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Quarterback Strategy and Rankings

Updated: Sep 5, 2020

Patience. Patience. Patience.

That is the name of the game when picking a QB in fantasy football. And this season there are three moments where you will need to exercise patience if you are going to maximize the value of your picks in the draft and add the most points to your team.

Before we get to those moments a quick explanation on why we wait at quarterback. In standard leagues we start either ten or twelve quarterbacks. In a league with 32 teams that is right around a third of the available quarterback pool starting in a given week. Most leagues start two running backs and either two or three wide receivers with a flex position. That means that on any given week we have twenty-five running backs and thirty-five wide receivers in starting lineups. The scarcity created by starting more players at those premier positions is why we wait at quarterback. There only a handful of bell-cow running backs (which are usually the first five to eight picks off the board). The depth of talent at wide receiver is a little deeper in the league at this point with most teams having two to three usable wide receivers each week, but the amount of those players that carry a consistently high weekly floor is still only about ten to fifteen receivers. That is why we need to prioritize getting those players with high usage rates over the quarterback position. We’ll talk more about how to pick our running back and wide receiver targets in their columns.

On top of scarcity, it’s also very difficult to project who the number one quarterback will be for the season as a whole. Last year, Mahomes was going at the end of the first round in a lot of leagues and Lamar Jackson was going as the fifteenth quarterback off of the board (if he was drafted at all). Well, the regression machine dealt Mahomes a blow and Lamar showed that he wasn’t ever meant to be a wide receiver and lead the league in TD passes (while also having one of the best rushing stat lines in the league). We want to maximize the value of our squad and the opportunity cost of taking a quarterback early over a running back or wide receiver just doesn’t pay off. The difference between the second and the tenth best quarterbacks last season was about three points per game. The difference between number ten and number twenty is another three points per game. There just is not enough to be gained by taking a quarterback in the early rounds versus loading up on running backs and receivers.

Which brings us back to our moments of patience.

The first moment of patience will come when selecting the top tier of quarterbacks. There is a lot to be gained by having Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson as your fantasy signal caller. The two previous league MVP’s provide a very high weekly floor and an almost limitless ceiling. However, choosing either of them before the late second round means you are leaving too much value on the table at the other positions. Quarterbacks are great, but we only start one of them. We need to focus on collecting running backs and receivers in the first two rounds. So although it is tempting to start targeting the MVP’s once you have made your first pick, wait until the end of the second round or the middle of the third round to actually grab them if you want to build your roster in such a way.

The second moment of patience comes in rounds three to six. These are the rounds where the second tier of elite quarterbacks will go. This is also the time when you will be fleshing out the heart of your lineup. DO NOT GIVE IN. Take a breath and know that you will get your QB later. Use this time to load up on that third and fourth tier of runners and receivers. The biggest drop-off in fantasy production tied to draft position comes after the fifth/sixth round. If you take a quarterback here, then you are hurting the potential of your team.

The third moment of patience will come when the inevitable “quarterback run” takes place. There will come a time, usually between rounds seven to ten, after most teams have secured their two runnings backs and two to three starting wide receivers, maybe their tight end and some bench spots as well (God let’s hope someone maybe even took a kicker or defense), that each manager will set their sights on the quarterback position. The rest of the top five to six quarterbacks will have already come off the board and now we will see each other team get their starter and possibly a few more cautious managers a “high-end” backup. Let them. If you participate in a positional run than you are devaluing that pick because everyone else will have already got a “better” option. Draft from a position that others are not targeting and reap that value. Use patience to wait out the run and then get your guy when the rest of the league is scrambling through the garbage heap at running back.

So when should you take your quarterback? Any time after the tenth round. At this point you will have filled out your primary six starters (2RB, 3WR, flex) and started to fill your bench high-upside players who can fill in for the inevitable injury (or Coronavirus absence). Quarterbacks drafted in the 11-20 range have been just as likely over the last three years to return top five value as those taken in the top ten. Again we are talking about a difference of six points per game separating QB2 from QB20 and that can be chalked up to projection error in the preseason. Take a look at my rankings and tiers below for the order that I would be drafting my quarterback and look out for my version of a sleeper/bust/target column that will be out within the next week.

Updated Sept 5

Target (o) - A player we are targeting at their current ADP.

League-Winner - A player whose potential range of outcomes could swing your chances at a championship.

Riser - Someone climbing the ranks or someone I have ranked ahead of consensus.

Faller - A player who has moved down the ranks or someone I have ranked below consensus.

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