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Late Round QB is the New Black

These early months of 2016 are unlike anything we have seen in fantasy football history. The entire community has begun to wait on quarterback. Late round QB is sweeping the nation.

Late-round QB was popularized as a term by J.J. Zachariason back in 2012, but few fantasy owners heeded his call. Steve Gallo then laid out the beautiful Zero QB Theorem the following year, but still few followed. QBs continued to go early in nearly every draft.

Now, fantasy players have abandoned all caution, driven mad by the late-round success of last year’s quarterback crop. This year’s patience at the position is unprecedented.

chartQBADP2009-15

Quarterbacks are cheap, dirt cheap, and I believe that trend is here to stay.

Recently, C.D. Carter reminded us that there is a burst of early-round quarterback delusion in the months before every NFL season, but with all due respect to Denny, I believe this year’s QB surge will be far weaker.

While quarterback prices may rise as less-experienced drafters enter the pool, we have yet to see any movement in that direction, as shown by the last thirty days’ ADP for a few QBs at various price points.

chartApril to May MFL10 QBs

Of course, we are still three months from heavy drafting season and four months from NFL kickoff, so there is plenty of time for QB madness to set in. Maybe my theory will look like hot garbage by August, but I expect recency bias1 will drive even casual fantasy owners to overrate their ability to find elite passers at the tail end of the draft, deflating QB prices throughout the draft season.

Last year, seven quarterbacks drafted outside the top-20 had six or more top-12, or QB1, weeks. Seven!

Owners who drafted any of those seven now feel particular fondness for late-round quarterbacks, along with their ability to pick them. The community as a whole appears to believe cheap quarterbacks can produce at reliable, if not elite, levels, and those owners believe they are qualified to find the diamonds in the rough.

chart2015 Top-12 Weeks to ADP

Contrast 2015 with 2014, however, when only one quarterback outside the top-20 met the same six-game threshold.

chart2014 Top-12 Weeks to ADP

2014 wasn’t the only year where ADP better predicted QB production; my data shows that 2015 had the worst correlation between draft position and weekly QB scoring in recent memory.2

Even though history says 2015 was an aberration for late-round quarterbacks, the community appears dead set on drafting as if it is the new normal. I encourage you to leverage history and an awareness of recency bias to buck the trend.

The Winning Team Scores Points

All of the above makes me think Jake Richmond was just one year too early in publishing the No-Brainer QB Strategy Nobody is Talking About. One of his central tenets:

This should come as no surprise, but the fucking point-scoring QBs don’t just outscore the late-round QBs; they almost always outscore the late-round QBs.

Now, you can get those point-scoring QBs in much later rounds than you ever could before, which makes one wonder: Why aren’t you doing it?

QB 2016 ADP 2014-15 Average ADP
QB1 35.06 9.34
QB2 37.82 13.63
QB3 49.47 27.42
QB4 61.06 37.03
QB5 93.33 41.14
QB6 98.89 51.66
QB7 105.04 59.23
QB8 115.21 66.79
QB9 119.84 71.61
QB10 120.36 83.24
QB11 139.32 85.07
QB12 158.59 92.01

  1. Douche illustrated recency bias in fantasy football several years ago, for those interested.  (back)
  2. I only have reliable data going back to 2009, but each of those six prior seasons had stronger correlations than did 2015, most by a significant margin.  (back)

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