For years we told you to wait to get your quarterbacks, and for years you didn’t listen. Each year, so-called “expert” drafts see top-line starting quarterbacks fall in the middle rounds while the vast majority of drafts otherwise have quarterbacks who regularly drop off the board in the second round.
And I’m starting to think we were wrong and you were all right.
The 2022 edition of the CBS Sports Magazine Fantasy Football Draft Guide will hit newsstands in the coming weeks, and in this magazine you’ll see what you usually see in our fake drafts: quarterbacks that last a lot longer. than they will in most drafts. The only exception? I took Josh Allen in the second round. Three full rounds before the next QB is taken.
And you’re going to see that a lot from me this draft season. OK, maybe if I know I write with Jamey Eisenberg, Dave Richard, Heath Cummings and the rest of the Fantasy football today QB Haters Club, I might try to wait until, say, the third round to pick up a QB. But I’m probably going to be one of the first to take a QB in most of my drafts this season, that’s the point.
Why did I change my mind? I wrote about it for the magazine, and I’ve got the research to back it up for you in today’s FFT newsletter. I wanted to post this piece before I go over my top 24 players for the 2022 season in the next few days because I wanted to make sure you all understand why I’m going to have Allen (and maybe Patrick Mahomes, I don’t haven’t quite nailed that one yet) in the first two rounds of my standings.
So you can look for that top 24 breakdown soon, along with a recap of the most interesting things I’ve seen in minicamp reports over the past few weeks. We’ll also be doing an off-season mailbag soon, so be sure to send your questions to [email protected] with the subject line “#AskFFT” to include.
Now here’s why I changed my tone on early quarterbacks:
The case of early QBs
For a very long time, Fantasy analysts argued that although quarterbacks score the most points of any position, prioritizing them in drafts was not the optimal strategy because you could always find viable starters. in later rounds or on waivers. And the data backs it up — from 2016 to 2019, more than half of the top 12 weeks in six points per touchdown pass came from quarterbacks who were drafted outside of the ADP’s top 12 that season. ADP’s top 12 quarterbacks also made up just 46.6 percent of all top six.
Being one of the first people in your league to take a quarterback has given you an edge in the past, but that wasn’t enough to justify the price tag. Not when you had several later quarterbacks capable of putting on great performances. In 2019, Lamar Jackson (QB15 in ADP), Dak Prescott (QB18) and Matthew Stafford (QB24) all had at least five top-six finishes; 2018 saw Patrick Mahomes (QB15) and Jared Goff (QB16) do it; 2017 had Carson Wentz (QB18) and Josh McCown (QB30), while Alex Smith (QB23) also added 10 top 12s.
Things have changed quite drastically over the past two seasons. Between 2020 and 2021, 51.4% of all top-12 finishes came from those top 12 quarterbacks drafted each season. But it’s even more dramatic at the top end, where 67% of the top six weekly rankings came from an ADP top-12 QB. Kirk Cousins (QB17) was the only QB picked outside the top 13 to have more than three top sixes or seven top 12s, and only two others had even six top 12s.
Think of it this way: Who were you comfortable streaming last season if you found yourself stuck in that position? Derek Carr had his moments (seven top-12 finishes), as did early Carson Wentz (six), although he did go off pretty epically at the end. But guys like Tua Tagovailoa, Justin Fields, Trey Lance, Trevor Lawrence, Daniel Jones, Taysom Hill and Jameis Winston just never emerged as reliable weekly options like we hoped.
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Of course, it’s not just that streaming options fell short of expectations last season. It’s also that the bar for streaming viability keeps rising. In 2021, the No. 12 QB in points per game averaged 21.6, a rating below 20 in 2016, 2017 and 2019; in 2018, QB No. 12 averaged 20.6, a relative boom year.
None of this is to say it’s impossible to win without a quarterback at the start of the round. It does, however, mean that you have to be intentional about the position. It used to be that you could just ignore position until late and still find yourself without too much of a deficit, but that’s getting harder and harder to do – 17-18 points per game from your QB spot isn’t going to cut it when halfway of the league gets over 25.
