Late Round Quarterback Strategy and Top QB Targets for Fantasy Football Drafts

by Marc Mathyk ·

Now that the NFL Draft is in the books and most fantasy analysts have made their way-too-early rankings, it is time to see which quarterbacks are good values in 2018. It is a position that is incredibly deep to say the least. It is common knowledge that the best experts wait on drafting their quarterback or quarterbacks, and this year, it makes even more sense. The best thing is, there are always people in your league who cannot wait to pull the trigger early. They get so excited at the possibility of having the best quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, on their team. Some cannot escape the lure of legend Tom Brady. Some also believe that what happened last year must be the best predictive tool for this year. Therefore, Russell Wilson and Carson Wentz are also highly coveted. I say let those people go ahead and spend a high draft pick on the so-called guarantees. The truth is, there are no guarantees in football. Ask any Aaron Rodgers or Matt Ryan owner last year. Rodgers was the most sought after quarterback but only managed to play seven games due to injury. He still managed to average over twenty fantasy points per game so it had nothing to do with performance. Even owners armed with advanced stats, metrics, and analytics player profiles were burned nonetheless.

Matt Ryan, who was the league’s MVP in 2016 and was in the consensus top five last year, ended up as the fifteenth best quarterback in fantasy. Dak Prescott owners were not pleased with his fall from seventh best in 2016 to thirteenth in 2017. Cam Newton burned owners in 2016 after his dominance the year before. However, as a later draft pick last year, he managed to turned it around, putting up decent numbers. More likely than not, something similar will happen this year. There will be a 2018 version of Alex Smith who posts a career year in fantasy after posting consistently average to below average years. For every Alex Smith, there will be someone who crashes down from the top of the fantasy heap and ultimately disappoints the people who draft him. This is what makes football fantasy so difficult to predict yet so damn enticing to try.

Quarterback Variance

To illustrate the inconsistent nature of the quarterback, here’s a table that shows how the top twelve quarterbacks of 2016 fared a year later:

Only six of the twelve quarterbacks above managed to be QB1s two years in a row. There are many contributing factors as to why many quarterbacks did not repeat as dominating fantasy stars. As mentioned earlier, Rodgers succumbed to a year ending injury. Drew Brees played on a team that finally had a great defense and a prolific run game and therefore did not need a gunslinger.  Matt Ryan came down to earth and had more of his typical fantasy scoring year. Ben Roethlisberger, Matthew Stafford and Blake Bortles (ironically, the most consistent) were really the only three steady players during the past two years and none of them cracked the top six. Looking farther down the list, some of the variance between seasons is startling. Russell Wilson, who was last year’s best fantasy quarterback jumped 14 spots, though Carson Wentz (up 20) and Alex Smith (up 17) were the quarterbacks who improved the most. Conversely, it was Aaron Rodgers (down 27), Matt Ryan (down 12), Derek Carr (down 10), and Drew Brees (down 9) who stunned owners the most. What is more alarming is those quarterbacks were four of the top six the year before. It is not surprising that only Rodgers and Brees maintain their draft capital in 2018, based on many previous high-water marks.

The Elite Eight

As of now, here are the eight top ranked quarterbacks entering the 2018 season based on FantasyPros consensus rankings, which figures in 42 of the best experts in football:

  1. Aaron Rodgers
  2. Russell Wilson
  3. Tom Brady
  4. Deshaun Watson
  5. Cam Newton
  6. Carson Wentz
  7. Drew Brees
  8. Kirk Cousins

All of these quarterbacks will be taken within the earlier rounds of the draft so if you are a person who likes to wait on quarterbacks, it is best to forget them. Instead, use that draft spot to help build up the rest of your team whether it be drafting a rookie running back with an unharnessed potential, a dependable wide receiver that can surprise, or a steady tight end that you can draft and just forget about. After that you can try to find the gem among the rest of the pack. One or more of these quarterbacks will outshine their value:

The table has three rankings listed.  The first is the general consensus from many experts from FantasyPros. The second is from an ESPN compilation, and acts as a mainstream source. The final rankings is from MyFantasyLeague, and it is a ranking already showing drafting trends among the fantasy community. It tends to reflect which quarterbacks are popular despite scorned rankings. There are a few names that jump out. Jimmy Garappolo, Jared Goff, Patrick Mahomes, and Marcus Mariota are names that the drafting public likes. All are young with little experience in the NFL. Garappolo helped right the ship in San Francisco last year with a team that is expected to thrive this year. Goff had a great season on one of the most explosive offensive teams. Mahomes has been compared to Brett Favre and Mariota was one of the most efficient quarterbacks before last year’s debacle. All are first round quarterbacks except for Garappolo, who gets similar attention since he was Tom Brady‘s protege in New England. Just because these guys are highly sought after does not mean you should not target them yourself. Just remember that if you do want them, they are going sooner rather than later. Andrew Luck is also being perceived in an interesting way. It seems many believe that he will regain his dominance after a long rehabilitative hibernation, including those at ESPN.

