Finding values on draft day is critical to building a successful fantasy football team. In this series, murphysxm and I will take a side on which player provides the best value in different situations. This installment will discuss if Aaron Rodgers or Ryan Mathews provides the better value as the fourth pick in the draft.
11stever11: Aaron Rodgers
With the NFL being a pass-first league, it is more important than ever to lock up a top quarterback. It’s even more critical for your first-round selection to live up to his draft position. By selecting Aaron Rodgers, you achieve both. Over the last two years, 12 out of 23 running backs chosen in the first two rounds finished in the top 12 for that given year. This equates to running backs having a 48 percent chance of matching their draft position. Out of 11 quarterbacks taken during that time, only three did not finish in the top six. That translates to a 72 percent chance that quarterbacks match their draft position. Looking at Aaron Rodgers specifically, he has finished in the top two for quarterbacks every year since 2008.
Another positive for drafting Aaron Rodgers is that you do not miss out on a top 12 running back. In most leagues, the first tier of running backs will be selected by the fourth pick while the second tier will last until the end of the second round. If you do go Ryan Mathews and another tier two running back in the second round, it’s less than a 50 percent chance that they both will match their draft position. Instead, take advantage of the large running back tier and look to grab the consistency of Aaron Rodgers. The odds are already favored towards your direction just in the first two rounds of the draft.
After looking at projected fantasy points, the quarterback position is not as deep as some may believe. If you take Rodgers in the first round and Jonathan Stewart in the sixth round, the projected total of fantasy points would be 525. If you take Mathews in the first round and Tony Romo in the sixth round, the projected total fantasy points would be 472. That is a difference of 53 fantasy points, which would be helpful over the course of the season.
By looking at the data there is an advantage in selecting a quarterback. There is always a chance you get lucky by selecting a top-five quarterback in the later rounds, but the same can be said for running backs.
murphysxm: Ryan Mathews
So draft day is upon you and you land the dreaded No. 4 pick in a 2012 PPR draft. The big three RBs will be gone and you are staring down the barrel of one of the harder Round 1 decisions this year. Do I draft the “sure-fire” stud quarterback and try to get running back gems late, or do I take a running back and give up my ability to get an “elite” QB for my team? You have heard 11stever11’s case and are gung ho for Aaron Rodgers, but let’s take a step back because I am drafting Ryan Mathews at #4.
Last year I was in the same position at No. 6 one of my main leagues; I could take Rodgers, Michael Vick or my highest rated RB, LeSean McCoy. I took McCoy. I followed that up by drafting young QBs (Matthew Stafford and Sam Bradford) with upside in Rounds 7 and 9, planning on playing the matchup game. The owner at the No. 7 slot took Vick (last year’s No. 1 QB to a lot of people) and took James Starks in round 7. McCoy and Stafford netted me 794 total fantasy points, while Vick and Starks combined for 366 total points. This is the core of my strategy to take the RB and run in Round 1; the value is there for me to pass on Rodgers.
Did I hit the lottery last year with Stafford in the seventh? Sure, but not really. In that same league, Eli Manning was also drafted in the seventh, and having him and McCoy would have netted me 719 points, still by far greater than the Vick owner. Would he have been better off if he took Rodgers instead of Vick? Absolutely, but he still would have only netted 587. In fact, Rodgers only scored 23 total points more than my seventh-round QB. His seventh-round RB scored 235 less points than my first-round RB. Simply put, it is much easier to draft a QB that can contribute to your team late, especially this year, than it is to get a reliable RB.
If I translate this logic to this year’s draft, we are comparing a team that gets Rodgers and say a Donald Brown/DeAngelo Williams/Ben Tate-type RB with a team that gets Mathews and say Matt Ryan/Tony Romo/Peyton Manning. Give me the second team every time. I can understand not trusting Mathews; in that case, take Chris Johnson or Maurice Jones-Drew. Either way, I think your team will be better passing on the elite QB in Round 1.
Stay tuned for the next installment of Draft Day Dilemma. In the meantime, who are you selecting with the fourth overall pick in this year’s draft? Aaron Rodgers, Ryan Mathews or someone else?
Stever is one of a growing number of fantasy experts who write for the Cafe. You can catch up with Stever in the Cafe's forums where he posts under the name of 11stever11.
Want to write for the Cafe? Check out the Cafe's Pencil & Paper section!