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Draft regrets: How to overcome taking a QB too early

@JoeWarrenFF looks at ways to overcome taking a quarterback too early, or if you regret the draft capital spent on acquiring one.

Introduction

Finally, we have concluded our drafts for 2020. Now what? We have all spent weeks, if not months, researching players. The amount of 2019 statistics I have looked at in recent days should be a criminal offense. But I, like so many others, have left numerous drafts this year with slight regret.

Whether it be passing on Clyde Edwards-Helaire in round 3 (crazy to think he was originally drafted this low) because of the perceived timeshare with Damien Williams. Or taking Miles Sanders in round 1 because you truly believed Duce Staley suggesting he would be the bell cow back.

My biggest regret this year was potentially overvaluing the quarterback position when drafting. I had always aimed to select one of the consensus top-five quarterbacks. However, upon researching more into the history, I potentially overvalued a position where there is exceptional value to be had late in drafts.

Because of said research, I feel I have a better understanding of how and when I should be valuing certain position groups – specifically, the quarterback position.

Don’t do that

I am sure you have heard the phrase ‘zero RB’ when looking at fantasy drafts. If not, zero RB has a pretty literal meaning. During your draft, you load up on wide receivers early and wait to take a running back in the middle rounds.

Personally, I would not recommend it. But the concept of thinking outside the box in fantasy football is intriguing. Every year, each of us looks for that new idea that gives us an advantage—for example, the theory behind zero RB.

This is where looking at value compared to ADP can help. Lamar Jackson and Patrick Mahomes may be the two most exciting players in football. They both will most likely rank at the top of their position group in fantasy. However, they have a cost. Looking at ADP rankings, both Mahomes and Jackson would have cost you a second-round pick.

Was snagging one of the top tier talents worth the investment? You may have lost out on that second, ever so reliable running back that could give your team an edge. With running back value scarce after the first few rounds, was investing a high pick in a quarterback worth the loss of value at another position? It very much could have been.

Hopefully, after reading this article, I will have given you a better understanding of investment value compared to production.

The theory

Quarterback is a sexy position. It is a position where you do not have to worry about volume, as they touch the ball on every play. It is, for the most part, the position of most fan’s favorite player. This is where bias may come in, and bias can lose fantasy football weeks.

For example, if your favorite player is Aaron Rodgers, you would most likely start him every week. A set and forget if you will. However, this may, in theory, harm your team if Rodgers faces a top tier secondary like the Buffalo Bills.

The same can be said for high draft investment in a quarterback. If you spend a fifth-round pick on Dak Prescott, you will want to see a return on that investment. And because of that, you are going to start him each week. Regardless of whether he is playing the Baltimore Ravens, who allowed the least QB1 weeks in 2019 (more on that later).

How it works

In this article, I will look at ADP compared to previous season rankings. We look at the consistency of quarterbacks, so what percentage of weeks did that player return QB1 value. This usually gives a good understanding of value.

Looking back at who I’ve drafted and when (a lot of Dak Prescott shares), I now feel I may have missed out on value at a different position. Value that (potentially) could have helped my team more than the investment spent at the quarterback position.

I do not blame anyone for picking Lamar Jackson in round two (it’s hard to pass on that kind of production). However, before you sit back and relax, let’s look at some statistics regarding where you may have been able to find better value. (If there is better value to be had, of course).

Quarterback ADP 2020
PLAYER NAMEADP
LAMAR JACKSON17.0
PATRICK MAHOMES17.5
DESHAUN WATSON43.0
DAK PRESCOTT44.5
RUSSELL WILSON52.5
KYLER MURRAY55.5
DREW BREES72.0
JOSH ALLEN74.5
MATT RYAN78.5
AARON RODGERS79.0
TOM BRADY79.0
CARSON WENTZ89.5
Average draft position for quarterbacks in 2020

The quarterbacks above were all taken in round eight or sooner. Notable players that were still available in round eight included Marvin Jones and James White.

One of the questions to be asked here is would you prefer any of those players to the quarterback you could have drafted in that round?

Players available in the subsequent round included Christian Kirk, CeeDee Lamb, and Tarik Cohen.

