JJ Zachariason

Draft Analysis

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Fantasy QB Supply & Demand

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Think of it this way: are you going to trust Chaz Schilens as a starting receiver before a fantasy week begins? In Week 11, Schilens caught four passes for 48 yards and a touchdown against the Rams. He finished as a top-24 receiver that week, making Schilens a reasonable option in 12-team leagues. But considering Schilens totaled just 16 receptions all season prior to that game, he clearly wasn’t a true option for fantasy owners entering the week.

The supply of usable running backs and receivers is limited by reliability and predictability. While you can find worthwhile ones on a week-by-week basis through the waiver wire, the chance that you catch lightning in a bottle is very slim. And the likelihood that you actually have the idiotic courage to start a player like Jorvorskie Lane is just as small.

If you look at 2012 (excluding fantasy-worthless Week 17), 93 running backs finished in the weekly top-24 at least once. Seems like a lot, right? Well, the majority of those running backs only accomplished this feat once or twice, making them not very usable or predictable. Just 35 backs cracked the top-24 four or more times. Digging deeper, only 17 of them entered the top-12 that many times.

We also saw 98 receivers rank within the weekly top-24 last year. Again, many of those players didn’t do it very often. There were 46 receivers who did it four or more times, and only 22 wideouts snuck into the top-12 four or more times in 2012.

Without looking at point values (I’ll get to that with my next article in this series), it’s clear that, even though the overall amount of backs and receivers is high, the quality of the majority of these players is low. When that happens, you begin to see a dip in supply.

And let’s face the facts: It’s easier to trust quarterbacks because you know they’re going to touch the ball in every game. To put this another way, the quarterback floor in fantasy football is much higher than any other position. Sure, players like John Skelton and Mark Sanchez will throw up goose eggs every once in a while, but plenty of quarterbacks will also do the opposite.

Looking at a similar analysis as I did above, there were 38 different quarterbacks who finished in the weekly top-12 in 2012, and 26 of them did it four or more times. That’s more than double the number of quarterbacks needed (remember the definition of demand?) in a 12-team league.

When you break down quarterback top-6 finishes, you’d find 12 different quarterbacks in 2012 achieving this four or more times.

Wait a second – isn’t that one quarterback for each team in a 12-team league?

These numbers are at least a little eye opening, but we should understand that it’s difficult to find an exact number that defines the supply for each fantasy position. It’s a subjective thing. Where do we draw the line and say, “this player is usable” or “this player should never be started”? I could have a much different definition than you do.

So instead of me feeding you statistics, let’s think about this a different way. There are 32 teams in the NFL. Some teams, like the Saints, enjoy running a committee system, giving more than one running back a fantasy football chance. Of course, we have to remember that only a few of these committee backs are truly useful on a week-to-week basis.

A running back-by-committee approach doesn’t mean more running backs enter the supply side of this argument. What it actually does is diminish the opportunity for a true every-down running back. Instead of there being a clear 32-player pool, we’re now faced with a massive drop from the 200-plus attempt runners to the rest of the field.

The same goes for wide receivers. Even though we’re seeing more passing in today’s NFL, we’re also seeing fewer chances for elite receiving performances. The ball is being spread around. More receivers on the field at once simply dilutes the clear, top-notch receivers we all strive to obtain in fantasy football.

Quarterbacks don’t share the field with anyone. They have all the opportunity in the world in each game they start. Remember when Fred Jackson was stealing carries from C.J. Spiller, and we kept seeing the #FreeSpiller hashtag on Twitter? Well, there’s no such thing as #FreeSpiller for quarterbacks.

All quarterbacks are free.

You need two or three running backs to fulfill a lineup need, and you need two or three receivers to do the same. You need just one quarterback. In order to have the same supply and demand rate as the quarterback position, you would need 50-60 readily available, startable running backs or receivers in fantasy football.

Are you going to pay a high price for a position in low demand? When you know there are readily available signal callers in fantasy, is it worth reaching for one in a fantasy draft? Is selecting a quarterback early all that worthwhile when you have to have multiple, reliable players at other positions?

I need to know: Would you still give me the world for my Ken Griffey Jr. rookie card after seeing the same card in Matthew’s collection?


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