Did the Late Round Quarterback Work in 2013? Part One

| January 31, 2014

Andy-Dalton.Philip-Rivers.400Fantasy football is a game of strategy. Some say it’s luck. Some say it’s putting yourself in the best position to get lucky. The truth is, it’s a combination of both of these things. Anyone can win one championship, but being able to perform consistently at a high level in redraft leagues takes strategy, preparation, and a bit of luck.

One of the best ways I have used to maintain relative success is the late round quarterback approach. If you’re unfamiliar with the method, it specifically means waiting on a quarterback in fantasy football drafts, while still being able to sustain the points that a top-tier quarterback would produce.

The idea behind this approach is that three quarterbacks will typically be selected in the first round of a given draft. This allows a Jamaal Charles or Calvin Johnson to be had later than they should. The key is not to bite in the mid-rounds when your guy is available, like a Matt Ryan, or even a Matthew Stafford. For example, this season I drafted Michael Vick in the 11th round as my starting quarterback. But in a bittersweet situation, I was able to pluck Nick Foles off the waiver wire, and he was a number one fantasy quarterback for the remainder of the season. Yes, that is a stroke of luck, but Josh McCown and Ryan Fitzpatrick also accomplished the same thing.

J.J. Zachariason, author of the “The Late Round Quarterback” says:

Drafting a quarterback late in fantasy football is no new idea. Folks have been doing it for years because they understand that it doesn’t rely on projections or predictions – it’s all about how fantasy is structured and built. You start one quarterback, and you start two or three running backs and receivers. Without getting into long detail, that alone gives you an initial idea as to what the strategy is all about. When you factor in some basic math, economic principles and average draft position analysis, the strategy becomes incredibly obvious, especially in today’s NFL.

The beauty of the approach is that it doesn’t really matter who you draft, given you’re spending a late-round pick on the passer. Whoever I get, chances are I’m not sticking with him every week throughout the season, something often misconstrued with the strategy.

I won championships this year while starting Ryan Fitzpatrick for a few weeks, and Josh McCown in others. The quarterback position has a predictability aspect each week that a lot of people don’t realize, making waiver wire players and adds more reliable than any other position. In essence, if I pick the wrong guy in Round 10 of my draft, who cares? I’ll find a guy off the wire to fill the void, all while having the best depth at wide receiver and running back – the scarce positions in fantasy football – in the league.

 

J.J. hit the nail on the head when it comes to the strategy of the late round quarterback. Some think that once you draft the quarterback in the late round, he becomes “the guy” going forward. In addition to the aforementioned example, I started one league with Michael Vick and Josh Freeman, and ended it with Nick Foles, Tom Brady, and Ryan Fitzpatrick. I was able to get Brady because I had incredible depth at wide receiver and running back, and another owner (who drafted Brady in the second round) needed some skill players badly.

Here is a quick look at the top 16 fantasy quarterbacks and their point totals for the 2013 season (standard scoring):

Quarterback Fantasy Points
Peyton Manning, Den QB 410
Drew Brees, NO QB 357.7
Cam Newton, Car QB 297.7
Andrew Luck, Ind QB 292.6
Andy Dalton, Cin QB 288.1
Philip Rivers, SD QB 287.4
Matthew Stafford, Det QB 278.9
Russell Wilson, Sea QB 270.2
Colin Kaepernick, SF QB 264.3
Tony Romo*, Dal QB 260.9
Nick Foles, Phi QB 260.1
Ben Roethlisberger, Pit QB 258.8
Alex Smith, KC QB 253.2
Tom Brady, NE QB 251.5
Matt Ryan, Atl QB 248.1
Ryan Tannehill, Mia QB 238.3

 

As you can see, Peyton Manning was far ahead of everyone else. Drew Brees was in the second tier all by himself, but in the third tier you can see four quarterbacks within 10 points of each other. These quarterbacks totaled from 287.4 to 297.7 points. Here is the catch: Andy Dalton and Philip Rivers both had ADPs (average draft position) of over 100, with Dalton averaging at 112 and Rivers averaging at 155 as per FantasyPros.com. So the fifth- and sixth-ranked quarterbacks had ADPs in the 8th round and the 14th round respectively. Now, that’s only two quarterbacks, but as J.J. said, not everyone drafted will be the starting quarterback for your fantasy team.

Here is a chart of the quarterbacks who averaged 18 or more fantasy points per start in 2013:

Quarterback Fantasy Points/Start ADP
Peyton Manning, Den QB 25.6 19
Drew Brees, NO QB 22.4 12
Cam Newton, Car QB 18.6 36
Andrew Luck, Ind QB 18.3 61
Andy Dalton, Cin QB 18.0 112
Philip Rivers, SD QB 18.0 155
Nick Foles, Phi QB 26 Waiver Wire
Aaron Rodgers, GB QB 18.8 13
Ryan Fitzpatrick, Ten QB 18.5 Waiver Wire
Josh McCown, Chi QB 27.2 Waiver Wire
Matt Cassel, Min QB 18 Waiver Wire

As you can see, only four of the 11 players listed have ADPs in the top three rounds, and only five were drafted in the early or mid rounds. Andy Dalton, Philip Rivers, Nick Foles, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Josh McCown, and even Matt Cassel averaged over 18 fantasy points per start.

Now, you’ve seen why it’s beneficial to select a quarterback in the late rounds, but the question now: Who could I have gotten instead?

Six quarterbacks had an ADP of 39 or higher, which means on average six quarterbacks were drafted in the first three rounds. Here are those six, with their fantasy output in 2013:

Quarterback ADP Fantasy Points Fantasy Points/Start
Aaron Rodgers (GB) 13 169.4 18.8
Drew Brees (NO) 12 357.7 22.4
Peyton Manning (DEN) 19 410 25.6
Tom Brady (NE) 31 251.5 15.7
Cam Newton (CAR) 36 297.7 18.6
Matt Ryan (ATL) 39 248.1 15.5

These are the skill position players who could have been drafted at similar ADPs:

Player ADP
Matt Forte (CHI) 15
Dez Bryant (DAL) 14
Brandon Marshall (CHI) 21
Jimmy Graham (NO) 23
Frank Gore (SF) 26
Andre Johnson (HOU) 29
Reggie Bush (DET) 30
Demarco Murray (DAL) 34
Vincent Jackson (TB) 39
Wes Welker (DEN) 44

In 2013, there were 11 quarterbacks who averaged 18 fantasy points per game, which is a good performance of 250 yards and two touchdowns or more. Of these 11, there were five who could have been had in the late rounds or through the waiver wire. Why draft a quarterback early? If you didn’t in 2013, you were likely rewarded with your early picks listed above. Chances are it will happen again in 2014, and 2015, so on and so forth. Who is next year’s Andy Dalton? Truth is, it doesn’t matter because you will be able to find him.

  • Jason Williams

    I have always subscribed to this theory and have won multiple leagues with it.

    pretty big deviation in the mccown numbers – take away the dallas game and you’re probably not thrilled with the results.