StrategyAugust 21, 2010

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Please don’t draft a QB in the first round! - 16 comments

By Michael Hawes

There is the age-old and apparently endless debate about drafting a quarterback early; the two camps are firmly entrenched and are seldom swayed to the other side. Discussions, debates, articles, arguments and even experiments have been utilized to solve this riddle. Here is my take on the situation: does taking a quarterback in the first round or even the second round help you win or hinder your chances? Well, let’s break it down.

Positional scarcity is a term thrown around that few seem to fully comprehend. Most leagues start 1 QB, 2 RBs and 3 WRs. Even if your league mixes it up a little, it is still generally 1 QB and a combination of 5 RBs and WRs. There are 32 teams in the NFL, meaning there are 32 starting QBs available for your fantasy team. By my count there are only eight teams that have a true RB1. Nineteen teams are in the dreaded RBBC, and I am undecided on which direction the final five will go. I tallied these five teams with 1.5 RBs that are draftable. This totals 53.5 draftable RBs but only eight elite RBs that will get the majority of their teams’ carries. By comparison, there are 32 draftable QBs, and roughly six or seven are being considered as elite in 2010 drafts. With only eight elite RBs and the requirement of starting two RBs every week, these are very bad odds with which to contend if you choose to pass on a RB in the first round. To sum up, it is easier to find a quality QB in later rounds than it is to find a quality RB.

Statistics are the next piece of information used in the QB debate. A standard line I have seen sounds something like, “The top three QBs are miles ahead of the rest of the pack.” Unfortunately, untrue.

In 2009, Brees, Brady and Manning were 1-3 off the board. Brees finished the highest as the #2 overall QB, but it would have cost you on average the 1.11 pick to obtain him. Based on 20-yards-per-point and 4-points-per-TD scoring, he finished with 370 points. Eli Manning, who you could get in the 10th round, finished 10th in scoring with 315, a mere 55 points behind the first rounder.

In 2008 Brady, Manning and Romo were 1-3 off the board. Manning was the top performer from this group, finishing sixth with 316 points. The 10th overall QB happened to be Tony Romo, who finished with 280 points. Mr. Romo would have cost you a mid-second round pick, and a staggering 23 QBs finished within 50 points of him. Eight QBs drafted after him finished ahead of him in points at season’s end.

The next argument is, “My league favors QB scoring by offering six points per touchdown,” and it’s a favorite phrase from the pro-QB side. This is the one I really fail to understand. Yes, a league offering six points for a TD favors a QB drafted in the first round, but it also favors a QB drafted in the eighth round. You don’t compare a QB’s weekly score to your opponent’s RB or WR; you compare it to your opponent’s QB. When you crunch the numbers, excluding exceptional years from the #1 QB, the difference is nominal.


1/25 + 4 – #1 QB 342 points – #10 QB 249 points = difference of 93 points

1/20 + 4 – #1 QB 402 points – #10 QB 315 points = difference of 87 points

1/25 + 6 – #1 QB 395 points – #10 QB 285 points = difference of 100 points

1/20 + 6 – #1 QB 451 points – #10 QB 347 points = difference of 104 points

So, where is the monumental leap if you increase the QB scoring? Sure, your QB put up a huge number compared to your opponent’s RB, but on average you really only scored 5.5 to 6.5 points more from your first round QB than-your opponent with a ninth-round QB. As I mentioned, an exceptional year will skew it slightly, but not by much. Brees in 2008 led the league, but the point differential between Brees and the #10 QB was 85, 109, 115 and 139 points, if you follow the layout of the above chart.

I am not saying this is an absolute. You can draft a QB in the first round and still win your league, but I will contend that drafting a QB early does hinder your chances.
Now go draft some RBs!

Michael Hawes is one of a growing number of fantasy experts who write for the Cafe. You can catch up with Michael in the Cafe's forums where he posts under the name of bungle613.
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16 Responses to “Please don’t draft a QB in the first round!”

  1. User avatar Indibuck says:

    Good stuff Bungle!

  2. User avatar u_fig_eater says:

    Good article.

  3. Purple1 says:

    I understand your point but I have to respectuflly disagree.

  4. njord4 says:

    I agree for the most part. Except Aaron Rodgers.

