JJ Zachariason

Draft Analysis

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Fantasy QB Replaceability

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Author of The Late Round Quarterback, JJ Zachariason is doing a Rotoworld offseason series on quarterback value in fantasy football. A link to Zachariason's book can be found here. JJ is also on Twitter.

The last time Aaron Rodgers wasn’t a top-3 fantasy quarterback, Justin Fargas was a top-24 running back. LaDainian Tomlinson, Brian Westbrook, Clinton Portis and Jamal Lewis were each top-10 choices. LenDale White – an NFL runner whose website now takes you to an index page for California travel – was a top-15 runner.

Rodgers has been a top fantasy signal calling option for five straight years. His unbelievable arm talent and athletic ability have assisted fantasy teams over this time, and probably more importantly, helped Packers fans forget the historic passer that played before him.

There is no better model of consistency than Number 12. Period. He’s going to be a top fantasy quarterback again in 2013, and he’s probably going to be one in 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017, too.

That doesn’t mean, however, that we should value him significantly higher than other players in fantasy drafts. Year-to-year consistency, an area in which Rodgers excels, is an overrated metric in redraft fantasy football leagues.

You see, we typically make draft choices based on confidence. How confident are you that Aaron Rodgers will be a top-3 quarterback in 2013? I’d assume very. Now, how confident are you that Marshawn Lynch will finish as a top-5 or -6 fantasy running back in 2013? I’d venture to guess you’d be less confident.

Confidence, though, is an overblown hurdle fantasy owners face when they select their fantasy team. Instead of asking, “How confident am I that Player X will finish as a top fantasy option”, we should be wondering, “How confident am I that, if player X doesn’t perform to his ADP, I can find a replacement?”

The upside to having a top running back is supreme in fantasy football. The top ones, each season, perform at a level unmatched by any other fantasy position. In terms of value, elite running backs outperform the rest of their position by a larger margin, fantasy points-wise, than anyone else.

You want that. You need that. And the most reliable way you can get that is if you draft them early and often.

Throughout this five-article series on fantasy quarterbacks, I’ve mentioned – over and over again – the term “value”. This concept shapes our understanding of which players and positions are most important to fantasy. If a player, for instance, is really good at football and outscores the rest of his position by a whole lot of fantasy points, that player is considered valuable.

On the flip side, value has a not-so-obvious meaning. Instead of thinking what you’re gaining when you have a particular player, you should be thinking of what you’re losing if you don’t have a particular player. In other words, you should always keep in mind how replaceable a fantasy player, or position, is.

Joe Flacco, after above average play for the majority of his career, signed a huge deal with the Ravens after winning the Super Bowl last year. We all know the narrative. Many people saw the deal as ludicrous, but even I, a huge critic of Flacco’s play, knew the huge money-making contract had to happen.

It wasn’t just about what Flacco has accomplished. He didn’t get the monster deal simply because of his stellar play during the Ravens Super Bowl run. Sure, that was part of it, but he was able to ink the contract because the Ravens had no choice. Who would replace the Super Bowl MVP if he were to be let go? Tyrod Taylor? A passer from a poor quarterback draft class? Jeff George?

Joe Flacco and his agent had all the leverage in the world when negotiating one of the most lucrative deals in NFL history because of replaceability. When there’s nobody to come in and take your job, you can get anything you want.

But just because quarterbacks like Flacco aren’t very replaceable in the real sport doesn’t mean they aren’t in the fake one, too. From a week-to-week standpoint, you can easily pinpoint an atypical guy that produces QB1 numbers. There’s an abundance of them, actually.

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