My Current Thinking on QBs

Here are, in no particular order, my thoughts on the current discussion regarding QBs and whether you should take one early:

  1. 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. 
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

  • Mikey

    Very interesting analysis. The best breakdown of QB strategy I have seen.
    As a follow up, I`m wondering how *high* you would draft Ryan. ADP for Yahoo is 8th round, which seems high to me and on the way down with the considerable media on Ryan of late. Would you reach as low as 4th round with two quality RBs and a WR before picked before him?

    • Gibson17

      The rise of Ryan has me backing off as well. I have the 2nd pick in a 12 team .5 point ppr league and Ryan in the 4th round seems too rich for me if I can get Rivers in the 7th or Ben in the 9th.

  • hagrin

    Good article, but I disagree with some stuff slightly.

    “I think you’re getting about 95% of that first group’s production, for a lower price in Ryan.” – a bad exaggeration. In standard scoring leagues, Rodgers is about a projected ~385 which would actually be a decrease per game average for him compared to last year since he only played 15 games last year and scored a similar amount of points. Ryan on the other hand is already projected to score approx. 20+ more points this year and end up somewhere in the 280 range. Let’s be overly generous and say Ryan scores 40 more points this year for 300 total. That’s closer to 70% of the production when compared to Rodgers and predictions for Brady, Brees and Stafford are all in the 340-355 range (and I think those projections are on the low side, assumes a 15% decrease in yards for Brees which is harsh) which is more in the 85-90% range of production. My numbers are generous to Ryan, not as generous to the top 4 and still comes nowhere close to the 95% value mentioned.

    This also neglects the real world fact that Matt Ryan is a terrible road QB. He’s a career 20 QB Rating points lower on the road and an examination of his fantasy production in home vs road games shows a large discrepancy. Now, I think some further analysis needs to be done where you can pick up a backup QB and rotate Ryan on road games, but I haven’t done it myself.

    The argument for Matt Ryan is in auction leagues where his Avg Value is ~$8 where his counterparts are in the $47-63 range. I’d actually say as a 5th-6th rounder that most of his “value” is gone as the hype has gone up.

    My only other disagreement is when you say only Rivers and Peyton are bad picks after Ryan. According to your ADP and current projections, Jay Cutler is someone you should not draft by any means. Projections have him upping his scoring output by 50% and he’s still ranked QB14 in those projections. Cutler is another case of the hype train pushing his ADP too high solely based on acquiring Marshall when his generous projections still don’t match his ADP.

    Otherwise, good stuff – I focus mainly on auction value so it was good to see an ADP approach.

    • FantasyDouche

      My disagreement would probably be as simple as the fact that I don’t necessarily put stock in the projections that show that kind of spread among QBs. They’re basically just taking last year and projecting it forward. The next time that “next year” is a repeat of “last year” will be the first time.

  • dhenigin

    I like the thinking here, and have one comment on Griffin. His college stats don’t really show a ton of rushing yards, at least not on the level of Cam Newton. At Auburn in 2010, Newton had >1200 yds rushing, where Griffin had a little more than half of that in the 2010 season. Couple that with RG3′s performances in preseason where he hasn’t really done much running, and I actually think that he may be more of a pocket passer/less runner than you are indicating here. Yes, small sample size comparison on both counts, but I think that expecting his rushing stats this year to be somewhere between Vince Young’s seasons in 2006 and 2007 might be more realistic (2006 – 552 yds, 36.8/game, 2007 – 395 yds, 26.3 per game).

    And on the passing side, Vick has only over the past two years cleared the 200 yds/game mark, and had never done that before in his career.

    Just my opinion, but putting all of this together tells me that RG3 is getting a big ADP boost from Cam Newton’s success last year, and there is a lot of downside risk with him.

    • dhenigin

      sorry, meant to say “. . . where Griffin had a little more than half of that in the 2011 season . . .” (not 2010)

      • FantasyDouche

        Note that in one of the VY seasons you mention he came very close to 40 yards/game, which is what I’m hoping (and it really is just a hope) for RGIII. There’s no doubt he’s getting a bounce from Cam.

      • FantasyDouche

        I also expect that RGIII’s rushing yards will be pretty variable. Like he might have 20 one week and 100 the next. I wouldn’t compare to college because he’s not going to be able to just throw the ball all over like he did in college. There will be a bunch of times where he’ll be unsure and will tuck it and run. And if you’re wrong and none of that takes place, then you’ve just spent an incredibly low amount on QB and you got better at other positions.