Introduction to Superflex
Over the past few seasons, superflex leagues seem to be rapidly increasing in popularity. For those unfamiliar with the format, the “superflex” refers to a FLEX fantasy football roster spot that traditionally would be filled by a running back, wide receiver, or tight end, but in the case of a superflex league can be filled by a second quarterback instead. While a team could still opt to roster a non-quarterback in that spot, such a build would be suboptimal in most scoring formats given the relatively predictable and higher weekly fantasy scoring output of an average NFL quarterback.
Superflex leagues are often very similar to standard PPR or half-PPR leagues when it comes to scoring, and in most cases, it’s simply the roster construction that changes. For the purposes of mapping out our superflex draft strategies, I assumed a 12 team half-PPR superflex roster format with two running backs, three wide receivers, a tight end, and a second (non-super) FLEX position, with no weighted premiums.
Note that with respect to your own superflex league, roster construction is a very important consideration. Adding additional RB, WR, TE, or standard FLEX positions to the weekly starting lineup will tend to devalue your mid-low level quarterbacks because there is a greater chance of making up the point differential through another position. At the same time, elite quarterbacks actually increase in value as the number of weekly starting roster spots expands, due to their likelihood of continuing to hold an even greater scoring advantage over position players. For example, DK Metcalf might never outscore Josh Allen from a fantasy perspective a single time over the course of seventeen games, but he’ll likely eclipse a quarterback like Kirk Cousins on multiple occasions over the course of the season.
Core Concepts for Your Superflex Draft
1. Ignore the late-round quarterback strategy: Inevitably, you will run across a manager who seeks to employ the “wait on quarterback” strategy. Often it’s someone who has had success deploying that approach in single quarterback leagues in the past but is still relatively new to the superflex format. As the early rounds click by, they become even more convinced of the viability of their methodology because after all, they’re building a juggernaut at the other positions while everyone else is chasing league-average quarterbacks. Trust me when I tell you the math doesn’t work. While week-to-week swings in outputs are often far more helpful in fantasy analysis, we can pretty easily explain the uphill climb of waiting on your quarterbacks in superflex drafts by using some rough numbers and weekly averages.
From Week 1 through Week 16 last season, Ryan Tannehill was the QB7 overall and averaged 21.5 fantasy points per game in our scoring model. Over the same period, Jared Goff was the QB15 and averaged 16.9 fantasy points per game. That’s a delta of 4.6 fantasy points per game to make up. Over the same period, Allen Robinson was the WR10 in this scoring format, averaging 13.8 fantasy points per game, while the WR36, Michael Gallup, averaged 9.1, a delta of 4.7 fantasy points. Admittedly, looking at weekly averages isn’t an exact science and doesn’t provide a complete analysis, but it does illustrate in a broad context how incredibly difficult it is to make up quarterback scoring deficiencies in this format by simply drafting better players at the other positions.
2. Overvalue dual-threat quarterbacks: This one looks to already be trending a bit in single quarterback formats as well, but capturing significant rushing upside with at least one of your quarterbacks in superflex leagues is nearly a must for 2021. Of the quarterbacks that finished one through ten in fantasy scoring for Weeks 1 to 16 in 2020, only Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady failed to eclipse 200 rushing yards, making up for it by throwing for 44 and 36 touchdowns respectively and over 4000 yards apiece, while each one also adding three touchdowns on the ground. In other words, it took ceiling outcomes for those guys to stick in the top ten given their lack of rushing.
Outside of Rogers and Brady, every quarterback in the top ten posted at least 300 rushing yards or four rushing scores over the first 16 games. That top ten also doesn’t include Taysom Hill, who ran for over 400 yards and seven touchdowns as an injury replacement and part-time player, and Jalen Hurts, who ran for over 300 yards and three scores from Week 12 onward but is now the presumed starter in Philadelphia. Then factor in that Dak Prescott played in less than five games before suffering a season-ending injury and was well on his way to hitting both the 300 rushing yards and four touchdown thresholds, and that all four quarterbacks taken in the top ten picks of this year’s draft have dual-threat ability as well. All are projected to spend significant time as the starter this season. With that in mind, there are plenty of opportunities to grab quarterbacks with rushing upside. Don’t leave your draft without at least one.
3. Keep position tallies and utilize position tiers: This is another tactic that should be utilized in all your leagues but takes on increased importance in superflex formats. In any format, knowing what positions the league-mates that are picking around you are strong or weak at can help you in deciding where to target a specific player you want. This is especially crucial in superflex formats because few owners will waste significant draft capital on selecting a third quarterback because the opportunity cost is simply too great.
