Why Quarterback By Committee (QBBC) works

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman (5) changes a play at the line during first half action at the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana, January 2, 2011. UPI/A.J. Sisco

In the world of fantasy football, we’re neck deep in no man’s land. The playoffs are over, the draft is still something fuzzy off in the distance, and there’s a rain cloud over our heads in the form of the ongoing NFL labor negotiations. But this is a great time to examine some of the traditional and non-traditional fantasy football strategies and tweak them for use in the future.

One such strategy is Quarterback By Committee (QBBC). For the neophyte, this strategy encourages the fantasy owner to wait to draft a QB on draft day until such time that he can grab two or three solid players in the mid to late rounds. In standard 12-team leagues, this usually means somewhere in the 8th to 14th rounds. If you can find two or three players whose schedules compliment each other, you can sometimes get QB5-type production at a deep discount.

Every preseason, I write a QBBC article that recommends a few combinations to fantasy owners. For the 2010 season, my top recommendation was Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger. Eli finished #7 in total fantasy points, while Roethlisberger finished #7 in average fantasy points even though he was suspended for the first four games. During the preseason, Eli was going in the 8th round, while Big Ben was going in the 11th, so owners who went with this duo got great production at QB on the cheap. This approach allows for owners to load up on talent at RB, WR and even TE knowing that they’ll be at least “okay” at QB.

I thought it would be interesting to take a look at the historical fantasy data for the QB position for the last 10 years and see if we can learn anything from it. Below you’ll find a graph that shows the total fantasy points by the Top 32 QBs as well as data for the Top 10 fantasy QBs and Next 10 (QBs #11-#20).

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Tony Romo owners (or those unhappy with their QB play), here’s what you do…

Referee John Parry checks on injured quarterback Tony Romo during the first half in Cowboys Stadium October 25, 2010 in Arlington, Texas.  Romo suffered a broken collar bone.  UPI/Ian Halperin Photo via Newscom

I feel your pain, Romo owners. I had him in two of my six leagues, and was ill-prepared for an injury to my star QB. In one league, I managed to pick up Josh Freeman and Jon Kitna, and in the other, I was only able to get Jason Campbell and David Garrard.

It seems like a good time to recalculate our Quarterback By Committee (QBBC) to see what QB pairs have a combined schedule that will get us through the rest of the season. It’s fine to trade away depth at RB or WR in order to land a solid QB, but in many cases it’s unnecessary. A problem at QB is one of the easiest to mask since there is so much depth at the position. In most leagues, you can get capable QB play by picking up a couple of guys on the waiver wire and using them in tandem.

To that end, I looked at the 18 (at least somewhat decent) QBs most likely to be available on your waiver wire. In order of decreasing availability (in ESPN leagues), the list includes:

Donovan McNabb (94.2)
Jay Cutler (86.4)
Brett Favre (86.2)
Carson Palmer (83.4)
Mark Sanchez (68.6)
Vince Young (62.3)
Chad Henne (60.9)
Matt Cassel (42.1)
Sam Bradford (28.6)
Matthew Stafford (27.1)
David Garrard (26.5)
Ryan Fitzpatrick (25.8)
Josh Freeman (23.1)
Matt Hasselbeck (20.8)
Alex Smith/Troy Smith (12.7)
Jon Kitna (10.9)
Bruce Gradkowski/Jason Campbell (5.1)
Matt Moore (1.8)

I tweaked Footballguys’ rest-of-year (through Week 16) projections to reflect my own ranking for each player. I then applied FBG’s strength of schedule to calculate a projected points for all the remaining games, and then used a giant Excel spreadsheet to determine the best QB pairs for the remainder of the season.

The two best QBBCs are Stafford/Cutler and Stafford/McNabb, but since Cutler and McNabb aren’t readily available in most leagues, we have to dig a little deeper. The third-highest QBBC is Stafford/Fitzpatrick, which has an average percent-owned of 26.5%, so the duo might be available in your league. Stafford/Freeman and Fitzpatrick/Freeman come in at #5 and #6, respectively.

Below is a table of all 153 possible combinations. Duos that are listed in green have an average percent-owned of less than 20% (meaning there’s a decent chance that they’re available), while duos listed in red have an average percent-owned between 20% and 40%. I included expected points (in a high performance scoring system) for Weeks 8-16 and for Weeks 9-16 in case you find this article after the Week 8 games.

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2010 Fantasy Football Preview: QBs

GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 10: Quarterback Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers throws a pass against the Arizona Cardinals during the 2010 NFC wild-card playoff game at University of Phoenix Stadium on January 10, 2010 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

All 2010 Fantasy Football Articles | 2010 Position Rankings

The quarterback position is important in fantasy football, just not as important as it is in real football. Unless you play in a league that requires two starting QBs, there is plenty of depth at the position which means you have plenty of options.

Strategy #1: Draft a stud.
This is the simplest way to approach the position. Sometime in the first three rounds, pick the best QB available. This year, it appears that there are seven QBs going in the first 36 picks: Aaron Rodgers (1.08), Drew Brees (1.09), Peyton Manning (2.04), Tom Brady (3.01), Tony Romo (3.09), Matt Schaub (3.11) and Philip Rivers (3.12). These guys have a few things in common: 1) they’re good, 2) they’re entrenched in good situations, and 3) they have good receivers to throw to.

One strategy is to set aside one of your first three picks for one these players. The upside is that you probably won’t have to worry about your QB position. You’ll run this guy out there every week and won’t have to make any decisions about whom to start. The downside is that you won’t be using one of your early round picks on another position, like RB and WR, that does not have as much depth as the QB position.

