I have seen the future, and her name is superflex.
Noun | su·per·flex | \ˈsü-pər-fleks\
: a fantasy football league that includes a flex roster spot in which you may start a quarterback, offering fantasy owners the flexibility to start two quarterbacks each week.
Who Cares About Quarterbacks?
Tell me if you have heard any of these before: “Wait on quarterback.” “Why take a QB in the third round when I can get one almost as good in the eleventh round?”
Late-round quarterback is now nearly the default assumption in many corners of the fantasy football universe, because it works. While a select few fantasy analysts are clinging to their early-round Andrew Luck picks like early humans rejecting fire out of fear, the overwhelming bulk of the fantasy world suggests waiting far longer to draft your team’s quarterback.
Thanks to the work of J. J. Zachariason and others, the community now understands how replaceable the quarterback position is in typical fantasy leagues, and we all know it is more valuable to load up on skill positions early in your drafts. No matter how you parse the data – Value-Based Drafting (VBD), Value Over Replacement Position (VORP), Value Over Stream (VOS), or ADP Arbitrage opportunities – the strongest teams are built by waiting on the quarterback position.
And that’s progress. Fantasy football has been on a slow odyssey, coming into the light of day and out of the Neolithic dawn. Those of us who have played fantasy football for decades remember a time before ESPN, Pro Football Focus, and DFS. We remember when weekly scores were based on hand-written point totals your commissioner pulled from the newspaper’s box scores. There was a long time when fantasy football talk was most marked by analysis like, “Draft Ahman Green. He’s due for another good year.”
Now, fantasy football is a pillar of American life, and it has drawn incredible minds into its orbit. Fantasy football became a massive industry, and with the change has come far better analysis and far better advice. Now no one thinks twice when they read analysis on a much higher level, starting with sentences like this one: “I was … struck by the way his theory of antifragility seemed to dovetail with my fantasy football philosophy.”
If you want math, statistics, and detailed research to help you prepare for your fantasy draft this summer, you don’t have to look hard. It’s everywhere. And that’s very good.
The increased rigor brought to fantasy football analysis has led us down a new path, however. Rather than the dart-throwing methods of 90’s leagues, modern fantasy leagues often see ten and twelve owners all drafting the exact same way. Each knows there are two primary draft strategies: RB-heavy and Zero-RB (particularly in PPR leagues). You can either turn into the fragility of the running back position, or you can run from it and grab the more reliable wide receivers or elite tight ends. But through it all, they are waiting on quarterback.
As I write this, early average draft position (ADP) data shows that the first quarterback drafted this year is Andrew Luck, and he is taken, on average, as the 15th pick. The tenth quarterback off the board – Tom Brady – is the 85th pick. That’s a full round later than the tenth quarterback was drafted in 2009, and it is 22 picks later than in 2012.1 There has been a dramatic movement in the last few seasons as the bulk of the fantasy community has adopted the late-round quarterback movement.
Those developments have transformed the fantasy football landscape, and they have changed the nature of our debates. Now, we debate whether running backs or wide receivers should be drafted earlier. We don’t ask whether Michael Vick should be the first overall pick. Merely suggest a quarterback in the first round, and you will quickly see the tips of pitchforks advancing from the horizon.
In response to that transforming landscape, many fantasy owners have adopted new league formats to increase strategic diversity. Fantasy football commissioners have changed the requirements for a starting roster, some allowing and some requiring teams to start two quarterbacks now, instead of just one.
That change, although it might sound small, actually creates a radically different environment. Demand increases dramatically, driving up the cost of a good quarterback. If twelve owners can now each start two quarterbacks and quarterbacks typically score more points than any other position, suddenly 24 quarterbacks are on starting rosters each week, instead of the typical 12. Demand doubles.
As a result, fantasy drafts take on an entirely new look. Owners suddenly have new approaches open to them, free to take quarterbacks in the first round or wait on the position and grab skill position players while other owners panic and draft signal callers.
#SFB360: A CASE STUDY
In what could be seen as a giant case study for the effect of these superflex leagues, Scott Fish of DynastyLeagueFootball runs a massive 360-team superflex league called the Scott Fish Bowl. 360 owners means 360 draft approaches, providing an excellent opportunity for discussion, debate, and analysis. Those drafts just began this week, and in the words of Shawn Siegele, who has experienced the early stages of these drafts:
The value of QBs in the #SFB360 has led to tremendous and fresh fantasy discussion. QB should be relevant. SuperFlex is the future.
— Shawn Siegele (@FF_Contrarian) July 9, 2015
The superflex format increases strategic diversity as it shakes up a fantasy community whose draft strategies have stagnated for a few years. It increases the value of the quarterback position, which leads to novel draft strategies and an increased need for fantasy analysis of the most important position in football. It brings fresh life and new debate to the fantasy community. And that’s a good thing.
I have seen the future, and her name is superflex.2
- ADP drawn from FantasyFootballCalculator.com (back)
- For additional resources on superflex and 2QB leagues, check out my article, How to Win: An Introduction to 2QB and Superflex Leagues and A Thinking Man’s (or Woman’s) Guide to 2-QB Fantasy Football Drafts by Salvatore Stefanile. (back)