As an example, I’m currently drafting in a superflex league with a similar scoring format to the one we’re talking about here. We’re currently in the ninth round, and to this point, only three of twelve managers have drafted a third quarterback, and all three had viable reasons so adding a third quarterback wasn’t all that unexpected. Tracking your league mates’ needs, particularly at the quarterback position, helps you avoid getting caught up in position runs and lets you make picks more strategically, especially closer to the turn in snake drafts.
Like position tallies, many managers already utilize position tiers in all their drafts to help make decisions. For those unfamiliar, position tiers are designed to help you group players at the same position with similar expected scoring outputs and values, allowing you to better evaluate what sort of positional value is left on the board in your draft. Much like position tallies, tiers can help you avoid getting caught up in the fear of missing out during what looks like a position run, allowing you to make more optimal decisions when your turn arrives. They’re also great for showing you how to zig when the rest of the league seems to be zagging.
Now that we’ve got those important concepts out of the way, let’s look at my three favorite strategies for superflex drafts.
The Two QB Start
Strategy: I tend to think that many superflex managers go into their draft with this approach in mind. Taking a quarterback in both the first and second rounds has the benefit of locking in what should be two consistently high scorers at the QB and superflex positions, essentially allowing one to ignore quarterbacks for the remainder of the draft. If you can execute against this strategy then it’s a solid one, especially if one or both of your quarterbacks happens to come with a built-in rushing floor. Chances are good that if you’re successful with this approach you landed a pair of top ten quarterbacks and you won’t need to draft another since their getting benched is highly unlikely. Yes, there’s always the chance you could lose one of them to injury and be left with just a single signal-caller, but the NFL goes out of its way to protect quarterbacks these days, and historically it’s the most anti-fragile position on your fantasy roster. That said, if rolling with just two quarterbacks makes you nervous then you can always add one or both of their respective backups in the final rounds of your draft. Or, if the opportunity cost is not too high, take a backend starter once the first 25 or so quarterbacks are off the board.
Challenge: The problem with this strategy is that it rarely works according to plan, especially in the back half of the first round. Inevitably, a top-tier running back falls to you that you weren’t expecting, or perhaps none of the tier one quarterbacks you pegged as round one worthy is left on the board when your turn comes up. This is a draft after all, and part of being successful is the ability to adapt to new information or changing conditions. This is where creating our tiers becomes incredibly important if you need to pivot to a different draft approach because your league-mates have blown up your Two QB blueprint.
Where to go from here: As I noted, pulling off this approach means we’re set at quarterback. But the cost is likely going to be the option to take a core running back early. That’s okay because, in theory, you’ve created a very significant advantage at QB already. That said, if there’s a high upside running back you like available in the third round then I think you can go there, and at the very least, I want my RB1 by the end of the fifth round with this approach. Alternatively, I’d happily nab one of the big three tight ends in the third round, as I believe getting that positional advantage could be huge. This strategy also allows you to really hammer the wide receiver position and the goal should be to come away with a minimum of four (or three and an elite tight) by the end of the eighth round since it’s the easiest way to make up ground on teams who opted to go running back early.
Two in Four Quarterback Approach
Strategy: This approach is similar to starting off with two quarterbacks as outlined above, but we’re expanding the window for drafting those quarterbacks to the first four rounds. This is the strategy with the greatest amount of flexibility in that it allows you a real opportunity to react and adjust to what other managers are doing on the fly, while also drafting to suit your risk tolerance
A more conservative approach might be a combo like Tom Brady and Matthew Stafford in rounds two and three, hopefully locking in a pair of quarterbacks that should finish inside the top twelve. That also provides the option to take a running back in round one and likely a tier two, or even tier one, wideout in round four. That’s a strong start. Alternatively, you might grab one of the elite quarterbacks like Pat Mahomes or Josh Allen at the top of the draft and then opt for the best available RB/WR combo in rounds two and three, followed by a safer option like a Matt Ryan in the fourth, or a swing for the fences guy like Jalen Hurts if you want to get more aggressive.
Challenge: Obviously, if you go with an aggressive option for your second quarterback then it really needs to pan out. Similarly, the margin for error with the steady pocket passer veterans I noted above is fairly narrow. You get a pair of top-ten finishes from them and you should be in good shape, but if it’s more like a QB11 and a QB14 then that’s tough to overcome.
Where to go from here: Once again, going hard at wide receivers for the next few rounds is likely the play here since you should have already locked in your RB1 in one of the first three rounds. Much like the above approach, wide receiver is the best spot to gain leverage on the rest of the field. I also noted above that an RB/WR combo with your quarterbacks was probably the ideal build here, but we’ve also seen a lot of fluctuation in running back valuations after the top four or five. With that in mind, I wouldn’t fault anyone for going RB/RB instead if a back you covet falls too far within the first four rounds. Of course, you’ll then need to laser focus on receivers for the next four rounds.
