Using the late round quarterback strategy is all about match-ups and roster optimization. Using minimal draft capital on signal-callers while working to build a healthy point differential early in the draft at the running back and wide receiver position can be a winning recipe. For savvy owners who are willing to take a chance using a weekly QB merry-go-round, success can depend on pairing players with friendly schedules.
The following spreadsheet was put together by taking a look at strength of schedule, ADP, and 2013 average points allowed to QBs. The Game Splits App was also used as a reference to look at how the QBs in question performed versus top and bottom half defenses over the last three years. Opponents highlighted in green in the image below finished in the bottom 12 in fantasy points allowed to QBs, while red represents the top 12. Yellow represents teams that ranked 13-20 and were essentially a neutral match-up. So simply put…green means go, red means stop and yellow means proceed with caution. In parenthesis behind an opponent, are the number of points the the team allowed per game to QBs in 2013 in standard scoring leagues.
A study of scoring averages for QBs over the last 10 years revealed that a year end output of 300 points (18.75 ppg) results in QB3 production. That might have changed recently but it’s still a decent yardstick to use when establishing an expectation.
The AFC West and NFC East were two of the worst divisions when it came to points allowed to QBs. The following players were chosen with the idea of targeting these two divisions as well as taking their ADP and schedule synchronicity into account. You can take a look at the different players below and mix and match as you choose. The projections for each group are based upon the average fantasy points allowed to QBs by each opponent in 2013. I then cherry picked the best weekly match-up for each player based upon those stats to get a total projection or each group. Again, the fantasy points shown requires that each QB produce the average number that the defense allowed in 2013.
Eli Manning/Carson Palmer/Sam Bradford – 308 points (19.25 ppg)
Taking this group may seem like a risky proposition, however the scoring potential offered by this group is more than solid. Jacob Rickrode made a case for Palmer being part of your LRQB draft plans earlier this summer comparing him to Kurt Warner. Bradford was a breakout candidate last year and played well before an ACL injury put him on the shelf. Manning’s cost is negligible after having a horrible 2013. If Rueben Randle is to break out in 2014, then it will be at the hands of Manning. Over the last three years each of these options have averaged over 19 points per game against bottom half defenses.
The highlight of this threesome is the fact that you can combine their schedules so that they play 15 of 16 weeks against teams that were ranked in the bottom 12 for points allowed to QBs in 2013. With 19 possibilities to face an AFC West or NFC East team, it should be easy to avoid the dreaded NFC West defenses. Maneuvering the draft in order to acquire all three shouldn’t take much luck as they are all ranked at QB20 or lower.
Russell Wilson/Ryan Tannehill/Sam Bradford – 308 points (19.25 ppg)
Bradford makes his second appearance on the list. Drafters may feel a bit more comfortable with Wilson as leading their committee, however he will cost a bit more. Wilson does boast the most consistent production of all the QBs listed. C.D. Carter pointed out that Wilson’s 0.6 fantasy points per dropback rank him in the top three in the NFL. Tannehill may not be as efficient as Wilson, but could improve under offensive coordinator Bill Lazor, who helped Nick Foles possibly pass Andrew Luck.
Highlights of this group’s scheduling combination include 10 games against bottom six passing defenses. Tannehill’s championship week game against 2013 league-worst Minnesota could be fruitful. This group also has 23 potential match-ups against bottom 12 passing defenses. Tannehill’s Week 4 matchup against Oakland matches up nicely with Wilson and Bradford being on byes.
Jay Cutler/Ryan Tannehill/Geno Smith – 299 points (18.68 ppg)
Max Mulitz made the case for Cutler in 2014, and LRQB strategists have been targeting him frequently. Geno looks to be the starter, and can usually be had for free as he is often going undrafted. RotoViz has been high on Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jefferey, and Eric Decker in our staff rankings going into 2014. If any of them are to succeed, it will likely be in unison with these QBs. Tannehill makes another appearance as a cog in the LRQB wheel here.
This trio has a schedule that features 22 possible games against bottom 12 passing defenses from 2013. Another highlight of this combo is the playoff schedule that features two games against Minnesota and one game against Dallas. If Geno can once again be kind of awesome for eight games in 2014, this group could be even better. It’s even more interesting that Smith has produced on a similar level as Cutler against bottom half defenses. More consistency in 2014 could make him a highly desirable waiver wire fill in.
Philip Rivers/Alex Smith/E.J. Manuel – 296 points (18.5 ppg)
This group is led by the consistent Rivers. His 18.99 points per game against top half passing defenses is higher than Cutler’s output against bottom half defenses. Alex Smith is currently going around the QB19 mark, but our Sim Score App projects him much higher. E.J. Manuel is liked much more by Las Vegas oddsmakers than the fantasy community. Buffalo pace under Doug Marrone is actually among the league leaders, something that could bode well for Manuel and sleeper Robert Woods.
Rostering this trio gives owners the opportunity to play 19 possible games against bottom 12 passing defenses. The highlight, however, may be five games against the Raiders defense with two of the games being in Weeks 15 and 16. Five other games against Denver could make for a few shoot outs. The downside to this group is that Rivers and Smith face the 49ers and Steelers championship week. By that time, your comfort level with the performance of Manuel should be clear.
Playing the Matchups
It can be helpful to take matchups into consideration when forming your LRQB strategy. Roster limitations may dictate whether it is feasible to roster three QBs. For some, the options that include likely waiver wire options such as Manuel and Geno may be more appealing. The idea is to build a high point differential with WRs and RBs and make up the difference at QB by using these back-end options. The great thing about this strategy is the flexibility it offers in matching possible options together to target weaker defenses. One note of caution is that the points allowed numbers are based upon 2013 results. While some defenses such as the Patriots look to be improved, the NFC East and AFC West as a whole still look to be good divisions to target in 2014. Heading into a draft with a plan of attack for your LRQB strategy could be the key to your QB success this year.