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How NFL Draft Position Helps Predict Future Fantasy Performance: Quarterbacks

by Sam Ryner | Featured Writer
Apr 26, 2022
Matt Corral

With the 2022 NFL Draft fast approaching, fantasy football fans anxiously await to see who will draft this year’s crop of rookie quarterbacks. In dynasty, the unknown of each incoming prospect and what his career might turn into provides hope and excitement. We all want to hit on our rookie draft picks, but selecting the rookie quarterback who develops into a fantasy superstar and becomes the backbone of your roster for 10+ years is the ultimate Yahtzee in dynasty. The truth is that most prospects don’t turn into superstars. But do you know what else is great? Having a reliable QB2 or a QB3 in a superflex league for emergencies or a bye week fill-in.

Fantasy Football Redraft Draft Kit

So how can we best identify which quarterbacks will provide long-term value for our fantasy teams? Well, like anything else in fantasy, there is no foolproof answer or way of precisely predicting who will be great, decent, or a bust. However, fantasy football is a game of probabilities, and the best managers consistently make decisions based on probabilities while simultaneously weighing risk and upside. And that’s precisely how we should approach projecting and drafting rookie quarterbacks.

What we will be doing in this exercise is looking back at 12 years’ worth of NFL draft data. I’ve compiled a list of every quarterback drafted since 2010 and grouped them based on where they were selected in their respective drafts. Next, I looked at how each player has performed in fantasy throughout his career, hoping to conclude how draft position can help predict future fantasy performance. Draft position groupings were then assigned percentages indicating the likelihood of a player being drafted in that range to become a QB1, QB2, QB3, or not worthy of a roster spot. Before jumping into the numbers, here is how we’ll define QB rankings in this study:

QB Rank (4-point passing TD scoring)

QB1: players whose average season-end rank falls inside the top 12 at the position throughout their career (e.g., QB season-end ranks of 8, 9, and 14 in a three-year career average out to 10.3 = inside the top 12 = QB1 label.)
QB2: Players whose average season-end rank falls between 13-and 24.
QB3: Players whose average season-end rank falls between 25-and 36.
n/a: Players whose average season-end rank falls outside the top 36 at the position.

After each grouping, you will see a note: “should be rostered long term in dynasty leagues.” With dynasty leagues having such deep benches, any player who has a QB3 status or better is a player that should be on rosters, and I will include them in the note.

Data Disclosure:

Players were not penalized for early-career seasons in which they had not yet obtained the starting role. (For instance, Lamar Jackson did not start until Week 11 during his rookie season). Nor were they penalized if they were injured and did not play in at least 13 games (In Lamar Jackson’s 2021 season, he played in 12 games and finished as the QB15, but he performed as a QB1 when healthy). These seasons were thrown out of the sample while calculating a player’s career average ranking.

This study discarded some players due to uncertain statuses (e.g., Trey Lance: Many believe he can be a QB1, but there hasn’t been enough evidence to support that conclusion. His range of career outcomes is vast, and labeling him with a quarterback rank would be a projection that takes away from the objectivity of this research). I excluded some players from the sample for those reasons.

Formatting:

Player Name: (draft pick #) QB Rank

Top 5 Draft Picks:

(18 players drafted, with four removed from the sample)

Trevor Lawrence: (1)
Joe Burrow: (1) QB1
Kyler Murray: (1) QB1
Baker Mayfield: (1) QB2
Jared Goff: (1) QB2
Jameis Winston: (1) QB2
Andrew Luck: (1) QB1
Cam Newton: (1) QB1
Sam Bradford: (1) QB2
Zach Wilson: (2)
Mitch Trubisky: (2) QB3
Carson Wentz: (2) QB2
Marcus Mariota: (2) QB3
Robert Griffin: (3) n/a
Trey Lance: (3)
Sam Darnold: (3) QB3
Blake Bortles: (3) n/a
Tua Tagovailoa: (5)

QB1s: 4/14 (28.5%)
QB2s (2): 5/14 (35.7%)
QB3s (3): 3/14 (21.4%)

