Here are, in no particular order, my thoughts on the current discussion regarding QBs and whether you should take one early:
- Lots of people are pointing to the playoff teams in their league last year and saying that they all had good QBs. This might be true, but it also might be drawing the wrong conclusion.
- Two of the “Big 5″ QBs from last year provided a ridiculous amount of excess draft value. Both Stafford and Newton provided a ton of value over their ADP. So were playoff teams that included these two QBs successful because they had good QBs or because they had good QBs and good other players as well? Mike Vick and Phillip Rivers were drafted highly last year and neither of those guys ended up on a bunch of championship teams. Even teams that featured Drew Brees and Tom Brady likely had a decent first round pick in addition to those two. Only Aaron Rodgers last year was both drafted in the first round and ended up on a bunch of championship teams. He’s the only comp we have this year for what is happening with QBs in the first round.
- When the Big 5 qbs go in rounds 1-2 this year, they won’t provide nearly as much excess value as they did last year, so teams that take them will still have to have good drafts through the rest of the rounds in order to make the playoffs. This goes back to the idea that fantasy drafts aren’t won in the first round. Next year we’ll be talking about some other guys that provided a bunch of excess draft value and were on most teams that ended up winning their championships.
Below is a graph that shows current ADP for QBs. You can see the Big Five because they are relatively flat at the bottom of the graph. They’re all bunched in the first two rounds. Then you can see after Cam Newton goes off the board it’s a few more rounds before Matt Ryan is taken. That’s the first value opportunity I’ll talk about.
Matthew Stafford isn’t (I don’t think) on the same level in terms of being an NFL QB as Brady, Brees and Rodgers are. He does put up a lot of attempts and he has a ridiculous alien-like receiver. I think Matt Ryan is going to put up almost as many attempts this year as Stafford did last year. ATL can’t run it as much if they want to be competitive going forward. I’ve said before that if you look at quarters where Matt Ryan targeted Julio Jones as much as Stafford targeted Megatron, there isn’t much difference between the QBs. Ryan is going to target Julio a lot this year. So I think the first value opportunity is the gap between Ryan and the QBs ahead of him. I think you’re getting about 95% of that first group’s production, for a lower price in Ryan. I think another way to look at it is that either Stafford is overvalued, or Ryan is undervalued.
Of the QBs going off after Ryan, I would be happy with (but not excited about) almost any of them… except Rivers and Peyton. I don’t like Rivers because I just don’t think he’s the same QB he was two years ago. I don’t like Peyton for reasons that I’m sure you can guess if you’ve been following me for more than 8 minutes (hint: uncertainty that isn’t priced in to his draft spot).
The next value opportunity I think is RGIII. To be clear, RGIII isn’t anywhere close to the value that Cam was last year when he was being drafted in the last round. But I look at RGIII this way. He’s signficantly cheaper than Cam and Vick. But it seems reasonable to pencil him in for the same kind of rushing yards (both Cam and Vick averaged about 40 rushing yards). The rushing yards are what you’re after. If RGIII throws for 200 yards per game, 40 rushing yards make him the equivalent of a 300 Y/G passer. That’s the ridiculous value of rushing yards for QBs. I’m not sure what to expect in the way of touchdowns. I sort of suspect that we’ll see RGIII be more in Vick territory, which is about 5 or 6 TDs/16 games. So if RGIII throws for 200 yards per game, rushing for another 40 and then adds in 5 rushing touchdowns, the numbers start to look pretty good. Note that we can’t pencil in RGIII for these kind of numbers, but because of his low cost – QB13, we don’t have to be that careful about projecting. We’re getting a decent margin of safety. If he produces the numbers I mention, he would be undervalued by quite a bit at QB13.
If you end up with RGIII as your QB1, then I do think you need to draft a backup. Two names I like are Carson Palmer and Ryan Fitzpatrick. I also think it’s worth paying attention to the Seattle QB competition because if Russell Wilson ends up as the starter, he might also provide rushing yards. He has 90 rushing yards and a touchdown through about 4 quarters of preseason action. The thing about quarterbacks who will tuck the ball and run is that they’re like a waterbed. Push it down in one spot and it pops up in another. They’ll pass first if they can, but if their receivers are covered or if they’re unsure, they’ll just run and get a first down. It doesn’t take very long to rack up 40 rushing yards when the QB does this.