Fantasy Football Strategy: Drafting a Quarterback Early
Outside of two-QB leagues, the “Drafting a Quarterback Early” strategy isn’t one of the more popular strategies in fantasy football. Year after year, we witness quarterbacks that could be found on waivers turn into fantasy stars. It’s easy to forget that Matt Ryan in 2016 and Carson Wentz last year could both be found on waiver wires at the beginning of the season in 12-team leagues.
Being able to find late-round or waiver wire gems at a position that typically only fields one player has made it trendy to wait, wait, and wait some more to draft a quarterback. I was all aboard that last season and I may be once again as there are a handful of quarterbacks that I will be targeting that are currently being drafted among the lower half of QBs in the league (Marcus Mariota, Jameis Winston, Dak Prescott, and Mitch Trubisky).
However, that doesn’t mean I’m against drafting a signal caller early if the situation calls for it. First, we need to define what “early” is. Drafting a quarterback within the top 24 picks in a one-QB league is ill-advised as Aaron Rodgers is currently the 33rd overall pick according to FantasyPros Consensus ADP.
Therefore, let’s define “early” as anywhere in the third round of a 10 or 12-team league (fourth round for eight-team leagues). For the 2018 season, there is no reason to draft any quarterback that early except for Aaron Rodgers and Deshaun Watson (ADP 37) since Tom Brady is currently being drafted third among QBs with an ADP of 57.
Now that we have narrowed down who you should draft and when you should select them, if you decide to take the plunge on the “Early QB Strategy,” then all that’s left is to determine whether to do it or not. If you feel strongly that Aaron Rodgers is going to have one of his MVP years, then by all means, go ahead and draft him. However, there are two other situations in which you may be better served passing on a wide receiver or running back in favor of a quarterback:
- You are confident that you can secure your WR & RB positions with late-rounders and waiver wire gems. Maybe you have a knack for finding the Alvin Kamaras and Jordan Howards of the world. However, you also may be passing up the chance to draft somebody who could have a Todd Gurley or Kareem Hunt-like year.
- You know the running back or wide receiver you would draft will still be there when you pick next.
That’s basically the criteria. As for 2018, I wouldn’t touch Deshaun Watson within the top 40 picks (I don’t draft players who suffer significant knee injuries in the middle of the previous season, regardless of “how good they reportedly look”). That leaves Aaron Rodgers as the only early QB selection that I would even consider making, and it’s one to seriously consider.
Generally speaking, drafting Aaron Rodgers in 2017 meant that you were spending a second round or early-third round pick on your quarterback. Coming off a 2016 season in which he was the league’s top fantasy quarterback with 40+ passing touchdowns, you were drafting him to be that once again despite evidence that doing so is extremely difficult. As I wrote last season in the article linked above, even Aaron Rodgers had only thrown 31+ touchdowns in two straight seasons once, and 40+ touchdowns in two straight seasons had just happened once in NFL history, which was accomplished by Drew Brees in 2011-2012 (it should be noted that Brees was dropping back to throw 660+ times per season during this stretch).
Coming off of a broken collarbone and with the departure of Jordy Nelson, the urge to draft Rodgers won’t be there like it has been in the past. He might even be sitting there in the late third or early fourth round. There’s no doubt that unless you are drafting near the turn of the third and fourth rounds, then you will need to use your third round pick to get him so that’s when you must consider him. So should you?
The answer to that is a resounding “yes.” The last time Rodgers failed to play at least 10 games in 2013, he followed that up with one of his best seasons to date: 4,381 yards and 38 touchdowns. Entering his age-35 season, the wheels are not ready to fall off quite yet for somebody of Rodgers’ caliber — the smart bet is that he will continue to play at a high level as he nears 40 like Tom Brady and Drew Brees. I’m of the belief that Aaron Rodgers makes the wide receivers, as is the case with almost any elite quarterback, so the departure of Jordy Nelson doesn’t concern me. Although I am very intrigued by some of the late-round QBs that I alluded to previously, I’m fully expecting a bounce-back 2018 for Rodgers and company, which means that spending a coveted third-round pick on Rodgers will be a consideration if my situation meets the criteria.