(Make It) The Year of the Quarterback
I am going to say something that most fantasy analysts wiped from their vocabularies long ago.
I changed my mind…
The theory was, a quarterback scores more fantasy points than any other position in a given week. Not only that but the quarterback scores roughly the same number of points every single week. It is this simple: what has to happen for a player to score fantasy points? They have to have the ball in their hands, right? Well, which player starts every single offensive play with the ball in his hands? The quarterback! So it stands to reason that the quarterback position would consistently outscore the other positions every week. Throw in a second quarterback in a Superflex league? Double the output. Two players in your lineup, both of whom will outscore any other combination of non-quarterbacks.
So from there, the next logical conclusion is that the top two quarterbacks give you not just an advantage, but an unfair advantage. An insurmountable advantage. You start those two quarterbacks every week. Your opponent then has to shoot the moon to catch up because you’ve got a 50-point floor (give or take, depending on the scoring system) from that combination of players, every single week. So you draft a quarterback early; first round, even. Then do it again in the second round, and two more times before the end of the seventh round. With four quarterbacks – four elite quarterbacks – and enjoy the advantage you hold over everyone because…
- You have that floor, even during bye weeks or when one of your QBs is out with an injury.
- You are blocking everyone else from the same advantage by hoarding those QBs on your roster and taking them out of circulation.
Practice What You Preach
It cannot fail, you create positional scarcity at the same time that you create your unfair advantage. So I tried it. In Scott Fish Bowl 8 – where the scoring favors elite quarterbacks even more than most scoring systems – I drafted Aaron Rodgers with the first overall pick. At the two-three turn, I took Davante Adams to give me the “Pack Stack”, then took Drew Brees. I ended up with Marcus Mariota, Derek Carr and Tyrod Taylor as well. I struggled early in the season as I searched for a winning concoction at the running back position. Somehow, I snuck into the playoffs and made a mini-run behind Nick Chubb, Derrick Henry, and Aaron Jones. My wide receivers ultimately let me down.
Notice the position that never factors into the story of my season? The quarterbacks! They were fine. Rodgers was QB6 in total fantasy points and Brees was QB8. They did not let me down, but they certainly did not create an unfair advantage. My wide receivers carried me early and let me down late, while my running backs hurt me early and buoyed me late. That is how I came to realize the error in my thinking, quarterbacks still do not create the advantage. The solid wide receivers who take advantage of the scoring, the tight ends who pile up points thanks to a premium, and the running back wave attack, with the feature backs in each phase of the fantasy season. That is the formula for a championship.
That is redraft, of course. I have constructed for myself the largest, grandest mausoleum known to man on top of the “quarterbacks are everything in dynasty superflex” hill. And I have decorated that mausoleum to precisely replicate the homes of the mothers of everyone who disagrees with me (because, yes, I have been there. Last night, in fact). It is that serious. But in redraft? Whether the lineup features one quarterback or a superflex position, the production of those quarterbacks remains the same. Streaming QBs becomes a less viable strategy in superflex. However, even that can work to some extent. So learn from my mistakes, build around running backs, and make sure you sprinkle in some good, solid pass catchers. Plus, be sure and wait to draft your quarterbacks as long as you can.
Here are some formats that can actually challenge that strategy, where superflex cannot.
People love to say that “superflex and two-QB are the same things.” They are not! As much as it is beneficial to start a quarterback in the superflex position, the fact that any of the four primary positions can fill that lineup spot is crucial. There is a point where any other position is just as viable as a quarterback in the superflex spot, effectively turning superflex back into a one QB format*.
* The top-32 quarterbacks in 2018 (minimum eight games played) scored an average of 17.55 fantasy points per game. Without the top-12, the bottom 20 quarterbacks still averaged 15.67 points per game. The top-10 running backs and the top-20 wide receivers all averaged more points per game, meaning the average top-10 RB and top-20 WR was a more viable weekly play than the QB 13 – 32. Depending on the number of starting spots for either RBs or WRs, plus FLEX spots, it was possible (though very unlikely) to find yourself in a situation where you started James White (17.29 ppg) or Tyler Boyd (15.79 ppg) over Joe Flacco (15.47 ppg). Flacco outscored all lesser receivers and backs.
