Ladies and gentlemen welcome to the new league year!
What do I mean by this? Well, it’s officially redraft season for fantasy football. Dynasty leagues are a 24/7/365 maneuver, with there being a general spike of interest during the draft process. However, the great majority of fantasy football players still partake mainly in redraft leagues. Unfortunately, since it is hard to forecast what situations will look like prior to the draft, the focus on redraft leagues doesn’t pick up until after it takes place.
After all, the fantasy football landscape looks mightily different with A.J. Brown (WR – PHI) on the Eagles, Marquise Brown (WR – ARI) on the Cardinals and only one first-round quarterback. There are major shifts that we will have to make based on our previous expectations. For starters, you might not be as high on Ryan Tannehill (QB – TEN) as a later-round backup quarterback without AJ Brown, while you certainly shouldn’t take a swing at Malik Willis (QB – TEN) at the end of your draft. Oh, and anytime you have six first-round receivers taken, that’s going to change the calculus of a lot of passing attacks.
Standard redraft leagues will eventually take over as the primary format soon enough, but for the next few months, best-ball formats will be extremely popular. As my mother likes to this to say, this is the perfect type of league for the average individual. After all, you pick the players, and your best scoring lineup is automated for you. Enough with those start/sit decisions, am I right?
There are many different ways to attack the quarterback position for best-ball leagues. Unlike running back or wide receiver, you only need one impact producer per week at the position, which limits the amount of focus you have to pay to it; generally, most successful best-ball teams have just two quarterbacks, though Hayden Winks Underdog Fantasy recent noted that QB3s can be generally undervalued at the end of a best-ball draft.
What Winks also discovered that is more significant, however, is that quarterbacks as a whole are undervalued in best-ball formats, specifically Underdog Fantasy and other 0.5 PPR formats. There is a lot of reason to suggest that you simply take a consensus top-ten quarterback and run with it, though that is far from the only strategy where you can have success.
Today, we’ll be going over the strategy of quarterback pairings. You may not want to target a high-end player at the position, which can make pairing two mid-tier quarterbacks appealing; you hope that you can match their top weeks enough to match the production of a top-tier quarterback. It is certainly a viable strategy and one that can allow you to gain an extra edge at running back or wide receiver while others attack the quarterback position early.
In my opinion, there are three top ways to pair quarterbacks in best-ball formats. Today, we will be going over each of those three methods, as well as potential targets utilizing each of them. How should you be attacking the quarterback position in your best-ball draft? Find out here!
Stats via Pro Football Focus
Method #1: Risk It For The Biscuit
- Targets: Trey Lance (QB – SF), Justin Fields (QB – CHI)
Especially if you’re in a best-ball tournament, playing it extremely safe is not the way to play it. Sometimes, in life, as Bruce Arians would say, we just have to risk it for the biscuit. This is a strategy with a lot of upside, though it certainly comes with some risk.
Is Trey Lance the guaranteed starting quarterback for the 49ers next season? That depends on who you trust. For now, Jimmy Garoppolo (QB – SF) remains on the roster, but Lance would appear to be in line for the starting job, according to Jeremy Fowler of ESPN (per NBC Sports Bay Area):
“Trey Lance has gotten the full impression behind the scenes that he will start in 2022,” Fowler wrote in a story published Wednesday. “So while the expectation is San Francisco will move Garoppolo eventually, it feels like the team is in a holding pattern on that.”
There is some definite risk with taking Lance right now, though as long as he isn’t being drafted as a top-10 quarterback, it may be worth it. There is nothing more enticing in fantasy football than a quarterback with rushing upside, and Lance displayed it with 32 carries in his 2 1/2 games under center for San Francisco as a rookie. Now, he still has work to do as a passer (71.4% adjusted completion rate, 61.1 PFF passing grade). That being said, I can’t think of many offenses that can get the most out of a quarterback’s passing than Kyle Shanahan’s offense in San Francisco. With the rushing upside and talent around him, it’s hard to see him not finishing as a top-10 fantasy quarterback if he starts the whole season; the ceiling is quite illustrious, and it is hard to imagine the 49ers going two straight years without playing someone that they mortgaged the future for to draft with the third overall pick.
Justin Fields, meanwhile, shares many similarities to Lance, albeit with some clear differences as well. With the Bears seemingly ignoring the concept of acquiring playmakers around him, he will enter 2022 in one of the worst situations of any quarterback. Yet, that doesn’t mean he can’t have spike weeks in fantasy; rushing production is king.
After being reluctant to take off and run at the beginning of his career, Fields started to demonstrate the rushing upside that makes him an exciting fantasy option. Over the final six full games he played, he was on pace for eight rushing attempts/game and 56.33 rushing yards/game, putting him on pace for nearly 1000 rushing yards. Heck, he also finished as a top-10 quarterback in his final four games as well, despite averaging 7.3 yards/pass attempt or less in three of those four games. The offense he’s in isn’t ideal, but spike weeks will be there simply based on his rushing numbers. As he continues to fall due to concerns about his supporting cast, buy that dip.
