There’s no wrong way to eat a Reese’s. Wait, wrong article. There is no wrong way to draft a quarterback. Sort of. I say that because over the years I have seen just about every strategy yield success. For example, in one of my leagues last year, a rival owner decided to pick the first quarterback off the board with his 11th overall selection. No, he did not go Peyton Manning who was probably the first quarterback selected in 99% of leagues. Instead, he slapped Aaron Rodger’s sticker onto the draft board. I chuckled to myself. 17 weeks later, he was named league champion, which was thanks in large part to Rodgers league leading 342 points (espn scoring). I am obviously still bitter.
That triumphant tale slaps my theory of waiting on quarterback right in the face. However, I remain a proponent of drafting your starting quarterback in the later rounds.
Let’s take a look at the 2014 quarterback crop. Below will be listed the quarterback / average round drafted / fantasy points per week. Names like Nick Foles, Robert Griffin, and Carson Palmer, who were drafted amongst these names, are excluded due to missing a large portion of the season.
P. Manning / round 1 / 19.2
A. Rodgers / round 2 / 21.4
D. Brees / round 2 / 18.1
M. Stafford / round 5 / 14.8
C. Kaepernick / round 6 / 14.6
M. Ryan / round 6 / 16.8
A. Luck / round 7 / 21
T. Brady / round 7 / 16.7
T. Romo / round 9 / 17.2
C. Newton / round 10 / 16.9
J. Cutler / round 11 / 16.3
B. Roethlisberger / round 12 / 18.4
P. Rivers / round 12 / 15.9
R. Wilson / round 13 / 19.5
R. Tannehill / round 13 / 16.6
E. Manning / round 13 / 16.4
What did we learn?
– Quarterback is the position that offers the least variance in the top tier of the rankings. Manning, Rodgers, and Brees were all selected in the first two rounds. All three finished in the top six in points per game. Brees finished sixth (18.1) among quarterbacks, while Rodgers finished first (21.4). The range between the two was 3.1 points per week.
– Stafford was the next quarterback selected, which came in round 5. After Stafford, there were 12 more quarterbacks selected through the 13th round. The highest scoring quarterback in that group was Russell Wilson with 19.5 points per game. The lowest scoring quarterback was Colin Kaepernick, who scored 14.6 points per game.
– The 13 quarterbacks selected after the top tier averaged 17 points per week.
Spending an early pick on a top-tier quarterback has its merits. The risk of a top-tier quarterback having a “bust” season is unlikely. With that said, if you miss the bus on the cream of the crop just wait it out.
The range between the #4 selected quarterback versus quarterback #16 was 4.9 points per week. If you were lucky enough to select Russell Wilson, you were raking in 19.5 points per week. However, if you were unlucky and selected the least productive out of that group (Colin Kaepernick) it was still 14.6 per week. As mentioned above, but is worth mentioning again, the average point per week production among that group was 17 points.
Lesson: Stock pile other positions where the positional advantage of the top tier is much greater. I can easily make up the 4.4 points I will be losing at the quarterback position in other areas.
* I understand that using just the 2014 numbers is a small sample size. However, in taking a quick glance at previous years (aside from Manning’s 2013), it is safe to say that this is a trend.*
The following portion of the article will talk about Average Draft Position (ADP). All ADP data was gathered from www.fantasypros.com
It should also be mentioned that these ADP’s reflect standard scoring. If you are playing in a two quarterback league or a six point touchdown-pass league, quarterbacks carry much more value.
So, after all of that, there is no way I could possibly advocate selecting Andrew Luck or Aaron Rodgers in the first round?
Luck and Rodgers are the clear top tier quarterbacks this year. Among all positions, they are undoubtedly the safest bet to finish in the top 5 at their position (sorry Gronk, too much injury history). I just cannot use a first round pick on a quarterback. With their ADPs sitting at 13 and 15, it still feels too early. However, if everyone is employing the same strategy in waiting on quarterbacks, anytime after pick 20 presents incredible value.
A quarterback going in the 4th round who could finish #1.
Drew Brees (ADP: 43)
I get that Jimmy Graham is a big loss, but come on people, it’s not like the Saints offense is only going to have 10 people on the field. Last year, Graham was banged up often. There were two weeks that come to mind in which he suited up, but played sparingly and really was just used a decoy.
Week 7 @ Lions: 2 targets / 0 receptions
Week 13 @ Steelers: 0 targets / 0 receptions
How did Brees do?
Week 7: 342 / 2 / 1
Week 13: 257 / 5 / 0
Brees is riding a five year streak of at least 4,600 yards and 33 touchdowns. That looks like a pretty sturdy floor for a guy who can be had in the middle of the fourth round.
A quarterback going in the 4th round who could finish outside of the top 10.
Russell Wilson (ADP: 37)
Wilson is coming off the board with the first pick in the fourth round. That is an awfully high price tag for someone who relied on rushing stats to account for 38% of their fantasy points last year. I am not saying he can’t produce 121 points worth of rushing stats again, but if he regresses to his rushing production from the previous two years (2012: 73 points, 2013: 60 points), he will more than likely fall outside of the top 10. I fully expect him to be a step slower. It is not easy running with 60 million dollars weighing your pockets down.
Ben Roethlisberger (ADP: 51)
Don’t get me wrong. I like Big Ben this year. With that said, I do not like him enough to pull the trigger in the early fifth round. He has only thrown for more than 28 touchdowns two times in his career. Last year, he exploded in Week 8 and Week 9 combining for 862 yards and 12 touchdowns. It is hard to expect that type of pop again this year. If you replace those monster games with just the run of the mill 260/2 his final numbers would look quite different, as would his ADP.
Cam Newton (ADP: 66)
I will make the same argument against Newton that I used for Wilson. I do not want to spend one of my top six picks on a quarterback who I know on the weeks they don’t rush for 50 yards or a touchdown, it has the chance to be a lean week. Last year, Cam turned in five weeks (14 starts) of 12 fantasy points or less. The rushing numbers are dwindling each year. The biggest red flag statistic that I came across is that last season Cam only received six carries from inside the 5-yard line. That number accounted for only 25% of the teams carries from that range.
Matt Stafford (ADP: 89)
Three out of four isn’t bad. As in Stafford has finished as a top 10 fantasy quarterback in three of the past four seasons. With an ADP of the 8th round, you can probably guess last year was the outlier. He posted a career “low” in passing attempts last year. Low is in quotes because he still managed to throw it 38 times a game. Having a full year under his belt with offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi, I expect Stafford to bounce back into the top 10.
Ryan Tannehill (ADP: 98)
When are people going to wake up and give Tannehill the credit his deserves? He finished as the 11th quarterback in 2013, and last season he broke into the top 10. Yet, for some reason, he is still available in round nine. He has improved his passing yards and touchdowns in each of his three seasons. There is no reason to expect a regression. A case can be made that this season he will be playing with his most talented supporting cast of his career. If Tannehill is on the board in round nine in your league, sprint to the board and get his name up there.
Andrew Luck and Aaron Rodgers are as safe as a pick that can be made in 2015 fantasy drafts. However, with not a significant drop anticipated in point-per-week production, I would advise waiting until the later rounds to select your quarterback. Good luck.
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Major League Fantasy Sports Show: Join Ej Garr and Corey D Roberts on Sunday August 2nd from 7-9pm EST for this week’s episode of Major League Fantasy SportsRadio sponsored by the Sports Palooza Radio Network. Call in at 646-915-8596. This week’s discussion will be all about the MLB trade deadline deals, and how they will affect your fantasy teams.