The Importance of having a Top-6 QB
I have always considered having a top-6 QB the most important priority for my dynasty fantasy football team. QB is the highest scoring position, and has greatest longevity after kicker in the NFL. So I consider getting that cornerstone top-6 QB locked down as top priority for my dynasty fantasy team.
Why a top-6 and not just a QB1? We start only one QB in my league, so starting the 12th best QB is like being in 12th place in my league. If I want a fantasy playoff-caliber team, I want a top-6 QB. I consider a top-7 to top-12 QB as a good backup for by-weeks and injuries. My goal is to have my cake and eat it too.
But it is impossible for everyone in the league to have a top-6 QB, let alone a top-6 QB and a top-12 QB, right? Yep, exactly - and not everyone can win the championship. This is called winning. Not everyone can win. My strategy cannot be possible for all other team managers to accomplish. But to accomplish my goal I need an advanced strategy - more than just throwing dart throws at players that might hit. I need something more powerful than NFL prospect knowledge - I need the power of math and statistics on my side.
In my case, I have Jalen Hurts, so I just want to find that QB1 (top-12) QB to be my back-up incase Hurts is injured or declines and for his bye week.
Last year showed the risk of QB injury is very real. I even wrote an article, Quarterback Carousel & Handcuffs, about managing for a QB injury. Last year 1/4th of the NFL’s starting quarterbacks were injured in the first six weeks of the season: Tua Tagovailo, Jameis Winston, Mac Jones, Trey Lance, Dak Prescott, Zach Wilson, Baker Mayfield and Teddy Bridgewater.
Introduction of the Study
This year, based on my strategy for stock piling draft picks, I have the 1.07, 1.09, 2.03, 2.05, 2.12, 3.09 and 3.09 pick in my draft (after coming in 3rd last year). I have my favorite sources for player evaluations and that enters into my draft plan, but first-and-foremost I am a numbers and math guy. I want to crack the code without needing to be or to rely on an expert NFL analyst.
So I have done a little homework regarding the success rate of drafting QBs versus average draft position (ADP). And whether you are desperate for a QB or, like me, just trying to increase your meaningful depth at the position, I believe what I discovered can help anyone use their draft picks most efficiently for building their QB position. (Notice I used the word “building”, not “filling” – anyone can fill a position – but we are building a position – improving it – making it stronger – we aren’t looking for one player, but we are looking for the overall strength of the position on our roster.)
This year I would really like to add Anthony Richardson to my team – I mean I really want this guy – he can run – he can throw – he could play linebacker. It might take a year or more for him to grow into his potential – but all the pointers for Richardson are very positive. I thought this about Joe Burrow, Andrew Luck, Kyler Murray also. I didn’t get Burrow. Murray worked out for a few years, but is on the decline. Luck was unlucky, and getting Hurts was lucky because I got him in a trade for a 2nd round pick.
For a while it looked like Richardson would fall to the 7th overall pick. It could happen in my league – but current ADP has him as the 4th overall pick, so it isn’t likely I will get him at 1.07, especially with most of the teams drafting before me in rebuild mode. Should I try to move up to 1.03 to grab him? What are the real chances he will be a difference maker, what are my other options?
So in planning for my draft, I went through the last 9 years of ADP data to see where quarterbacks were drafted and correlated that to being top-6 and top-12 performers for fantasy.
Historical ADP Information
First, based on historical ADP information, this is where quarterbacks were drafted over the last 9 years:
Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen are the steals of the last decade, and they were drafted in the bottom of the 2nd and in the 3rd round. You cannot trade for them efficiently now, so they are untouchable for all practical purposes. We will come back to why some of the players have colored boxes around them, but let's go to the next nugget of information from my study.
Success Rate vs Years of Experience
I wanted to see how these players panned-out since being drafted. What I did was that for every year they were a top-6 QB I gave them 1 point and for every year that they were a top-7 to top-12 QB I gave them 0.5 points. Then I took the integral of all their results and got this chart:
It's kind of an ugly chart, but I show it so you can understand how I am getting these numbers. The last row is where the really valuable information pops out. It shows success rate versus years of experiences. Here I am showing these final numbers in the graph below:
Quarterbacks have rarely been a top-6 or top-12 quarterback their first year. Their best year is their 2nd year, and they drop off after that.
Wow - I never imagined this. It appears the shelf life of the top-6 and top-12 QBs isn't really very long - not like in the Peyton Manning / Tom Brady era. Could this be because of the dual-threat style that NFL teams (and our fantasy teams) are beginning to relish?