Strategy #2: Wait for value to emerge.
This approach doesn’t preclude taking a QB in the first few rounds, but it doesn’t mandate it either. You might wait until the late 2nd/early 3rd and see if Rodgers/Brees/Manning are still on the board. Or wait until the 4th or the 5th and see if one of the other four players are available. If it’s the latter, then you managed to get a 3rd round QB a round or two later, which allowed you to get a stud QB and use a 3rd round pick on that RB or WR you had your eye on.

The ‘wait for value’ approach could also stretch into the middle rounds as you wait for a well-priced QB. If that value never emerges, don’t fret, because you’re still well positioned for…

Strategy #3: Quarterback By Committee
I wrote a far more detailed post about this last week, but suffice to say, with the depth at the QB position, 2-3 middle- to late-round QBs with schedules that combine well (i.e. favorable matchups line up so there’s usually a good one every week) will form a QBBC that will perform at Top 5 levels at a fraction of the price.

My top recommendation this year is to grab Eli Manning (or Matt Ryan or Joe Flacco) in the 8th, and then Ben Roethlisberger in the 10th. For a three-man combo utilizing only late rounders, grab Big Ben in the 10th, Alex Smith in the 11th and David Garrard in the 12th.

The benefit to this strategy is that you won’t lose much at the QB spot and will be able to load up with tons of talent and depth at RB, WR and even TE in the early rounds. You’ll also have 2-3 capable signal callers on the roster to turn to if one gets injured. What do you do if Drew Brees goes down?

The downside? You can go into the season with a plan, but player and defensive performance may make picking a starter each week more of a chore than you’d like it to be. This is not necessarily the right strategy for an owner who wants a low-maintenance team.

Since I’ve already written extensively about the QBBC, and you don’t have to put much thought into picking a stud early in the draft, here are a few QBs that look like especially good values, even at their current average draft positions.

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2010 Fantasy Football Preview: Quarterback By Committee (QBBC)

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - DECEMBER 27:  Eli Manning #10 of the New York Giants against the Carolina Panthers at Giants Stadium on December 27, 2009 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)

All 2010 Fantasy Football Articles | 2010 Position Rankings

Every year, I kickoff TSR’s hardcore fantasy football coverage with my Quarterback By Committee (QBBC) post. I do this for a couple of reasons: 1) out of curiosity, as I usually draft a QBBC myself, and 2) there’s a lot of number crunching so it gets the fantasy football juices flowing.

For the neophytes, QBBC is a strategy often utilized by savvy fantasy footballers who want to take advantage of the relative depth at quarterback by forming a committee of overlooked mid-rounders. The premise is this: Two or three mediocre quarterbacks whose schedules mesh nicely — i.e. they have several favorable matchups when their schedules are combined — will give you the positional production of a top 5 QB.

This allows fantasy owners to load up on running backs, wide receivers and even a stud tight end in the early rounds, building depth at the positions where talent is at a premium. Sure, it’s great to have Aaron Rodgers or Drew Brees anchoring your team, but that means you don’t get that second round RB or WR that you had your eye on. If you can get Top 5 QB production from a couple of guys that you grab in the 8th, 9th or 10th rounds, and your early-round RBs and WRs perform up to expectations, your team will definitely be playoff bound.

This works because of the depth at QB. We know that the signal callers going in round 8 — guys like Eli Manning, Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco — are going to start and throw a lot of passes for their respective teams (barring injury, of course). Running backs or wide receivers that are going in the 8th round are another animal. RBs still available in the middle rounds are either sharing time or fighting for the starting job. WRs available that late are typically the second, third or even fourth options on their teams.

So that’s the theory — now for the research. To come up with a reasonable expectation for each two-man QBBC combination, I took the season projections from Footballguys (a great fantasy football site) and using their strength of schedule for each team, I was able to produce a week-by-week projection for each quarterback. From there, it was relatively easy to come up with a list of the duos that project to have the best combined seasons.

I only focused on those QBs going in the 8th round or later, so this exercise excludes the Top 11 signal callers (in terms of Average Draft Position): Aaron Rodgers (1.08), Drew Brees (1.10), Peyton Manning (2.04), Tom Brady (2.11), Tony Romo (3.09), Matt Schaub (3.11), Phillip Rivers (4.01), Jay Cutler (6.04), Kevin Kolb (6.04), Donovan McNabb (6.09) and Brett Favre (6.11). (Note: this article assumes a 12-team draft, so all mention of specific rounds and ADP have that in mind.)

This allows fantasy owners to spend at least the first seven picks on RBs, WRs and TEs, putting together a balanced squad before turning to the QB position.

So what was the top QBBC combination? The answer might surprise you:

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Looking for QB help? Call on Shaun Hill.

Shaun Hill recently beat out Alex Smith for the starting QB gig in San Francisco, but his Average Draft Position (ADP) hasn’t risen all that much. He’s still available in roughly 85% of ESPN’s fantasy leagues, and is a nice pickup for fantasy owners looking to bolster their QB position.

Last season, he took over a 2-6 team in Week 10, and averaged 234 passing yards, 1.5 pass TD and 0.3 rush TD over the last eight games of the season. Subtracting interceptions (1.0 per game), this works out to about 19.1 fantasy points per game. Had Hill averaged these numbers over the course of an entire season, he would have finished as last year’s QB6, ahead of Peyton Manning and Donovan McNabb. Moreover, he led the 49ers to a 5-3 record down the stretch, so he has proven that he can win games.

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