Method #2: One High Variance, One Low Variance
- High Variance Targets: Trey Lance, Justin Fields
- Low Variance Targets: Kirk Cousins (QB – MIN), Derek Carr (QB – LV)
If you want to be able to benefit from the spike weeks that a quarterback with rushing upside can possess, but don’t want to be overly impacted by their potential lulls, pairing them with a more consistent quarterback could be a viable option. These quarterbacks may not have any sort of ceiling, but they are the top quarterbacks that could pop in terms of passing production in the right week and are definitely reliable fill-ins if your “high variance” option has a down week.
There is a very strong chance that Kirk Cousins (Underdog Fantasy QB16) is undervalued from a fantasy perspective this season, and as a quarterback in general. After all, he’s now eclipsed an 83 PFF grade in three straight seasons, in addition to averaging 7.9 yards/pass attempt during that span. The main problem during that span has been an overall lack of passing volume, but that will change greatly going from a run-heavy offense due to Mike Zimmer’s preferences to new head coach Kevin O’Connell, who has helped with the orchestration of some pass-heavy offenses in the past.
With a more pass-heavy approach last season, Cousins finished as the QB12 in points per game despite having a worse season efficiency-wise that was out of character — his 86.8 PFF passing grade was actually the highest of his career. At the end of the day, this is a very productive quarterback who finally is back paired with an offensive head coach with a strong supporting cast. That sounds good to me!
Speaking of weapons, Derek Carr will have plenty of them at his disposal: Davante Adams (WR – LV), Darren Waller (TE – LV) and Hunter Renfrow (WR – LV) are quite the nice assortment of playmakers. His production took a hit once wide receiver Henry Ruggs III (WR – FA) was released, and his average depth of target fell down to under eight yards (7.9); it also didn’t help that Waller missed six games due to injuries. The supporting cast will not be an issue for him this season, especially if the pairing of him and new head coach Josh McDaniels goes well. Nevertheless, it’s an upgrade over his previous coaching staff.
There is a capped ceiling with both of these quarterbacks due to their lack of rushing floor. However, both of these quarterbacks, particularly Cousins, have strong enough consistent passing production to give them a foundation to build upon, especially since they should be a part of above-average offenses. Personally, I think quarterbacks with more rushing upside may provide a similar foundation/floor based on that, though it is always intriguing to pair a high-variance quarterback with a steady, consistent option.
Method #3: Draft a Stud, Then Wait For Your Next QB
- “Stud” Targets: Kyler Murray (QB – ARI), Lamar Jackson (QB – BAL)
- Filler Targets: Daniel Jones (QB – NYG), Zach Wilson (QB – NYJ)
If quarterbacks generally are undervalued in best-ball formats, then there may be an edge to be gained by targeting one of the top-tier quarterbacks. Once upon a time, “late-round quarterback” became a sensation; early-round quarterbacks were seen as overvalued, making the strategy of waiting on the position more appealing. However, as time has gone on, the quarterbacks that would generally come out a discount (younger quarterbacks with rushing upside) have been pushed up draft boards, making it more difficult to execute that strategy.
Even better, since the majority of fantasy football managers will still utilize a late-round quarterback approach, the top-tier quarterbacks will see their draft position slip, making the opportunity cost of drafting them lower. This creates a perfect opportunity to zig while others zag, particularly if you have specific targets in mind that may not necessarily be the first quarterback off the board. In my eyes, the two best top-tier quarterbacks for this approach would be Kyler Murray and Lamar Jackson.
Murray is the current QB5 based on Underdog Fantasy ADP, but that should change in a hurry; the team has made it an emphasis to add weapons recently, particularly vertical threat Marquise Brown. I generally do not believe we give Murray the credit he deserves as a passer. After all, in his third season as a pro, he earned an 88.1 PFF passing grade, generated an absurd 8.1% big-time throw rate and averaged 7.9 yards/pass attempt. He was the QB4 in points per game last season, plays in a pass-heavy system and offers the combination of passing and rushing upside that only Josh Allen (QB – BUF) brings.
Only Allen finished higher in PFF’s expected fantasy points per game than Lamar Jackson. If you extrapolate his 11-game sample size last season, you end up at 4427 passing yards to go along with 1178 rushing yards; that is simply absurd. He’s due for definite positive regression after scoring just 18 combined touchdowns last year and clearly has overall QB1 upside in his cards given how much he’s used as a runner. I’d expect his ADP (QB4 on Underdog Fantasy) to drop slightly after the Ravens traded Marquise Brown to the Cardinals, which opens up even more opportunity for value.
If you draft one of the top-five quarterbacks (Josh Allen, Justin Herbert (QB – LAC), Patrick Mahomes (QB – KC) all apply as well), then you will almost certainly want to wait a significant amount of time to find your next quarterback; the hope is that they are really nothing more than a bye-week filler. With that being the case, both of the New York quarterbacks could be options here. Daniel Jones should be a part of a pass-heavy offense led by new head coach Brian Daboll, and at least offers some rushing value. Zach Wilson, meanwhile, ran more (over 20 rushing yards in four of his last five games) than expected last season and also has a much better supporting cast than the other quarterbacks drafted past the top 20. Personally, I would prefer Jones due to more passing volume and rushing upside, though I can understand the appeal of Wilson if you believe he can take a second-year leap. Really, with any of the late-round quarterbacks, you just want to pick your poison.
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