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Quarterback Draft Strategy (Fantasy Football)

by Eric Moody | @EricNMoody | Featured Writer
Aug 18, 2016

Cam Newton

How will selecting a top QB like Cam Newton early impact the rest of your draft?

Eric Moody analyzes different quarterback draft strategies and how they may impact your fantasy football draft.

Cam Newton was the only quarterback to score greater than 350 fantasy points in 2015. Tom Brady and Russell Wilson were the only quarterbacks to score greater than 320 fantasy points. Carson Palmer, Blake Bortles, Drew Brees, and Aaron Rodgers were the only quarterbacks to score over 300 fantasy points. They were all drafted at different stages and averaged between 18.8 and 21.5 fantasy points per game. How much is 2.7 fantasy points worth? This article will show you four ways to approach the quarterback position in your upcoming fantasy draft.

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The Stud Methodology

The four quarterbacks in this group heading into 2016 are Cam Newton, Russell Wilson, Aaron Rodgers, and Andrew Luck. These are the top four quarterbacks according to FantasyPros ADP (average draft position). The goal with this methodology is an attempt to solidify a certain level of production at this position. Newton and Wilson gave fantasy owners a signficant advantage, especially during the second half of the season.

Quarterback Production from 2015

Player Pos Team Gms Comp Att Pct Yds Yds/Att TD Int QBR Rush Att Rush Yds Yds/Att Rush TD PPG
Cam Newton QB Panthers 16 296 496 60 3,837 8 35 10 99 132 636 5 10 24.3
Russell Wilson QB Seahawks 16 329 483 68 4,024 8 34 8 110 103 553 5 1 21
Aaron Rodgers QB Packers 16 347 572 61 3,821 7 31 8 93 58 344 6 1 18.8
Andrew Luck QB Colts 7 162 293 55 1,881 6 15 12 75 33 196 6 0 18.7

Source: FantasyData

Rodgers and Luck underperformed last season. The entire Packers’ offense was affected by the loss of Jordy Nelson which took away the vertical element of their passing game. The Colts game of chicken with their offensive line personnel finally caught up with them. Luck dealt with injuries for the majority of 2015.

The Stud Methodology comes down to opportunity cost. What will you gain by taking a quarterback early? What will you lose? This is my least favorite method to use on my fantasy football teams. What will embracing this methodology cause the rest of your team to look like? I will use the FantasyPros Draft Wizard (12-team PPR) to answer this question.

Player Team Round
David Johnson Cardinals 1.5
Jamaal Charles Chiefs 2.8
Cam Newton Panthers 3.5
Randall Cobb Packers 4.8
Golden Tate Lions 5.5
Donte Moncrief Colts 6.8
Antonio Gates Chargers 7.5
Charles Sims Buccaneers 8.8
Tyler Lockett Seahawks 9.5
Darren Sproles Eagles 10.8
Willie Snead Saints 11.5
Charles Clay Bills 12.8
Vincent Jackson Buccaneers 13.5
Bills D/ST 14.8
Justin Tucker Ravens 15.5

 

The Mid-Round Quarterback

The quarterbacks in this group heading into 2016 are Ben Roethlisberger, Drew Brees, Carson Palmer, Blake Bortles, and Tom Brady. These are the quarterbacks taken from No. 5 to 9 according to FantasyPros ADP consensus rankings. The biggest values last season from this group of quarterbacks were Palmer and Bortles (Brady was also a value, but it comes down to what date your fantasy draft took place).

Quarterback Production from 2015

Player Pos Team Gms Comp Att Pct Yds Yds/Att TD Int QBR Rush Att Rush Yds Yds/Att Rush TD PPG
Ben Roethlisberger QB Steelers 12 319 469 68 3,938 8 21 16 94 15 29 2 0 19
Drew Brees QB Saints 15 428 627 68 4,870 8 32 11 101 24 14 1 1 20.3
Carson Palmer QB Cardinals 16 342 538 64 4,671 9 35 11 104 25 24 1 1 19.3
Blake Bortles QB Jaguars 16 355 606 59 4,428 7 35 18 88 52 310 6 2 19.8
Tom Brady QB Patriots 16 402 624 64 4,770 8 36 7 102 34 53 2 3 21.5

Source: FantasyData

The idea behind drafting a mid-round quarterback is to receive stable production from the position, but to not be constrained from drafting a player early. It still comes down to opportunity cost. What player will you miss out on in order to draft a mid-round quarterback? The quarterback I like the most out of this group is Drew Brees. The foundation of the Saints’ offense is built on the passing game. The team will have to score a high number of points to keep up with the other high-flying offenses in the NFC South. The Saints’ defense will continue to be an abomination. This unit gave up the highest number of points per drive (2.58) in the NFL. Brees could finish as a top-three fantasy quarterback this season.

What will embracing this methodology cause the rest of your team to look like? Again, I use the Draft Wizard (12-team PPR) to answer this question.

Player Team Round
A.J. Green Bengals 1.5
Mark Ingram Saints 2.8
Amari Cooper Raiders 3.5
Latavius Murray Raiders 4.8
Jeremy Maclin Chiefs 5.5
Carson Palmer Cardinals 6.8
Melvin Gordon Chargers 7.5
Zach Ertz Eagles 8.8
Marvin Jones Lions 9.5
Seattle Seahawks 10.8
Javorius Allen Ravens 11.5
Eric Ebron Lions 12.8
Tim Hightower Saints 13.5
Michael Thomas Saints 14.8
Mason Crosby Packers 15.5

 

The Late-Round Quarterback Methodology

This methodology has been championed by Salvatore Stefanile (Co-Founder of Two QBs) and J.J. Zachariason (Editor-in-Chief at NumberFire). It prioritizes addressing the running back, wide receiver, and tight end positions in the early rounds of the draft. You do not address the quarterback position until the later rounds. The goal is to find an every-week starter or QB1. Zachariason explains the basis of the philosophy:

Drafting a quarterback late in fantasy football is no new idea. Folks have been doing it for years because they understand that it doesn’t rely on projections or predictions – it’s all about how fantasy is structured and built. You start one quarterback, and you start two or three running backs and receivers…When you factor in some basic math, economic principles and average draft position analysis, the strategy becomes incredibly obvious, especially in today’s NFL.

