A signal-caller… a gunslinger… a field general… 1/4 of your team’s cap space… a quarterback. There are lots of ways to say it and when it comes to selecting one in your fantasy drafts, there are various strategies you could use to lock in your fantasy QB.  Let’s dive into 5 strategies for drafting QBs, explaining the Pros & Cons of each and the opportunity cost of selecting a QB at each moment of a 12-team snake draft.

Editor’s Note: Check out all of our fantasy strategy articles and QB-specific content.

Locking Down The QB1

Within the first two rounds, you are selecting the first QB off the board. For 2019, Patrick Mahomes will likely be an end of the 1st round/beginning of the 2nd pick. 

Pros

  • There’s a level of confidence you can have leaving your draft knowing you have the unquestioned best fantasy option at football’s most important position. The QB touches the ball on every single play so you are betting they will be involved more than anyone else in a high-flying offense.
  • You’re locking in elite production. Essentially, you’re marrying massive ceiling with a super-high floor at the beginning of your drafts.
  • Beyond one bye week, you will never have to play the matchup game as Mahomes showed he was matchup-proof last year. In our TRUTH about QBs episode, he was good 93% of the time shown in his 14 QB1 weeks, tied with Peyton Manning‘s 2013 season for the most in history.

Cons

  • The opportunity cost of selecting the 1st QB off the board is massive. The high-end fantasy superstars at RB and WR that you are passing up are the building blocks of winning in fantasy.
  • While going into 2019 it’s clear Mahomes is deserving to be the QB1 in drafts, I should add some caution when automatically slotting him in the #1 spot. Over the last 10 years, we’ve only seen 1 repeat (Drew Brees in 2011 & 2012).
  • From 2010-2017, the avg distance between the QB1 and the QB2 at the end of the year was 31 fantasy pts… or less than 2 pts a game. Mahomes more than DOUBLED that avg. more than 4.6 more fantasy pts per game than Big Ben, the QB2.
Selecting The Safe Elite Tier

The Elite Tier of QBs includes those with high floors and the ability to finish as the #1 in any given year. This has historically included players such as Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, and Andrew Luck.

Pros

  • It’s a simple set-it-and-forget-it.
  • You are finding a top-5 guy with week winning upside.
  • Locking in a high floor QB allows you to focus on high-upside picks in the middle and late rounds. For instance, Deshaun Watson was taken as the QB2 last year with 8 weeks as a QB1 including 3 of the last 5 weeks as THE QB2.
Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

Cons

  • The “safety” that early round QBs might inherently bring might be a bit hollow when we look at where QBs were drafted. As Mike revealed on the 10 Things to Remember from 2018 podcast, only 1 top-10 QB (Andrew Luck) according to ADP actually gave you a positive return on their draft price. Everyone else brought negative value.
QB ADP QB FINISH
Aaron Rodgers QB1 QB6
Deshaun Watson QB2 QB4
Tom Brady QB3 QB14
Russell Wilson QB4 QB9
Cam Newton QB5 QB13
Drew Brees QB6 QB8
Carson Wentz QB7 QB23
Kirk Cousins QB8 QB12
Andrew Luck QB9 QB5
Matthew Stafford QB10 QB20
  • Perhaps the biggest detractor for selecting a QB in the 3rd or 4th round is what you might be passing up in the draft. Building out a roster with a 2nd RB or WR is essential towards starting a solid foundation for your team. While finding an RB2 can be less sexy, sometimes locking in a player with a solid floor is what you need.
  • You will feel stuck starting this guy no matter what. It’s the classic “sunk cost” fallacy knowing because you’ve invested so much, pivoting off starting this player becomes that much more harder.
Finding the Middle Round Comfort

Once you’ve filled out your roster with RBs and WRs, it seems like the right time to find a QB that you are comfortable riding with. Usually, this is tied with a high-octane offense such as Matt Ryan or Jared Goff or someone with added rushing ability like Cam Newton, Russell Wilson or Josh Allen.

