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Late-Round Quarterback Draft Strategy: Does it Work? (2024 Fantasy Football)

Fantasy football experts have advocated waiting on drafting a quarterback in 1QB leagues for years. The depth and volatility at the position make waiting until the late rounds to draft a quarterback possible. However, that trend has changed in the past few years, with many fantasy football experts and players targeting an elite quarterback early in drafts.

So fantasy football players want to know – was Late-Round Quarterback Draft Strategy an effective plan in 2023? The answer is yes. However, how effective was the fantasy football draft strategy? First, let’s look at how much injuries impacted the quarterback position.

2024 fantasy football draft kit

Does Late-Round Quarterback Draft Strategy Work?

The Injury Impact

Everyone has heard that over 60 quarterbacks started a game in 2023. However, let’s dive a little deeper than that. Was there a higher number of quarterbacks injured last season than in the past? I decided to look back at the past seven seasons and see how many quarterbacks attempted a pass and how many had at least 100 attempts each year.

Year

QBs With at Least 100 Attempts

QBs With at Least One Attempt

2023

48

76

2022

47

82

2021

42

73

2020

44

78

2019

42

69

2018

41

69

2017

44

70

Despite all the talk that there were over 60 starting quarterbacks in 2023, there wasn’t a bump in the number of quarterbacks with at least 100 pass attempts compared to 2022. Furthermore, the jump in quarterbacks with at least 100 pass attempts came between 2021 and 2022, with a 10.6% increase.

Over the past two years, there have been an average of 47.5 quarterbacks per season with at least 100 pass attempts and 79 with one attempt. By comparison, there was an average of 42.6 quarterbacks per season with at least 100 pass attempts and 71.8 with one attempt over the previous five years.

The slight bump in the number of quarterbacks seeing the field could be because of the extra regular season game. While there wasn’t a jump in quarterbacks seeing the field in the first year with 17 games (2021), the past two seasons saw an increase compared to the 2020 season. Yet, the jump isn’t significant enough to say it played a role in last year’s late-round quarterback draft strategy.

2023 Quarterback Review

Fantasy players who waited on a quarterback last season were more likely to win the league than those who spent an early-round pick on the position. There were a few quarterbacks who were drafted early and finished inside the top five. However, most QB1 finishers last year weren’t drafted inside the top 12. Let’s look at the data from how the quarterbacks ended the 2023 season.

2023 Finish

Player

2023 ADP

Differential

QB1

Josh Allen

QB2

+1

QB2

Jalen Hurts

QB3

+1

QB3

Dak Prescott

QB11

+8

QB4

Lamar Jackson

QB4

0

QB5

Jordan Love

QB19

+14

QB6

Brock Purdy

QB18

+12

QB7

Jared Goff

QB16

+9

QB8

Patrick Mahomes

QB1

-7

QB9

C.J. Stroud

QB24

+15

QB10

Baker Mayfield

QB33

+23

QB11

Tua Tagovailoa

QB9

-2

QB12

Trevor Lawrence

QB8

-4

QB13

Sam Howell

QB29

+16

QB14

Russell Wilson

QB27

+13

QB15

Matthew Stafford

QB21

+6

Allen, Hurts, and Jackson were three of the first four quarterbacks drafted last season. All three finished the year inside the top four. Meanwhile, Mahomes was the QB1 in the ADP but ended the season as the QB8.

Six of the top 10 finishers outperformed their positional ADP by at least eight spots. Furthermore, four of those six quarterbacks outperformed their positional ADP by 12 or more spots, including Stroud by 15 and Mayfield by 23.

While the top 10 had several surprise finishes, the high-end QB2s were also players no one expected to finish that high. All three players from QB13 through QB15 outperformed their ADP by at least six spots. Furthermore, Howell and Wilson each outperformed their ADP by at least 13 spots last season. Yet, Howell likely won’t start in 2024, barring an injury. Meanwhile, Wilson is one of the more likely quarterbacks to get benched this upcoming season.

Now, let’s look at the data from the ADP side and see how much fantasy players regretted drafting a quarterback early last year.

2023 ADP

Player

2023 Finish

Differential

QB1

Patrick Mahomes

QB8

-7

QB2

Josh Allen

QB1

+1

QB3

Jalen Hurts

QB2

+1

QB4

Lamar Jackson

QB4

0

QB5

Joe Burrow

QB25

-20

QB6

Justin Herbert

QB17

-11

QB7

Justin Fields

QB18

-11

QB8

Trevor Lawrence

QB12

-4

QB9

Tua Tagovailoa

QB11

-2

QB10

Deshaun Watson

QB37

-27

QB11

Dak Prescott

QB3

+8

QB12

Kirk Cousins

QB24

-12

QB13

Anthony Richardson

QB39

-26

QB14

Daniel Jones

QB45

-31

QB15

Geno Smith

QB19

-4

Unfortunately, Allen, Hurts, and Jackson were the only top-seven quarterbacks to end the 2023 season within six spots of their preseason ADP. Meanwhile, Lawrence finished four spots lower than his ADP, while Tagovailoa finished two spots lower. While that isn’t ideal, fantasy players can accept that kind of return on their investment.