It should not be surprising that those who are not favored by the draft community are wily veterans like Philip Rivers, Ben Roethlisberger, Alex Smith and Eli Manning. All are in the twilight of their careers with Smith being the youngest at age 34. Smith is coming off his best season to date, where he played like a first round pick for the first time in his career. It seems that many believe that last year was just an anomaly and are skeptical of him switching teams. Manning has never really had a banner season despite his good health and great cast. Last year was bad but so were his receiving options after Odell Beckham went down and Sterling Shepard was in and out of the line up. Even though his offensive line appears to have improved, not to mention the Giants going out of their way to draft the most talented running back prospect ever in Saquon Barkley, many are still dubious. As for Rivers and Roethlisberger, two of the more consistent quarterbacks in the past ten years, the reasons seem more puzzling. Roethlisberger’s past health issues might be tempering excitement, but both he and Rivers have stellar receiving corps. These two are ready for the taking with many undervaluing their consistent play over the years.

Ten Redraft Quarterback Draft Strategies

Here are some draft strategies to consider when choosing your quarterbacks. Don’t expect to check all of the boxes, but the more the better:

Strategy One: Don’t Draft a quarterback before the 10th round

I tend to draft four wide receivers, four running backs and one tight end before my quarterback. This might eliminate a few quarterbacks outside the elite eight but the majority will still be there.

Strategy Two: Draft two quarterbacks

To increase your probability of success, it is better to draft two. Most people draft two quarterbacks anyway so if you are in a 12-team league that is 24 quarterbacks taken. Despite it being a deep class, you don’t want your only quarterback to go down mid-year without a suitable back up. Also, you double your chance of getting it right.  It might be cautious but it is the smart thing to do.

Strategy Three: Draft one established veteran

Having two young, potentially high-floor quarterbacks is exciting but it is risky. Although I advocate getting a younger quarterback with a high ceiling, it is better to only select one shiny toy. Get a proven quarterback that has been a proven QB1 in the past. It isn’t sexy but there’s a good reason why he’s still in the league, performing at a high level.

Strategy Four: Draft one upside guy you love

If you have a feeling that a certain quarterback is about to break out, then get him. You could choose this year’s Carson Wentz or Jared Goff.  Just remember to follow strategy three and have a Philip Rivers in your back pocket.


Check out Jared Goff on PlayerProfiler’s Updated Dynasty Rankings:


Strategy Five: Draft either gunslingers or mobile quarterbacks

Look for guys that love to throw the football or guys who like to run. Touchdowns are equally weighed whether it was a pass thrown or a scramble capitalized. Everyone tends to have a preference, but drafting one of each type of quarterback is not a bad approach either.

Strategy Six: Draft a quarterback on a team without a great running game

This is not common these days but it has helped Russell Wilson recently and Matthew Stafford for a long time. Fewer touchdowns on the ground usually mean more in the air.

Strategy Seven: Draft a quarterback with good to great receivers

Receivers might only be as good as the quarterback throwing to them but a quarterback without weapons will suffer similarly. Having a talented arsenal will help a quarterback get more fantasy points. Having an offensively-minded head coach does not hurt either. Just ask Jared Goff.

Strategy Eight: Draft a quarterback on a team with a bad defense

Chances are if a quarterback plays on a team that gives up a lot of points, he will have to be the savior. This means lots of rallying, lots of throwing, lots of risks and lots of garbage time. Since interceptions do not cost much, the risk/reward principle works here.

Strategy Nine: Draft a quarterback on a good team

Out of the top twelve fantasy quarterbacks in 2017, all but Kirk Cousins (7-9) were on winning teams. That is a total of 126 wins and 66 losses. It does not have to be the best team as in the case of top QB Russell Wilson (9-7), but look for a team that you think will be good this season. And remember, target a good team this season, not last season.