In theory, would drafting Tarik Cohen give your team a better chance of winning than taking Carson Wentz? It’s very possible. Taking a quarterback early means you miss out on valuable depth at a position as scarce as running back.

Tarik Cohen has a very consistent floor with top 15 upside (see 2018). And although a quarterback like Rodgers or Brady may finish as a top 12 quarterback, how does their value match up to their respective draft position?

The data

Below, I’ll compare the season ADP’s of the top 12 quarterbacks (or the consensus QB 1’s) to the previous two years’ season-end rankings.

Quarterback ADP 2018 compared to top 12 scoring
2018 Top 12 ADPTop 12 scoring
QuarterbackADPQuarterbackADP
Aaron Rodgers22.3Patrick Mahomes113.8
Deshaun Watson38.3Ben Roethlisberger87.5
Tom Brady41.8Matt Ryan99.8
Russell Wilson46.8Andrew Luck85.0
Cam Newton56.5Deshaun Watson38.3
Drew Brees59.8Aaron Rodgers22.3
Carson Wentz73.5Jared Goff107.5
Kirk Cousins80.5Drew Brees59.8
Andrew Luck85.0Phillip Rivers102.3
Ben Roethlisberger87.5Russell Wilson46.8
Matthew Stafford89.9Tom Brady41.8
Jimmy Garropolo92.0Cam Newton56.5
Average draft position in 2018 compared to overall rankings

In 2018 33.3% of quarterbacks that did not rank as a QB1 were drafted outside of the top 12.

  1. Patrick Mahomes
  2. Matt Ryan
  3. Jared Goff
  4. Phillip Rivers

That means that 1 in every 3 QB picks in the top 12 ended up not returning value, at a minimum. For example, if you take Aaron Rodgers, his ADP was 22.3, and he ended up as QB6. Instead of that 2nd round pick spent on Aaron Rodgers, you could have spent a 9th round pick on Matt Ryan and had better production.

Quarterback ADP 2019 compared to top 12 scoring
2019 Top 12 ADPTOP 12 Scoring
QuarterbackADPQuarterbackADP
Patrick Mahomes10.3Lamar Jackson109.0
Deshaun Watson35.7Dak Prescott121.0
Aaron Rodgers43.7Deshaun Watson35.7
Baker Mayfield55.3Russell Wilson79.3
Matt Ryan63.3Jameis Winston101.3
Drew Brees72.7Patrick Mahomes10.3
Carson Wentz73.3Kyler Murray114.0
Jared Goff77.7Aaron Rodgers43.7
Russell Wilson79.3Josh Allen164.0
Cam Newton87.7Matt Ryan63.3
Ben Roethlisberger93.3Carson Wentz73.3
Tom Brady100.0Tom Brady100.0
Average draft position in 2019 compared to overall rankings

2019 saw an increase of QB’s drafted outside the top 12, finishing as a top 12 QB, from 33.3% in 2018 to 41.6% in 2019.

  1. Lamar Jackson
  2. Dak Prescott
  3. Jameis Winston
  4. Kyler Murray
  5. Josh Allen

Again, rather than spending a 1st round pick on 6th ranked Patrick Mahomes (yes, I am aware of the injury), you could have spent an 11th round pick on Dak Prescott and had a better return on investment.

As above, not taking Patrick Mahomes in the first round could have meant taking Michael Thomas. And not just that – also passing on Ben Roethlisberger in the eighth round, and instead, streaming a quarterback weekly, could have meant you taking someone like Tarik Cohen.

However, it is all well and good to give you the end of season rankings and expect that to translate to black and white information. Unfortunately, it does not. One main reason for that is the so-called ‘boom’ weeks that slightly distort the per game average.

For example, QB X could have two weeks of mediocre production (see Mitchell Trubisky) followed by one week of 4 TDs and 350 yards. This will mislead per game averages. Although QB X may have scored 10 points in both of the first two games, scoring 35 points in the third-week results in a per-game average of 18.33 points, resulting in a per season total of 293.33 (good enough for 6th place). This is where % of QB1 weeks come in, which helps determine the quarterback position’s value. Because as seen above, a 6th place finish for a QB you drafted in the 7th round may seem like good value.