Data courtesy of https://www.ffstatistics.com/tools-and-data
Two-QB, on the other hand, requires a second quarterback, regardless of their ability to produce vs. a RB/WR/TE. Forget production, we need a second quarterback just to field a valid lineup! Then, factor in the fact that both of those quarterbacks will have a bye week, in which you are required to replace them. All of a sudden, we need three QBs just to make it through the season. And what if the two starting QBs have the same bye week? Now we need four QBs minimum, just to make sure the lineup is legal at all times.
In a 12-team league…
If everyone drafts four QBs to ensure legal lineups, that is 48 quarterbacks on fantasy rosters. There are only 32 teams in the NFL, meaning 32 starting quarterbacks each week. And they usually do not come off the field unless they are injured, so starting a quarterback’s backup does not work the way it does with the other positions. It likely results in a zero from one of the two highest-scoring positions on your roster, unless the starter just happens to get hurt.
The reality is, not every team will be able to draft three starting QBs, let alone four. Bye weeks are going to be a problem for the teams that cannot get 3-4 starting QBs. So do not be one of them. This is where quarterback values take off because, in order to draft all of them that you will need to make it through a season, you have to start early. Second startup round at the absolute latest. That is unheard of in most redraft formats. However, in the case of two QB leagues, it is the only way to get what you need at the position before it runs dry.
The upside is, if you end up with four quarterbacks on the roster and only need three, you suddenly have the most valuable trade chip in the entire league on your roster. The teams with two quarterbacks rostered come to you not out of luxury, but out of necessity. It becomes simple economics, supply and demand. They do not have a choice but to pay your asking price – regardless of the price increase you impose – because you have a monopoly on the goods that they have to have!
Superflex with six-point passing touchdowns
“Value over replacement player” (VORP) is the primary argument against drafting quarterbacks early in most formats. The logic, essentially, is that the scoring difference between the top QB and the 12th QB is negligible. In 2018, Pat Mahomes was a massive outlier at 26.19 points per game. But Matt Ryan – the QB2 in points per game – scored 22.09 points per game, while QB12 Carson Wentz scored 18.39 points per game, a difference of fewer than four points per game. Meanwhile, RB2 Saquon Barkley (23.99 ppg) outscored RB12 Leonard Fournette (15.05 ppg) by almost nine points per game. It is much easier to replace a high-end quarterback than a high-end running back.
This is still true in six-point per passing touchdown scoring. However, VORP gives way to the bottom line of points scored. Only 38 non-quarterbacks outscored Blake Bortles, the QB25 in six points per touchdown. The top-five QBs all outscored RB1 Saquon Barkley (RB1 in total points, RB2 in points per game), and the top 13 QBs all outscored top WR Deandre Hopkins. The scoring bonus is just too powerful to ignore.
Data courtesy of https://www.ffstatistics.com/tools-and-data
VORP certainly still applies, as the quarterbacks score similarly to one another. But the overall value of the position is enhanced by the mandate to start two of them at all times, given the sheer volume of points they score in this format. Like the two QB format, the goal is to draft a minimum of four quarterbacks in order to ensure two of them in the lineup at all times, even during bye weeks. Drafting your first quarterback any later than the second round will make achieving this roster construction very difficult.
Point per attempt, yardage bonus, and interception penalties
The final three quarterback-enhancing scoring systems are largely unrelated… except for their effect on the position. The quarterbacks have similar outputs in most formats, lending validity to the value-over-replacement argument. If you only need one or two quarterbacks and they all score roughly the same, there is no need to prioritize QBs over positions with greater value over replacement. But these three scoring systems increase the VORP on high-end QBs, creating a greater demand for the top tier players.
Point Per Attempt
This separates the top passers from the low-volume and running QBs. In a boilerplate format (4pt per TD and 1pt per 25 yards, with no other bonuses), mobile quarterbacks like Lamar Jackson and Josh Allen make up for their low passing yardage with rushing yards (1pt for every 10 yards, so much easier to get to a full point) and rushing touchdowns (6pt rushing TDs, so two rushing TDs equal three passing TDs). This keeps Jackson and Allen in the same points-per-game range as Andrew Luck and Drew Brees. When the scoring favors quarterbacks who stand in the pocket and attempt passes, they suddenly pull away from the quarterbacks who rely on mobility.
