Draft Strategy

Did the “Wait on a Quarterback” Strategy Pay Off in 2015?

Wait On QB

It’s not a trick question. Obviously waiting on QB paid off handsomely in 2015. Aaron Rodgers, Andrew Luck, and Peyton Manning were the first three QBs taken off the board. If you talk to anyone who drafted these normally stellar QBs, they’ll probably have a pretty sad story about the beginning of their 2015 season.

Wait on a Quarterback: Does it Work?

It’s not a trick question. Obviously waiting on QB paid off handsomely in 2015. Aaron Rodgers, Andrew Luck, and Peyton Manning were the first three QBs taken off the board. If you talk to anyone who drafted these normally stellar QBs, they’ll probably have a pretty sad story about the beginning of their 2015 season.

[the_ad id=”58837″]Aaron Rodgers managed to finish as QB7 just ahead of Kirk Cousins, but struggled far more than anticipated without his go-to Jordy Nelson. Andrew Luck looked pedestrian while playing injured for most of his seven appearances until a lacerated kidney in week 9 finished him off for the rest of the year. Peyton Manning’s passes had less velocity than Brett Favre’s in Wrangler Jeans commercials.

On the flip side of the coin, Cam Newton returned to form and dominated to finish as QB1 while Blake Bortles and Carson Palmer finished as top five fantasy QBs. Cam was drafted QB14 towards the end of the 10th round which doesn’t sound too bad until you realize that Sam Bradford, Matthew Stafford, Ryan Tannehill and Eli Manning were taken ahead of Cam. Drafters went on to select Philip Rivers and Teddy Bridgewater before finally picking Carson Palmer. Blake Bortles went the way of the dodo on fantasy draft day and found his way on teams as a waiver wire gem.

Here is how it played out for teams playing for championships in 10-team ESPN leagues in 2015:

Quarterback ADP Quarterback ADP % of Teams Competing for Championships
Aaron Rodgers 10 Carson Palmer 144 34.9
Andrew Luck 12 Cam Newton 87 33.5
Peyton Manning 24 Tom Brady 31 28.3
Russell Wilson 27 Blake Bortles n/a 26.6
Tom Brady 31 Russell Wilson 27 23.4

One list does not look like the other! There was a 57% chance that at least one of the teams competing for the championship had Cam Newton or Carson Palmer on the roster. There is no doubt 2015 was a banner year for those who used the “Wait on QB strategy,” but was it the strategy that worked or an outlier that occurred because of fluky injuries surrounding the top guys?

The top three quarterbacks off the board in 2014 on ESPN leagues were Peyton Manning (ADP 4), Aaron Rodgers (ADP 9) and Drew Brees (ADP 11). All three quarterbacks had healthy years, but only Aaron Rodgers cracked the top three most common quarterbacks on championship teams and it took a season where he passed for 4,381 yards with a 38/5 TD to INT ratio. He also logged two TDs on the ground to go with 269 rushing yards. The other two quarterbacks that were on most championship years were Russell Wilson (ADP 71, QB8) and Tony Romo (ADP 97, QB16).  Johnny Manziel was drafted QB13 that year! I don’t know how many teams had Johnny on their championship roster, but I’m guessing not many.

Quarterbacks in 2016

This years crop of QBs are going later than in years past which may reflect the narrowing difference between the top QBs and average QBs. According to draft sharks 41 QBs scored in the top 12 at least one week throughout the year in 2015. In PPR leagues with 4 pts awarded for TDs and -1 pt for INTs, 6 QBs had an average weekly score within 4 points of Cam Newton and 13 quarterbacks were within 5.5 points. The fantasy football community may be catching up and drafting QBs later with Cam Newton, Aaron Rodgers and Andrew Luck being drafted in the 5th and 6th rounds of MFL10 leagues. The value in those rounds is better than in previous years, but those rounds may have some RBs, TEs, and WRs that become studs and put up elite fantasy production within their position groups.

Here are some late-round QBs that probably won’t be able to have a top three fantasy year, but may find their way on a number of fantasy championship teams:

Philip Rivers San Diego Chargers

Philip RiversRivers threw a career high 662 times in 2015 despite injuries to Keenan Allen, Stevie Johnson and Malcolm Floyd combined with a four-game suspension of Antonio Gates. The Rivers-Gates combination looks ready to roll in 2016, but the Chargers added one of the top TE prospects in the draft in Hunter Henry as the heir apparent and insurance for an injury to Gates. The Bolts picked up Travis Benjamin in free agency to replace Malcom Floyd as the deep threat. Keenan Allen should continue to be a target monster in 2016 now that he’s healed up from a lacerated kidney. Rivers will also benefit from the return of Ken Whisenhunt who was the Offensive Coordinator in 2013 when the Bolts finished as a top 5 offensive unit. 2013 was the same year Rivers had the second most pass attempts of his career and threw for 32 TDs. Rivers is available in the 11th round of MFL10 drafts.

Joe Flacco Baltimore Ravens

Joe FlaccoAm I wacco for Flacco? No, but he’s the sort of ‘out-of-nowhere’ guy that could crack into the top 10 QBs. He’s in the second year of a Marc Trestman offense surrounded by Breshad Perriman, Mike Wallace, Steve Smith, Kamar Aiken and a platoon of decent TEs. The Ravens just bolstered their offensive line with the 6th overall pick in the 2016 draft selecting Ronnie Stanley, the offensive tackle from Notre Dame. Drafting trench warriors never makes much of a splash, but if you wanted to give a strong-armed quarterback time to throw to deep threats, what position would you focus on?

Last year, Flacco averaged over 40 passing attempts per game in his 10 appearances. His status as an elite QB is a highly debatable position, but he competes in a division with the Steelers and Bengals who can drop 40+ points in any given week. I’m not confident Flacco has an elite season, but the things he has going for him are no less favorable than what Blake Bortles or Kirk Cousins had last year. Flacco is going towards the end of the 15th round in MFL10 leagues.

Robert Griffin III Cleveland Browns
[the_ad id=”62257″]RG III isn’t even being drafted in the first 20 rounds of MFL10s. I won’t draft him in MFL10s, but I will pay pretty close attention to him in the preseason and the first couple of games of the year in redraft leagues. RG III has some things going for him that could lead to fantasy success. The Browns used the draft to acquire 5 receivers including one of the best WRs available in Corey Coleman to fill a huge need on the offense. The Browns poor defense and tough divisional opponents should lead to frequent garbage time production and RG III will have to rely on his legs frequently to move the ball down the field. Hue Jackson has a knack for getting the most out of the players on the field and the Browns do have some interesting backfield options in Duke Johnson and Isaiah Crowell. RG III is a boom or bust candidate and enters the season competing with the rookie Cody Kessler from USC for starting duties, but he’s virtually free in drafts so watch him early in the season to see if he looks like the player that exploded early in his career. If the Browns can get the most out of all the fresh talent on the Browns roster, RG III may be worth that 20th round flyer in MFL10s after all.

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