Fantasy football draft prep: When to take a quarterback

Fantasy football draft prep: When to take a quarterback

Fantasy football strategy

Fantasy football draft prep: When to take a quarterback

(Christopher Hanewinckel, USA TODAY Sports)

We will tackle this question from a few angles, helping the novice drafter and providing insight for the more experienced veteran of fantasy football.

Round 1

Every single year gamers reach into the first round for a quarterback. Don’t be that person. There is no reason to miss out on a key receiver or running back, regardless of the league being point-per-reception scoring, for a quarterback. Unless you play in some crazy setup that overwhelmingly rewards touchdown passes, which is the vast minority of fantasy scoring formats, the depth at quarterback in relation to running backs and wideouts makes this a prohibitive strategy.

Since we can start only one quarterback in the majority of fantasy leagues, the need for spending an early pick on a starter is diminished relative to that of a running back or wide receiver, positions in which gamers usually must start five or six in total each week.

Rounds 2-5

Occasionally, gamers will go with Aaron Rodgers in the second round. This is a mistake. While it is entirely possible Rodgers could live up to a second-round placement, there isn’t enough room for the returns to exceed the placement. See, drafting him that early would be a full round sooner than he usually goes, with an ADP of 3:12. It has taken several years of getting bitten by choosing a passer early, but casual fantasy owners finally seem to have learned a painful lesson from years overzealous quarterback selections.

Furthermore, this year, no one quarterback is absolutely a cannot-miss choice. Sure, Rodgers could be a step above the rest when it is all said and done, but he comes with sizeable risk. The star borders on deserving the injury-prone label, and Green Bay’s offense didn’t obviously improve. In fact, it likely has regressed without Jordy Nelson, even with the inclusion of tight end Jimmy Graham.

Looking at other quarterbacks in the argument for being an early choice, the Houston Texans’ Deshaun Watson is returning from a catastrophic knee injury. He looks healthy, but you just never know when it comes to mobile passers being less than a year removed from knee reconstruction. Defenses also have had an offseason to study him, too. Watson’s ADP is 4:10, which puts gamers into a risk-reward decision-making situation.

Russell Wilson was the Seattle Seahawks’ offense in 2017. The line play has improved, but the aerial weaponry has regressed. A perceived shift to a run-centric, or at least more balanced, offense is also noteworthy. Wilson tends to come off of the board with the final pick of Round 5 — a potentially inflated value. He likely won’t hurt your team, but there is doubt whether he will be able to come close to last year’s NFL-leading 34 touchdown passes.

Rounds 6-7

Four quarterbacks capable of carrying fantasy teams have ADPs in this territory, and all of them are risky. Tom Brady and Drew Brees are in the age range where a precipitous drop-off could occur, and one can argue we already have seen the start of it with Brees — even if partly due to an offensive shift in philosophy. He should pass more in 2018, though.

Carson Wentz and Cam Newton also have concerns about injuries, and the latter has to learn a complex offense with two new targets in the passing game. Newton’s value is too heavily reliant on his legs.

Gamers can establish strong backfields and a nucleus of receivers by waiting until this area of the draft to choose a passer. It is tough to justify taking a quarterback any earlier, and given the depth of the crop this year, this range may be too soon, as well.

Rounds 8-10

This is where the majority of fantasy teams will find their starting quarterback in 2018. Some risk, some reward, some safety.

Intrigue for upside is found in picks of Kirk Cousins (8:04) and Jimmy Garoppolo (8:12), whereas safety is the driving force behind picks in Matthew Stafford (9:06), Philip Rivers (10:04) and Ben Roethlisberger (10:10). Risk comes via the health — and subsequent return to form — of Andrew Luck (9:10). Concerns over system flaws will be found in a selection of Matt Ryan (9:11). He’s entering the second year in Steve Sarkisian’s offense, and while there is reason for optimism, it grants Sarkisian a benefit of the doubt he hasn’t earned.

Can Luck get back to his 2016 (5th fantasy QB) form? Can Ryan near his MVP season of the same year? Will Stafford ever approach his explosive 2011 season again? Does Jimmy G. have enough around him to perform as a QB1 over the course of a season? Will Cousins take his game to the next level? Big Ben has a new offensive coordinator: Does it even matter with all of that talent around him? Rivers is already down one of his top weapons … what happens if he loses another one?

