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.
Want to write for the Cafe? Check out the Cafe's Pencil & Paper section!