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A Thinking Man’s (or Woman’s) Guide to 2-QB Fantasy Football Drafts

Memento

You’ll be hard pressed to find a better fantasy football article this offseason that describes draft strategy approach than the one penned by Señor Reebs on this very site. It was so good I almost stole his title to fit the theme of this article. But it would have cost me an autographed picture of the “Good Morning, Miss Bliss” cast.

Ripping off Paul Zimmerman’s book title was my second choice because then everyone can make fun of me for pretending that I spend any time thinking about fantasy football. Clearly, you’re about to find out I don’t.

What was great about Rich’s piece is that he took a simple approach to a complex subject. We can get so lost in draft strategy, player evaluations, and fantasy points projections that all of a sudden it’s the night of our draft, and no matter how many printed cheat sheets are splattered across the desk we still find a way to screw up draft picks. It happens.

What I wanted to do was offer up some thoughts on how I generally approach 2-QB fantasy drafts this year now that I’ve had an offseason to practice a variety of 2-QB strategies.

A Simple Plan

In his Final QB Targets for 2014 piece, Mr. RotoViz commented that he regards “QB as the least important position in fantasy, perhaps in part because it’s also the most fun to totally punt on.” I agree with him in leagues where you only start one, but that’s not the case in 2-QB leagues.

Quarterbacks are vital in 2-QB leagues, and I find the most important aspect of preparing for a 2-QB draft is to find a plan of attack for the position and then revolve your strategy around your QB mentality.

It could be straightforward by wanting to draft early round QBs, it could be starting from the middle and choosing your own adventure with mid-round QBs, or it can be taking a late round QB approach and going “Memento” on your draft. It can also be a mix of all three.

Standard fantasy football leagues where you only have to start one QB tends to cut out your QB draft prep. You’re either taking one of the big-three early, you’re waiting until the mid rounds, or you just go LRQB. The treat bag will get filled with candy no matter what your taste buds are. You don’t have such a luxury in 2-QB leagues.

Two Early QBs or Not Two Early QBs?

The slight tweak of starting two QBs rather than one is a much more welcome change than when Coke introduced New Coke. Trying to decide if you want to spend the draft capital on two early round QBs and bypassing the value at running back or wide receiver so that you can come away with a weekly advantage over your leaguemates at the QB position is a difficult decision to make.

On the surface, coming away from your draft with Andrew Luck and Matthew Stafford could result in a massive weekly points advantage, but are you OK with Giovani Bernard as your RB1? It might be a simple question, but once you’re in 2-QB draft mode the allure of the brand name QBs is enticing.

While I preach flexibility when it comes to drafting in any league, it doesn’t hurt to come prepared on draft day with a number of strategies/QB targets you feel comfortable with.

I use 2-QB mock drafts to experiment with 2-QB draft strategies to see what could work and what should be thrown into the recycling bin. If you’re not experimenting with 2-QB draft strategies you’re missing out on a world of opportunities that could not only help you uncover a strategy you never thought of, but also make you a better drafter. Practice makes perfect is a cliche for a reason.

In addition to mock drafts, ranking the QBs (and every other position) into tiers is a wonderful draft day tool. Knowing where the cutoff is gives you an idea of which QBs you’d be fine with anchoring your 2-QB squad, and which ones you’d rather avoid spending a high cost on or not wanting at all, no matter the price.

Personal rankings are great, but sometimes we can be blinded by certain players we’re in love with. Luckily RotoViz has a number of kick-ass apps and articles that can give us some idea if our rankings and projections have any merit. Or whether we need to scrap our thinking on certain QBs.

My favorite tool on the site is the QB Similarity Scores App. Just plug a name into the system and it will spit out three sets of projections (when you click on the Season N+1 tab): high fantasy points/game (ceiling), median fantasy points/game, and low fantasy fantasy points/game (floor). For those of you in 2-QB leagues that award four points/passing touchdowns and six points/passing touchdowns you’re in luck because the app will give you projections for both.

The Machines are Winning

I combine the projections from the app, my personal rankings, and the 2-QB ADP data we have access to at XN Sports,1 and put together a short list of QB targets. What’s amazing about the app is that you can remove certain games to create a personalized projections system. I put 34 QBs through the app to see what their points/game projection for the 2014 season was.