    Last year (4 pt touchdown, 1 pt/25 yd, etc., etc. like most other leagues)

    Aaron Rodgers – 325 points
    Drew Brees – 285.4 points
    Peyton Manning – 274.7 points
    Tom Brady – 264.3 points

    There’s definitely one quarterback that is a cut above the rest.

  5. User avatar bungle613 says:

    No QB has repeated as #1 since Culpepper in 2003 and 2004. It is unlikely Rodgers does. Not impossible, just historically unlikely.

  6. tah161 says:

    Im just curious if you are in a 14 team or even 12 team league and you pick towards the end of the line. Most, if not all of the top ten RB’s will be gone.

    so you will take a RB (who has a higher chance than anyone) out of the top 10 over a top 5 QB? Highly unlikely.

    I understand drafting a RB with the first 5 or 8 picks but after that its stupid not to look at a QB for your first round pick.

  7. User avatar bungle613 says:

    I am in mostly 12 teamers but do have a 16 team PPR league and I took AJ at 1.09 and Jennings in the 2nd. I followed that with RB/RB in the 3rd and 4th and took Kolb at 5.09 (73rd overall) I do not have a QB in my top 20. While I prefer to take a RB if I can I will take WR’s if the RBs available are reaches.

    You are right though that I should have mentioned WRs in the article. IT is not meant to be exclusively shun QBs to draft RBs article, it is more the value of QBs are there in later rounds so don’t pass on RBs or WRs to get a top 3 QB.

  8. eroc95 says:

    I do hear you about the value of the QB position but I’d rather find value later in QB and get the #4 RB…or even the #1 WR before I go QB that early. I get your point but disagree…unless you get 6 points for throwing TD’s…then I may consider!

  9. Snatch1414 says:

    Very thorough article, good job, although it’s crazy that you have to point this out to people. Look at any mock where someone drafted a QB in the 1st round (excluding when it’s done on the back end of the round) and you’ll see their team sucks. Why in the world would you reach for a QB on the CHANCE that he throws a few more touchdowns than the 7 QBs listed right behind him?

  10. SumG says:

    I have one big gripe with this article. In this article, you’ve assumed that in the first round any RB you select is going to pan out. In my experience, drafting an RB in the first round you have a 50-75% chance of getting an RB that is actually worth 1st round value (whether that be due to injury or just taking a step back in performance), and that’s including the 3 or 4 guys at the very top of the draft that nearly always pan out. That means that at the end of the 1st round, it’s a coin flip if the RB you draft will work out for you.

    I don’t disagree that if you hit the RB in the 1st round you’re in a better position, but my thought, especially at the end of the first round, is that if you miss with an RB, you’re likely to have a nearly worthless player. If you miss with a QB or WR in the 1st round, you’re likely to end up with 3rd round value, which is survivable. I view the key to the 1st round minimizing risk, and picking an RB at the end of the 1st round nowadays is a massive risk.

  11. User avatar Goody says:

    It amazes me how people don’t get this. Let them draft their QBs early on while we collect the money at the end of the season!

  12. I see your logic but I agree with the “Rodgers is an exception” post above (and to a lesser extent, Brees as well). Especially in a larger league (16 teams), that first pick has to be money – you can’t afford to get screwed with a guy who blows out his knee or doesn’t produce at an elite level. Leagues are won in the middle rounds but definitely can be lost in the 1st and 2nd if you whiff. Now, what are the odds that Rodgers “whiffs” this year? Yes the difference between Rodgers and the 12th QB may be smaller than the difference between Chris Johnson and the 12 RB, but you can be more sure that Rodgers will stay injury free and put up 4000 yards and 30 TDs than you can be sure of any of the RB fulfilling their projections (in my opinion).

    Again, in my 16 team league, I will be more than happy to take Rodgers or Brees in the middle or late parts of the first round and know I got a top 3 overall scorer for the coming year, regardless of position. I like a high certainty that neither injury or a “down season” will wreck my year. I basically look at the 1st round as “risk management” – after CJ424, Peterson, Ray Rice, and Andre Johnson, I believe that Brees and Rodgers have the smallest amount of risk in fantasy football. MJD has injury problems right now, SJax plays on a horrible team, Gore has knee troubles, Fitz lost Warner, etc. The 2009 Michael Turner is a perfect example of what absolutely cannot happen to you in a large league – there is no recovery from that kind of loss.