This opens up two avenues for further investigation:
#1) How closely does the expectation at draft time match with actual results, or more simply put, what is the success rate versus ADP?
#2) Who are the undervalued 2nd-year QBs that we might be able to steal in a trade now?
This is a break down of success rate by round:
1st round: 13.9%
2nd round: 19.6%
3rd round: 15.4%
Also because of what I was seeing, I broke the success vs ADP data into 4 bands of 9 draft positions each - which is the reason for the four bands of color in my first two charts. This is the success rate by those four bands of ADP range:
This doesn't made any sense! It says that the quarterbacks drafted in the 2nd round have a 41% greater chance of being a top-6 or top-12 QB in the future than quarterbacks drafted in the 1st round. And even the quarterbacks drafted in the 3rd round were more successful than the quarterbacks in the 1st round.
How is that possible? Justin Herbert, Lamar Jackson, Patrick Mahomes, Daniel Jones, Derek Carr, Jared Goff, Deshaun Watson, Carson Wentz, and Josh Allen versus Johnny Manziel, Trey Lance, Teddy Bridgewater, Marcus Mariota, Zach Wilson, Dwyane Haskins, Tau Tagovailoa, Mac Jones - that's how it is possible. (And let's not forget Jalen Hurts didn't even make the top three rounds.)
Breaking it down more, there seems to be a large band of failure between the 1.10 and 2.06 draft picks. And then a second band of success in the 2.07-3.03 range.
So in reality the top of the 1st round has a decent success rate, which makes sense, but what is going on with the 2nd band of success between the 2.07 and 3.03 range?
I am going to speculate a little here. There are a lot of dynasty draft formats. Many have email drafts where the tail end of the draft is during or deeper into the pre-season games than the start of the draft. Perhaps it is right in the 2.07 to 3.03 range when we start to learn who the QBs are that are actually going to succeed, and they start to come off the board then, but by the end of the 3rd round of our draft, they are mostly all discovered, and there is a 2nd drop off.
It is said that history doesn't repeat itself, but it rhymes. And it is also said that numbers don't lie. Are you going to manage your team by the hype or by the numbers?
I am going to stick with managing my team by the numbers - I am not going to worry about getting Anthony Richardson. He might be the next Patrick Mahomes - and I think he will be - but the numbers tell me there is only a 21% chance he will be great in 2024 and then he will start to fade in 2025 and beyond. The numbers also tell me that I am just as likely - even more likely to find the next Patrick Mahomes in the 2nd or 3rd round. Do I believe it? Nope - it's not intuitive - but numbers don't lie. I am going to stick with the numbers.
If Anthony Richardson falls to me at the 1.07 spot, I will be ecstatic. I will draft him in a heartbeat and not think twice about it. But I have Hurts and Zappe (a promising 2nd year QB that has a shot at becoming a starter this year) on my roster. I am not going to go up and compete for Richardson and use up my stock pile of draft ammunition for a single battle. If I didn't have a top QB on my roster already, that might be a different story, but then I would probably already have a top-4 pick take Richardson.
Furthermore, the numbers tell me, I am just as likely to find a 2024 top-6 or top-12 QB with one of my 2nd round or 3rd round draft picks in that 2.07 to 3.03 band. I have a 2.12 pick, so perhaps when the pre-season games are going, an unexpected rookie QB will pop out of the woodwork, and I will take him. I am going to stick with the numbers.
Finally I have the option to try to trade for a QB. Looking at the first chart again, and what is happening with various QBs, I have identified Derek Carr, Jared Goff, Desmond Ridder, and Bailey Zappe (who is already on my roster) as players to do a bit more research on, and see if I might want to trade for one at a bargain. (That is the reason these players are in colored boxes in the first chart - veterans to fill out QB depth on my roster in yellow - promising sophomores that might be undervalued in green - and sophomores to stay away from in red.)
No matter what your situation is with your own dynasty team, rebuilding or already solid for 2023, keeping your QB corps strong is an important priority. If you already have a top-6 QB, then you still want to fill in behind him with a top-12 QB, but you want to use your picks efficiently. If you don't have a top-6 QB, then you need to be more aggressive, but you probably already have the pick you need to go get Anthony Richardson.
I plan to cover RB, WR and TE in a similar manner over the next two months as I build my draft strategy. I hope this analysis will be helpful for you also as you finalize your draft plan.
If you found this article helpful, here are some other articles I have written that might be helpful:
My Dynasty FF Team Needs An RB1
How to Win Your Dynasty League
Dynasty Rookie Draft Picks - Value Analysis
Quarterback Carousel & Handcuffs