The Case for Drafting Quarterback Early

by Ryan Markle-Klapp, June 27, 2020

In years past, the ideal strategy for drafting quarterback in fantasy football was simple; wait. The double digit rounds of a draft once held prime value at the position. Even as recently as this past season, names such as Lamar Jackson and Dak Prescott fell to the 11th and 12th rounds, despite the advanced stats and metrics pointing to them as being more valuable.


Check out Lamar Jackson’s 2020 Projection on PlayerProfiler’s “World Famous” Draft Kit:


 

That sort of value cannot be had in 2020. How quickly the tide has shifted.

The Evolution of the Quarterback

With the quarterback position continuing to evolve, mobility has become a key aspect in production. Those agile enough to maneuver inside and outside of the pocket add a dimension that was once rare. Aside from rushing production, a mobile quarterback’s ability to scramble extends plays. This ability provides additional opportunities for offensive weapons.

Agility Score is a good indicator of a quarterback’s mobility. Aside from Lamar Jackson, who didn’t test, only one of 2019’s top players at the position registered a below average score. Russell Wilson and Deshaun Watson ranked in the upper-percentile. The top quarterbacks all ranked in the top 10 in rushing yards as well. The prototypical “pocket passer” is becoming a thing of the past.

2019 RankPlayerAgility Score (Percentile)2019 Rush Yards (Rank)
1Lamar JacksonN/A1,206 (#1)
2Dak Prescott11.43 (55th)277 (#8)
3Jameis Winston11.52 (48th)250 (#9)
4Russell Wilson11.06 (88th)342 (#6)
5Deshaun Watson11.26 (75th)413 (#4)

When compared to production from late-round quarterbacks, the advantage is clear. Watson, for example, ranked No. 5 on the Fantasy Pros list in total fantasy points while averaging 21.1 (No. 2 among qualified quarterbacks) Fantasy Points per Game per PlayerProfiler. To compare, Tom Brady, the No. 12 ranked quarterback in total fantasy points from 2019, averaged 16.4 (No. 15) Fantasy Points per Game. Teams with Watson averaged five more points per game last season than those with Brady.

2019 RankPlayer2019 ADP2020 ADP
1Lamar Jackson126 (11.6) QB1120 (2.8) QB2
2Dak Prescott135 (12.3) QB1462 (6.2) QB4
3Jameis Winston134 (12.2) QB13295 (24.5) QB31
4Russell Wilson115 (10.7) QB978 (7.6) QB6
5Deshaun Watson60 (5.2) QB265 (6.5) QB5

The ability to extend plays, and to scramble for yards on lost ones, is a big advantage; one that most fantasy players are now hip to. 2019 may have been the last time a league-winning quarterback could be had in the later rounds of a draft. Not one of these mobile quarterbacks, most of whom were in the top five last season, have a current ADP in the double digit rounds. The proverbial cat is out of the bag.

Skill Position Depth and Value

The hesitation with drafting quarterback early has always been justified by the value of the late rounder. Waiting to draft Philip Rivers in order to accrue talent at the other skill positions made for sound strategy. That is no longer the case. Not only are mobile quarterbacks taking center stage, but there is an argument to be made that the other skill positions are as deep as ever.

Rank (Total Points)PlayerADPRank (Total Points)PlayerADP
#1 (471.2)Christian McCaffrey2 (1.2)#7 (259.4)Leonard Fournette30 (3.6)
#2 (314.8)Aaron Jones34 (3.10)#8 (255.2)Nick Chubb12 (1.12)
#3 (311.7)Ezekiel Elliot4 (1.4)#9 (248.5)Alvin Kamara 3 (1.3)
#4 (309)Austin Ekeler78 (7.6)#10 (244.1)Saquon Barkley1 (1.1)
#5 (294.6)Derrick Henry39 (4.3)#11 (242.5)Mark Ingram70 (6.10)
#6 (292.4)Dalvin Cook17 (2.5)#12 (232.6) Chris Carson54 (5.6)

When looking at running backs, there is solid depth due to several teams using multiple backs. The propensity for injury at the position creates value for backups, another key aspect. In 2019, half of the top twelve running backs were drafted in the fourth round or later. Austin Ekeler, for example, finished as the No. 4 back in total fantasy points and averaged 19.3 (No. 6) Fantasy Points per Game despite having a seventh-round ADP.

Rank (Total Points)PlayerADPRank (Total Points)PlayerADP
#1 (374.6)Michael Thomas9 (1.9)#7 (256.3)Julian Edelman64 (6.4)
#2 (276.1)Chris Godwin42 (4.6)#8 (254.9)Allen Robinson68 (6.8)
#3 (274.1)Julio Jones17 (2.5)#9 (248)Kenny Golladay43 (4.7)
#4 (270.5)Cooper Kupp 54 (5.6)#10 (246.5)Amari Cooper27 (3.3)
#5 (269.5)DeAndre Hopkins6 (1.6)#11 (246.2)DeVante Parker186 (16.6)
#6 (261.5)Keenan Allen27 (3.3)#12 (237.4)Jarvis Landry72 (6.12)

The same can be said for wide receivers. In 2019, seven of the top twelve players at the position were drafted in the fourth round or later. With ADPs in the sixth round, both Julian Edelman and Allen Robinson finished just outside of the top five in total fantasy points. Edelman averaged 15.8 (No. 10) Fantasy Points per Game, Robinson averaged 15.9 (No. 9). DeVante Parker finished as the WR11 in total points and averaged 15.4 (No. 14) Fantasy Points per Game, all with an ADP in the sixteenth round. There is also the incoming rookie class, which is as deep and talented as it’s been in years. There will be a plethora of value this coming season.

In Conclusion

The days of drafting that league-winning quarterback in round 12 of a fantasy draft are over. The fantasy community is now woke to the idea that drafting the position early is not the pitfall it once was. In fact, there is a clear advantage in doing so. With depth and value at every other position, it makes drafting a top quarterback an easy decision in 2020.