Should be rostered long term in dynasty: 12/14 (85.6%)

Fantasy Takeaways/Application: Quarterbacks selected in the top five of the NFL draft are safe fantasy investments who will likely provide you with value. Intuitively this makes sense. NFL scouts and GMs aren’t entirely clueless. NFL teams can identify elite QB talent, and those players go off the board early. Although only slightly more than 1 in 4 players drafted inside the top five develop into QB1s for fantasy, managers are more likely to get a starter in superflex leagues. With 85.6% of these prospects developing into players who should be on rosters across all dynasty leagues, you should feel confident that you are getting a player you won’t drop after a few seasons.

Players Drafted 6-15:

(12 players drafted, with two pulled from the sample)

Justin Herbert: (6) QB1
Daniel Jones: (6) QB3
Josh Allen: (7) QB1
Ryan Tannehill: (8) QB2
Jake Locker: (8) n/a
Josh Rosen: (10) n/a
Patrick Mahomes: (10) QB1
Justin Fields: (11)
Deshaun Watson: (12) QB1
Christin Ponder: (12) n/a
Mac Jones: (15)
Dwayne Haskins: (15) n/a

QB1s: 4/10 (40%)
QB2s: 1/10 (10%)
QB3s: 1/10 (10%)

Should be rostered long term in dynasty: 6/10 (60%)

Fantasy Takeaways/Application: Interestingly enough, players drafted in this range produced the same amount of QB1s (4) as our top-five pick grouping despite a smaller sample size. We have seen 40% of quarterbacks drafted in this range develop into QB1s, whereas only 28.5% of top five selections achieved QB1 status. Why is this the case? I don’t think we can draw concrete conclusions due to the small sample size, but one hypothesis is that organizations drafting in this range have teams with better supporting casts than those picking inside the top five. There’s a reason teams are picking inside the top five; they stink. Poor teams don’t provide quarterback prospects with optimum environments, which stunts development, and negative early career results can harm player confidence. Although players drafted in the 6-15 pick range are more likely than top-five picks to develop into QB1s, only 60% are likely to be players that end up being long-term starters.

Players Drafted 16-32:

(Eight players drafted, with one player excluded from the sample)

E.J. Manuel: (16) n/a
Johnny Manziel: (22) n/a
Brandon Weeden: (22) n/a
Tim Tebow: (25) n/a
Jordan Love: (26)
Paxton Lynch: (26) n/a
Lamar Jackson: (32) QB1
Teddy Bridgewater: (32) QB3

QB1s: 1/7 (14.2%)
QB2s: 0/7 (0%)
QB3s: 1/7 (14.2%)

Should be rostered long term in dynasty: 2/7 (28.5%)

Fantasy Takeaways/Application: Be wary of late-first-round quarterbacks. These players are dropping in the first round for a reason. Only Lamar Jackson developed into a player fantasy managers want in their starting lineups of this grouping. Fantasy managers have less than a 15% chance of getting a player who should start in superflex leagues and less than a 30% chance of getting a player who should be on rosters long term from this grouping. Again, NFL teams aren’t clueless while doing player evaluations. It should be a red flag if a top QB prospect falls past the first 15 picks in the NFL draft. Yes, you may hit the jackpot and end up with a Lamar Jackson, but don’t count on it.

Players Drafted in the Second Round:

(12 players drafted, with one excluded from the sample)

Andy Dalton: (35) QB2
Derek Carr: (36) QB2
Colin Kaepernick: (36) QB2
Geno Smith: (37) n/a
Drew Lock: (42) n/a
Jimmy Clausen: (48) n/a
Christian Hackenburg: (51) n/a
DeShone Kizer: (52) n/a
Jalen Hurts: (53) QB1 – but for how long?
Brock Osweiler: (57) n/a
Jimmy Garoppolo: (62) QB2
Kyle Trask (64)

QB1s: 1/11 (9%)
QB2s: 4/11 (36.3%)
QB3s: 0/12 (0%)

Should be rostered long term in dynasty: 5/11 (45.4%)

Fantasy Takeaways/Application: Here’s where things get interesting. Quarterbacks drafted in the second round have fared better than those selected in the back half of the first round. But why? Let’s dig in.