    Now, the downside to an early QB is that you have to completely change your draft strategy and make sure you get a couple of producers in the “questionable” RB department. Gotta pick up some guys like Spiller, Portis, or Arian Foster and hope they do well. The great thing is, if they bomb or get injured, you only have a 6th round pick invested or something like that instead of your first!

  13. Hippo45 says:

    I agree that qbs should never be drafted in the first round because their will be other qbs later in the draft that will put up similar points. However, I disagree with the way you presented the information.

    You assume that if you pass up a qb in the first round you will hit the jackpot with the top rb with Chris Johnson. In my league, the person that picked 11th last year took Brian Westbrook. How did that turn out? Westbrook had 57.5 points in my league. Chris Johnson was not available because he was picked 9th.

    You also assume that if you wait to take a qb that you will hit the jackpot again with Matt Schaub. Schaub was taken in the 5th in my league. The first qb taken in the 6th was Jay Cutler.

    Now if the person had taken a qb earlier they would not have to take a qb in the 6th round. Two players that went in the 6th round last year was Ray Rice and Jonathan Stewart. So you could have easily put Ray Rice on the team that took Brees early, but you chose not to just to skew the numbers.

    Hell, you could have put Turner, LT, Slaton, Forte or Deangelo Williams instead of Chris Johnson to try and make your point. But if you were to do this you would realize that the person that took a qb early would have the better team.

    For the record, nobody in my league took a qb in the first round. Drew Brees was drafted with the 11th pick in the second round

    His team:
    Drew Brees
    Vincent Jackson
    Ray Rice

    It’s pretty lame that you needed to skew the players chosen just to prove your point about not taking a qb early. Every year there are gems in the middle rounds that people who need qbs miss out on.

  14. User avatar bungle613 says:

    I did not take any liberties with adjusting ADP, both CJ and Schaub were used because they were the next player taken in the draft after either the first QB or in the 7th round. Nothing was sku’d to increase my argument. All info can be found at the Calculator in regards to ADP.

    I could have sku’d alot like anyone who has been in this debate. You can always pick and choose the dog or the breakout guy to “prove” your point but I stand by waht I wrote.

    Brees was the first QB off the board on average at 1.11 and CJ was the first RB taken after that based on over 350 mocks. I will take the average of 350 mocks vs comparing it to YOUR leagues draft.

  15. Hippo45 says:

    Don’t try and tell me you didn’t skew the people chosen. According to the Fantasy Football Calculator, Pierre Thomas would have been gone at 3.09 two picks on average before the 11th. However, you needed the player that took Drew Brees in the first to take two running backs even though wide receivers would have been the more likely option with his next two picks. At pick 4.02, he could have taken Ray Rice if he had taken the wide receivers in the 2nd and 3rd like he was supposed to that would be the player he would end up with.

    Matt Schaub’s ADP was 6.12. The person that drafts 11th overall pick gets pick 6.02 it would have been more likely that if he drafted a qb in the 6th round that he would take Matt Ryan whose ADP was 6.05. If he were to wait and take a qb in the 7th round, Matt Schaub would have been taken and most likely Cutler. Thus, he would most likely end up with Carson Palmer. This is PROOF that you skewed the players to make it look like taking a qb in the first is a bad strategy. Schaub would more than likely NOT be on that team.

    Also, the calculator is not a good tool for ADP after the season is over. It clearly states that the “Data came from 1325 mock drafts between September 7, 2009 and June 20, 2010″. So this includes all of the drafts that take place after the season has started. This would alter all of the ADP’s of the players based on how well they played at the beginning of the season.

  16. User avatar bungle613 says:

    Well Hippo, your posts were harsh and I understand it but the intent has not to mislead. They were compelling enough to make me second guess myself. You are correct that an error was made. It looks like I inverted the 4th to 6th rounds in one of the examples. Apologies to everyone and the examples have been pulled from the article as they were misleading with that error.

    Thanks for pointing it out.

    Agreed that the calculator is not ideal but I do not know of a better tool for mass sampling other than that or MDC.


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