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The Case for Sloughing Quarterback in your Draft

Sigmund Bloom tells you why you might be able to get away with not taking one of the top 12 quarterbacks in fantasy leagues this year.

You've already heard it a thousand times. Wait on quarterback. Be one of the last owners to take your QB1 this year. QB12 is not that far off of QB1, you'll be fine with whoever they leave you.

What if I told you that you don't even need to take one of the top 12 quarterbacks?

The influx of young quarterbacks who can run and pass effectively has made the QB1 ranks very crowded in fantasy football as of late. While we focus on how deep that tier is, we don't spend enough time talking about how that has caused the QB2 tier to be better -- and cheaper -- than ever. When everyone has a strong QB1, the "backup quarterback run" is more like a crawl to check off a need that is not much more urgent than kicker or defense. You can employ that natural force to your advantage.

Why should I pass up a sure top 12 quarterback and risk getting left out in the cold when they are so cheap?

When you only have to spend a seventh or eighth round pick on a QB1, is it really worth it to gamble at the position? I would argue yes because you can treat that extra 7th/8th as "house money". Take a high upside player who could make your draft like Chris Ivory, Kenny Britt, DeAngelo Williams, Tavon Austin, or Jared Cook. Make a luxury pick that you wouldn't otherwise feel free to make. Running back has a steep drop-off after the top 25, so it is an added advantage to get your favorite third tier running back. You can never have enough wide receivers with Britt or Austin's talent, but you don't want to have to count on them as one of your top two or three options if possible. Problem solved.

Okay, what's the strategy?

Step 1 - Take one of Eli Manning, Ben Roethlisberger, Andy Dalton, or Josh Freeman in the 12th or 13th round

This is your "firewall" option. Quarterback who have a median expectation of 4,000 yards and 25 passing touchdowns are usually low QB1 candidates and gone in the 7th-9th round range. Not so this year, as this very solid high floor with upside group has been pushed to the backup quarterback tier. There's a good argument for an Eli (and GIants) bounceback. Dalton has gained weapons and his offense should be more aggressive. Freeman is more comfortable in the second year of Mike Sullivan's system. Roethlisberger has been ultra-efficient and is passing more than ever these days. You might like Philip Rivers, Carson Palmer, Matt Schaub, or Joe Flacco better. There are reasons for optimism for each of them, too. The point is that you want one quarterback that you can count on to be a baseline starter if your risk/reward picks fail.

Step 2 - Take Michael Vick and EJ Manuel in the following rounds

The quarterback competition that has flared up in Philadelphia has also brought Vick's ADP down to mid-QB2 range, and Manuel is barely even on the the fantasy radar. Vick was a low QB1 last year, and if he wins the job this year, we will project him in the top 15 every week that he is healthy. Manuel will fit the profile of a young running quarterback who relies on his legs more due to his inexperience as a passer (see also: Tebow, Tim, and Young, Vince). Young and Tebow were both QB1 plays on a points per game basis in their rookie seasons. Passer rating is not a fantasy stat, while quarterback rushing yards is perhaps one of the most overweighted fantasy stats. Manuel will also be projected in the top 15 any week that he is healthy once people see him in an uptempo offense with lots of speed and a read option run wrinkle. Defenses are sure to overplay C.J. Spiller and leave bigger gains on the field for Manuel. Manuel should pile up good rushing stats by design, and unlike Vick, he is built to hold up under the extra punishment.

What if it fails? What if Vick gets hurt/loses the job, Manuel is overwhelmed, and my "firewall" quarterback struggles?

That's the beauty of this plan. With every other team carrying a strong QB1 (and even one with two!), no one is going to compete with you for any early waiver wire wonder at quarterback. Guys like Alex Smith, Jake Locker, Geno Smith, and Matt Flynn will go undrafted, and those teams may also feel inclined to cut their QB2 to catch early-season waiver wire lightning in a bottle. Even if the waiver wire is bone dry, at least a couple of teams will have two viable quarterbacks if you have zero. Quarterback will be the easiest position to improve in a trade because of the supply/demand imbalance at the position.

In Conclusion

Like any position, quarterback has many viable strategies this year. Certainly "slough quarterback/QBBC/QB streaming" is not a new one. What is new this year is an abundant crop of QB1's and the deflation that creates at the position in general. While your QB1's price will be discounted by that factor, you still have to forgo an enticing upside RB/WR/TE play to get a first-tier quarterback. The depressed quarterback market has dropped the price of strong QB2 (not to mention redefined low QB1s as QB2s) and upside plays at the position to an almost insignificant level. The surplus at the position makes excess quarterback production cheaper and more available via the waiver wire and trades. Even if you don't decide to tank the quarterback gas tank to "E" in your draft, maybe this could encourage you to risk going one more exit down the highway after the "11 quarterbacks drafted" light goes on.