At .25 points per attempt, Ben Roethlisberger’s 675 attempts in 2018 yielded an additional 168.75 points on top of his 337 fantasy points for the season. This gives him a total of 505.75 fantasy points for the season, an additional 10.5 points per game. Marcus Mariota, on the other hand, attempted 331 passes in 14 games. This extrapolates to 378 attempts over a full 16-game season. He would have added 94.5 fantasy points to his season total in .25 points per attempt. That is an additional six points per game. Despite attempting more than twice as many rushes (64 in 14 games) than Roethlisberger (31 in 16 games), Mariota would have fallen even farther behind Roethlisberger’s weekly output. “Big Ben” would have outscored Mariota 31.6 to 18.5.
These are more abstract, as the 300-, 400- and 500-yard passing games are difficult enough to predict in-season, let alone before the season even begins. What we do know is the ultimate truth in fantasy football: that the path to substantial production is through volume. More pass attempts lead to more completions, and more completions lead to more passing yards.
The bonuses for passing yard milestones tend to be substantial and worth chasing (can I interest you in a 10 point bonus when your QB hits 400 yards in a game?). We know that Kirk Cousins, with his 606 attempts and 70.13 completion percentage, is more likely to hit those milestones attempting 38 passes per game than Josh Rosen. Rosen, with his 393 attempts, 217 completions (in 14 games) and a 55.22% completion rate. Cousins would have to average 14.8 yards per completion to get to 400 yards in a given game. Meanwhile, Rosen would have to complete each of his 15.5 passes for almost 26 yards in a given game to get to 400 yards. In other words, the bonus magnifies a quarterback’s volume and efficiency.
Finally, The interception Penalties (aka “Scott Fish Bowl scoring”)
This format rewards the quarterbacks who protect the ball. The standard setting is a simple minus two for interceptions. This setting turns up the temperature by deducting four points for interceptions, and six points for interceptions returned for a touchdown. The “pick-six” is a fairly random outcome (though somewhat predictive through factors like strength of the defense, early down productivity, etc.), but a quarterback who throws a lot of interceptions is more likely to throw an interception that will be returned for a touchdown. It’s a simple law of averages play.
A quarterback can make up for his interceptions with yardage and touchdowns. For instance, Roethlisberger led the league with 16 interceptions, deducting 64 fantasy points from his season total and roughly four points per game. But his 34 touchdowns and 5,129 yards easily cover the loss. He was also picked off once every 42 attempts, which is perfectly acceptable when he threw for a touchdown every 20 attempts. He was more than twice as likely to throw a touchdown as an interception.
Jameis Winston, on the other hand, attempted just 378 passes and threw 19 touchdown passes, while getting picked off 14 times. He threw an interception once every 27 attempts and was almost as likely to throw an interception as a touchdown. In four points per touchdown and minus four interceptions, his net gain was five touchdowns for 20 fantasy points. That is just over one point per game. Needless to say, his ratio of positive scoring plays to negative scoring plays makes him far less viable as a fantasy starter than Roethlisberger, Luck, or Cousins. In fact, in this format, WR44 Cole Beasley (150.2 fantasy points) was a more viable starter than Winston (146 fantasy points, assuming none of his 14 interceptions were returned for touchdowns).
To Wrap It Up
The goal is returning the glory to the most glorious position in all of sports – the quarterback position – for fantasy purposes as well. In dynasty, Superflex does just that. In a redraft, it takes a lot more juice than simply adding a position that could (and usually should) be a quarterback. Punch up your league’s QB values by taking it a step further. Take the extra step and go to a two QB format, turn the scoring up to full blast with six-point passing touchdowns, or get creative with the scoring with yardage and accuracy bonuses. The power of the quarterbacks shall be unleashed once again! SuperrrrFLEXDuuuuuude!