Fantasy football – Is the top tier of QB worth drafting aggressively?

For several years now, fantasy managers have adopted the mantra of waiting for the quarterbacks to be drafted, recognizing that the depth of the position diminishes any advantage that having one of the best in the position may offer.

That may well change.

Yes, the quarterback’s scoring has reached record highs, with three of four fantastic 400-point seasons in history over the past four years, while the position (as a whole) has managed its best three totals of fantastic points over those same four years. (2020, 2021 and 2018, 2019 ranking fifth). Yes, the bar for what constitutes a “good” fantasy quarterback remains very high, as the 11 flaggers to score more than 300 fantasy points tied the 2021 total for the most in a single year in history.

Still, 2021 has signaled a slowdown, albeit mild, in overall fantasy QB production. Additionally, the recent increase in the number of mobile quarterbacks in the league has directly influenced the roster build strategy. Both factors have restored some of the appeal of having one of the best in the position. To be clear, I said sto me.

The schedule of 17 matches

First, the fact that the NFL extended its schedule by one game last season provided the position with a noticeable advantage, at least from the perspective of the seasonal totals quoted above. Adjusting the 2021 totals to compare seasons over an equal number of games – in other words, going back to 16 – overall position total (his total fantasy points scored) from last year would have only been the fourth best in history, behind 2020, 2018 and 2015, and barely at the end of 2019. Moreover, only 14 quarterbacks would have managed as many as 240 fantastic points, less than the number that reached this benchmark in seven of the eight seasons that preceded it.

However, perhaps the ideal way to illustrate this effect is to compare the position’s overall fantasy point per game medium. In 2021, starting quarterbacks averaged 16.2 Fantasy PPG, down sharply from 2020’s 17.7.

The extra play did wonders to mask the decline, making it look like the quarterbacks as a whole were maintaining record production, when in reality they were taking a collective step back. This decline was particularly evident below the top tier, as the top four scorers (Josh Allen, Justin Herbert, Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes) were mostly in line with the top four average scorers from 2019 to 2021, while the next 16 scorers have seen their totals drop by almost 20 points each compared to this three-year period.

In other words, the NFL is really elite quarterbacks mostly maintained their record fantasy production, like Allen, Herbert, Brady and Mahomes still placed in the top 40 historical QB seasons after adjusting for extra play (using 17-game totals, the quartet had fourth, 11th, 14th, and 21st fantasy points in a single season). The bar for what is now considered a fantastic “replacement-level” quarterback, however, has taken a step back.

A changing of the guard?

One potential reason for this is what could well be the start of a changing of the guard at QB. Since the start of the 2019 pre-season, the position has had three dropouts from the aforementioned historical top 40 seasons in terms of fantasy points: Andrew Luck (29th, 2014) during the 2019 pre-season, Drew Bree (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 some more notable retirements, as three of last year’s top 20 quarterbacks, Brady (3rd, 45), Aaron Rodgers (5th, 38) and Matt Ryan ( 19th, 37 years old). ) enter this season aged 37 or older. That’s not to say this season is one in which we can expect a major downturn, but the position could go in that direction if his young talents don’t step in to fill their shoes as well.

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

The success of the quarterback class of the 2021 NFL Draft will have a say in the depth at that position over the next two to three seasons, especially in light of what has been advertised as a relatively lower in April. While Mac Jones had an outstanding rookie campaign, all of Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, Trey Lance and Justin Fields were relative disappointments, and each will be under the microscope in 2022.

So part of your opinion, and resulting roster-building strategy, at quarterback has to be tied to your level of confidence in those five sophomores. I’m cautiously optimistic about Lawrence, Wilson, and Lance, but if at least two of that trio can’t take big steps forward, not only could that position spin its stat wheels in 2022, it could ring the bell. bell of that column even stronger, strategically speaking, entering 2023 (which will be especially true if Brady and/or Rodgers retire next offseason).

The growing importance of mobility

Speaking of these rookie classes, one particularly interesting development from the five draft classes leading up to 2021 (and, really, 2021 as well) was a high number of scramble-style moving shifts. There have only been 17 seasons in history in which a quarterback has rushed at least 120 times, accomplished 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 first-rounder in 2017, joined them as one of seven quarterbacks with an 80-attempt rush season in the past three years – rookie in 2011 Cam Newton and 2012 draftee Russell Wilson were the others.

This is especially important for our drafting strategies because of what mobile quarterbacks can bring to us. Of course, due to the fact that they put themselves at a much higher risk of taking hard knocks than their pocket-passing brethren, they are more susceptible to injury and running out of time. When playing, however, they usually possess higher stat floors and higher statistical ceilings.

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

That five-carry threshold is important because the numbers confirm that number as your target of a mobile quarterback. From 2019-21, quarterbacks who carried the football at least five times in a game scored you at least 15 fantasy points — a widely usable, but not league-winning total — 70% of the time. Quarterbacks who had less than five carries, by comparison, only made it 54% of the time, to meet those statistical lows. As far as stat caps go, quarterbacks with at least five runs scored you at least 25 fantasy points (much closer to a game-winning number) 27% of the time, compared to just 13% of the time for those with less than five races. .

None of that means a quarterback to have to reach the run average of five attempts for the entire season. Of the 11 quarterbacks to score more than 300 fantastic points in 2021, six have managed at least Three rushing attempts per contest, with Herbert (2nd in fantasy points, 3.7 attempts per game), Mahomes (4th, 3.9) and Dak Prescott (7th, 3.0) joining Allen (1st, 7.2), Hurts (9th, 9.3) and Murray (10th, 6.3). It’s no surprise, then, that you find these six quarterbacks, along with Jackson, whose total suffered mostly from illness-related absences (COVID-19 included), universally considered the top 10 incoming position picks. . 2022, with most of the top five rosters made up of players from this group.

What I do with my drafts

I’ve long been a proponent of picking two quarterbacks and then mixing and matching them as matchups dictate throughout the season. After all, the goal at the job isn’t to write “name marks,” but rather simply the best possible stats over a week. In short, you always want 20 points from your quarterback, every week, no matter who the individual is or what defense he’s playing.

With that in mind, it’s all the more important to address the trend of mobile QBs league-wide, and that means drafting them more aggressively than one, two or even five years ago. In fact, given the risk/reward profiles of these quarterbacks (the first part being almost exclusively about injury risk), the wisest angle might be to draft you an Allen/Jackson/Murray, then pair it with a reliable, less expensive one. pocket passer type, like a Matthew Stafford/Derek Carr/Kirk Cousins.

In my last mock draft (okay, a 14-team FSGA league), I was the first to dive into the quarterback pool as a result, picking Allen 34th overall (a third-round pick). This follows the big disappointment of our June 23 in-house simulation, in which I missed Allen (No. 42 overall pick, fourth round) by one selection, settling for Mahomes instead. In both cases, the collective perception that we had to painstakingly waiting for quarterbacks was evident in the draft room and made both quarterbacks great value.

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

Going into 2022, if Allen slips to the 40th or 45th pick, consider that a gift. Accept it. Then you can approach the next position names accordingly in the following rounds.

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