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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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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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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