Why Fantasy Football Owners Must Wait to Draft a QB in 2013
There are as many different fantasy draft strategies as there are types of fantasy owners. Some drafters always take a running back with their first two picks. Others prefer to load up on stud wide receivers, especially in leagues that award a point for receptions. Others still swear by building their squad around a stud quarterback such as Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers.
Savvy fantasy owners will take a pass on that last strategy in the majority of their drafts this year.
It's no knock on quarterbacks like Rodgers or Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints. Both are fantastic players and valuable fantasy assets.
However, there are a couple of reasons why it's advisable to wait on a quarterback in fantasy drafts in 2013.
The first is depth, or more appropriately, the depth at quarterback relative to other positions.
The emergence of a handful of young star quarterbacks last year has greatly increased the depth available to fantasy owners under center. The gap between the so-called "elite" fantasy quarterbacks and lower-end fantasy starters has narrowed.
To get a feel for this, let's take a look at the fantasy scoring last year at the quarterback position in a fairly "standard" scoring system that awards a point for every 20 passing yards, four points for passing touchdowns, and subtracts a point for interceptions.
The top fantasy quarterback in 2012 (Brees) scored 384.45 fantasy points. The 12th-ranked fantasy quarterback (Josh Freeman of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers) scored 296.05 fantasy points. That's a difference of 5.525 fantasy points over the course of a 16-week season.
The drop is gradual, and in fact, the difference between Brees and fantasy football's ninth-ranked passer last year (Andrew Luck of the Indianapolis Colts) is less than 3.5 fantasy points per game.
We'll get to why that's important in a minute.
Now, let's compare that slide to the drop-off at the running back and wide receiver positions. For the sake of this exercise, we'll assume two starters at each position, with scoring that awards a fantasy point for every 10 yards, six points for a touchdown and one point per reception.
As you can see, the drop-off from the elite starters to the marginal ones is considerably wider.
At running back, the top fantasy ball-carrier (Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings) outscored the 12th-ranked back (Reggie Bush of the Miami Dolphins, who is now in Detroit) by an average of 7.12 fantasy points per game. Stretch it out to the 24th-ranked tailback (Darren McFadden of the Oakland Raiders), and the gap grows to 10.61 fantasy points per game.
Likewise, the top fantasy wideout (Calvin Johnson of the Lions) outpaced the 12th-ranked player (Eric Decker of the Denver Broncos) by 5.84 fantasy points per game, and the 24th-ranked wide receiver (Lance Moore of the Saints) by 9.2 points per week.
In short, unless you hit the lottery with a "sleeper" back or wide receiver, any advantage you gain by drafting an elite quarterback will be more than offset by the hit you'll take at one of the other positions. You'll spend the rest of the draft chasing your tail and trying to dig yourself out of a hole.
That brings us to the second reason to wait on a quarterback in fantasy drafts in 2013. The magic word in fantasy football, the one word that can lead you to a successful draft.
In fantasy football, it's all about getting value with your picks. Bang for your buck, if you will.
According to the average draft position data at My Fantasy League, Brees is currently being selected in the third round of fantasy drafts, before the likes of Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald and running back Steven Jackson of the Atlanta Falcons.
Conversely, Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo is presently being taken with the last pick of the seventh round. The closest running back selected before Romo is Jonathan Stewart of the Carolina Panthers. The next one after is BenJarvus Green-Ellis of the Cincinnati Bengals.
Which combination of players would you rather start week in and week out, Romo and Jackson or Brees and Stewart? Which duo do you think scored more points per game in 2012?
If you answered Romo/Jackson, you get a cookie.
There's just more value to be had later in drafts at the quarterback spot. Romo is the 12th quarterback being taken in fantasy drafts this year, despite out-performing that draft slot in five of the past six seasons.
The 11th quarterback off fantasy drafts boards right now is Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks. Wilson was a top-three fantasy signal-caller from Week 12 to Week 16 in 2012.
That ninth-ranked quarterback I mentioned we'd get back to? Robert Griffin III of the Washington Redskins, who was fifth at the position in fantasy points per game last season.
All this isn't to say that there's never a situation in which you should draft Brees or Rodgers. Of course there is. Flexibility is a crucial part of having a successful fantasy draft, and if every owner in your league adapts the strategy I'm advocating, then quarterbacks are going to drop.
If that becomes the case, and Brees is sitting there in the fourth or fifth round after you've already drafted a couple running backs and/or wide receivers, then that's a whole new ballgame.
At that point, Brees or Rodgers would be an outstanding value.
However, odds are that that's not going to happen. In fact, in the majority of "casual" fantasy leagues comprised of buddies from work, Brees will probably go higher than his current ADP.
If that happens, relax. Even if a run on quarterbacks starts a round or two later, just take a deep breath and chill. Keep loading up on running backs and receivers. Snag an elite tight end.
After all, there's no reason to rush.
Because you'll know that Russell Wilson or Tony Romo and a trip to the fantasy playoffs is waiting for you.
And that sort of peace of mind is invaluable.
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