Jalen Hurts is the only player with a QB1 status in this grouping, but he probably should have an asterisk next to his name. Hurts was a QB1 last year, and the Eagles brass claims he’s their guy for 2022. If he starts for the entire 2022 season, he will probably be a QB1 again. But that’s the problem with Hurts – it’s “if” he starts the whole season. Hurts has significant flaws as a passer, and getting benched or replaced in the next year or two is well within the realm of possibilities. Three years from now, he may not be a player who should be on dynasty rosters, but for now, he gets to keep his QB1 label.

Four quarterbacks in this grouping (36.3%) get to claim QB2 status. That’s a large number compared to our previous groups. These are starting-caliber players in superflex. So why did they fall out of the first round, and how can we try to predict which second-round QBs will pan out? What do these players have in common? Three out of the four players who ended up as QB2s went to non-Power-5 schools (Carr – Fresno State, Colin Kaepernick – Nevada, and Jimmy Garoppolo – Eastern Illinois). Look again at the list of the QBs drafted in the second round, and you may notice the ones who should be left off dynasty rosters went to a Power-5 school.

On the flip side, 100% of the quarterbacks taken in the second round who went to mid-major schools ended up as starting-caliber players in superflex. Remember, small sample here, but this means something. So why have mid-major school second round quarterbacks been successful? That may be because NFL teams are scared to invest first-round picks on quarterbacks who have not played against elite competition. In hindsight, it’s easy to say that these quarterbacks should have been drafted in the first round, but questions about competition level scared teams away, and these players fell into the second round. The data indicates that if a non-Power-5 school quarterback is good enough to be selected in the second round, he’s probably a first-round talent. They are usually mid to late-round picks, so if one goes in the second round, he’s likely the real deal and is undervalued.

So, what to do with this? I don’t think you should use pick 1.01 or any other first-round rookie pick in fantasy on a mid-major quarterback just because he gets taken in the second round of the NFL draft. But I think your ears should perk up if you hear a quarterback’s name called from one of these schools in the second round, as he could be a hidden gem.

Players Drafted in the Third Round:

(14 players drafted, with two excluded from the sample)

Kellon Mond: (66)
Davis Mills: (67)
Mike Glennon: (73) n/a
Ryan Mallett: (74) n/a
Garrett Grayson: (75) n/a
Russell Wilson: (75) QB1
Mason Rudolph: (76) n/a
Colt McCoy: (85) n/a
Davis Webb: (87) n/a
Nick Foles: (88) n/a
Sean Mannion: (89) n/a
Jacoby Brissett: (91) n/a
Will Grier: (100) n/a
Cj Beathard: (104) n/a

QB1s: 1/12 (8.3%)
QB2s: 0/12 (0%)
QB3s: 0/12 (0%)

Should be rostered long term in dynasty: 1/12 (8.3%)

Fantasy Takeaways/Application: Quarterbacks drafted in the third round of the NFL draft are not suitable investments in dynasty. Only one quarterback drafted in the third round in the last 12 years has been a consistent fantasy contributor: superstar Russell Wilson. No other quarterback taken in the third round in this sample has been a player who needs to be on dynasty rosters.

Players Drafted in the Fourth Round:

(18 players)

Matt Barkley: (98) n/a
Connor Cook: (100) n/a
Kirk Cousins: (102) QB2
Bryce Petty: (103) n/a
Ryan Finley: (104) n/a
Kyle Lauletta: (108) n/a
Ryan Nassib: (110) n/a
Tyler Wilson: (112) n/a
Logan Thomas: (120) n/a
Jacob Eason: (122) n/a
Mike Kafka: (122) n/a
James Morgan: (125) n/a
Jarrett Stidham: (133) n/a
Ian Book: (134) n/a
Josh Dobbs: (135) n/a
Dak Prescott: (135) QB1
Tom Savage: (135) n/a
Cardale Jones: (139) n/a

QB1s: 1/18 (5.5%)
QB2s: 1/18 (5.5%)
QB3s: 0/18 (0%)

Should be rostered long term in dynasty: 2/18 (11%)

Fantasy Takeaways/Application: Quarterbacks drafted in the fourth round of the NFL draft are not quality investments in dynasty. Yes, Dak Prescott and Kirk Cousins were hidden gems for their real-life NFL teams and your fantasy teams, but just 11% of players from this grouping have any fantasy relevance.