Pros

  • It’s all about comfort. Knowing you have a QB to ride or die with is a good feeling going into Week 1.
  • The comfort often comes from QBs with a special trump card such as an established rushing floor. Writers such as Rich Hribar (@LordReebs) have coined this as a “cheat code” given the added fantasy points a rushing QB receives on top of his passing stats.

Cons

  • There is often little capital gains from selecting a QB in Rounds 5-8 compared to waiting a bit further. In other words, the difference of selecting the 6th or 7th QB off the board and the 12th or 13th is marginal in terms of end of season fantasy production.
  • Middle Round QBs all have “warts” to their games as seen by Matt Ryan’s ping-pong finishes, as he’s gone from being the QB2 one season to QB17 the next.
  • Because a lot of these QBs carry “big names”, cutting them loose if they fail to perform is a lot tougher. Tom Brady is a great example of this as he had only 5 QB1 weeks last year including just ONE after Week 7.
The Late Round QB

Popularized by JJ Zacharison (@LateRoundQB), the late round QB strategy takes advantage of the year-to-year volatility of QBs by being among the last in your league to draft a QB. After filling out your roster with depth at the RB and WR positions, the QBs you find in Rounds 9-12 hopefully carry the upside you want to use them for most of the year. In 2019, this might include Baker MayfieldKirk Cousins, and the eternally forgotten Philip Rivers.

Pros

  • Every year late round QBs turn into top-5 stars. For 2018, Matt Ryan was quite the find taken on average as the QB16. He posted the 14th best fantasy QB season of all-time aided by a career-high 3 rushing TDs and a receiving TD. From Weeks 2-10, he averaged the same amount of fantasy points as Patrick Mahomes including 7 QB1 performances. Ryan also showed up for the fantasy playoffs tying Mahomes again as the only QB to be a QB1 each time in Weeks 14-16.
  • Selecting a QB solely on the premise of being an early season schedule star pays dividends as the season starts. If you notice Baker has an awesome first 3 weeks lined up, it makes it much easier to select him in a draft.
  • The low draft cost also allows you to be able to adjust on the fly if your starter isn’t living up to your expectations. Cut these late round QBs loose and find a waiver wire gunslinger to plug in immediately.
Jason Miller/Getty Images

Cons

  • This strategy is becoming the norm among avid fantasy owners. You’re essentially joining the “zig” instead of “zagging”. Because of the popularity, it’s driving the price down for the elite tier of QBs.
  • Hitting on the late round strategy isn’t a guarantee. While the process of selecting Matthew Stafford as a late round QB was solid, he was absolutely putrid as a fantasy asset in 2018 with only one QB1 week and averaging the lowest yards per attempt of his career.
  • If you go into a draft with the mindset of “I only draft a QB past Round 10“, you might miss out on some values especially if a lot of your league has also subscribed to the same theory. As the Ballers often say on the podcast, “stay water” and be willing to change in the midst of a draft.
Double Up by Mix & Matching

Doubling up at the QB position is a risky proposition in 1QB leagues. If your league has a standard-sized bench (4 or 5 spots), carrying an extra QB out of the draft only makes sense if there are unknowns related to injury or you desperately want to lock in a QB for their schedule after the 1st couple weeks of the season.

Pros

  • You are basically starting the year with a streamable quiver of QB arrows to shoot. The goal is that one of them sticks early on or you have tradeable assets for the rest of your league.
  • Perhaps you stumbled upon Andrew Luck last season as the rest of your league told you his shoulder was done for. You weren’t quite sure how things would turn out in Week 1 but you knew there was a chance he could be a top-5 guy. You might’ve streamed Tyrod Taylor or Alex Smith, who both ended up as top-10 QBs in Week 1. After then, all Luck did was finish with the highest QB Rating (98.7) of his career and with a revamped offensive line, he had the lowest sack rate (2.7%) in the league. He had an NFL-record 8 straight games with 3 or more passing TDs from Weeks 4-12. He

Cons

  • Taking up two spots for a “onesie” position doesn’t make much sense in terms of roster production. Stash a backup RB or a WR with the upside to give your team a boom on any given week.
  • If both of your QBs give you average production, you have set yourself behind many of your leaguemates who went with a late round strategy or have pounced on the hottest waiver wire addition.

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