Fantasy football: Is the top tier at QB worth working out aggressively?

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DSN's Fantasy Factory: "The...
DSN's Fantasy Factory: "The AFC is STACKED at QB"

For several years now, fantasy managers have embraced the mantra of waiting to draft quarterbacks, acknowledging that the depth of the position diminished any advantage that having one of the position’s best could provide.

That may well be changing.

Yes, quarterback scoring has reached record levels, with three of the four 400-point fantasy seasons in history coming in the last four years, while the position (as a whole) managed its three best fantasy point totals in the same four years (2020, 2021 and 2018, where 2019 became number five). Yes, the bar for what constitutes a “good” fantasy quarterback remains soaring as the 11 signal callers who scored 300 plus fantasy points matched 2021’s total for the most part in a single year in history.

Still, 2021 signaled a downturn, albeit a small one, in overall QB fantasy production. In addition, the recent rise in mobile quarterbacks across the league has directly impacted the strategy for building a roster. Both factors have recreated some of the appeal of having one of the very best of the position. To be ready, I said some.

The game plan for 17 matches

First of all, the fact that the NFL extended its schedule by one game last season gave the position a noticeable advantage, at least from the seasonal overall perspective mentioned above. Adjusting 2021’s totals to compare seasons over an equal number of matches – in other words downscaling to 16 – the overall position total (its total scored fantasy points) from last year would only have been the fourth best in history, behind 2020, 2018 and 2015, and only barely reached out of 2019. In addition, only 14 quarterbacks would have managed as many as 240 fantasy points, less than the number that hit that benchmark in seven out of the eight seasons that preceded.

Perhaps the ideal way to illustrate this effect is to compare the overall fantasy point of the position per game average. In 2021, starting quarterbacks averaged 16.2 fantasy PPGs, a sharp drop from 2020’s 17.7.

The extra play worked wonders to mask the dropout rate, giving the impression that quarterbacks on the whole kept a record in production, while in fact taking a collective step back. This decline was especially evident during the top tier, as the top four scorers (Josh Allen, Justin Herbert, Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes) were mostly in line with the average top-four scorers from 2019 to 2021, while the next 16 scorers saw their totals fall by almost 20 points apiece compared to the three-year period.

In other words, the NFL is real elite quarterbacks mostly maintained their record-breaking fantasy production, as Allen, Herbert, Brady and Mahomes still ranked among the top-40 historic QB seasons after adjusting for the added game (using 17 games overall, the quartet managed the fourth, 11th, 14th and 21st most single-season fantasy points). However, the bar for what is now considered a “replacement-level” fantasy quarterback took a step back.

A shift change?

A potential reason for this is what could very well be the start of a shift change at the QB position. Since the 2019 preseason, the position has been seen three retirements among the aforementioned top-40 historic seasons in terms of fantasy points: Andrew Lykke (29., 2014) during the 2019 preseason, Drew Brees (7th, 2011; 25th, 2013; and 33rd, 2012) after the 2020 season and now Ben Roethlisberger (39th, 2018) last January.

Additionally, the position is likely not far from seeing a few more notable retirements, as three of last year’s top-20 quarterbacks, Brady (3rd, age 45), Aaron Rodgers (5th, age 38) and Matt Ryan (19th, age 37)). ) enter this season at the age of 37 years or older. It’s not to characterize this season as the one where one can expect a significant downturn, but the position may be heading in that direction if its younger talent does not step up to fill their shoes just as well.

It’s also worth pointing out that quarterbacks typically don’t deliver their most productive seasons late in their careers. Yes, modern quarterbacks have been terribly good at advanced ages, but history’s stacked odds show that there have only been nine quarterbacks to score 300 plus fantasy points and only 23 with 240-plus at the age of 37 or older, with Brady himself responsible for three and eight of the seasons. Brees account for two more and three, respectively.

The success of the 2021 NFL draft quarterback class will have a significant impact on the depth of this position over the next two to three seasons, especially in light of what was announced as a relatively weaker class in April. While Mac Jones had a prominent rookie campaign, all of Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, Trey Lance and Justin Fields were relative disappointments, and each of them will be under scrutiny by the time they enter 2022.