However, if they are only giving you QB1 weeks 33.3% of the time, and the other 66.6% of the time they are giving you mediocre performances – they may not be worth the investment.

QuarterbackADPGames playedWeeks top 12%
Aaron Rodgers22.315960.0%
Deshaun Watson38.3161168.75%
Tom Brady41.816531.25%
Russell Wilson46.816956.25%
Cam Newton56.514964.28%
Drew Brees59.815640.0%
Carson Wentz73.511545.0%
Kirk Cousins80.516637.5%
Andrew Luck85.0161168.75%
Ben Roethlisberger87.5161275.0%
Matthew Stafford89.81626.25%
Jimmy Garropolo92.03133.3%
2018 QB ADP compared to % weeks as QB1
QuarterbackADPGames playedWeeks top 12%
Patrick Mahomes113.8161593.75%
Ben Roethlisberger87.5161275.0%
Matt Ryan99.816956.25%
Andrew Luck85.0161168.75%
Deshaun Watson38.3161168.75%
Aaron Rodgers22.315960.0%
Jared Goff107.516850.0%
Drew Brees59.815640.0%
Phillip Rivers102.316743.75%
Russell Wilson46.816956.25%
Tom Brady41.816531.25%
Cam Newton56.514964.28%
2018 QB rankings compared to % weeks as QB1

As seen above, the top 12 QB’s in ADP for 2018 had a range from 6.25% to 75% for total QB1 weeks.

The top 12 overall QB’s for 2018 had a range from 31.25% to 93.75%. 50% of the top 12 QB’s drafted in 2018 gave QB1 weeks 50% of the time or less. 33.3% of the top 12 ranked QB’s gave QB1 weeks 50% of the time or less.

QuarterbackADPGames playedWeeks top 12%
Mitchell Trubisky191.014750.0%
Baker Mayfield221.713646.15%
Josh Allen 264.310660.0%
2018 notable undrafted players compared to % weeks as QB1

To be clear, undrafted means quarterbacks drafted outside of the top 22 players at the position, according to ADP. This is to assume that in a 12-team league, all owners take two QB’s before you have drafted one.

QuarterbackADPGames playedWeeks top 12%
Patrick Mahomes10.3131076.92%
Deshaun Watson35.715960.0%
Aaron Rodgers43.716637.5%
Baker Mayfield55.316425.0%
Matt Ryan63.315746.6%
Drew Brees72.710880.0%
Carson Wentz73.316850.0%
Jared Goff77.716956.25%
Russell Wilson79.316743.75%
Cam Netwon87.7200.00%
Ben Roethlisberger93.3100.00%
Tom Brady100.016637.5%
2019 QB ADP compared to % weeks as QB1
QuarterbackADPGames playedWeeks top 12%
Lamar Jackson109.0151493.3%
Dak Prescott121.0161062.5%
Deshaun Watson35.716960.0%
Russell Wilson79.316743.75%
Jameis Winston101.316743.75%
Patrick Mahomes10.3131076.92%
Kyler Murray11416531.25%
Aaron Rodgers43.716637.5%
Josh Allen164.015853.3%
Matt Ryan63.315746.6%
Carson Wentz73.316850.0%
Tom Brady100.016637.5%
2019 QB rankings compared to % weeks as QB1

In 2019, the top 12 QB’s in ADP had a range from 0.0% to 80% for total QB1 weeks. The top 12 overall QB’s for 2019 had a range from 31.25% to 93.3%. 2019 saw 58.33% of the top 12 ranked QB’s give QB1 weeks 50% or less of the time. 66.6% of the top 12 QB’s drafted in 2019 gave QB1 weeks 50% of the time or less.

QuarterbackADPGames playedWeeks top 12%
Daniel Jones324.012433.3%
Ryan Tannehill409.010880.0%
Gardner Minshew409.013538.0%
2019 notable undrafted players compared to % weeks as QB1

ADP is taken from Fantasy Pros rankings. 409.0 is the lowest ADP they go down to, so 2 of the quarterbacks listed above were not drafted in the first 409 players.

