QB or not QB? That is the Question

Drafting a good fantasy football team is a poetic art form. William Shakespeare was the greatest poet ever.

Considering this, it begs the question: If William Shakespeare was born today, would he be a fantasy football analyst?

I can see it now: “Billy Shakes Fantasy Football.” Now that’s Poetry.

Unfortunately, we don’t have the G.O.A.T. of the POEM. to help us now, so we have to confront one of the biggest tragedies of our time all by ourselves -- drafting a QB too early in Fantasy Football drafts.

As Billy Shakes would put it: “QB or not QB, that is the Question?”

Prepareth thyself, let’s begin.

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QB or not QB
— Billy Shakes

The value of the QB position has changed dramatically in the fantasy football world over the last 10 years.

In 2010, Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees were the first two fantasy quarterbacks coming off the board and were regularly drafted in the first round. The first five QBs overall were, on average, drafted within the first 34 picks.

In 2018, Aaron Rodgers was once again the first QB coming off the board with an ADP of 24, the final pick of the second round. Deshaun Watson, the second QB coming off the board, had an ADP of 36. The first 5 QBs overall were not off the board until pick 56.  

So what changed? Why has there been such a drastic change in QB draft strategy?

The answer: Value. Positional value and production value to be specific.  

The standard starting lineup for 12-team ESPN and Yahoo! fantasy football leagues is configured as such:

1 QB

2 WR

2 RB

1 TE

1 Flex (WR/RB/TE)

1 K

1 D/ST   

Having one starting QB compared to 2-3 RB’s and/or WR’s increases the need for those positions, which, in turn, lowers the need for a QB in the early round. This lowers the positional value of the QB.

The next factor is production value. To analyze this, I asked myself “what is the consequence of drafting a bust QB over a bust at one of the other positions?” To solve this, I compared the top players at each position with the lowest starter in his tier (i.e. WR1 points compared to WR12 points) and in his overall positional value (i.e. RB1 points compared to RB24 points). Finally, I compared the scoring variance of each set.

Here is what I found:


QB1 2018 - Patrick Mahomes 399.7 points

QB1 2017 - Russell Wilson 327.4 points

QB1 2016 - Aaron Rodgers 345.8 points

Average 357.63

QB12 2018 - Kirk Cousins 272.1 points

QB12 2017 - Blake Bortles 246.5 points

QB12 2016 - Russell Wilson 253.4 points

Average 257.33

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There was a 28.05% drop off in production from the QB1 to the QB12.

Running Backs

RB1 2018 - Todd Gurley 342.60

RB1 2017 - Todd Gurley 351.3

RB1 2016 - David Johnson 361.9

Average 351.93

RB12 2018 - Phillip Lindsay 205.30

RB12 2017 - Ezekiel Elliot 174.6

RB12 2016 - Latavius Murray 188.7

Average 189.53

There was a 46.15% drop off in production from the RB1 to the RB12.

RB24 2018 - Jordan Howard 146.1

RB24 2017 - Javorious Allen139.4

RB24 2016 - Ryan Mathews 138.1

Average 141.2

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There was a 59.88% drop off in production from the RB1 to the RB24 and a 13.73% drop off in production from the RB12 production to the RB24 production.

Wide Receivers

WR1 2018 - Davante Adams 274.1

WR1 2017 DeAndre Hopkins 261.8

WR1 2016 Antonio Brown 254.3

Average 263.4

WR12 2018 - Stefon Diggs 200.6

WR12 2017 - Brandin Cooks 171.5

WR12 2016 - Larry Fitzgerald 178.1

Average 183.4

There was 30.37% drop off in production from the WR1 to the WR12.

WR24 2018 - Mike Williams 144.8

WR24 2017 TY Hilton144.2

WR24 2016 Rishard Matthews157.1

Average 148.7

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There was a 43.55% drop off in production from the WR1 to the WR24 and a 13.18% drop off in production from the WR12 to the WR24.

Tight Ends

TE1 2018 - Travis Kelce 234.40

TE1 2017 - Rob Gronkowski 192.8

TE1 2016 - Travis Kelce 179.2

Average 202.13

TE12 2018 - Vance McDonald 102.6

TE12 2017 - Hunter Henry 104.4

TE12 2016 - Jack Doyle 107.9

Average 104.96

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There was a 48.07% drop off in production from the TE1 to the TE12.

After examining the data, it is clear that drafting a quarterback before a wide receiver, running back or tight end is simply a fool’s errand. Not only is the QB position less valuable right from the start based on positional value, but it also has the SMALLEST scoring variance of any position. You might as well be digging a hole for yourself to climb out of on the day of the draft.

So, when it is your turn to draft and your mouse hovers over the “Draft” button with the name “Patrick Mahomes” glaring back at you, remember the wise words of Billy Shakes, and ponder, QB or not QB? That is the question.

By Michael Petropoulos

Follow Michael on twitter @Mike_Petrop

Photo Credits: KMBC, Field Gulls, Sporting News, USA Today, San Diego Tribune, Myinspiredlife