Are Quarterbacks Worth First Round Fantasy Football Picks?

Michael WhooleySenior Writer IApril 1, 2009

SAN DIEGO - JANUARY 03:  LaDainian Tomlinson #21 of the San Diego Chargers celebrates a score against the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Wild Card Game on January 3, 2009 at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

Now that you know how to evaluate the basics of your league, such as scoring and other fantasy football owners, and we’ve taken a look at past draft strategies and how they’re starting to evolve, it’s time to look ahead and starting putting together your own draft strategy.

Obviously a lot of information that will be discussed here is dependant on variables such as the size of the league you’re draft in and the type of scoring system it uses so if you haven’t read parts one and two yet, we recommend you go do so now.

The first key to Putting Together a Fantasy Football Draft Strategy is knowing where you are picking. The overwhelming majority of standard leagues use serpent drafts, so that if you have if the first pick in the first round you’ll have the last pick in the second round, and so on and so forth.

It is important to know how many people will be selecting in between your picks so you can formulate first, second and third options when your pick eventually does get to you. You should have a solid draft strategy in place for at least your first five selections, and we will get into that later.

With regards to part two of this article, it is still very acceptable and common to select a running back with your first pick. The key here is that you want to select a player who is durable. Taking the stud who is flash but injury prone is a good way to kill your team before the season begins.

However, as discussed in the previous part of this series, selecting a quarterback in the first round is no longer going to tank your team. In fact, with the way teams and the NFL is progressing, it just might be a good idea.

Let’s examine quarterbacks and running backs from last season and how they fared against where they were picked. For these examples we will be using standard Yahoo! and ESPN leagues.


Drew Brees310
Aaron Rodgers291
Jay Cutler280
Philip Rivers280
DeAngelo Williams272
Kurt Warner269
Michael Turner265
Peyton Manning257
Matt Cassel242
Donovan McNabb242


Drew Brees295
Aaron Rodgers278
DeAngelo Williams272
Philip Rivers269
Michael Turner265
Jay Cutler262
Kurt Warner255
Peyton Manning245
Adrian Peterson233
Donovan McNabb231

After looking at the tables, it’s quite clear the top point-scorers are quarterbacks. In ESPN leagues seven of the top 10 were quarterbacks and in Yahoo! it was eight of 10. Entering the season last year everybody’s consensus top-two picks were LaDainian Tomlinson and Adrian Peterson.

Peterson only cracked the top 10 in ESPN leagues while Tomlinson battled through injuries but still managed to finish in the top 25 in both leagues.

So let’s say you’ve entered a 10-team Yahoo! league and have the sixth pick in the first round. Conventional wisdom says that’s a poor slot to draft in because the top running backs will be gone.

But you know better and decide to take a quarterback. This is a good decision since there are just seven picks before you select in the second round, meaning you’ll be able to find a very good full-time starting running back with your second pick.

Let’s expand this strategy into this: QB-RB-RB-WR-WR or QB-RB-WR-RB-WR. By the time that third pick rolls around you’ll have an option of reaching for a running back or getting an elite receiver. That’s up to you but remember the name of the game is fantasy football points.  

Now, let’s consider a 12-team league but say you still want to draft a quarterback in the first round. Running backs tend to go faster in deeper leagues so by the time the second pick rolls around, there might not be anybody worth selecting until the third round. Does that mean it’s time to select a wide receiver?

Perhaps, but you must treat with caution when picking a receiver so high. Whereas running backs can touch the ball anywhere from 20-35 times a game, receivers typically average between five and 15. That’s not a lot of action and has been why fantasy football favors running backs so much.

When picking a receiver this high you’ll want to consider his durability, the quarterback situation, how good the offensive line is and last but not least his fellow receivers. Considering all these factors it’s no wonder Larry Fitzgerald finished as the top receiver.

Still, when selecting a receiver this high you must know that you’ll be able to get solid running backs in rounds three and four as well as have some sleeper candidates at RB. Selecting a wide receiver high may make your fantasy football draft strategy look like this: QB-WR-RB-RB-RB or QB-WR-RB-WR-RB.

Now, let’s flip it and say you’re determined to draft a running back in the first round, which is perfectly acceptable and usually trendy. Again, when selecting here you want to make sure the player is durable. Tomlinson is a great back but entered last season with injury concerns.

He ended up doing mediocre but was nowhere near the top pick many believed he was. Instead, guys like DeAngelo Williams, Michael Turner and Adrian Peterson finished as the top running backs. The trend there is that all are young and haven’t taken as many hits as Tomlinson.  

After selecting a running back in the first round, there’s still likely going to be elite-level quarterbacks in the second round. The running back pool, however, is quickly getting shallower.

There is no need to reach for a running back just because others are. Selecting a quarterback or wide receiver here will still allow you take an under-the-radar running back, such as Kevin Smith, in the third round.

Thus some draft strategies with this scenario could look like: RB-QB-RB-WR-WR or RB-WR-QB-RB-RB or RB-RB-QB-WR-WR.

Now that we’ve discussed how to form draft strategies with different positions in mind in different rounds, part four of Putting Together a Fantasy Football Draft Strategy will focus on things not to do while drafting.