Fantasy football draft strategy: The approaches to two-QB
With each passing year, more fantasy football commissioners are turning to a two-QB format. Before we can break down the different strategies, we’ll look at why you should push your stubborn leaguemates to upgrade – er, change formats. In one-QB formats, the quarterback position is easily replaceable and the late-round QB approach is really the only consistently profitable one. We broke that down in last week’s roundtable discussion. According to Sal Stefanile of TwoQBs.com, 39 different QBs finished with at least one top-12 weekly finish in 2015, leaving little incentive to invest an early draft pick at the position.
In two-QB leagues, you can use the late-round QB strategy, but it’s not the only profitable one. In fact, I wouldn’t even call it the most optimal strategy to approach the QB position. We’ll break it down, along with the other strategies, so you can have the full scope of how to approach your league. Keep in mind, if you play in a 12-team, two-QB league, position scarcity plays a much greater role, and it will alter your strategy. You’ll want to get more aggressive at QB. Let’s kick things off with my ideal two-QB strategy for 2016.
(ADP data comes from TwoQBs.com, the leading source for two-QB ADP.)
Strategy 1: Pair a back-end QB1 with two high-upside QB2s
This strategy works best in auction formats, but it can be applied in the snake draft format too. It’s the same strategy I will be applying to all of my two-QB leagues. The idea is to grab a QB from the QB10-13 range. If you’ve seen our Draft Master tool and rankings, you know that means we suggest targeting Eli Manning, Tyrod Taylor, Philip Rivers or Kirk Cousins in this range. In auctions, these players will usually go off the board at a wide range. In a recent two-QB auction I broke down here, Rivers went for $21 while Manning ($8) and Taylor ($10) went for considerably less. And then there was a bidding war for Cousins ($17). Rivers was nominated first in this group and Cousins last.
For this strategy to be most effective, you want to avoid buying the first and last player nominated in this range. You should then look to grab two high-upside QB2s in the $2-10 range each. Some of our favorites include Andy Dalton, Marcus Mariota and Tony Romo, but you should consider widening your range with players like Ryan Tannehill, Matt Stafford and Jameis Winston — look for the best value.
According to ADP, there’s a sweet spot in snake drafts for targeting your back-end QB1. QB8-13 are coming off the board in the 50-60 range overall. Depending on how strongly you feel about the top of this range vs. the bottom, you might want to grab your top target a round earlier if you select in the late 50s or early 60s overall. You’ll have more flexibility when grabbing your two upside QB2s. Guys like Dalton, Mariota and Tannehill are coming off the board in the 86-100 range and you can grab upside plays like Joe Flacco and Jay Cutler several rounds later.
Strategy 2: Grab two elite quarterbacks
This is a strategy I would not advise. I’ve seen it play out with mostly negative results. The idea is that you can outscore your opponents by a large weekly margin with a combination of any two of the elite QBs. For 2016, that would include Aaron Rodgers, Cam Newton, Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson and Drew Brees. In auctions, you’ll end up allocating too much of your budget at the position. We’re talking about a minimum of 40 percent and up to potentially 50 percent of your budget at fantasy’s most volatile position. Did I mention how many QBs had a top-12 finish in 2015?
In snakes, you’re going to have to use your first two picks at QB if you want to follow this strategy. The top QB is going off the board with an ADP of sixth and the final QB in this elite tier has an ADP of 20.6. If you pick at the back end of the snake, you’re playing with fire — your first skill position player will be someone like Sammy Watkins, Mark Ingram, LeSean McCoy or Randall Cobb. You’ll also fall behind quickly at the skill positions in each ensuing round and pick up minimal value when other teams are filling out QB spots later in the draft.
Strategy 3: Zero-QB strategy
The zero-QB strategy takes a courageous owner. Although it’s not my ideal approach, I can’t knock it. Like the late-round QB strategy in one-QB leagues, this strategy takes advantage of the replaceability and the weekly scoring volatility at the QB position. In two-QB auctions, even the QB position has some insane values at the end of the draft. People run out of budget even faster in this format because there is so much more capital being allocated to the QB position overall. You’ll find guys in the $2-4 range and they could be your favorite QB2 targets depending on your league. Taking an example from the two-QB auction I linked to above, I would have been able to build a QB trio of Dalton, Romo and Winston for $13 combined. On a more extreme level, I could have grabbed Dalton, Tannehill and Flacco for $4 combined.
In snake drafts, this strategy takes, even more patience, and it’s much riskier because you don’t have control over the price of each player like you would in an auction. That same Dalton, Tannehill and Flacco combo would cost you an eighth-, ninth- and 10th-round draft pick.
Other strategy notes
The basic rule of 3: You never want to leave a two-QB draft with fewer than three QBs. The waiver wire can be a barren place in these leagues and the last thing you want is to start a zero once the bye weeks start pouring in.
Hoarding: You’ll usually find at least one owner who enters a two-QB draft with the idea of drafting four or five QBs in an attempt to hold them as leverage in future trade talks. Fantasy football is an emotional game. Even if some owners wouldn’t want to admit that emotions play a role in their thinking, I’ve witnessed many occasions where a QB-needy team refused to trade with a QB-hoarding team based on spite. This is a strategy that I would only suggest after having a full grasp on the rest of your league mates. You shouldn’t try this is a league of strangers.
Handcuffing: QB handcuffing is a little different than you would see at the skill positions. It doesn’t make much sense to draft whoever wins the job behind Tony Romo, but if you’re in early drafts, you can grab both 49ers QBs in hopes of getting a high-upside QB2 in Chip Kelly’s up-tempo offensive scheme.
There are multiple ways to win in two-QB leagues, and as you’ve learned, there are different ways to approach the QB position itself. Hopefully, this has opened your eyes to the advanced strategy involved in this format. And if you’re joining your first two-QB league or playing again, I hope this can serve as a reference for how to attack the QB position. Good luck out there.