Per usual, the quarterback position in fantasy is incredibly deep this year. Drafting one early takes away any chance of getting value at the position.
Every year, the easiest fantasy championship for me is winning my family league. I am currently the holder of a three-peat, in large part due to good draft strategy. The biggest blunder people make in that league, and in general, is drafting a quarterback too early. I vividly remember two years ago when 6 quarterbacks went off the board in just the first round, including Carson Palmer. I was able to snag Ezekiel Elliot, Mike Evans, and Amari Cooper (before he was bad) en route to a 12-1 regular season record.
Drafting a quarterback early eliminates any value at the position, especially this season. The number of reliable quarterbacks in fantasy seems to go up every year, and this year is no exception. To me, there are probably at least 20 startable quarterbacks, ranging from safe plays like Alex Smith and Andy Dalton to upside guys in Patrick Mahomes and Mitchell Trubisky. If the position is this deep, it makes zero sense to overdraft one of the highest ranked quarterbacks. This year in particular, it seems like there is some instability among the top guys.
Normally, the safest, most reliable elite quarterback is Aaron Rodgers. This year should be much of the same, but I don’t think it’s a lock that Rodgers produces around the QB1 again. For the second time in recent years, Rodgers missed a good portion of the season with an injury. He seems more prone to injury than other elite fantastic options. More importantly, he lost one of his longtime receivers in Jordy Nelson. The running game also projects to be fairly dismal, putting the burden of the offense on Rodgers. Now, Rodgers should still be excellent, but the concerns are there. Taking him in the second or third round is way too high.
Rodgers’ elite counterpart has become Russell Wilson. Wilson, though, faces many of the same questions as Rodgers, but on a worse team. He has also dealt with injuries recently, including an ankle injury that severely restricted his mobility. Wilson without rushing stats loses a lot of fantasy value. Furthermore, Wilson essentially has no weapons in Seattle outside of Doug Baldwin. The running game will likely be weak again and the offensive line still looks porous. Like Rodgers, I still expect Wilson to be very good, but his risk makes using an early pick on him a waste.
Other household names like Tom Brady and Drew Brees are still going in the top five of quarterbacks. Brady and Brees have long been elite quarterbacks, but they are not without questions this year. Brady will turn 41 this year, and no player over the age of 40 has ever been a QB1. Furthermore, the rifts within the Patriots infrastructure and the loss of top WR Julian Edelman for four games could hurt Brady’s production. Similarly, Brees turns 39, and already showed signs of fantasy slippage last year. He was barely a top 12 quarterback last season, and didn’t have a single game as a top 3 quarterback. Brady and Brees are defying aging curves, but it is extremely unlikely they will deliver surplus value on their draft position.
On the complete opposite end of the spectrum are the young guns like Deshaun Watson and Carson Wentz. Nobody had bigger breakout seasons at the QB position than Watson and Wentz, but neither played 16 games. The upside both guys showed was tremendous, but their production was beyond unsustainable. Watson passed for over 300 yards and 3 TDs a game in his 6 games played, which is unrealistic to expect over a full season. Wentz, similarly, threw for TDs on 7.2% of his passes, more than 2 percentage points over his career average. Also, both are coming off season-ending injuries, so their health is not a guarantee. Like with Brady and Brees, it’s hard to see a scenario in which either of these guys overproduced on their draft position.
The difference between a 4th and 12th round quarterback – say, Deshaun Watson and Jameis Winston – is only about 30 points. On the other hand, the difference between a 4th and 12th round running back – say, Alex Collins and Bilal Powell – is closer to 60 to 70 points. The returns on drafting a quarterback early are marginal at best. The most effective strategy when drafting your quarterback is just to wait until the later rounds and grab a reliable starter.