From there, I tallied up their projections into low (floor) and high (ceiling) columns to see which QBs the app deems the safest for the season and which QBs it provides almost a warning not to draft. You can play around with the findings below.

2-QB ADP2-QB ADP RankQBCeiling Rank 4 Points 6 PointsFloor Rank 4 Points 6 Points 
3.9QB1Aaron RodgersQB920.5QB724.1QB317.8QB320.7
4.2QB2Peyton ManningQB124.6QB129.5QB417.8QB221.2
6.7QB3Drew BreesQB320.9QB225QB118.2QB121.4
13.2QB4Andrew LuckQB1420.1QB1523.4QB517.6QB520.3
13.6QB5Matthew StaffordQB1020.4QB1024QB2013.7QB2016.2
23.5QB6Cam NewtonQB520.9QB1423.5QB1315.2QB1317.7
24.5QB7Nick FolesQB420.9QB324.9QB816.2QB1118.5
27.1QB8Matt RyanQB1519.9QB924QB1116QB819.1
30.4QB9Robert Griffin IIIQB1619.9QB1623.3QB1914.2QB1916.5
35.9QB10Tom BradyQB1919.5QB2222.7QB2811.9QB2713.9
37.2QB11Tony RomoQB1220.2QB824.1QB916.2QB619.5
40.5QB12Colin KaepernickQB1719.8QB2022.8QB2313.6QB2515.1
41.1QB13Russell WilsonQB720.9QB1123.8QB716.4QB1019
42.2QB14Jay CutlerQB2219.3QB1922.8QB2612.4QB2614.4
51.1QB15Philip RiversQB820.9QB524.6QB218.2QB421.6
58.7QB16Ben RoethlisbergerQB2019.5QB1823QB1415.2QB1218.2
65.7QB17Andy DaltonQB1120.4QB1323.6QB1016QB919.1
74.7QB18Ryan TannehillQB2318.8QB2322.5QB1215.4QB1517.4
78.3QB19Alex SmithQB620.9QB424.9QB616.8QB719.2
87.8QB20Carson PalmerQB1819.6QB1723.1QB2113.7QB2115.8
92.2QB21Eli ManningQB2518.2QB2521.5QB2413.4QB2415.1
97.1QB22Johnny ManzielRookie
100.6QB23Joe FlaccoQB2718QB2721.4QB2513.4QB2215.7
110.5QB24Sam BradfordQB1320.2QB1223.7QB1714.4QB1716.9Injured/ Shaun Hill
113.9QB25Josh McCownQB2119.3QB2122.8QB1514.6QB1417.6
115.3QB26Teddy BridgewaterRookie
118.7QB27Jake LockerQB2818QB2821QB349.7QB3411
122.5QB28Ryan FitzpatrickQB2418.2QB2421.6QB2911.6QB2913.3
124.6QB29E.J. ManuelQB3215.6QB3317.8QB3310.6QB3213.1
129QB30Chad HenneQB3015.9QB3018.9QB2712QB2813.6
130.7QB31Geno SmithQB3315.6QB3218.1QB3011.5QB3313
131QB32Derek CarrRookie
132.2QB33Brian HoyerQB221QB624.6QB1814.4QB1816.92 Game Sample Size
133QB34Matt CasselQB3415.2QB3417.4QB3210.7QB3013.2
134.9QB35Michael VickQB2618.2QB2921QB2213.6QB2315.7
137.1QB36Matt SchaubQB3115.9QB3118.9QB3110.7QB3113.2
146QB37Brock Osweiler
151.3QB38Mike GlennonQB2917.9QB2621.4QB1614.5QB1617.1
154.9QB39Blake BortlesRookie

According to the app, Peyton Manning has the biggest ceiling, and Drew Brees is the safest QB. Neither of those are surprises, and if you want to pony up for a potential 55 passing TD encore season from Manning or pay for Brees’ consistency you’ll have to more than likely spend a first-round pick (if not a top two overall pick) on either in your 2-QB draft.

What I want to look for with these projections are the outliers. Which QBs are being drafted too high? Which QBs are being drafted too low? Which QBs am I overvaluing or undervaluing? I’ll be the first to admit that I’m wrong, and a getting a second opinion from a machine that can’t talk back to me is one way of doing that.

