As we are preparing for our drafts, we are going to dive into the recent history of average draft position to pull away any ongoing trends or pitfalls. Every year, we have nearly eight full months to prepare for the draft, but just how good are we at setting the market for the season?
So far, we have taken a dive in what we could pull from ADP for the running back position in terms of hit rates and falling short of draft expectations, while talking about the value of handcuffs and if you should be buying discounted lead running backs in your draft. We then followed that up with similar dives into the wide receivers and tight ends. Wrapping things up, we are diving into the quarterback position.
How Far Have We Come In Waiting On Quarterbacks in Fantasy Drafts?
Back in 2010, the first quarterback off the board (Aaron Rodgers) in the average fantasy draft was being selected on average at pick 7.8 overall. Not even that QB1 spot was overvalued, but the QB5 that season was being selected on average at pick 35.1 overall, a late third-rounder.
In 2012 after one of our first modern scoring explosions, we then had three different quarterbacks drafted in the FIRST ROUND of fantasy drafts.
That 2011 season and 2012 top-shelf cost prompted JJ Zachariason to create an eBook and fantasy brand centered around the late round quarterback, which drove home the emphasis on why you should draft your quarterback late every season.
He was not alone, but at the forefront of highlighting the opportunity cost and replaceability at the position and by now, you have been told to wait on drafting the quarterback position in fantasy football over and over.
Well, quarterbacks have gotten cheaper. But have we gone far enough? We have not had a quarterback with a first round ADP since the 2015 season, but the lowest ADP for a QB1 overall since then has also just been 26.1 with the other three top signal callers going on average at pick 22.3, 18.6, and last season at pick 18.0 overall. So the top of the position has dropped a touch, but we cannot collectively help ourselves still at the top of the position when chasing a top scoring season from the year prior.
Chasing a high scorer exists, but have we moved the baseline at all? Back in 2010, the average draft position overall for the QB12 in leagues was 92.0 and the QB18 at 125.5. In 2019, the QB12 had an ADP of 108.4 and the QB18 at 131.6 overall. So after nearly a decade of calibration and knowing that quarterbacks are overvalued fantasy commodities, we have only dropped the top of the position roughly a full round and the baselines of the position a round and half and half a round. So are we really waiting as long as we should be on the position? Let us dive into some draft fallout.
If you have been following through each position so far, the first thing that jumps out is that the correlation of positional draft position and fantasy points scored per game are absolutely, bar-none the weakest at the quarterback position than any other position in fantasy football. It’s not even remotely close to the weakest of the skill positions, which was tight end. Even if we reduce our sample down to only the top-12 quarterbacks selected in drafts over the past decade, the correlation only jumps to .1355. We have our tightest trend line and weakest correlation to draft cost.
We will be going further into the “why?” of waiting on quarterbacks in your fantasy draft at a later date, but for now, we are trying to focus on how good we are at drafting the position in context of itself.
Exploring the best scoring seasons per game above, there have been 42 seasons here in which a quarterback has averaged 20 or more fantasy points per game. 31 of those have come from top-12 draft picks within the position, but 24 of those 42 seasons have also come from quarterbacks selected at QB5 or later.
From a seasonal stance, there have been 13 seasons in which we have seen a quarterback score at least 350 fantasy points in a season over the past 10 years. Five of those seasons have come from quarterbacks selected at QB11 or later and just one of them (Aaron Rodgers in 2011) came from a quarterback selected as the QB1 overall at the position. To take that a step further, of the top-30 individual scoring seasons for quarterbacks over the past decade, just two of those (Rodgers in 2011 and 2012) were posted by QB1 overall draft selections.
Seemingly every season we bring up how the QB1 overall is unlikely to match his draft cost, but every season also seemingly say “well, this guy is different” and just select last year’s top scorer at the top of the position again. There is potential that perhaps Lamar Jackson is that unique of a scorer given his rushing ability, but here we are again in 2020.
QB Tiers and Rate of Players Matching/Exceeding Draft Position and High-Scoring Rates
Despite top quarterbacks overall failing to end up as the headpins in fantasy scoring that season, they still have held tremendously safe floors that are high at the position.