So you have a few options you can use on draft day. You can lock in a top QB game with one of Josh Allen or Patrick Mahomes, both of whom are worth drafting in the second round in any format, with Allen likely to make a few picks ahead of Mahomes. Mahomes is as good as anyone in the league at his best, but he wasn’t at his best often enough last season amid a mid-season fade, and now he has to deal with the life without Tyreek Hill for the first time. That’s enough to knock him down half a level for me.
You can wait a few more turns for any of the Justin Herbert/Joe Burrow/Lamar Jackson/Kyler Murray tiers, or wait a few more turns for Dak Prescott, Matthew Stafford, Russell Wilson, Jalen Hurts, or Aaron Rodgers. If you go that route, you probably take a QB in the first six rounds, and that should probably be the only quarterback you take in the draft. My favorites based on where they’re likely to go, for what it’s worth, are jacksonMurray or Wilson, or Stafford if he falls a little further than the others.
Or you can wait. The problem is that this list already takes us through the top 11 of running ADP. Based on the past few years, at least, we’re already starting to run out of options. Tom Brady remains a top player, but he could be without three of his top four receivers from last season to start the year, which is concerning. Kirk Cousins and Derek Carr have the top 12, but probably not the top six, upside down. Deshaun Watson has the top six but may not be able to play for much or all of the season pending the results of the investigation into the allegations against him. If you pick one of this group, you’ll probably want to pair them with another high-potential option just in case.
Or, you can say “screw the trends” and go all-in on the late quarters. Trends aren’t fate, after all, and there are still plenty of quarterbacks with benefits that could crush the party like Jackson, Allen, Mahomes and Murray have done in recent seasons.
If you’re going for late-round quarterbacks, you want guys who either have quick upside potential or big passing volume potential. Or, ideally, a mixture of the two.
Here are my five favorites to look for:
We saw Lance start two games last season, and he had 120 yards on 21 carries in those two games, so that’s about all you need to know. The 49ers are committed to him as a long-term starter and he’s surrounded by one of the best playmaking groups in the league, with Deebo Samuel and George Kittle particularly standing out as two of the best receivers after the catch. soccer. I wonder if Lance will be able to make the most of the pass catchers here, but if you’re looking for someone who has the potential to be the next Allen, this is your best bet.
In terms of physical gifts, Fields is there with anyone in that position. The question is whether his difficulties as a rookie were due to some inherent limitations in his game or the fault of the situation he found himself in. I’m willing to bet the coaching staff in place now will be more willing to use him as a rusher after previous staff used him so rarely in play option concepts. The problem is, Fields’ point guard corps is one of the worst in the league, so he’ll have to do the heavy lifting on his own. This brings us back to questions about its inherent limitations. I might be willing to draft Lance alone, but Fields needs a Carr or Cousins to pair him up – a high-floor option, in other words, because his might be in the basement .
I expected Tagovailoa to take a leap last season thanks to an improved supporting cast, so there’s a risk of making the same mistake again. However, Tyreek Hill is one of the best point guards in the league and he partners with Jaylen Waddle to give Tagovailoa the fastest receiving duo in the game. Tagovailoa leaned more heavily on RPO concepts than any setter a year ago, so he needs to step up to become a more complete setter. But if he does, it could be a tough offense to stop.
Lawrence had the kind of rookie season that makes you seriously reconsider a prospect’s chances of making an impact. He led the league in interceptions and averaged just 6.0 yards per attempt, ranking last or near last in just about every relevant statistical category – including just three top-12 finishes. in fantasy. However, he was also stuck with a coach who was clearly outdated at the NFL level and a pretty poor collection of passers. The Jaguars have invested heavily in upgrading the latter, bringing in Christian Kirk, Zay Jones and Evan Engram for free agency, and new coach Doug Pederson has helped transform Carson Wentz’s career after an equally lackluster rookie season. .
Jones has stalled as a passer, but he continues to shine as a rusher, so we’ll follow the Giants’ lead and give him one last chance. It’s as much a bet on new head coach Brian Daboll as anything else, although it’s also worth noting that the Giants actually have a pretty intriguing group of playmakers if they can stay healthy. . It was a problem for Saquon Barkley, Kenny Golladay and Kadarius Toney last season, but there are advantages here if this trio is on the court and Daboll lives up to the hype.