Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Dak Prescott
- Chris Raybon makes the case for employing the late-round QB strategy in your fantasy football drafts and identifies the top targets for 2019.
Ask me for one fantasy football tip, and I might say, “Why not ask for two? Live a little.” But my one tip would be: Wait on a quarterback.
The Late-Round Quarterback strategy, popularized by JJ Zachariason, is not just a QB strategy — it’s the predominant fantasy football strategy.
In normal fantasy leagues that require one starting QB, you can maximize your draft by waiting until the final few rounds to draft a QB. At its most basic level, the value in this strategy is due to the excess supply of viable fantasy options at QB each week compared to every other position. Even if you whiff on your drafted QB, there can be anywhere from a half-dozen to a dozen options on the waiver wire that you can stream throughout the season, a method that oftentimes can outscore most individual QBs if done well.
Zachariason has written in depth about the Late-Round QB strategy in an article titled: “Why You Should Draft your Quarterback Late. Every Single Year.” It not only gives him the title belt for the predominant fantasy strategy article, but also the predominant fantasy article with two periods in the headline. I encourage you to check that out, as well as the rest of his work.
Now let’s dig into my take on the strategy and how to put it into action in 2019.
Clearing the Mental Hurdles of Late-Round QB
Executing the strategy is easy enough: Be the last team in your league to draft a QB.
If no one has drafted a QB by the time you’re up in the last rounds before you have to draft a kicker and defense, congrats, you just got the overall QB1 — but you’re going to need him, because man is your league sharp.
Sometimes you don’t necessarily need to be the last, especially if you see value where you can snag a QB before a tier drop-off. But value dictates that you want to at least have drafted a few extra bench players at RB and WR before you jump into the QB mix.
I’ll get into how to choose individual QBs below, but first I want to tackle what I think are the biggest roadblocks to implementing this strategy, which are all mental.
‘I’ve Already Filled My Starting Lineup’
You never have your starting lineup when you think you do.
According to a study from ProFootballLogic.com, running backs miss 16.9% of their games on average, wide receivers miss 12.5%, tight ends miss 11.3% and quarterbacks miss 6.9%.
That means that once bye weeks are accounted for, the average number of unavailable weeks is 3.54 for RBs, 2.88 for WRs, 2.69 for TEs, and 2.0 for QBs.
In other words, you’ll need somewhere in the neighborhood of a half-season’s worth of games from your “bench” at RB and WR. And remember, this is before accounting for weeks when you simply need to bench players for performance reasons.
Let’s assume you’ll abide by a strict start-your-studs mentality and never bench players selected in Rounds 1-3, you will probably still want to bench RB2/3s, WR2/3s and non-stud TEs against top-five defenses. The odds of a player facing a top-five defense are 15.6%, or 2.3 games over a 15-game season. That means you’ll need to account for anywhere from an additional four to five games in smaller starting lineups to nine to 10 in larger starting lineups.
Positionally, you’re going to need upwards of a full season’s worth of extra games from RBs and WRs not considered part of your starting lineup, and start-able weeks from those positions are a lot more difficult to find than at QB.
Save for an outlier hit rate from Round 11 RBs, you are more likely to find a top-12 QB than a top-36 option at RB or WR anytime before Round 13.
The sweet spot for QBs has been Rounds 9-10, which would be after you’ve taken four to five bench players in leagues with smaller starting lineups and at least one to two bench players in leagues with larger starting lineup requirements.
‘But Rankings/VBD Say I Should Take a QB Here’
Sometimes I think that FLEX rankings should be the default fantasy football rankings rather than those with QBs included. Novice drafters often see a QB is the best player available and pull the trigger without properly accounting for the supply vs. demand element.
For example, just because we have Deshaun Watson ranked 55th overall in our expert consensus fantasy football rankings doesn’t mean you should pull the trigger if he’s sitting there when you’re picking at 67th.
While Watson might be giving you a +12 in overall value, that doesn’t mean much when you consider that four QBs we have ranked in the 90-105 range — Josh Allen, Cam Newton, Dak Prescott, and Jared Goff — all go an average of at least 20 picks later than we have them ranked.
You also have to account for the fallibility of projections. In a 12-team league with half-PPR scoring, the difference between QB1 and QB12 has been 83 spots overall, or 6.9 per QB. The difference between RB1 and RB36 has been 3.3 spots, between WR1 and WR36 has been 2.2, and between TE1 and TE12 has been 7.5.
You have a lot more to lose if a QB finishes a few spots off his ranking than if the same thing happens at RB or WR.
The bottom line is that the QB3 and QB20 finished within four points per game of each other last season, which is generally the norm, more or less. You just want to make sure to grab your QB before the tier of potential QB1s ends.
How to Choose a Late-Round QB
Option 1: Swing for an Every-Week QB1
In theory, the one advantage of selecting a QB early is that you could play him every week — he’s matchup-proof. But things never really shake out like that.