What that could mean

What is clear is that there are undrafted players each of the past two years that put up a similar statistical season to those QB’s drafted within the top 12. They even compare favorably to the top 12 ranked QBs for the 2018 and 2019 seasons.

For example, Gardner Minshew hit on QB1 weeks at a higher rate than 25% of the top 12 ranked QBs in 2019. Ryan Tannehill, also undrafted, hit on QB1 weeks at a higher rate than anyone not named Lamar Jackson in 2019 (even above Patrick Mahomes).

In 2018, incumbent starter Mitchell Trubisky hit on QB1 weeks at a higher rate than 25% of the top 12 ranked QB’s.

I am going to share the most interesting information I found when researching the QB value. Mitchell Trubisky (3) had the same amount of overall QB1 weeks in 2018 than Patrick Mahomes (3). It is crazy to think that you can get that sort of production from an undrafted quarterback that you can stream each week dependent upon a favorable match up.

What is evident when looking at the above is you can not look at total raw numbers and think that translates into QB success. Like I said, in 2019, you could have taken Aaron Rodgers as the 3rd QB off the board with a 4th round pick. Come seasons end, he has ranked 8th overall, so still a top 12 QB – but not the value for which you drafted him. Rodgers only returned you QB1 weeks 37.5% of the time.

So, 62.5% of the time, you may lose a week because your QB has not put up the production you drafted him for.

Could this mean you should of drafted two quarterbacks, or can you find better value streaming options each week?

Credit: Celeb Vogue

Streaming option

Streaming quarterbacks can be risky. It takes some research to find out who is the right quarterback to pick each week. Maybe this is where drafting a Patrick Mahomes may come in useful, as you can just set and forget your quarterback.

However, there may be better value to be had on the waiver wire for individual weeks. Below is a table where all 32 NFL teams have been ranked to compare weeks in 2019 that they gave up a QB1 performance.

TEAM NAME% weeks allowing a QB1
Detroit Lions75.0%
New York Giants68.75%
Cincinnati Bengals62.5%
Arizona Cardinals62.5%
Houston Texas62.5%
Miami Dolphins56.25%
Washington Redskins56.25%
Las Vegas Raiders56.25%
Indianapolis Colts50.0%
San Francisco 49ers50.0%
Tampa Bay Buccaneers50.0%
New Orleans Saints43.75%
Cleveland Browns43.75%
Atlanta Falcons43.75%
Kansas City Chiefs43.75%
Dallas Cowboys43.75%
Jacksonville Jaguars37.5%
Philadelphia Eagles37.5%
Tennessee Titans37.5%
Carolina Panthers37.5%
Green Bay Packers31.25%
Seattle Seahawks31.25%
Denver Broncos31.25%
New York Jets25.0%
New England Patriots25.0%
Chicago Bears18.75%
Minnesota Vikings18.75%
Los Angeles Rams18.75%
Los Angeles Chargers18.75%
Pittsburgh Steelers18.75%
Buffalo Bills12.5%
Baltimore Ravens6.5%
% rate of QB1’s vs NFL teams

The top five worst teams for allowing QB1 weeks allowed a QB1 62.5% of the time or more. This means that 2 out of every three games those teams played, they allowed a quarterback to rank inside the top 12-point scorers at their position.

In theory, you have much better odds picking a QB who plays one of those five teams each week than drafting a quarterback early or relying on an overall top 12 performers.

As seen in 2019, 58.33% of the top 12 ranked QB’s gave QB1 weeks 50% or less of the time.

However, Detroit gave a top 12 quarterback 75.0% of the time. The quarterback who plays the Detroit Lions each week will not be available a lot of the time unfortunately.

Therefore, a quarterback who plays one of the worst five teams in 2019 might just be.

