Draft a Quarterback Early


I am underwhelmed.

Another draft season has passed, and I saw and heard very little in terms of innovative strategy concepts. (If you saw or heard something particularly interesting, please give me the heads up on Twitter @DerekVanRiper.)

In case you tuned out, or somehow didn’t already know…

You are (still) not supposed to draft a quarterback early.

The supporting argument for this position tends to revolve around the marginal difference between the seventh fantasy quarterback and the 17th by the end of the season. I believe this is undeniably bad advice, because it completely brushes off the elite players at the position, who may deliver five more fantasy points per game than the options on the middle portion of the bell curve.

If you’re not drafting Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, or Drew Brees, perhaps then, you should wait a few extra rounds to choose your preferred pair of mid-tier options, but this year, the uncertainty littering the third and fourth round — particularly at the running back position — can be easily remedied by locking down a surplus of expected production at the quarterback spot, and having the flexibility to tee off on the upside timeshare backs available later on.

Who do you trust more?

  • Rodgers or Lamar Miller?
  • Brady or Isaiah Crowell?
  • Brees or Ty Montgomery?

The draft-day market has overcorrected, as it often seems to do, for last year’s success from the cheaper-than-ever crop of running backs.

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Additionally, if you choose to wait at the quarterback position, you can leave yourself with a difficult decision to make on a weekly basis, at the highest-scoring position in your lineup.

If you are good at making those calls each week, more power to you, but it’s an overlooked side of being a successful fantasy player. Plenty of owners have the unenviable task of trying to maximize points from these toss-ups in Week 1:

  • Matthew Stafford v. ARI -or- Derek Carr at TEN?
  • Carson Palmer at DET -or- Ben Roethlisberger at CLE?
  • Carson Wentz at WAS -or- Philip Rivers at DEN?

Impossible? No…but it’s certainly not easy.

As an example, I drafted Aaron Rodgers in the third round of the Beat DVR League of the RotoWire Online Championship on Tuesday afternoon.

Typically, I would wait eight-plus rounds before drafting a backup when I have a quarterback I can start every week regardless of matchup, but with my ninth-round pick, I opted to take Cam Newton. It’s a 12-team league with 10-man benches, so the waiver wire can be very thin when bye weeks roll around, and injuries of course can happen.

Additionally, NFFC leagues have a huge overall prize component, and with a roster dependent upon having an advantage in the quarterback spot on a weekly basis for valuable points in the overall competition, the concept of backing up Rodgers with another potential top-five QB made perfect sense, especially when the alternatives I was considering in that spot had very little separation from the players that would likely be available 20 picks later when my 10th-round pick came up.

Looking at it another way, I would have been thinking about a backup in approximately two more rounds anyway, the pool ultimately dried up, and I would have been left with Sam Bradford, Joe Flacco, or Blake Bortles later on instead of a Palmer or Andy Dalton type. Moreover, there were still quality running backs and receivers to take the chance on in Rounds 11 and beyond, so I didn’t really give up anything by waiting a little longer for my fourth running back and fourth receiver.

A similar situation unfolded in the NFFC Classic Draft I was in on Saturday.

Russell Wilson was still available to begin Round 7, and Newton was sitting there to start Round 9. Rather than draft a pass-catching running back, or a young high-variance receiver for depth, I (along with co-owner and RotoWire Football Player Notes cyborg Mike Doria) elected to roster insurance with the goal of stabilizing the increased week-to-week scoring output of a high-end quarterback.

In many cases, drafting an elite quarterback allows you to pass on drafting a backup. Exceptions are made in two-QB/superflex leagues, and for me, in a one-QB league with 14-or-more teams in it. The extra roster spot you have to play with on draft day and early in the season is valuable, as it allows you to throw one additional dart at the draft, and subsequently turn over a spot on the bench when needed for the running backs and receivers you covet on the waiver wire.

Nevertheless, the prevailing mindset still seems to favor waiting on quarterbacks, and this year in particular, that may prove to be a costly mistake.