JJ Zachariason

Draft Analysis

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Quarterbacks & 2013 Depth

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Guest writer JJ Zachariason is doing an offseason Rotoworld series on fantasy quarterback draft strategy. JJ authored The Late Round Quarterback in 2012. A link to his book can be found here. A link to this series' initial column is here.

JJ is also on Twitter.

Rick Mirer was the man in 1993.

Runner up to Jerome Bettis for NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, the Seahawks quarterback set rookie records for pass attempts (486), completions (274), and passing yards (2,833).

Nice, Rick. Too bad at least four rookie quarterbacks accomplished each of those metrics last season alone.

To be fair, Mirer’s first-year performance was (and still is) considered one of the best in rookie quarterback history. It’s a different league now. Mirer's stats may not tell the entire story of his 1993 season, but they do shed light on how drastically NFL quarterback development -- and the game itself -- has changed through the years.

Teams used to groom quarterbacks. Brett Favre and Steve Young didn’t consistently start during their rookie campaigns. Neither did Drew Brees, Tom Brady, or Aaron Rodgers. Now, top rookie passers are thrown into mediocre offensive situations and asked to move mountains. Regardless of whether or not it’s fair, the influx of young quarterbacks has changed the fantasy quarterback landscape. This was especially evident in 2012.

Last year, fantasy's mainstream encouraged us to climb aboard the "elite" quarterback hype train after Rodgers, Brees, Brady, Matthew Stafford, and Cam Newton tore up 2011 fantasy stat sheets. The majority of the fantasy community became early-round quarterback hipsters. But why? Why were so many fake footballers willing to change their established mindsets and strategies because of one statistically anomalous season?

The NFL's change to pass-first offensive styles has resulted in an incredible abundance of young, superstar quarterbacks. Teams are taking more chances by throwing players under center Week 1, and we’re seeing how rewarding it can be for franchises. Mirer didn't set rookie records back in 1993 because his 12 touchdowns and 17 interceptions were anything to brag about. It was because there was less competition. A rookie quarterback playing 16 games was uncommon. Now it’s about as common as seeing Samuel L. Jackson in a movie.

It’s not as though first-year quarterbacks are getting better; Blaine Gabbert, Jake Locker, and Sam Bradford have certainly had their struggles. But more rookie quarterback opportunities are bringing a bigger chance of rookie quarterback success. And the more success quarterbacks have, the bigger the fantasy quarterback pool.

The quarterback group in fantasy is deep every year. You start one passer on the typical fantasy team, allowing just a handful of quarterbacks to start each week. With the incredible rookie class of Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson, and Andrew Luck, and the dominant second-year stretch run of Colin Kaepernick, that inherently deep pool has become deeper than Atlantis.

The scenario I often reference to demonstrate this depth is a 12-team standard league. Imagine you’re an owner in this league, and your team, Somewhere Over Dwayne Bowe, is deciding where to draft a quarterback. You notice that Rodgers, Brees, and Brady have consistently been top-3 quarterbacks over the last couple of seasons. Because of this, you pull the trigger on Brady in the second round.

Picks go by, and now you’re in Round 8. 11-of-12 teams have starting passers, but there’s one team, DeMarco Polo, without theirs. DeMarco Polo drafted Rob Gronkowski, and has loaded up on wide receivers and running backs through the first seven rounds. And he plans on doing more of the same in the eighth.

Is the DeMarco Polo owner nuts?

From a strategy standpoint, the owner is actually quite deliberate. He understands value. And most of all, the owner understands the immense depth at the quarterback position.

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