I've gotten this question a lot recently and I will face this dilemma myself in both the FFN Experts League for Charity as well as the Fleaflicker.com Experts League. The answer is...maybe. So when would it be a good idea to draft a quarterback?
It really depends upon the league. If passing touchdowns are worth 6 points or if your league can start 2 quarterbacks, it's reasonable to draft an elite QB with your first pick. In the FFN Experts League, passing TD's are only 4 points, but we can start a QB in the flex. In the Fleaflicker league, passing TD's are worth 6 points. Unless you're in either of these situations, it's difficult for me to recommend drafting a QB in the first round.
Valuable Passing Touchdowns
Peyton Manning threw 55 touchdowns last year. It's highly unlikely that he throws for another record-breaking season, but let's use 50 touchdowns because it's an easy number to play with. In a normal league where a passing score is worth 4 points, that's 200 points that he'll contribute to your team for the season. If the league gives out 6 points for a passing TD, that's an additional 100 points or an average of 6.25 points per game. 6 points is like expecting one of your receivers or running backs to score an additional touchdown each week. That's difficult to do, which makes drafting an elite QB like Manning more attractive.
If Drew Brees can repeat his 36 passing TD's from last year, a two point difference yields an additional 4.5 points per game. The points per game start to drop off after Brees. Tom Brady, for example, threw 25 TD's last year which would translate into an additional 3 points per game.
Keep these numbers in mind, because they are going to become important in a few moments when we discuss the value of drafting top tier running backs or wide receivers in the first round instead.
In a league where you have to start 2 quarterbacks or in a league where you can start a QB in the flex position, you'll have to approach your draft differently. If you're sitting with an elite QB like Manning, Rodgers, or Brees and can draft a Tier 2 QB to start each week, those guys are going to put up some consistently solid numbers each week. The problem is that in a league like this, QB's are going to go early and quickly. In a normal 1-QB league, everyone is essentially guaranteed a Top-12 QB. If you don't grab at least 1 solid QB in the 2-QB format, you're going to be stuck with a Tier 3 or Tier 4 guy with a backup who is an actual backup in the NFL. That's a terrible situation to be in.
Draft Spot Makes All The Difference
In these types of leagues, it really depends on where you're drafting. If you're drafting in the first 5 or 6 spots, I would still draft Jamaal Charles, LeSean McCoy, Adrian Peterson, Matt Forte, Eddie Lacy, or Calvin Johnson. An argument could be made to include Jimmy Graham in that list as well. Once those 5-7 guys are gone, it's OK to start looking at Manning.
In a 2-QB league, I would likely gamble and draft Manning here knowing that the other QB's will likely fall shortly thereafter. My hope would be to gain another top QB with my second pick. This would be a gamble because I would be waiting until the 3rd round to draft my RB1. The only way that this approach would be beneficial is if the points I anticipate earning off the 2 quarterbacks each week surpasses the points I would have expected to earn off my other two picks and down the line.
In a 6-point passing TD league, I'm likely to wait until the next round before drafting an elite QB unless Manning is available to me at the end of Round 1. I would immediately follow that up with a running back or elite receiver.
Depth, Depth, Depth
Other than the two scenarios above, I am going to repeat the same phrase I do every year: "wait on your quarterback".
It's one thing for me to say "wait on your QB", but when Manning, Rodgers, or Brees is staring at you while you're sitting on the clock, I understand the temptation. Someone is likely to draft one or even all three of those guys by the time it comes back around to your second pick, thus eliminating your chance at owning an elite QB. Worry not. If you drafted in the first couple of spots and grabbed a solid RB, you're still in a good position. In fact, if you missed out on Manning, Rodgers, or Brees, I wouldn't look to draft a QB until Round 4 or 5. The QB's ranked 4th - 13th on the FFN Draft Rankings are all within a few points of each other each week. If you don't get a Tier 1 QB, target Matthew Stafford, Andrew Luck, Nick Foles, Matt Ryan (who should have a nice bounce back year), Robert Griffin III, Tony Romo, or Tom Brady. There is still tremendous value in this tier.
Where depth becomes more of a concern is with running backs. Remember earlier when I said to keep the Manning numbers in mind? In a format where passing touchdowns are 6 points, the additional 6.25 points a game from Manning is helpful, but what if those points don't cover the difference between the running back you could have drafted versus the running back that you did? This is when we factor in the dropoff between running back tiers. If you passed on guys like Marshawn Lynch, Giovani Bernard, Le'Veon Bell, Montee Ball, or DeMarco Murray so that you could grab a QB, you likely got somone like Andre Ellington, C.J. Spiller, Toby Gerhart, Reggie Bush, or Ryan Mathews as your RB1. The difference there is not so bad - perhaps 3 points per game on average. The real thought experiment here is if you had drafted a guy from that first group as your RB1 and a guy from that second group as your RB2. You're in a good position with your running backs and can still draft one of the Top 12 QB's who are all pretty even. If you draft a QB too early, you'll be forced to draft an RB2 along the lines of Ben Tate, Trent Richardson, Steven Jackson, Maurice Jones-Drew, or Danny Woodhead. Now the drop off between the RB2 you could have had and the RB2 you're forced to take can be detrimental. At this point, the net loss on average points per week can easily exceed any points gained from drafting that elite QB.
There is pretty solid depth at both QB and WR this year. The NFL has morphed into a pass-happy league and many teams operate under a running back by committee (RBBC) approach - think Reggie Bush and Joique Bell, Spiller and Jackson, Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley. There are far fewer workhorses today than just ten years ago. The number of Marshall Faulk's and Shaun Alexander's are limited. Guys just aren't getting 300 touches a year like they used to, which means that the dropoff in weekly production is going to be felt more within the RB position. Tiers are crucial with the RB position.
Depending on your league setup and scoring, it may make sense to draft an elite QB with your first pick. If you're in a normal league starting just 1 QB, you can draft an elite QB in the 2nd round or later...if you want to. If the elite guys are gone, don't reach for the 4th or 5th ranked QB. Let someone else do that. Quietly stock up on top tier running backs and wide receivers while targeting an RGIII, Luck, Ryan, or Romo. You can smile and thank the other players later for reaching.
When you decide to draft a QB is going to ultimately depend on where your comfort level is and how your league is setup. If you don't have pass-friendly scoring, remind yourself to wait. There is enough depth at quarterback to win your league without an elite QB at the helm.
The Tier 1 QB's are definitely safe picks. If you decide to draft Manning, Rodgers, or Brees with your first pick and the rest of the league harasses you, be happy with the fact that you've just given yourself some great consistency each week...then start targeting running backs.
nickster CommentedApr 30, 2016 11:00 am
is it smart to go after a qb or a runing back frst round