Strategy: If you’ve been in these fantasy streets for a minute then you’re likely already familiar with the Zero Running Back strategy, and its more recent cousin, Modified Zero Running Back. That has recently spawned the Hero-RB philosophy. Essentially, the strategy assumes you have a top-five selection and that you secure a stud running back with that pick and then avoid the position for a while, loading up at the others and then selecting a combination of safer floor and higher ceiling running backs in the middle and later rounds. The hope is to hit a home run or at worst, cobble together the RB2 position into something usable over the course of the season.
Hero-QB in superflex functions similarly, in that you must have access to a tier-one quarterback in the first round so the strategy requires that you likely have at least a top-five pick. That tier-one quarterback we’re chasing is going to be Pat Mahomes, Josh Allen, or Kyler Murray. For some, that list might also include Lamar Jackson and/or Dak Prescott, but for me, it’s just those first three if I’m going the Hero-QB route. And because of where the Hero-QB approach has you selecting in your draft (usually in the first three or four picks), you’re at or just before the turn coming back in the second and third rounds, where there should be the ability to add two more elite players. If we assume at least seven, and as many as ten or more quarterbacks go in the first two rounds of a snake draft, then you should be able to come away with at least one, and possibly two tier-one options.
Challenge: Going the Hero-QB route requires both patience and some planning. After all, it’s tough to watch quarterbacks continue to fly off the board through rounds three and four when you’ve only got one locked in. While that’s happening, you should be getting a better feel for the draft and have a predetermined shortlist of guys you can live with at QB2.
There are two ways to play it from here. First, you can go the steady veteran route and hope to squeeze enough value out of the position. A player like Ryan Fitzpatrick comes to mind for that scenario, as Fitzmagic has the starting gig in Washington, a very QB-friendly schedule, and no shortage of weapons. Baker Mayfield is in a similar scenario, although the run-heavy nature of the Cleveland offense caps his upside. Still, a top twelve to fifteen finish isn’t out of the question for either, and rounds six to seven is generally where they go in this format. The other option here is to go the lottery ticket route and take an unproven player with massive upside, think Trey Lance or Justin Fields. There’s a chance neither one is the starter to open the season, which is obviously an issue, but given the rushing upside for each of them, once they are under center they should threaten top-five quarterback territory every week. That said, you’ve still got to navigate the first part of the season, and one player you could do that with is Sam Darnold. We saw what Joe Brady’s offense was able to do in Carolina with Teddy Bridgewater at the helm, and they now have a healthy Christian McCaffrey and a quarterback capable of pushing the ball down the field to a trio of talented receivers in Robby Anderson, D.J. Moore, and Terrace Marshall. Full disclosure, I’m a believer in Darnold in his new situation this season. But even if he falls flat on his face, remember, you’re using him as a bridge to get to one of the younger guys that has that massive potential to be a top-five scorer at the position each week. Darnold is going as late as the tenth or eleventh round in drafts these days, while Lance is often creeping up into the sixth, and Fields the seventh.
Where to go from here: In most cases, you’ll have pursued a WR/WR or RB/WR combo, after your QB1 selection, although I don’t hate taking an elite tight end like Travis Kelce or Darren Waller if they fall to you. And after you’ve slated the target round or rounds for your second quarterback, then the best available strategy is the right approach and should yield some excellent wide receiver value. Assuming you didn’t grab one of the big tight ends, you could also have the flexibility to chase a guy like Kyle Pitts if you want or backfill the running back and wide receiver positions with some riskier options that have league-winning production well within their range of potential outcomes. Players like Julio Jones, Trey Sermon, or Javonta Williams come to mind.
Regardless of which direction you take from a strategy standpoint, superflex leagues are an incredibly fun alternative to single QB formats in that they introduce an entirely new dynamic into rostering the quarterback position. As I noted above, we may be reaching a bit of a tipping point with the league’s willingness to embrace dual-threat quarterbacks, but that only adds to the fun of superflex. If you haven’t explored the format before then I highly recommend you give it a whirl this season.
Warren has been playing fantasy football in any number of formats for over 20 years, sometimes much to the chagrin of his wife and daughters. For better or worse, ahead of the 2014 NFL season, he began sharing his opinions and analysis through writing and eventually added yammering away on podcasts with anyone foolish enough to let him in front of a microphone. He is a long-suffering Jets fan, well-documented Paxton Lynch hater, and an admitted grammar snob.