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Don’t be Afraid to Wait on a Quarterback
- Updated: July 8, 2013
Don’t be Afraid to Wait on a Quarterback
The NFL quarterback position is arguably as deep as it has ever been. In 2012, for the first time in at least 12 years and maybe ever, more than 10 quarterbacks had over 300 fantasy points by NFL.com standard scoring rules. In fact, there were 13, including three rookies (you know who they are). In addition, the 49ers had two quarterbacks combine for more than 300 fantasy points as Colin Kaepernick earned the starting job after Alex Smith’s concussion forced him to miss a start. Both of these 49er quarterbacks will get starting roles in 2013 (Smith with the Chiefs) and both are likely to come close to or surpass 300 fantasy points. In other words, every other guy in your 12 team league could pick a QB before you, and you’d still have several options for a 300+ point player.
Of course this raises the question of just how valuable the prior year’s fantasy stats are at predicting a quarterback’s fantasy success the following year. We examined the last 10 years and the answer is somewhat ambiguous:
Over the last 10 years, the top-ranked fantasy quarterback from the previous year (#1 on the chart above) was a top 5 fantasy QB the next year 80% of the time. The only two times the top fantasy QB failed to make the top 5 the next year was when Tom Brady missed all but the first quarter of the first game of the 2008 season after a knee injury and when Rich Gannon missed more than half of the 2003 season following his notable 2002 with the Raiders. Barring injury, the top fantasy QB from the previous season has returned to the top 5 the subsequent year with impressive consistency.
The same consistency cannot be found with the 2nd and 3rd ranked fantasy quarterbacks. In the next season, the 2nd and 3rd best QB’s returned to the top 5 only 30% and 40% of the time, respectively. And while the 2nd best QB did at least return to the top 10 80% of the time, the 3rd best QB failed half the time to even rank in the top 15 the next season. Despite the upward trend in QB scoring noted above, you’re not likely to win a lot of leagues with a QB ranked outside the top 15 in fantasy scoring. Last year’s 3rd ranked QB was ol’ dependable, Tom Brady. Sure the results above could be a statistical fluke, but do you really want to spend a 2nd or 3rd round pick on what has historically been a mere coin flip to even return to the top 15?
Your QB Draft Strategy
With the incredible depth at QB for 2013, it should come as no surprise that quarterbacks are currently going later in most drafts than in previous years. As of the writing of this article, the top QB by ADP (average draft position) in NFL.com drafts is Aaron Rodgers at 16.80, or early to middle second round in 12 team drafts. Rodgers, ranked #2 among QBs in 2012, might present a good opportunity for someone with late second round draft position, but those with a pick early in the 2nd round, or with Rodgers already selected, may want to seriously consider Drew Brees with an ADP of 23. Brees was 2012′s highest scoring fantasy QB and given the results of the last 10 years would, age and injuries aside, present the highest likelihood of a strong repeat performance. While Brees’ age may be a concern to some, the depth at the QB position means you can select a tolerable backup in the late rounds (Alex Smith and Matt Schaub can be had in the 12th round or later).
You may notice in the chart above that the 6th ranked QB has performed remarkably well the next year. Last year’s 6th ranked QB, Cam Newton, is currently being drafted 5th overall among QBs (ADP of 36.8) and thus might present some modest value if you insist on getting a QB relatively early in your draft.
On the other hand, maybe you’re buying the argument that there are just so many good QBs this year you can afford to wait to the middle rounds to make your move. If you’re not afraid to be one of the last players to select a QB, you could, apologies in advance, take Tony Romo. He is currently the 11th QB to go in NFL.com drafts and with an ADP of 80.9 is going in the mid-to-late 7th round. in 2012, Romo ranked 8th among QBs with 331 fantasy points. Interestingly, the 8th ranked QB from the prior year has performed almost as well as the 3rd ranked QB by most metrics above. You could also possibly pick up Matthew Stafford in the 7th or 8th round (ADP of 86.6). Stafford ranked 11th last year among fantasy quarterbacks.
Why not take the opportunity to demonstrate your unrivaled wit and immense fantasy cojones and wait till the 10th round or later to draft a QB? Maybe take a chance on Andy Dalton or Josh Freeman, two relatively young QBs that both ranked in the top 15 last year with over 300 fantasy points apiece.
If you can avoid the temptation to pick a top QB in the early rounds there will be plenty of value in a more patient approach to this year’s incredibly deep quarterback field.