Just one-third of the quarterbacks selected as the QB1-QB3 over the past 10 years have delivered a top-three scoring season, but that rate is high for our arbitrary buckets above while those quarterbacks have delivered a top-12 scoring season at an 83.3% rate and a top-six scoring season at a 63.3% rate while averaging the most points per game by a sizeable gap.
The drafted QB1 has finished as the QB1 overall just once over the past 10 years, but collectively those players have averaged 20.1 fantasy per game with just one (Cam Newton in 2016) averaging fewer than 18.5 fantasy points per game. Rarely does the QB1 pay off equal draft cost in pacing his position, but the floor has been high for those players.
In terms of overall draft position, there have been 23 quarterbacks with an overall draft position in the first or second round (where both Lamar Jackson and Patrick Mahomes are this season). 19 of those passers were top-12 scorers that season and 14 finished the season as a top-six scorer, with seven as the QB2 overall or higher and three as the top scorer that season.
We are even really good at setting the secondary market at the position. QB4-6 in fantasy drafts have not had the same spikes as those top options, but the hit rates from that pocket of passers is still relatively high.
It is after that group where things get intriguing. When diving into the back-end tier of top-12 quarterback selections, we can make a strong case that is the actual pocket of the position to avoid and reach for in drafts..
That lower-end QB1 tier of passers has the lowest hit rate in terms of matching their seasonal draft cost while front-half QB2 options match that tier in rate of top-12 and top-six performances while also registering more top-three scoring campaigns and nearly identical points per game averages per player.
We had what is likely a bit of an outlier in that pocket of the position in recent years, however with both Jackson and Mahomes posting back-to-back record-breaking seasons from nearly identical QB2 draft spots. While expecting to land the QB1 from that area of the draft (or another record-breaking performance) for a third straight season is unlikely, we have outright been better off bypassing the tail end of the QB1 position in draft cost for the top of the QB2 options.
The quarterbacks currently in that lower-end QB1 strike zone that has been fragile are Josh Allen, Matt Ryan, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Carson Wentz, and Tom Brady.
In leagues that now require two quarterbacks, you can format a bit of a draft plan here by landing a quarterback anchor early on and then coming back in for your second quarterback in that QB13-QB18 range.
Once we get to the bottom of the position, odds get crushed per player in hopes of finding high-ceiling gems at the position that are of the league-winning variety, but on average, we do get nearly two top-12 quarterbacks per season that were selected at QB19 or later that season.
QB Tiers and Rate of Players Failing to Match Draft Position
|QB ADP||Below ADP||12+ Spots|
As mentioned so far in these articles, the term “bust” is imprecise for fantasy purposes since, outside of the top handful of scorers in the league, there is a lot of weekly volatility in play per player. But for the aspect of finding a dance floor of performance and falling short, here we are.
As mentioned to open, top quarterbacks have held high floors, even when failing to live up to their supreme billing in draft cost. Just 16.7% of the top-three quarterbacks finished the season 12 or more spots below their draft position. Just one of those 30 draft picks (Peyton Manning in 2015) absolutely tanked per game as he averaged just 9.1 fantasy points per game and was the QB30 overall.
The next wave of high-to-mid QB1 options fall off the pace of top options as expected. Given the thin margin for matching cost, we see that 70% of the quarterbacks post a top-six scoring season, but only 20% had a major tier drop off in final performance.
The lower-end QB1 tier crops up as the landmine zone once again. With a lower margin for bottoming out, 23.3% of the passers here have bricked their expectations. Not only do the players in that tier hold suppressed ceiling odds, they are also busting out a heightened rate. The last two tiers have almost no room to drop way below the lowered initial expectations set on them during drafts.
Closing this out, the bullet points in play for QB ADP are…
- The QB position has by the least amount of correlation between ADP and points scored per game out of all the positions
- The first QB off the board has rarely been a part of league-winning seasons on his own, but still has a high floor
- The top six quarterbacks off the board yearly offer high floor and ceiling potential
- We have been better off bypassing the lower-end QB1 portion of the position for the front half of QB2 options