The biggest outlier? Alexander Douglas Smith.

There he was at the top of the projections. Sixth-highest projected fantasy QB in standard scoring leagues. Fourth-highest in six points/passing touchdown leagues. Why are Smith’s projected rankings so valuable? Because he has a 2-QB ADP of QB19, (78.3 overall) but is projected by the app as a potential stud fantasy QB. That’s value, and makes you feel confident if you’re into waiting to draft your QB. Even in a 2-QB league.

On the flip side, his projected floor also makes you feel safe. You might think of Smith as a boring a QB or not even a really good one. I won’t argue with either. What makes Smith a potential value pick? His rushing ability.

We see what happens in fantasy football when your QB can score points on the ground. Smith added 431 rushing yards and one rushing TD on the ground last year to go with his 3,313 passing yards and 23 passing TDs. In terms of week-to-week consistency, Smith had seven top 12 fantasy scoring weeks in 2013. Manning and Brees had the most with 11 apiece.

To add more fuel to the Smith fire, Shawn Siegele used the Projection Machine to come up with QB rankings, and Smith came in at QB15.

What we have with Smith is a potential QB1, being drafted as a low-end QB2, and sometimes high-end QB3. Kind of like what happened last year when Smith was routinely being drafted as a QB3, and then finished the season as the 13th-highest scoring fantasy QB.

2-QB Strategy and Opportunity Cost

That brings us back to QB strategy. The Aaron Rodgers are the darlings of the 2-QB world. They’re safe. They have high ceilings. And they have high floors. Joe Siniscalchi of TheFakeFootball.com goes over why it could be valuable to go QB/QB in 2-QB leagues because of that reason.

But if someone like Smith, who has a projected standard scoring high of 3.7 points less/game than Peyton Manning, and who has a floor of only 1.4 points less/game than Brees, is being drafted 6 or 7 rounds later then is going QB early that much of an advantage?

Opportunity cost is always on my mind when I’m drafting. Sure, I’d love to have Manning, Rodgers, or Brees on my team. It’d be great. But if I have a chance to draft a LeSean McCoy or Jamaal Charles over a QB I’m going to bypass QB early.

I can still draft a QB I feel comfortable with later in the draft. But the likelihood of finding a RB of McCoy or Charles’ talent later is nearly non-existent. Looking at 2-QB ADP, you can draft McCoy or Charles at 1.01 and come back with Nick Foles at 2.12, if you want to draft a QB1 early. That’s just one example. There’s no guarantee Foles will be there, but his 24.5 overall 2-QB ADP shows you have a shot. Then you could pair him up with another high-end QB immediately if you’d rather not wait on your QB2 as well.

If you draft Manning at 1.01, you’re looking at Marshawn Lynch (24.2 2-QB ADP), Le’Veon Bell (24.7 2-QB ADP), or Bernard (25.2 2-QB ADP) as your RB1. Don’t get me wrong. All fine players. But they’re no Charles or McCoy. Foles is no Peyton Manning either, but maybe he has a shot at throwing 45 TDs or being the QB1 this year.

In simpler terms: would you rather have Peyton/Lynch or Foles/McCoy?

I’ll usually take the latter, if I’m going with the studs and streaming approach to 2-QB fantasy football drafts. If you’re unaware of what this particular strategy entails it’s simply drafting a QB1 early (usually in the first few rounds of a draft) and then streaming your QB2 position.

The main drawback to waiting on QB is the rest of your 2-QB league could completely devour the QB pool and draft them all. It happens. I’ve been in 2-QB leagues before where the first 11 picks are QBs.

In instances like that you throw the 2-QB ADP out the window and formulate a draft plan based on the tendencies of your league mates. Every 2-QB league is different and the most important skill you can have is to know your draft room. If you want Matt Ryan and you’re drafting 1.08, and know at least four-to-five QBs will come off the board there’s a good chance if you pass on Ryan with your eighth pick he won’t make it back to you in the second round.

But I feel that studs and streaming helps split the difference between QB/QB and LRQB by providing a safety net in the form of one QB1, and then freeing you up to use later picks on your QB2. I won’t chain myself up to only one strategy, but this is the one strategy I find that allows me to build the most all-around competitive team.

