Do Not Draft List: Quarterbacks (2021 Fantasy Football)
Draft rituals are commonplace in fantasy football leagues. Software design has come to the forefront, great draft domination systems that walk with you hand in hand to help build the optimum roster. But an old-school mindset still exists for many. The art of printing off a sheet, grabbing a Sharpie, and creating the lists of lists: “Do Not Draft.”
First off, necessary disclaimer for the internet TLDR club. To declare a player “Do Not Draft” will be based on ADP value. There is undoubtedly a value worth giving up to acquire Justin Herbert. It just will not be at his realistic ADP.
I previously touched on the changes at the QB position. The chorus has long been “wait on QB.” That has changed given the top-end upside at the position, turning the strategy to more closely resemble the approach many take on TE. Get one early, or wait forever. That “early” includes five quarterbacks: Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, Kyler Murray, Lamar Jackson, and Dak Prescott. After that, we get to “The Do Not Draft List.”
Justin Herbert (LAC) QB6, ADP 60
The previously mentioned Herbert is a logical starting point. Coming in at QB6, the reigning rookie of the year, a conclusion he is on pace to continue his ascension off a QB9 finish. Warning flags abound.
The first factor to consider is his rushing profile. Herbert has the tools to project as a dual-threat QB capable of pushing to the top of the sport. As of yet, he has not used it absent one 66 yard performance against the league-worst Jaguars.
Herbert faces uncertainty with the arrival of a new coaching staff, most notably Offensive Coordinator Joe Lombardi. Volume should not be an issue; in his previous stops, Lombardi has been a part of league-leading passing offenses. Still, the onus is on Herbert to learn his third new offense in three years.
The actual case against him boils down to ADP.
Herbert broke rookie records, including most passing touchdowns. That season still placed him QB9 on a per-game basis. His acquisition price is at his ceiling. Further complication the matter, difference-making players are available later on similar risk profiles. Jalen Hurts carries a risky profile but a rushing floor to challenge the top tier and an ADP of 89. Ryan Tannehill, who finished just one ppg behind Herbert, carries an ADP of 80.
To buy-in is to hope his rush game develops, he clicks with the new coaching staff, and he avoids the dreaded sophomore slump after teams have an entire offseason to dissect and attack. Quite frankly, some players have a solid chance to outscore him available much later.
Hypothetically his standing as QB8 is acceptable. Even in some down years by his standards between 2017 to 2019, he produced QB1 seasons. Coming off a career year in 2020, this may seem like a discount.
Speaking simply off his production, he finished as QB5. Big picture, Rodgers threw 48 touchdown passes, good for 5th all-time in single-season NFL history, and finished QB5. At this ADP, he would need to duplicate MVP seasons to justify his draft position relative to the scoring ability of the QBs at the top.
The overriding assumption is Rodgers does play. In an offensive scheme, he is familiar with and likely with a shortened camp season. The range of outcomes is too wide to consider using such a high pick on him.
Matthew Stafford (LAR): QB10, ADP 83
Stafford is a case of excitement about a well-known player getting a fresh start on his career bleeding over to fantasy football. Stafford potentially does wonders for the Rams on the field and has a real chance to redefine his career arc. The Rams rode their talented roster and Jared Goff as a game manager to a Super Bowl appearance in the 2018 season. Stafford is capable of winning games on his own.
But we are playing fantasy football. Stafford fits a similar profile as Rodgers, a QB well into his career without a rushing floor. Stafford’s ceiling is not high enough to compete with the top QBs.
For a fraction of the draft capital, managers can target players like Trey Lance or Justin Fields, who could achieve a top-end ceiling. To mitigate the risk of these rookies, a manager can almost certainly stream the position to equal Stafford’s production. With the increase in scoring and passing proficiency, players like Derek Carr or Carson Wentz will be available in a pinch.
Cousins is more a roster optimization move. Conceptually there is no need for the teams that roster the top 5 QBs to have a backup. The high ADP on Herbert and Russell Wilson forces them into this consideration. One step further, under any one-QB format with a limited bench, the situation a manager should carry three QBs is rare. Having Deshaun Watson, Fields, and a streaming QB is a potential scenario. But the instances are infrequent.
That leaves five teams worth rostering a second quarterback regularly up to QB17. The complicating factor in that equation is players with league-affecting outcomes like Watson, Fields, or Lance are outside those top 17 players. Managers who wait on QBs should stash the upside of these QBs vs. the known mediocrity of Cousins.
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