WEEK #New York GiantsDetroit LionsArizona CardinalsCincinnati BengalsHouston Texans
1Ben RoethlisbergerMitchell TrubiskyJimmy GaroppoloTyrod TaylorPatrick Mahomes
2Mitchell TrubiskyAaron RodgersDwayne HaskinsBaker MayfieldLamar Jackson
3Jimmy GaroppoloKyler MurrayMatthew StaffordCarson WentzBen Roethlisberger
4Jared GoffDrew BreesTeddy BridgewaterGardner MinshewKirk Cousins
5Dak PrescottBYE WEEKSam DarnoldLamar JacksonGardner Minshew
6Dwayne HaskinsGardner MinshewDak PrescottPhillip RiversRyan Tannehill
7Carson WentzMatt RyanRussell WilsonBaker MayfieldAaron Rodgers
8Tom BradyPhillip RiversBYE WEEKRyan TannehillBYE WEEK
9Dwayne HaskinsKirk CousinsRyan FitzpatrickBYE WEEKGardner Minshew
10Carson WentzDwayne HaskinsJosh AllenBen RoethlisbergerBaker Mayfield
11BYE WEEKTeddy BridgewaterRussell WilsonDwayne HaskinsCam Newton
12Joe BurrowDeshaun WatsonCam NewtonDaniel JonesMatt Stafford
13Russell WilsonMitchell TrubiskyJared GoffRyan FitzpatrickPhillip Rivers
14Kyler MurrayAaron RodgersDaniel JonesDak PrescottMitchell Trubisky
15Baker MayfieldRyan TannehillCarson WentzBen RoethlisbergerPhillip Rivers
16Lamar JacksonTom BradyJimmy GaroppoloDeshaun WatsonJoe Burrow
17Dak PrescottKirk CousinsJared GoffLamar JacksonRyan Tannehill
QBs facing bottom 5 QB1 defenses

Looking at the graph above, the players highlighted are players that are currently ranked as undrafted players. In theory, you could pick Mitchell Trubisky and Gardner Minshew in the last two rounds of your drafts (or off of waivers) and not worry about a quarterback until week 10.

Unfortunately, the season never pans out quite as black and white. However, the graph can give you an understanding of the value and where to find it.

Where there is value

In 2019, we saw many quarterback’s rank in the top 12 each week that did not finish in the top 12 quarterbacks overall.

  • Week 1 = 5 QB’s
  • Week 2 = 4 QB’s
  • Week 3 = 4 QB’s
  • Week 4 = 7 QB’s
  • Week 5 = 4 QB’s
  • Week 6 = 3 QB’s
  • Week 7 = 8 QB’s
  • Week 8 = 9 QB’s
  • Week 9 = 6 QB’s
  • Week 10 = 6 QB’s
  • Week 11 = 8 QB’s
  • Week 12 = 8 QB’s
  • Week 13 = 4 QB’s
  • Week 14 = 8 QB’s
  • Week 15 = 6 QB’s
  • Week 16 = 7 QB’s
  • Week 17 = 9 QB’s

Average per week = 6.23 QB’s

Compared to 2018,

  • Week 1 = 5 QB’s
  • Week 2 = 5 QB’s
  • Week 3 = 4 QB’s
  • Week 4 = 7 QB’s
  • Week 5 = 5 QB’s
  • Week 6 = 5 QB’s
  • Week 7 = 6 QB’s
  • Week 8 = 6 QB’s
  • Week 9 = 4 QB’s
  • Week 10 = 6 QB’s
  • Week 11 = 3 QB’s
  • Week 12 = 7 QB’s
  • Week 13 = 6 QB’s
  • Week 14 = 7 QB’s
  • Week 15 = 5 QB’s
  • Week 16 = 5 QB’s
  • Week 17 = 7 QB’s

Average per week = 5.47 QB’s

This shows there is value to be had with quarterbacks not drafted, or finishing, within the top 12.

Injuries are a big part of a football season, and they can leave your team short. If you have drafted a quarterback with a high draft pick only for them to get injured (see Cam Newton), the season may not be lost.

As seen above, around half of the quarterbacks each week that finish within the top 12 at the position didn’t rank inside the top 12 at season end. This means that the likelihood of streaming a quarterback and them performing is higher than one might think.

THE ODDS

So, as said before, although come season end, a top 12 rank for a QB may seem like a good return on investment. In 2019 more than 50% of the QB’s each week (on average) did not rank inside the top 12.

As seen previously, you’re more likely to see QB1 weeks when you stream a quarterback that plays against a bottom-five defense than you are to see a QB you drafted with a premium pick return that value.