Part of your opinion and the consequent strategy for building shift schedules at quarterbacks should therefore be tied to your level of confidence in these five sophomores. I’m cautiously optimistic about Lawrence, Wilson and Lance, but if at least two of that trio can not take big steps forward, this position can not only turn its statistical wheels in 2022, it can ring even higher in this column’s bell, strategically speaks, goes into 2023 (something that will be especially true if Brady and / or Rodgers retire next season).

The growing importance of mobility

Speaking of these rookie classes, a particularly interesting development from the five draft classes that preceded the 2021s (and indeed the 2021s as well) was an increased number of mobile quarterbacks in scrambling style. There have only been 17 seasons in history where a quarterback rushed at least 120 times, executed by nine different quarterbacks. Of those nine, four were selected between the 2018 and 2020 drafts (Allen, Jalen Hurts, Lamar Jackson and Kyler Murray). Deshaun Watson, a 2017 first-rounder, joined them as one of the seven quarterbacks with an 80-try rushing season in any of the past three years – 2011 draftee Cam Newton and 2012 draftee Russell Wilson were the others.

This is especially important for our draft strategies because of what mobile quarterbacks can give us. Sure, as a result of exposing themselves to a significantly greater risk of taking brutal hits than their brothers passing the pockets, they are more susceptible to injury and lost time. When they play, however, they generally have higher statistical floors and higher statistical ceilings.

To illustrate this point further, consider that six quarterbacks last season averaged at least five rushing attempts per game while starting at least half of their team’s quarterback games – Allen, Fields, Hurts, Jackson, Daniel Jones and Murray. Four out of this group – Allen, Hurts, Jackson and Murray – had on average more than 20 fantasy points per game. game. This group also accounted for 21% of the 10 best weekly QB performances and 31% of the two best QB efforts for the entire season.

The five-carry threshold is important because the numbers confirm that number is your goal from a mobile quarterback. From 2019 to ’21, quarterbacks who carried football at least five times in a match scored you at least 15 fantasy points – a very useful, but not league-winning overall – 70% of the time. Quarterbacks, who had fewer than five carries, made it by comparison only 54% of the time to tackle these statistical floors. In terms of statistical ceilings, quarterbacks with at least five carries scored you at least 25 fantasy points (much closer to a matchup-winning number) 27% of the time compared to only 13% of the time for those with fewer than five carries.

None of this is to say that a quarterback shall reach the rushing average of five attempts for the season as a whole. Of the 11 quarterbacks who scored more than 300 fantasy points in 2021, six managed the least three urgent attempts per. competition where Herbert (2nd in fantasy points, 3.7 attempts per game), Mahomes (4th, 3.9) and Dak Prescott (7th, 3.0) joined Allen (1st, 7.2), Hurts ( 9., 9.3) and Murray (10., 6.3). It therefore comes as no surprise that you will find all six of these quarterbacks, as well as Jackson, whose overall most suffered due to illness-related absence (COVID-19 included), universally considered the top-10 positional choices of 2022, with the most top-five lists of players in that group.

What I do with my drafts

I have long been a supporter of picking two quarterbacks and then mixing and matching them as matchups dictate throughout the season. After all, the goal of the position is not to produce “name tags”, but rather just the best possible single-week statistics. In short, you will still have 20 points from your quarterback each week, no matter who the person is or what defense he plays.

With that in mind, it’s most important to lean into the league-wide, mobile QB trend, and that means you have to work them out more aggressively than you might have one, two or even five years ago. Given the risk / reward profiles of these quarterbacks (the previous part was almost exclusively related to injury risk), the wisest angle might be to draw yourself an Allen / Jackson / Murray and then pair him with a reliable, lower price pocket fit type, as a Matthew Stafford / Derek Carr / Kirk Cousins.

In my most recent mock draft (approved, a 14-team FSGA league), I was the first to dive into the quarterback pool accordingly, choosing Allen as No. 34 overall (a third-round pick) . It came on the heels of the big disappointment in our in-house mock on June 23, where I missed Allen (No. 42 overall pick, fourth round) with one pick and settled for Mahomes instead. In both cases the collective perception that one had to painstaking wait for quarterbacks was evident in the pull space and made both quarterbacks great values.

Remember the last part of my mantra about quarterbacks, which I often quote: It’s not about waiting for quarterbacks, it’s about waiting for your quarterback to slip, to be gifted to you in a particular turn.

Into 2022, if Allen slips as far as the 40th or 45th election, consider it a gift. Accept it. Then you can approach the next few position names accordingly in the following rounds.

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