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Late-Round Quarterback Best Ball Draft Strategy (2024 Fantasy Football)

Late-Round Quarterback Best Ball Draft Strategy (2024 Fantasy Football)

Ever since JJ Zachariason coined the phrase ‘Late-Round QB’ we’ve seen various stages of the strategy, with the changing of trends and people chasing ceiling towards the top ends of drafts. 2023, however, was a year that might have brought back the Late-Round QB strategy to the forefront of choices in 2024. When JJ made the strategy mainstream several years ago he hypothesized that taking a quarterback early wasn’t worth the opportunity cost when drafters aren’t always good at identifying the quarterbacks who will separate from the field. Whilst the quarterback position has changed quite substantially over the last 10 years, there are elements of the original theory that still hold strong for 2024.

Late-Round QB Best Ball Strategy & Advice

In 2023, three of the top six quarterbacks in average draft position (ADP) had positive advance rates on Underdog, where 16% is the baseline.

Player Advance Rate Advance Rate Ranking
Josh Allen 27.11% 4
Patrick Mahomes 10.99% 40
Jalen Hurts 21.14% 8
Lamar Jackson 17.01% 11
Justin Fields 13.17% 32
Joe Burrow 7.29% 48

The table above shows us that Josh Allen paid off his second-round ADP handsomely, even more so when we consider that seven players in the second round failed to have positive advance rates. Even Jalen Hurts’ less impressive advance rates were more helpful than most players in round two.

In 2022, four of the top six quarterbacks had positive advance rates, which was twice as many as in 2021, when only two of the top six quarterbacks had positive rates.

If anything, this tells us that the quarterbacks at the top of the draft board are volatile and by no means a sure thing to pay off at their cost, even if Josh Allen has done so in back-to-back years. Two of the six who quarterbacks listed above dealt with injuries but it would be naive to rule out that happening to top quarterbacks in 2024. What makes taking an early-round QB difficult is the opportunity cost of doing so. The second round of drafts was disappointing in 2023 but there were nine players with better advance rates than Patrick Mahomes’ 10.99%. Taking Lamar Jackson in round four meant missing out on Keenan Allen (28.2%), Jahmyr Gibbs (18.7%) and Deebo Samuel (24.6%).

In previous years we’ve seen incredible fantasy seasons from late-round QBs like Lamar Jackson and Josh Allen in 2019, who were drafted as the QB14 and QB21, respectively, before Jalen Hurts in 2021 was drafted as the QB12 and Justin Fields in 2022 at QB17. As fantasy managers have become more aware of where these fantastic seasons come from, and the correlation to rushing production, it kept Anthony Richardson as a top-12 option for 2023 – sadly we never saw it play out. Instead, the QB stars of 2023 were found a little later in the traditional area they once were.

Out of the top-seven quarterbacks in advance rate, four of them had been drafted at an ADP of 150 or later.

Late-Round QB Advance Rates

Player ADP Advance Rate Positional Finish (Points Per Game)
Dak Prescott 96.1 36.95% QB5
Brock Purdy 151.5 29.05% QB8
C.J. Stroud 180.8 27.54% QB12
Josh Allen 23.2 27.11% QB1
Baker Mayfield 215.5 23.26% QB17
Tua Tagovailoa 88.7 22.50% QB18
Sam Howell 183 22.14% QB22

With the classic late-round QB dual-threats being pushed up in ADP, we have to take a wider view of what the late-round QB actually is in 2023 and beyond. None of these quarterbacks stood out in a variety of stats but each of them typically shined in one metric or another. None offered anything in the rushing game, even Sam Howell, who people thought might do so. Howell, though, was top-four in pass attempts per game, Stroud was top-four in passing yards per game, Purdy was top-five in both yards and touchdowns per game and Mayfield was consistently in the top half of quarterbacks in most metrics.

A Closer Look at Late-Round QBs

Rush Attempts Per Game Ranking Pass Attempts Per Game Ranking Pass Yards Per Game Ranking Touchdowns Per Game Ranking
Baker Mayfield 3.6 18 33.4 17 244.2 13 1.8 8
Sam Howell 2.8 33 36.6 4 237 17 1.3 23
C.J. Stroud 2.6 35 33.8 15 274.6 4 1.5 14
Brock Purdy 2.4 37 27.8 35 267.5 5 1.9 4

The chart below shows quarterback scoring plotted against their 2023 ADP. The only drafted players scoring over 20.0 points per game were Josh Allen, Jalen Hurts and Lamar Jackson. Joe Flacco did manage this as well but he was drafted just a single time in 56,448 Underdog Best Ball Mania IV (BBM 4) drafts, so an outlier, to say the least. Of the 11 other quarterbacks to score 17.0+ points per game, five had an ADP of 147 or later and the QBs in the 100-150 range outperformed most of the QBs in the 40-99 range.

Of course, in best ball, we’re not aiming for one quarterback to be our everything, unless of course, you’re paying up for an elite one, in which case it’s right to expect a good amount from them. Typically, though, we’re looking for a collection of 2-3 QBs who can consistently give us high scores without sacrificing all our draft capital to get that. The true value of the Late-Round QB in best ball appears to be in landing on the perfect QB2 or QB3. For reasons laid out in this article, it should be clear that predicting these breakouts isn’t always easy, which is why it can pay off to approach drafts differently and look to gain exposure to different players. Between 2021-2022 in Underdog Best Ball Mania drafts, waiting too long for your first quarterback has consistently resulted in negative advance rates. (We’ll update with 2023 data as and when it becomes available).

Number of QBs Drafted (And Their Advance Rates)

QB1 After Round 10 QB1 After Round 12
Total QBs Drafted Advance Rate Advance Rate
1 8.6%% 7.10%
2 15.10% 10.70%
3 17.70% 14.20%
4 15.30% 9.90%
5 7.40%

This doesn’t mean that quarterbacks later on in drafts have no value but we can’t have overconfidence in them at the expense of the earlier ones. There is an art to roster construction. All too often, it is about having the right mix of quarterback room that sees a team do well. Late-round QB as an individual idea isn’t dead, but in best ball, the late-round quarterbacks need pairing with earlier quarterbacks who are capable of elite weeks in order to pay off. Identifying those with promising situations as we talked about earlier is where our late-round picks should go. For instance, drafting CJ Stroud or Brock Purdy might have got you to Week 17, but it was Lamar Jackson’s 36.3 points that won people tournaments. That score was 7.9 points more than any other QB that week, and the fifth-highest score by a QB all season.

If you plan on drafting your first quarterback beyond 100 in ADP, you need a clear plan for the options that will complement them. If you take Tua Tagovailoa, then plan to come back in the next round and pair him with Matthew Stafford. After selecting those two, I would aim to take a player with much greater upside to round out my quarterback selections. Two-quarterback builds are no longer viable this late in the draft and three is the bare minimum to leave a draft with if you’ve waited this late to take your first.

If you draft an elite quarterback in the early rounds, you’ll need them to pay off week in and week out for your roster to succeed. As such, the type of late-round pairing you should look for is the solid and steady starter who might give you a lower score when called upon but will keep your team from putting up a zero that week. In 2023, pairing an elite QB with one of Brock Purdy, Baker Mayfield or CJ Stroud was a winning formula. As ever in best ball, being fluid with our thinking in drafts is essential. Keeping an eye on opponent builds, specifically at the quarterback position, in this case, will help us to determine how long we can wait. If you’re struggling to decide on a quarterback in the later rounds, don’t be afraid to reach slightly to complete a stack. The cost of reaching on ADP can be outweighed by the value of the stack.

Best Ball Draft Strategy

Best Ball Draft Targets & Fades

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