NFL Football Column: Draft Analysis
Quarterbacks & 2013 Depth
Guest writer JJ Zachariason is doing an offseason Rotoworld series on fantasy quarterback draft strategy. JJ authored The Late Round Quarterback in 2012. A link to his book can be found here. A link to this series' initial column is here.
JJ is also on Twitter.
Rick Mirer was the man in 1993.
Runner up to Jerome Bettis for NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, the Seahawks quarterback set rookie records for pass attempts (486), completions (274), and passing yards (2,833).
Nice, Rick. Too bad at least four rookie quarterbacks accomplished each of those metrics last season alone.
To be fair, Mirer’s first-year performance was (and still is) considered one of the best in rookie quarterback history. It’s a different league now. Mirer's stats may not tell the entire story of his 1993 season, but they do shed light on how drastically NFL quarterback development -- and the game itself -- has changed through the years.
Teams used to groom quarterbacks. Brett Favre and Steve Young didn’t consistently start during their rookie campaigns. Neither did Drew Brees, Tom Brady, or Aaron Rodgers. Now, top rookie passers are thrown into mediocre offensive situations and asked to move mountains. Regardless of whether or not it’s fair, the influx of young quarterbacks has changed the fantasy quarterback landscape. This was especially evident in 2012.
Last year, fantasy's mainstream encouraged us to climb aboard the "elite" quarterback hype train after Rodgers, Brees, Brady, Matthew Stafford, and Cam Newton tore up 2011 fantasy stat sheets. The majority of the fantasy community became early-round quarterback hipsters. But why? Why were so many fake footballers willing to change their established mindsets and strategies because of one statistically anomalous season?
The NFL's change to pass-first offensive styles has resulted in an incredible abundance of young, superstar quarterbacks. Teams are taking more chances by throwing players under center Week 1, and we’re seeing how rewarding it can be for franchises. Mirer didn't set rookie records back in 1993 because his 12 touchdowns and 17 interceptions were anything to brag about. It was because there was less competition. A rookie quarterback playing 16 games was uncommon. Now it’s about as common as seeing Samuel L. Jackson in a movie.
It’s not as though first-year quarterbacks are getting better; Blaine Gabbert, Jake Locker, and Sam Bradford have certainly had their struggles. But more rookie quarterback opportunities are bringing a bigger chance of rookie quarterback success. And the more success quarterbacks have, the bigger the fantasy quarterback pool.
The quarterback group in fantasy is deep every year. You start one passer on the typical fantasy team, allowing just a handful of quarterbacks to start each week. With the incredible rookie class of Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson, and Andrew Luck, and the dominant second-year stretch run of Colin Kaepernick, that inherently deep pool has become deeper than Atlantis.
The scenario I often reference to demonstrate this depth is a 12-team standard league. Imagine you’re an owner in this league, and your team, Somewhere Over Dwayne Bowe, is deciding where to draft a quarterback. You notice that Rodgers, Brees, and Brady have consistently been top-3 quarterbacks over the last couple of seasons. Because of this, you pull the trigger on Brady in the second round.
Picks go by, and now you’re in Round 8. 11-of-12 teams have starting passers, but there’s one team, DeMarco Polo, without theirs. DeMarco Polo drafted Rob Gronkowski, and has loaded up on wide receivers and running backs through the first seven rounds. And he plans on doing more of the same in the eighth.
Is the DeMarco Polo owner nuts?
From a strategy standpoint, the owner is actually quite deliberate. He understands value. And most of all, the owner understands the immense depth at the quarterback position.
If we were to use Evan Silva’s Post-Season Top 150, we’d find that he’s ranked the top-12 quarterbacks for 2013 as follows:
1. Drew Brees
2. Aaron Rodgers
3. Tom Brady
4. Cam Newton
5. Colin Kaepernick
6. Matt Ryan
7. Matthew Stafford
8. Peyton Manning
9. Russell Wilson
10. Robert Griffin III
11. Tony Romo
12. Andrew Luck
Now, if we assume each team has drafted according to Silva’s quarterback rankings -- and hasn't drafted its backup yet -- then we’re left with Andrew Luck waiting for DeMarco Polo.
Would you feel good about having Luck as your 2013 starter? What if I told you Luck was available eight rounds after you chose Brady?
One paranoid concern rushes through an owner's mind when he implements the late-round quarterback strategy. He fears other owners will collude against him. He thinks it’s insane to grab a just-adequate running back over a Pro Bowl quarterback. He becomes terrified at the idea of seeing an owner draft a backup passer before he gets his starter.
But what the panicked late-round quarterback drafter may not understand is that those other owners aren’t drafting for value when they reach for backup quarterbacks. And they’re certainly not planning properly post-draft. They’re trying to ruin his fantasy season by intentionally selecting backups before he picks his starter. Really, though, those owners are hurting their own chances at a championship.
In 2013, your starter could be the 15th quarterback off the board and you’d more than survive. The literature I've put together on the subject not only says you’d stay highly competitive regardless of quarterback selection, but that given the depth of this year’s class, you’re going to feel more confident with your late-round quarterback than ever before. Eli Manning will be someone’s backup in a standard league. Ben Roethlisberger, too. And Josh Freeman, Joe Flacco, Andy Dalton.
I’m not telling you that those options are better than players going ahead of them. But when you can easily pinpoint a usable player in the late rounds of your draft, how are you not tempted to pursue that player? Those guys may not be fantasy studs, but that’s part of the issue. We’ve associated the word “stud” with top quarterbacks because of what we see on the field. Quarterbacks are important to real football, but fantasy football is different. Historically -- last season included -- top quarterbacks haven’t performed a whole lot better than their peers. And when there’s little differentiation, there’s less of a need to obtain top talent.
Why should we reach for them?
Traditionally, the 12th quarterback in a 12-team draft gets selected in the middle of the 8th round. In years past, there was some doubt associated with that quarterback. But with more and more young talent under center, you can afford to wait even longer in leagues where just one quarterback is started on each team each week.
If we trust the 2013 fantasy quarterback class, then there’s no room for fear. If someone in your draft wants to take their backup quarterback before you select your starter, just let them. If your friend feels the need to own both Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick, then allow him to waste valuable top-half picks on those players.
In 2013, there’s a quarterback for everyone.
NFL Player News
Victor Butler LB - NO: Dec 11, 5:43PM: Saints coach Sean...
Tavon Austin WR - STL: Dec 11, 5:42PM: Austin and...
Wes Welker WR - DEN: Dec 11, 5:39PM: Welker won't play...
Orlando Scandrick CB - DAL: Dec 11, 5:31PM: Dallas defenders...
George Selvie DE - DAL: Dec 11, 5:30PM: Dallas defenders...
Rashad Jennings RB - OAK: Dec 11, 4:05PM: Jennings...
Sean Weatherspoon LB - ATL: Dec 11, 3:59PM: Weatherspoon...
View All Games
Classic Draft Lobby
Mock Draft Lobby
Join League (FREE!)