However, three of the top seven quarterbacks in ADP were massive fantasy busts. Burrow (seven games), Herbert (four), and Fields (four) each missed significant time last year. While that played a role in their disappointing season, it wasn’t the sole reason the quarterbacks were a bust. Burrow was the QB25 on a fantasy points-per-game basis. Meanwhile, Herbert was the QB12, and Fields was the QB13. All three would have finished at least six spots behind their ADP, even on a fantasy points-per-game basis.

Meanwhile, Cousins and Richardson ended the year outside the QB1 range solely because of injury. Cousins was the QB7 on a fantasy points-per-game basis, averaging more fantasy points per contest than Stroud and Mahomes despite playing only five games with Justin Jefferson.

Richardson only played four games as a rookie, ending the season as the QB11 on a fantasy points-per-game basis. Yet, he left half of the contests early with an injury. Richardson has overall QB1 upside and could be a league winner in 2024 if the second-year player can stay on the field.

2024 Late-Round Quarterback Draft Strategy: Targets

After seeing the data from the 2023 season, fantasy players have to feel confident that waiting on a quarterback in 2024 is the correct strategy. Injuries played an insignificant role in the late-round quarterback draft strategy working last year. Yet, there is no reason not to expect a similar outcome this upcoming season.

Let’s look at six quarterbacks with an ADP outside the top 12 that fantasy players should target in their drafts this year.

Caleb Williams (CHI) | ADP: QB13

Rarely are No. 1 overall picks in the NFL Draft set up to succeed as rookies. However, that won’t be the case for Williams. Chicago made multiple additions to their offensive line, including trading for Ryan Bates. More importantly, they added Keenan Allen, Rome Odunze, Gerald Everett and D’Andre Swift to a receiving core led by DJ Moore and Cole Kmet. Williams has the talent and supporting cast needed to be a fantasy star in 2024. Don’t be surprised if he has a C.J. Stroud-like rookie season.

Jared Goff (DET) | ADP: QB14

The former No. 1 overall pick will be one of my highest-drafted quarterbacks this year, especially given his ADP. Goff was the QB7 in 2023, averaging 17 fantasy points per game. More importantly, he will play 14 games in a dome this upcoming season. Goff averaged 2.1 passing touchdowns and 19.9 fantasy points per game in 12 contests in a dome last year. By comparison, he averaged one passing touchdown and 13.3 fantasy points per game in the five contests outside. Goff will easily outperform his ADP.

Trevor Lawrence (JAX)| ADP: QB15

Many have criticized Lawrence after the Jaguars made him the highest-paid quarterback in the NFL. While he is coming off a disappointing season, the former No. 1 overall pick is prime to bounce back in 2024. Lawrence had the seventh-most money throws last year (22) and the second-best pace of play (2.20) but ranked fifth in dropped passes (25), per PlayerProfiler. The former Clemson star has never had a high touchdown rate. Yet, that could change in 2024 after the Jaguars made multiple additions at wide receiver.

Justin Herbert (QB – LAC) | ADP: QB16

While some believe Herbert will become a game manager under the new run-first offense, the coaching staff would be foolish not to take advantage of his talent. He missed four games last year because of a finger injury. Yet, Herbert was the QB8 on a points-per-game basis among quarterbacks with at least nine starts. While the Chargers moved on from Keenan Allen and Mike Williams, they drafted Ladd McConkey and two other rookie wide receivers. Herbert won’t be a top-five guy but could finish in the low-end QB1 range.

Kirk Cousins (ATL) | ADP: QB18

Cousins has consistently been a low-end QB1 since becoming a full-time starter in 2015 despite being one of the least productive running quarterbacks in the league. While he is coming off a torn Achilles, the veteran should be 100% before the start of the regular season. Cousins won’t lack weapons in Atlanta with Drake London, Kyle Pitts, Darnell Mooney and Bijan Robinson at his disposal. Furthermore, he plays most of his games indoors and against suspect defenses. He could have a top-five finish in 2024.

Geno Smith (SEA) | ADP: QB23

Unfortunately, Smith is coming off a disappointing season. However, fantasy players should give the veteran a mulligan, as his offensive line struggled to stay healthy. Meanwhile, he was the QB5 in 2022, averaging 17.9 fantasy points per game. Smith had 30 passing touchdowns that year, the fourth-most in the NFL. Thankfully, Seattle improved its offensive line in the offseason. More importantly, Smith has a new offensive coordinator and an outstanding trio of wide receivers, giving him the situation and weapons needed to finish the year as a QB1.

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Mike Fanelli is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Mike, check out his archive and follow him @Mike_NFL2.

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