QB/QB will most likely leave you with the best QB tandem but weak elsewhere. Usually at RB1 or WR1, depending on what you do with your post-early-QB draft picks. For the LRQB diehards, you can take the LRQB approach to 2-QB leagues, and build a league-destroying team by taking three-to-four, mid-to-late round QBs. LRQB is not for the weak, as you’ll be relying on the likes of Smith, Carson Palmer, Jake Locker, and Geno Smith every week as your two starting QBs. Deciding which of the two to start every week looks easy but never is. If you’re not prepared to research weekly matchups then streaming might not be for you.

Using 2-QB ADP

What I look for in a 2-QB draft is a way to use 2-QB ADP data to my advantage, and to figure out which rounds I need to target specific signal callers. ADP of any kind isn’t foolproof. You’re not the only one wanting to draft Smith or Ryan Tannehill, so you need to decide when the right time to pounce is.

I’ve already mentioned going QB/QB isn’t something I’ll employ in most 2-QB drafts because I’d rather use those early picks to grab RBs or WRs. And the 2-QB ADP data backs that up. The first 12 QBs, if we use 12-team 2-QB leagues as a baseline, are off the board within the first four rounds. Seven are drafted by the time round two is over.

With the RB depth pool not as attractive later on, I feel going RB-RB to start could provide an even bigger advantage than going QB-QB. The mid-round talent pool at WR is filled with quality options like Michael Floyd, Roddy White, Torrey Smith, and Mike Wallace, to name a few, that you can wait and still come away with a trio of wideouts you’d be happy with.

While I do think having two QB1s anchoring your 2-QB squad is an advantage it can still be done by waiting. One way is by either drafting one of the top 12 fantasy QBs and pairing him up with Jay Cutler (2-QB ADP of 42.2/QB14). Or to wait and draft Cutler as your QB1, and then pair him with a streaming duo that could put up QB1-type numbers.

Based off 2-QB ADP, here are a couple of examples of ways I have attacked the QB position in 2-QB drafts this year.

QB1: Nick Foles (2-QB ADP: 24.5) or Russell Wilson (2-QB ADP: 41.1)
QB2: Jay Cutler (2-QB ADP: 42.2)

OR;

QB1: Jay Cutler (2-QB ADP: 42.2) or Russell Wilson (2-QB ADP: 41.1)
QB2A: Alex Smith (2-QB ADP: 78.3)
QB2B: Carson Palmer (2-QB ADP: 87.8)

Cutler, Smith, and Palmer have been the three QBs I target the most in 2-QB drafts because they have the potential to outperform their ADPs. We went over why Smith is a 2-QB target earlier, but what about Cutler and Palmer? It’s about the talent surrounding them, and of course #TeamTrestman.

Both Cutler and Palmer made this list of undervalued QBs based on their offensive weapons.

There are a number of QBs going late I haven’t mentioned that you can add to a QB2BC stable, such as Locker and Geno. Take a look at the 2-QB ADP in the chart posted earlier to see which QBs you’d be happy pairing together.

Don’t forget to plan ahead when it comes to your QB3. You want to target players that cover the bye weeks of your starters or backups you think might start at some point in the season like Johnny Manziel or Teddy Bridgewater. Your waiver wire will be pretty bare by draft’s end, so using the later rounds of your draft as a waiver wire head start could pay dividends. Mike Glennon and Nick Foles owners in 2-QB leagues from last year know this all too well.

Parting Thoughts

In the end, you have to trust your judgement to draft a competitive 2-QB team. You’re not going to get the whole picture just by using the great fantasy apps on RotoViz, trusting rankings from friendly neighborhood fantasy analysts, or digesting 2-QB ADP. You might go into your draft thinking you’re going to wait on QB based on your pre-draft prep, but the rest of your league might have different plans and force you to change strategies mid-draft. If you’re prepared and willing to be flexible with your draft plans that won’t be an issue.

The biggest piece of 2-QB fantasy advice I can give you when it comes to your draft were uttered by one of the wisest men this planet has ever been fortunate enough to hear talk. His name: Dalton.2 His words: Be nice . . . Until it’s time to not be nice.

  1. Word of warning on the 2-QB ADP: It’s based on as small sample size, so you need to be careful when analyzing it.  (back)
  2. He doesn’t need a second name.  (back)

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