If you strike out then you can address the position again through the waiver wire. Tyrod Taylor and Kirk Cousins were great examples of the viability of this strategy from last season. Here is another quote from Zachariason:

The beauty of the approach is that it doesn’t really matter who you draft, given you’re spending a late-round pick on the passer. Whoever I get, chances are I’m not sticking with him every week throughout the season, something often misconstrued with the strategy…The quarterback position has a predictability aspect each week that a lot of people don’t realize, making waiver wire players and adds more reliable than any other position.

There are numerous quarterbacks being drafted in the double-digit rounds according to FantasyPros ADP consensus. This is my favorite quarterback strategy when drafting my teams. You can push the envelope as far as your risk tolerance allows. If you feel compelled to pick a quarterback you can draft Eli Manning (QB10) or Philip Rivers (QB11). If you can wait a little bit longer you can draft Matthew Stafford (QB17) or Tyrod Taylor (QB18). You can wait even longer and draft Matt Ryan (QB20), Ryan Tannehill (QB22), or Alex Smith (QB27).

What will embracing this methodology cause the rest of your team to look like? Here’s another look at a Draft Wizard mock (12-team PPR).

Player Team Round
Todd Gurley Rams 1.5
Mike Evans Buccaneers 2.8
Demaryius Thomas Broncos 3.5
Greg Olsen Panthers 4.8
Latavius Murray Raiders 5.5
Larry Fitzgerald Cardinals 6.8
Giovani Bernard Bengals 7.5
DeVante Parker Dolphins 8.8
Charles Sims Buccaneers 9.5
Stefon Diggs Vikings 10.8
DeAndre Washington Raiders 11.5
Tyrod Taylor Bills 12.8
Shaun Draughn 49ers 13.5
New York Jets D/ST 14.8
Brandon McManus Broncos 15.5

 

The Platoon Methodology

Have you ever been in a local fantasy football league where other owners horde quarterbacks? If the answer is yes then the Platoon Methodology could be a good fit for you. The foundation of this methodology is built on rostering two quarterbacks with different bye weeks in order to take advantage of matchups by streaming the position.

As an example, if you paired up Tyrod Taylor (QB18) and Ryan Tannehill (QB22) you have two quarterbacks that could generate fantasy points not only with their arms, but also their legs. Taylor produced 0.77 fantasy points per rush in 2015. Tannehill is coming off a down season statistically, but things are looking up for him in 2016 with new Dolphins head coach Adam Gase. He has averaged 225 rushing yards per season and 5.1 yards per carry in his career.

Another example would be pairing up Matthew Stafford (QB17) and Joe Flacco (QB28). Stafford (609) and Flacco (527) have both averaged a high number of pass attempts over the last three seasons. Both are part of offensive schemes that call a high percentage of pass plays.

There is not a right or wrong answer on how to build a quarterback platoon. I have found it to be generally more effective in fantasy football leagues where quarterbacks are coveted.

Streaming Methodology

This methodology is centered on picking up a quarterback via the waiver wire every week who has the best matchup for that given week. It helps to evaluate points per game of the quarterback you are targeting, the pass defense of the opponent, defensive injuries of the opponent, and the Vegas perspective. Another useful statistic to analyze is the DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average) and DVAR (Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement) from Football Outsiders. You want to analyze as many statistics as you can, but have them laid out in an organized manner in order to make your selection. As the owner of your fantasy football team you should know whether you need a reliable floor or week-winning upside.

Conclusion

These five methodologies can be implemented in most fantasy leagues. The best feedback I can provide is to choose the option that fits best with your style. Here is a visual of the DVAR (Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement) of the top 20 quarterbacks according to FantasyPros consensus ADP rankings.

Player Team DYAR Rank
Cam Newton Panthers 630 11
Aaron Rodgers Packers 406 17
Russell Wilson Seahawks 1,190 3
Andrew Luck Colts -126 33
Ben Roethlisberger Steelers 1,114 5
Drew Brees Saints 1,111 6
Carson Palmer Cardinals 1,698 1
Blake Bortles Jaguars 54 25
Tom Brady Patriots 1,312 2
Eli Manning Giants 404 18
Philip Rivers Chargers 847 8
Tony Romo Cowboys -93
Derek Carr Raiders 582 12
Kirk Cousins Redskins 1,023 7
Andy Dalton Bengals 1,135 4
Jameis Winston Buccaneers 467 16
Matthew Stafford Lions 804 9
Tyrod Taylor Bills 536 14
Marcus Mariota Titans -53 30
Matt Ryan Falcons 389 19

My favorite quarterbacks to target if you are a follower of the Late Round Quarterback methodology are Tyrod Taylor, Philip Rivers, Derek Carr, Ryan Tannehill, and Matt Ryan. It is amazing how many viable quarterbacks are available in the later rounds of fantasy drafts.

At the end of the day you want to crush your opponents in your league, but it is important to manage a team you are proud of. What is your preferred quarterback draft strategy? What experiences have you had with the strategies? Please leave a comment below or reach out through Twitter. You can find me @EricNMoody and I am always happy to discuss fantasy football.


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