Risk-reward decisions abound, gamers need to find the right blend for their tastes. Any one of these signal callers will make for a fine fantasy starter.

Rounds 11-12

Crazy upside. This year, more so than recent seasons, the quarterback position offers late-round potential in a number of cities. The Kansas City Chiefs turn the offense over to Patrick Mahomes’ cannon of an arm. The passing game is proven through Andy Reid’s track record, but having a dynamic running game could limit the need for Mahomes (11:05) to let it rip. His predecessor, Alex Smith, goes as the 12:08 pick, on average, in his new digs. The Washington Redskins have a hodgepodge of receiving assets and should resemble most of Smith’s career as a dink-and-dunk passer.

Jared Goff (11:04) is coming off of a marvelous season, and the addition of Brandin Cooks is a profound upgrade from Sammy Watkins. It’s almost criminal for Goff to be going this late.

Then we have the “what could be” duo of Marcus Mariota (12:02) and Derek Carr (12:04). Both are talented but have been injured, and both have new offensive systems to master in the span of a summer. Each quarterback is surrounded by talented receiving targets and protected by capable offensive lines. Both passers have high ceilings and could be top-10 fantasy products.

Rounds 13-15

This is where gamers find pure gambles and backups. The likes of Dak Prescott (13:05), Eli Manning (13:09), Jameis Winston (14:06), Case Keenum (14:06), Tyrod Taylor (14:08) and Mitchell Trubisky (14:09) all tend to find their way onto rosters. None of them are likely to carry a fantasy team but could help win a game or two with the right matchup.

Last year in review

2017 ADP
’17 ADP rk
’17 Fan rk
Player Team
2:11
1
31
Aaron Rodgers GB
3:06
2
3
Tom Brady NE
4:06
3
11
Drew Brees NO
5:08
4
14
Matt Ryan ATL
6:04
5
1
Russell Wilson SEA
7:01
6
18
Jameis Winston TB
7:02
7
19
Derek Carr OAK
7:05
8
17
Marcus Mariota TEN
8:02
9
4
Kirk Cousins WAS
8:06
10
2
Cam Newton CAR
9:04
11
N/A
Andrew Luck IND
9:05
12
8
Ben Roethlisberger PIT
10:01
13
7
Philip Rivers LAC
10:05
14
10
Dak Prescott DAL
10:08
15
5
Matthew Stafford DET
11:07
16
16
Andy Dalton CIN
11:12
17
9
Carson Wentz PHI
12:05
18
23
Eli Manning NYG
14:06
19
20
Tyrod Taylor BUF
N/A
N/A
6
Alex Smith KC
N/A
N/A
12
Jared Goff LAR
N/A
N/A
13
Blake Bortles JAC
N/A
N/A
15
Case Keenum MIN
N/A
N/A
21
Josh McCown NYJ
N/A
N/A
22
DeShone Kizer CLE
N/A
N/A
24
Jacoby Brissett IND

Compare last season’s ADP rank to the actual fantasy points finish. The volatility is obvious. Smith, Goff, Blake Bortles and Case Keenum weren’t even drafted, on average, and finished as valuable fantasy commodities.

Eight others outplayed their respective ADP rankings to finish as No. 1 quarterbacks. Three passers were essentially a wash in terms of draft placement to fantasy finish, and three-quarters of the top-four picks were letdowns. Choosing a quarterback in the middle rounds proved to be a coin flip in what was a down year for fantasy quarterbacks.

While not every season will play out in this manner, it is at least more ammo to avoid the position early in drafts.

Summary

This year is ripe for waiting on the position and taking a midround quarterback. From there, it comes down to how owners prefer to design a team. Are you risk-averse and want to play it safe? Does throwing caution to the wind suit your style?

In a year with roughly 20 viable starters, drafting with the intention of rotating quarterbacks from week to week will be a popular way to construct a roster. There is nothing wrong with it, as long as gamers vary the types of players. It’s unwise to draft two safe quarterbacks or a pair of high-upside, high-risk options. Blending safe with upside players is the ideal way to assemble a stable of passers, if you miss out on a plug-n-play starter.

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