Exception to the rule

However, each year there is an anomaly. As seen with Patrick Mahomes in 2018 (93.75%) and Lamar Jackson in 2018 (93.3%), there can be value to be had in drafted a QB early.

Credit: theundefeated.com

Personally, if I can get either Lamar Jackson or Patrick Mahomes in the 3rd round, I am all for it. This is because of the stability at the position those two players give us (as seen with there high % return on QB1 weeks).

On the contrary, as seen with Aaron Rodgers in 2018, a high draft pick spent on a player may not return you as much value on investment than you might expect. Each of the past two years, only 20% of the first five QB’s drafted have ranked in the top five at season end. Both of those years, that QB was Deshaun Watson.

There are definite positives to drafting a quarterback early. For example, Deshaun Watson giving two years of top-five production or Lamar Jackson returning QB1 weeks 93.3% of the time.

There is no disputing the necessity of players like that to a fantasy football team, but could better value have been found elsewhere? Did you need to miss out on a running back in round 2 to take Patrick Mahomes?

Looking at data from the previous two seasons, there’s better value to be found in an undrafted quarterback than an undrafted running back.

Harevesting a bargain

For example, Gardner Minshew returning QB1 weeks at a 38.0% rate is far better than any RB1 weeks an undrafted running back will give me. Taking two running backs early and streaming a QB (or even drafting one in rounds 9-12) is potentially more valuable than reaching for the QB position early.

In 2019, 64.70% of the time, a quarterback that did not rank inside the top 12 finished as a top 3 quarterback. In 2018, that figure was even higher, at 76.47%.

If you were at a roulette table and someone gave you those odds on hitting, you would put a large proportion of your money down. If I can get a top 3 QB week 2/3rds of the time, I am on to a winner because I haven’t invested a high draft pick.

Again, it is not always as black and white as that, however. Although the QB that ranks inside the top three may not rank as a top 12 player, he may be drafted by another team already.

That is why when looking at % of QB1 weeks; I had compared undrafted players. Or players that are highly likely to be on the waiver wire each week. Also, players, you can take in the last round of your drafts.

SUMMARY

Lamar Jackson and Patrick Mahomes can win you fantasy titles. But as can players like Josh Jacobs and Austin Ekeler, who are going at similar ADP’s. Jackson is an exciting player to watch, so if you want him in your fantasy team, I cannot blame you. Hopefully however, I have given you some food for thought when spending draft capital on a quarterback.

Due to the uncertainty surrounding this year, my game plan was to draft a quarterback between rounds 10-12 then take one also with my last pick (not always the case as a Cowboys fan with Dak Prescott sat there).

I know that guy

Fellow Dynasty Nerd writer @FF_MarvinE suggests waiting until round 8-9 to draft a quarterback. This year, Marvin was looking at Carson Wentz or Matthew Stafford (hard to disagree, two great options).

However, Marvin did note that if the value dropped, he was happy to draft one earlier. Which I tend to agree with, which is why if Mahomes or Jackson falls to round 3, I am glad to pick them up – again, because of 90+% time they return QB1 weeks.

Quarterback grades or abilities do not always translate to fantasy success. See Sam Darnold, for example. I am sure most teams would rather Darnold over guys like Mitchell Trubisky or Ryan Fitzpatrick.

However, Trubisky has given four overall QB1 weeks in the past two seasons, and Ryan Fitzpatrick started 2018 as hot as any quarterback. Try not to draft for talent, try to draft for the situation.

If you’re having regrets

Stream a quarterback based upon the matchup they face. Basically, if someone is playing the Giants or Lions, you cannot go wrong when starting them at QB.

If you are regretting your quarterback option, or your investment gets injured – try picking up Mitchell Trubisky and Gardner Minshew and follow the table above. Start one dependent upon them playing a bottom five ranked defense and see how it works out.

If it does not pan out, then that is only one of your many leagues; however, I will be doing that tactic in numerous leagues I am in this year.

Thank you for taking the time to read my article. If you found any of the information in this article useful, give me a follow on Twitter @JoeWarrenFF. More great pieces can be found on the Dynasty Nerds website, so check it out.

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