draft pick, but you also get an easy schedule. Winston has one of the cleanest schedules on the board, facing zero difficult matchups (except for STL on the road in Week 15). With the biggest receiving options in the league amongst Vincent Jackson, Mike Evans and TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins and his gunslinger mentality, Winston should post some lofty fantasy performances this season. He gets CAR and JAC at home in Weeks 4 and 5, PHI during Manning’s bye week, and the Falcons and Saints in the fantasy playoffs. It’s a bit frightening to roll the dice on a rookie QB, but of them all in recent memory, Winston’s supporting cast, schedule and talent make him fantasy relevant as a rookie.
You’re now a step ahead of your fantasy peers, and check out our QBBC report to generate your own QB tandems.