2009 Fantasy Football Preview: QBs

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Generally speaking, there are three schools of thought when drafting a quarterback. The first is to draft a stud in the first round or two and hope that he’s destined for a great year like the one Tom Brady had in 2007. The risk here is if this early pick doesn’t vastly outplay most of his peers, or if the owner isn’t able to unearth a good RB or WR in the middle rounds, the team is going to have trouble competing on a weekly basis.

The next theory is to go with running backs and/or wide receivers with the first two or three picks and then start looking for QB value in the next few rounds. This strategy could lead to an owner getting a player ranked in the top 5 in the third or fourth round, or a guy ranked 6-10 in the fifth or sixth round, or even later.

The final approach is to intentionally ignore the quarterback position in all of the early rounds, instead building up depth at running back and wide receiver (and maybe even tight end). Then in the eighth or ninth round, start to look at drafting a QB or three in the next few rounds with the hope of putting together a cohesive Quarterback By Committee (QBBC). (I recently posted a more detailed article that focuses solely on the QBBC.)

All of these strategies can work, but they each represent a different level of risk. For owners that always draft a QB early, they need that player to stay healthy and perform at a level commensurate with their draft position. The same goes for the owner who waits for value to emerge in rounds 3-6, though his QB has better odds of matching or outplaying his draft position. The owner that holds off until the middle rounds and then picks two or three guys that he expects to start throughout the season ultimately has quite a bit more room for error. If one player has a down year, the other (or other two) could very well pick up the slack.

Which strategy you choose may ultimately depend on your draft position. If there are five or six running backs you really like in the first round, but you have pick #12, you may elect to go with Drew Brees, Tom Brady or Peyton Manning instead of taking a RB leftover. Or if you have pick #4 and don’t deem any of those three worthy of your first rounder, but they’re all gone by 2.09, you’ll probably end up taking another RB or going with a WR.

The key is to look for value. That might mean waiting until Aaron Rodgers slips to you in the early 5th, or going with David Garrard and Jason Campbell in the late rounds as part of a QBBC, or even pulling the trigger on Peyton Manning in the early third, especially if there isn’t a RB or WR there that you like.

Below is a list of several guys that seem to represent good value at their current average draft positions (ADP). We’ll also provide rankings for the entire QB position, broken into tiers. Keep in mind that your scoring system will have a great impact on the value of the QB position.

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Fantasy Football: Quarterback By Committee (QBBC)

With the relative depth at the position, one approach to drafting a fantasy quarterback is to spend the first six or seven rounds drafting running backs, wide receivers and even a tight end. Then, in the eighth round or later, start to think about drafting a QB. Oftentimes, the players available in the 4th or 5th round won’t drastically outscore those QBs taken in the 8th or later.

Why is this? Well, one reason is that, once fantasy owners have a starting QB, they tend to draft for depth at running back and wide receiver instead of drafting a backup QB, whom they know probably won’t sniff their starting lineup, except as a bye week fill in.

Another reason is that most leagues require two starting running backs, which means 24 starting RBs in total (assuming a 12-team league). With more and more real NFL teams utilizing a RBBC, the position is much thinner than QB, which requires 12 fantasy starters of 32 real world starters.

Typically, this results in good depth at the QB position, where the expected production from QB10 isn’t all that different than QB20. This year the QB10 off the board is Matt Ryan (7.01) while the QB20 is Joe Flacco (11.02). To illustrate my point, in a “high performance” scoring system (4 pts per pass TD, 1 pt per 20 yards passing), Footballguys projects Ryan to score 255 fantasy points and Flacco to score 235. Are those 20 fantasy points worth burning a 7th round pick instead of an 11th? Over a 17-game schedule, that works out to less than 1.2 fantasy points per week.

In other words, it’s probably not going to cost you too many wins to go with Flacco instead of Ryan. In fact, you’ll probably be better off because the WR or RB you draft in the 7th round (Santana Moss?) is likely to vastly outperform his 11th-round counterpart (Michael Jenkins?). Footballguys projects Moss to outscore Jenkins by 75 points, a 4.4-point per week advantage. So by going with a Moss/Flacco combo instead of a Ryan/Jenkins combo, you’re gaining a net of 3.2 points per week.

Going one step further: why not draft two middle- to late-round quarterbacks whose schedules mesh well together to create a Quarterback By Committee (QBBC)? That way, you can load up on RB, WR and TE talent in the first seven or eight rounds knowing that you’ll still be able to get good QB play from a couple of later picks by taking advantage of the ebbs and flows of each player’s schedule.

To that end, I took the QB strength of schedule data from Footballguys and calculated the per week projections (by using the aforementioned Footballguys projected stats) for every starting quarterback in the league.

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