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Passing Committee -- A Plan of Action for Drafting Quarterbacks
Joe Levit
August 14, 2006

Besides running back, the one fantasy position that you need consistent points from throughout the season is quarterback. Owners usually draft one starter fairly early, and then grab a backup quarterback once the run on them commences late in a draft. This practice has been in place for a number of years because there have always been a few strong candidates forming the top tier at the QB position. In 2006 though, there is only one QB in that top tier – Peyton Manning.

The rest of the quarterbacks have tumbled in the consistency rankings for one reason or another. Daunte Culpepper and Carson Palmer are rehabbing from catastrophic knee injuries. Though both seem on target to start the season, it is difficult to determine at this point how much the downgraded mobility may affect their fantasy values. Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb, back from his own injury, no longer has a talent like Terrell Owens on the receiving end of his passes.

Due to the dearth of guaranteed top fantasy quarterback production, you will be forced to consider other strategies to fill this important slot in your starting lineup. The solution is to employ a strategy that is gaining awareness, popularity and viability within our pastime. That solution is called Quarterback by Committee (QBBC).

Before we discuss the benefits of a QBBC approach to drafting and managing a fantasy roster, let me eliminate one worry immediately. You shouldn’t let the term committee put you off. The other place we hear this term in fantasy football is when we are speaking of the dreaded running back by committee (RBBC). That is a different animal entirely, and makes owners cringe because it usually means fewer fantasy points. A RBBC is one created by NFL head coaches and offensive coordinators because they don’t have one star running back and need to split skills and carries between a few men, reducing the fantasy output of everyone. A QBBC is one created by you during your draft to improve the overall strength of your fantasy roster.

Now we can chat about how the QBBC strategy is put into effect and utilized. QBBC is based on the concept that you can gain better value in drafts by waiting until later to select quarterbacks. The reason you are able to do this is that by choosing a few quarterbacks with upside, you are likely to hit on at least one player who will perform far above their ranking. Even if you don’t, by planning around matchups you can stay strong every week of the season. This allows you to stock up early on the key positions that score the big points in fantasy football – running backs and wide receivers.

This strategy dictates that you wait until at least the sixth round of your draft to start selecting QBs. Ideally you would wait until round 7, but sometimes you may begin to miss too many of your committee picks. Before the sixth round, grab your starting two running backs and your three starting receivers. If you only start two wideouts you can choose a stud tight end or a very good backup running back instead.

In rounds 6-9, choose three quarterbacks. When you draft in this range you should be able to select a number of signal callers who are just behind the passers other owners in your draft deemed starters, but get them before anyone else tries grabbing backups. Remember that when you are using the QBBC approach you are not looking for your typical fantasy starter and requisite backup. You are looking instead for three potential starters, guys with some risk but high upside and favorable projected schedules against the pass. If you happen to be able to snare a higher-rated quarterback who has slipped in your draft, all the better.

During the season, go with the hot hand – the quarterback who jumps up the rankings but who you had tabbed at better value. Or, if no one is clearly above another statistically, simply start the quarterback going against the worst pass defense. There is flexibility built into this tactic, which makes it a good one to take into a draft. Below are nine players to target with the QBBC strategy. Most if not all of them should be available in round six of your draft. Grab three of them and use them wisely. If you do, they will make your overall starting lineup stronger.

Quarterback by Committee Candidates

Kurt Warner – Each day that rookie Matt Leinart holds out further cements Warner as the quarterback who will get the treat of throwing to the top tandem of wideouts in the NFL – Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald. If he stays healthy, and it is an “if”, Warner will post terrific yardage totals, and perhaps a good number of touchdowns too. Should he start only six or seven games before getting hurt, that could still help lead you to some important early-season wins, and will be well worth one third of your quarterback allotment.

David Carr – By himself, new head coach Gary Kubiak will be a boon for Carr. The new game plans should better attack defenses, which will help take some pass-rush pressure off of Carr. Do not underestimate what Eric Moulds can do for the passing attack. Not only is he a great receiver in his own right, but also his consistent threat to defenses will provide a lot more opportunities for Andre Johnson. This in turn will elevate the statistics of Carr. With more time and better receivers, Carr could help fantasy owners remember why he was once an overall top pick in the NFL draft. Many scouts in the league still believe he has a ton of potential.

Byron Leftwich – Don’t worry too much about the loss of veteran receiver Jimmy Smith. Leftwich can make some impressive things happen on his own, and he’ll have plenty of young and ambitious help along the way. Ernest Wilford is a hard worker who may earn his role as the go-to wideout. Matt Jones has now made the transition to wide receiver and will be a legitimate red zone threat due to his size and strength. And don’t forget rookie tight end Marcedes Lewis, who was drafted in the first round to provide instant offense from the position.

Steve McNair – Entering the season healthy and with a rather large chip on his shoulder, McNair could be a nice late pickup for fantasy owners this year. He is reunited with familiar target Derrick Mason, and Mark Clayton looked good late last year. Add to that elite tight end Todd Heap, and you have a recipe for fantasy success.

Jon Kitna – Joey Harrington couldn’t muster production from his young receivers in Detroit, but Kitna brings with him not only more past success at the professional level, but also a fresh breeze of camaraderie. Kitna connects with his huddle-mates in a way Harrington never could. That is important since he has some immature guys to work with. By the time the season starts, head coach Rod Marinelli will have starters out on the field who can play with passion and consistency. Mike Martz has a history of molding unknown quarterbacks into stars. Think what he can do with a player with a proven track record.

Drew Brees – If Brees can keep from experiencing a serious bout of “dead arm” during the season, he could produce some surprising numbers. First, he has a knowledgeable veteran at his disposal in Joe Horn. Next, he has a big-play threat in Donte’ Stallworth. To top it off, he has an underrated receiving tight end (Zachary Hilton) and a rookie running back (Reggie Bush) that makes immaculate receptions. Without Hurricane Katrina to contend with, and actual home advantage in half their games this year, the Saints offense may be potent, which would mean big numbers for Brees.

Ben Roethlisberger – Though news of his moronic motorcycle debacle has been the entire story regarding Roethlisberger this off-season, perhaps it shouldn’t be. He looked like a dominant fantasy and actual quarterback in the playoffs last year. Big Ben could be a big weapon in your passing arsenal this year. He still has Hines Ward, will involve tight end Heath Miller more in year two, and got a gift when the team traded up to tab Santonio Holmes in the first round of this year’s draft. No matter what anyone claims, the retirement of Jerome Bettis will cause the team to be more aggressive in its play calling, and likely means more opportunities for Roethlisberger. 

Chris Simms – Gruden is putting every faith in his guy this year, and that will be Simms. This team is loaded with men capable of catching the ball. Joey Galloway and Michael Clayton can do some damage down the field. Second-year tight end Alex Smith will be more involved this year in the passing game, and two backs, both Carnell Williams and Michael Pittman, are proficient with passes out of the backfield.

Brad Johnson – Johnson is not going to set the fantasy world on fire. Still, he is the kind of player who drops down toward the tail end of fantasy drafts, and becomes a value when he is picked. He could easily end up as a top-ten fantasy quarterback, throwing for around 23 scores. The team plans to get the ball to running back Chester Taylor through the air as well as via handoff, and surprisingly elusive tight end Jermaine Wiggins has terrific hands. A lot will depend on how well the wide receivers perform, but Koren Robinson and Troy Williamson have the skills to produce.