CTAs

Players Drafted in the Fifth Round:

(13 players)

Ricky Stanzi: (135) n/a
Brent Hundley: (147) n/a
TJ Yates: (152) n/a
John Skelton: (155) n/a
Nathan Enderle: (160) n/a
Kevin Hogan: (162) n/a
Aaron Murray: (163) n/a
Easton Stick: (166) n/a
Jake Fromm: (167) n/a
Clayton Thorson: (167) n/a
John Crompton: (168) n/a
Mike White: (171) n/a
Nathan Peterman: (171) n/a

QB1s: 0/13 (0%)
QB2s: 0/13 (0%)
QB3s: 0/13 (0%)

Should be rostered long term in dynasty: 0/13 (0%)

Fantasy Takeaways/Application: The fifth round is where it starts to get ugly. No quarterback drafted in the fifth round in the last 12 years has been worth a roster spot on your dynasty team. Just say no.

Players Drafted in the Sixth Round:

(26 players)

Rusty Smith: (168) n/a
Zach Mettenberger: (178) n/a
Tyrod Taylor: (180) n/a
Dan LeFevour: (181) n/a
David Fales: (183) n/a
Nate Sudfeld:(187) n/a
Jake Luton: (189) n/a
Jake Rudock: (191) n/a
Keith Wenning: (194) n/a
Trace McSorley: (197) n/a
Luke Falk: (199) n/a
Joe Webb: (199) n/a
Brandon Allen: (201) n/a
Tanner Lee: (203) n/a
Tony Pike: (204) n/a
Jeff Driskel: (207) n/a
Tajh Boyd: (213) n/a
Garrett Gilbert: (214) n/a
Brad Kaaya: (215) n/a
Sam Ehlinger: (218) n/a
Brad Sorensen: (221) n/a
Zach Dysert: (234) n/a
BJ Daniels: (237) n/a
BJ Coleman: (243) n/a
Sean Renfree: (249) n/a
Chandler Harnish: (253) n/a

QB1s: 0/26 (0%)
QB2s: 0/26 (0%)
QB3s: 0/26 (0%)
Should be rostered long term in dynasty: 0/26 (0%)

Fantasy Takeaways/Application: Yes, I understand that Tom Brady was a sixth-round pick. Yes, I know he is the GOAT. But you must realize that he is the ultimate outlier. The data shows that you are essentially throwing away your rookie draft pick when you draft a quarterback taken in the sixth round. Zero of the quarterbacks in this study taken in the sixth round of NFL drafts belong on dynasty rosters.

Players Drafted in the Seventh Round:

(13 Players)

Greg McElroy: (208) n/a
Levi Brown: (209) n/a
Danny Etling: (219) n/a
Alex McGough: (220) n/a
Brandon Doughty: (223) n/a
Ben DiNucci: (231) n/a
Sean Canfield: (239) n/a
Tommy Stevens: (240) n/a
Nate Stanley: (244) n/a
Logan Woodside: (249) n/a
Trevor Siemain: (250) n/a
Zac Robinson: (250) n/a
Chad Kelly: (253) n/a

QB1s: 0/13 (0%)
QB2s: 0/13 (0%)
QB3s: 0/13 (0%)

Should be rostered long term in dynasty: 0/13 (0%)

Fantasy Takeaways/Application: Don’t waste a precious roster spot on any quarterback drafted in the seventh round.

CTAs


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Sam Ryner is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Sam, check out his archive.

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