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How to Approach the Quarterback Position in Your Draft


The NFL season is quickly approaching and we are getting into prime drafting season. Some of us start drafting earlier but I know many of my readers are saner than I am and typically draft as close to the NFL season as possible. I have spent a lot of time thinking about how I can bring you value instead of adding to the growing number of data-driven and stat-based articles that you can find from hundreds of different writers.

Don’t get me wrong, stats and numbers are a fantastic and useful resource but sometimes we in the fantasy industry get a little too carried away with past numbers and how they may affect a player’s value this year. Instead, I want to share with you my personal advice and strategies based on experience in highly competitive leagues. You can take what you like and apply it or throw it right out the window if you don’t agree. That’s the beauty of fantasy football; we all have different views on players and situations. It’s important to remember that no one is right or wrong at this time of year.

Many successful high-stakes players hate sharing any of their secrets and even though I get it, that is not what I’m about. Yes, I play on the biggest of stages in the fantasy world, but I didn’t start giving advice to people on Twitter nine years ago for no reason. I love the game of fantasy football and I want others to love it just as much as I do. Helping people, whether they are beginners or season veterans just looking for a second opinion, is more important to me than my own fantasy success as crazy as that sounds. I won’t get into bragging about my fantasy accolades and accomplishments because I don’t want to come across as a self-centered, arrogant person (for lack of a stronger word), but I do believe my advice can help you win and I do have a track record of proven results. I’m going to be putting together a series of articles that break down my approach and strategy for every position. Today let’s start with quarterbacks.

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Draft Strategy for Winners: Quarterback

Know Your League Rules & Scoring

Before we dive into quarterback drafting strategies it’s important to know and understand your league’s scoring system. In leagues that reward six points per touchdown pass as opposed to four, quality quarterbacks become more valuable. Same with leagues that reward bonuses at 300 yards or take away more points for interceptions, etc. If your league requires you to start two quarterbacks or has the option of starting one in your flex then taking a quarterback early is a more viable option.

For this article, let’s keep it simple by using a standard scoring system of four points per touchdown pass, one point for every 25 yards, and negative one point for every interception.

Drafting a QB Early

I will tell you right off the bat that this is not my favorite strategy. In fact, it’s one I try to avoid altogether. However, keep an open mind in case one of the top-ranked guys fall way past their ADP. You may be able to find some nice value if everyone has the same strategy of waiting on a quarterback.

For example, Deshaun Watson has an ADP of 4.10 according to Fantasy Football Calculator, and even though there is zero chance I’m taking him there that doesn’t mean I am avoiding Watson altogether. The earliest I’ve taken any quarterback so far this year is round seven and it was, in fact, Watson, and guess what? Cam Newton, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Jared Goff were all selected within the next seven picks.

Matthew Stafford, Carson Wentz, and Jimmy Garoppolo all went in the next round as well. You see how I got good value there? I took my number two-rated quarterback at a spot where lower tier options typically go. Would you rather select your number two rated QB in the seventh or your 10th ranked QB in the eighth or ninth?

The benefit to drafting a quarterback early is that it eliminates the need of a backup option. If I get Aaron Rodgers or Deshaun Watson, I’m starting them every single week barring injury and aside from their bye week of course. This gives you the additional opportunity to land a sleeper in the draft and gives your team added depth at a more important position such as running back or wide receiver.

Look for Upside

This is by far the deepest quarterback class I have ever seen in my 14 years of playing fantasy football. Did you know that only 1.38 points per game separated the sixth best QB (Kirk Cousins) last season from the 12th best (Jared Goff)? My point is don’t be afraid to take a risk on the unknown and safer isn’t always better. I would much rather wait three rounds and select Patrick Mahomes over a “proven” veteran like Matt Ryan. Draft your QB based on upside, believe me when I say that there will be plenty of serviceable starters on the waiver wire throughout the year.

Quarterbacks With Rushing Ability

Hands down the most underrated aspect at the quarterback position in fantasy football is their rushing ability. Pocket-passers like Drew Brees have to throw for tons of passing yards to have a good week and only get four points per touchdown pass, while guys like Cam Newton can rack up points in a hurry with their supreme rushing ability.

As football fans we often get fantasy and reality confused. Cam Newton isn’t an elite passer by any means, and when you look at his passing stats last season you would probably agree. Newton threw for 3,302 yards (18th), 22 touchdowns (T-12th), and 16 interceptions (2nd most), with a quarterback rating of 80.7 (27th among QBs with at least 150 pass attempts).

As you can see, Newton had a pretty bad season from a quarterback standpoint. However, his stats rushing the football contributed greatly to his 299.5 fantasy points, which was the second most among all quarterbacks. Can you guess who was number one? Russell Wilson, another quarterback with elite rushing ability. It’s no coincidence that both Newton and Wilson have finished as top three fantasy quarterbacks in two of the past three years.

Further to the point, here is a look at some past performances from athletic quarterbacks who can make plays with their legs, some more so than others. However, everyone on this list has either rushed for 400-plus yards or scored at least five rushing touchdowns in a single-season.