Strategy Ten: Draft two quarterbacks based on their schedules 

This one is a bit iffy, since it is largely based on how you think defenses will be at the very beginning of the season. It’s not that hard once you commit to about six to eight quarterbacks you like. Take a bit of time and see who is playing who each week. If you have one of your quarterbacks as your main starter, look for his tougher defensive match-ups and make sure your other quarterback has a softer opponent those weeks. Also think ahead. What does the playoff schedule look like for both your quarterbacks? And last of all, don’t forget to look at bye weeks!

Best Quarterbacks Targets

As mentioned earlier, Roethlisberger and Rivers are two experienced and proven QB1s that are very undervalued. Both were in the top seven last year, the top ten the year before, and now are suddenly being viewed as low-end QB2s. Roethlisberger’s 561 Attempts was fifth in the league last year. He was fifth in passing yards (4,251), third in Air Yards (2,451), third in Money Throws (24) and fifth in Passing touchdowns (28). Rivers is still a gunslinger like Roethlisberger. He was third in Red Zone Attempts (102), seventh in Deep Ball Attempts (67), second in passing yards (4,495), and fifth in passing touchdowns (28). At 36 years old, both are not showing signs of age. And remember, they are three years younger than Drew Brees, who is being drafted two to three rounds earlier, and four years younger than Tom Brady, who is getting drafted four to five rounds earlier. Target one of these two veterans in 2018. You won’t be sorry.

As for the younger, more volatile yet rewarding quarterback, it comes down to preference. It’s better to have a few in mind, just in case some go earlier based on the other people drafting. Ones that match the draft strategy criteria above include Patrick Mahomes, Jameis Winston, Marcus Mariota, Jimmy Garappolo and Mitchell Trubisky.

Although Mahomes is essentially a rookie, he has one of the best arms in the game. His 60 mph Throw Velocity puts him in the 97th-percentile. He has a 10.96 Agility Score (95th-percentile) and a 99.8 Sparq-X score (78th-percentile). His 82.5 College Dominator (82nd-percentile) and 94th-percentile Breakout Age are even more impressive. He’s loves the deep ball and he is going to play on a Kansas City Chiefs team with a poor defense. Yes please!

Patrick Mahomes Advanced Stats & Metrics Profile

Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota are in the same boat. Both are in the final year of their rookie contracts and have a lot to prove. Both have shown signs of greatness but neither has taken it to the elite level yet. It could happen this year. Winston was seventh in Air Yards, sixth in Money Throws, and had he played all 16 games, he would be in the top five for Passing Yards. He’s a risk-taker, has such a strong receiving group and if he can limit his Danger Plays, he could very well be a top five quarterback. Mariota is a different type of quarterback but can thrive as a dual threat. He had the fifth most Rushing TDs (5) for a quarterback that played injured, and for the last two years, has been in the top ten for Air Yards Per Attempt. If he can get back to his 2016 efficient form, demonstrated in his league leading +25.9 Production Premium, then he will be another quarterback that could surprise. He too has a great cast of receivers and he looks to be healthy heading into the 2018 season.

The last two, Jimmy Garappolo and Mitchell Trubisky, do not have lengthy resumes but are on teams that seem to be moving in the right direction. Garappolo looked like his mentor, Tom Brady, once he took over in San Francisco for the final six games. There’s an aura of efficiency about him. Garappolo was best in the league in Pressured Completion Percentage (52.2-percent), fourth in Air Yards Per Attempt, and he boasted a 80.6 QBR, which was second in the league. Trubisky starts 2018 with a bit of experience, is under a new offensively-minded coach (Matt Nagy), and is on a team that has invested heavily in a lot in new weapons. He now has Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, Trey Burton and rookie phenom Anthony Miller at his disposal. He is fast (86th-percentile) and has an 11.12 (82nd-percentile) Agility Score . Trubisky is not afraid to run with the ball, having the 12th most carries and 11th most red zone carries while only playing 12 games last year.

Conclusion

When it comes down to drafting in general, metrics and statistics should prevail over gut feelings. Logic should always trump passion. Metrics and statistics show that there are a lot of quarterbacks capable of hitting the fantasy apex in 2018, while having less than desirable ADPs. Therefore, make the smart decision and wait on drafting a quarterback. It’s not only logical, it will help you passionately win your redraft championship.