JJ Zachariason

Draft Analysis

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Quarterbacks & Fantasy Value

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

This isn’t new. You limit yourself by drafting a quarterback early because you lose out on the opportunity to select a top back or receiver. You may look back on 2012 and pretend you dodged a bullet by not selecting Chris Johnson or Darren McFadden, but to feel that way would be rather anecdotal and shortsighted. Why? Well, historically, if you were to compare general average draft positions to post-season positional ranks, you’d find that running backs, receivers and quarterbacks are equally inconsistent. It sounds ridiculous to someone new to the fantasy space, but the reason is simple: There’s one quarterback starting in each fantasy lineup, and as a result, there’s less room for error when it comes to a quarterback's performance. (Here’s hoping you didn’t draft Matthew Stafford, Eli Manning, or Michael Vick, all of whom had early-round ADPs.)

Think about it. If a running back is ranked 10th at his position, then his positional rank would equate to a 5th ranked quarterback. In order for a running back to be “startable” in a 12-team league, for instance, he would have to rank in the top 24 at his position. At quarterback, a player has to rank in the top 12 to obtain the same tag.

Given the abundance of quality passers in today’s NFL, the quarterback position is going to be very deep moving into 2013. Stafford could easily be drafted outside of the top 10, and Romo may not even be a starter on someone's team. And people want a first-round quarterback when they can get a quality starter in the tenth?

You'll hear about this depth a lot from numerous fantasy experts as we move into the offseason, and while the notion is correct, it’s actually not very innovative. In actuality, the quarterback position is deep every year.

Until we can accurately predict a repeat of the obviously anomalous 2011 season, and unless two-quarterback leagues become the model of fantasy football, selecting a quarterback in the early rounds of a fantasy draft will never be a good idea. The NFL is clearly a different beast than it was when Jeff Blake played quarterback, and throwing the ball 500 times in a season is no longer a big deal. But this new reality has little to do with the overall value of the quarterback position in fantasy football.

The ball may be moving through the air more, but we have to face the truth. Truly "elite" receivers -- beginning with Calvin Johnson and ending somewhere around Demaryius Thomas -- are becoming less and less common because of the spread offense. Running backs touching the ball more than 20 times a game are scarce. If Tony Gonzalez retires, how many tight ends will be left to provide a weekly fantasy advantage? Gronk, Graham, and maybe Hernandez?

Just as you learned in Econ 101, when the supply of something you need is no longer there, you pay a higher price in order to obtain that something.

Spend your early-round choices on the limited products.

It’s simple: Load up on running backs and receivers early and often. While your league mates use a first-round pick on Aaron Rodgers, a second-rounder on Matt Ryan, and a fourth-rounder on Andrew Luck, you sit back and build a massive running back and receiver library. You wait -- and you wait long -- to snag your starter. Once the draft is over and the season starts, your opponents will see their obvious holes. They’ll notice they could have obtained a similar-quality quarterback in Round 12 as they did in Round 3. They’ll regret their subscription to the early-round quarterback strategy. I promise you that.

Look, you need a running back that gets touches. Since 2005, Darren Sproles and Maurice Jones-Drew are the only rushers who received fewer than 200 carries and finished as top-10 backs. That statistic alone limits your targets at the position to just over 20 running backs. And you need week-to-week consistency from your receivers, too.

There are plenty of ways to win a fantasy league. I'm sure some Aaron Rodgers owners won their leagues this past year. But why not give yourself the best chance to win? Why not make logical, common sense choices en route to your league finals? By waiting on quarterbacks, you minimize overall risk, lower your reliance on luck, increase your overall team value and set yourself up for the ultimate prize: A Fantasy Football Championship.

Join the vintage movement. Do the right thing. Let someone else draft the early-round quarterbacks.


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