2012

  • Cam Newton (323.3 FP = 4th)
  • Robert Griffin (319.5 FP = 5th)

2013

  • Cam Newton (298 FP = 3rd)
  • Andrew Luck (292.8 points = 4th)
  • Russell Wilson (270.3 FP = 8th)
  • Colin Kaepernick (264.4 FP = 9th)

2014

  • Andrew Luck (350.9 FP = 2nd)
  • Russell Wilson (327.5 FP = 3rd)
  • Cam Newton (17.8 FPPG = T-7th)

2015

  • Cam Newton (389.1 FP = 1st)
  • Russell Wilson (336.4 FP = 3rd)
  • Blake Bortles (316.1 FP = 4th)

2016

  • Andrew Luck (307.6 FP = 4th)
  • Dak Prescott (287.1 FP = 6th)
  • Tyrod Taylor (270.9 = 8th)
  • Blake Bortles (270.1 = 9th)
  • Colin Kaepernick (18.2 FPPG = 7th)

2017

  • Russell Wilson (347.8 FP = 1st)
  • Cam Newton (299.5 FP = 2nd)
  • Alex Smith (295.1 FP) = 4th
  • Dak Prescott (260.8 FP = 10th)

What I’m trying to preach is that you don’t need a great NFL quarterback to receive elite fantasy production at the position. Here are the 10 best rushing quarterbacks that can make plays with their legs and score you points in a hurry (ranked in order of their rushing ability):

#1) Cam Newton – Built like a linebacker, runs like a running back. Newton has averaged over seven rushing touchdowns per season on the ground, an astonishing number for a quarterback.

#2) Deshaun Watson – Rushed for 38.4 yards per game in 2017 and added two touchdowns in seven games, including a 49-yarder.

#3) Russell Wilson – Wilson has rushed for over 500 yards in four of his six seasons in the league. His career-high of 849 yards in 2014 shows off his impressive upside.

#4) Tyrod Taylor – Three straight years of 400-plus rushing yards and at least four touchdowns.

#5) Dak Prescott – Back-to-back seasons of six touchdowns on the ground, but not quite as effective in terms of yardage with a career-high of 357.

#6) Marcus Mariota – Ability to run for an 87-yard touchdown like he did in 2015. Three-straight years with at least 250 yards and two rushing touchdowns.

#7) Patrick Mahomes – Rushed for 22 touchdowns in his last two years at Texas Tech. Plays in a quarterback-friendly offensive that Alex Smith thrived in as a runner.

#8) Blake Bortles – Four-consecutive campaigns of at least 300 yards rushing, and seven touchdowns in the past three years.

#9) Aaron Rodgers – Has rushed for 250-plus yards in seven of 10 NFL seasons as a starter, and also added four or more touchdowns in four of those campaigns as well. Age (34) and injuries could limit his rushing ability a little more moving forward.

#10) Alex Smith – Eight rushing touchdowns in the past three years with Kansas City, but could regress in that category at 34-years-old and with a new team.

 

My Strategy

I’ve already mentioned that this is the deepest QB class in the history of fantasy football and you should use that piece of information to give you an edge over the competition. Unless you’re getting insane value, wait on selecting a quarterback. I’m more often than not the last person to draft a quarterback unless the scoring system favors the position more than the average league.

In 12-person leagues with 16 or fewer rounds, I would suggest drafting only one quarterback and using the limited roster space to stock up on running backs and receivers. Keep in mind that there are going to be 20 or so productive fantasy quarterbacks and most people, at least the smart ones, won’t carry more than one quarterback through the whole season.

In leagues with 16 or fewer rounds, I would look to draft a quarterback after you have compiled AT LEAST four running backs, four receivers, and one tight end. Trust me; load up at running back and wide receiver. You can never have too much quality at either position, especially with injuries and bye weeks. I’m more than comfortable waiting on a selecting a quarterback in the 11th-13th round, right before you take a defense and kicker.

In larger leagues with more than 16 rounds, I would still look to target a quarterback late, but just be aware that most teams will look to add a backup and may hold them longer during the season because of the deeper bench. My targets would be players with upside as discussed earlier, such as Jimmy Garoppolo, Jared Goff, and Patrick Mahomes to name a few. All three of those players have an Expert Consensus Rankings outside of the top 12 on FantasyPros, so you should be able to get good value.

If there is a huge run on quarterbacks, (which there typically will be in leagues with more inexperienced players) just don’t panic and remain patient. Don’t let others dictate how you draft and don’t get caught following trends. In my most recent draft, I took my first quarterback in the 14th round (Marcus Mariota), why? Well, simply put everyone else reached on the quarterback position, and I took advantage by solidifying my roster with the positions that hold much more value (RB and WR). If Mariota struggles, I know I’ll be able to find good quarterbacks on the waiver wire throughout the season.

Lastly, I want you to keep this piece of information in mind when drafting. Alex Smith was the fourth best fantasy quarterback last season and currently has an ADP of the 12th round. Dak Prescott has been a top-10 fantasy producer in each of his first two seasons and has an ADP of the 14th round. Blake Bortles finished fourth in 2015, ninth in 2016, and just outside QB1 territory (13th) in 2017 and is going undrafted in many 16 round leagues. Tyrod Taylor was a top-eight fantasy quarterback in points per game in 2015 and 2016 and has an ADP of round 14. This isn’t meant to convince you to select any of these players in particular, but it goes to show just how many starting-caliber fantasy options there are at the quarterback position in 2018.

 

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