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Early MFL10 Strategy: Quarterback

A look at how to approach the quarterback position in early MFL10 drafts

Quarterback has become a boring position to draft in typical fantasy leagues, and MFL10’s are no different. In my experience, the objective is to get two solid performers who can be reasonably expected to keep their jobs and stay healthy all year. Pay for weekly upside, but not through the nose, the peaks of two solid performers can come close to the output of a stud top 3-5 quarterback at the cost of much less draft capital. Early 2017 MFL10s seem to adhere to this rule, although you still need to take a stand on targets and rounds. Let’s do that.

Early Round Options

Late 3rd/Early 4th: Aaron Rodgers, GB
Late 4th/Early 5th: Andrew Luck, IND

Rodgers is intriguing if we entertain the possibility that the Packers will remain pass-heavy, as they did after their backfield collapsed mid-season last year. They certainly haven’t made any moves to indicate that they are planning replacing Eddie Lacy with a similar-sized running back. Taking Rodgers near ADP comes with an opportunity cost of solid WR2, running back with strong opportunity but coming off of a so-so 2016, or high weekly ceiling TE1, which would likely yield fewer bottom line points than Rodgers would if he continues his lap the field pace from Week 7 forward last year.

Luck is coming back off of shoulder surgery and wasn’t enough of a difference maker last to merit a pick a mere round after Rodgers.

If you’re going to go quarterback early, Rodgers is the answer.

Mid Round Options

Late 5th/Early 6th: Tom Brady, NE
6th Round: Drew Brees, NO
7th Round: Russell Wilson, SEA
7th/8th Round: Matt Ryan, ATL, Cam Newton, CAR

Brady was over 30 points in five of his 12 starts and added Brandin Cooks. He’s a much better alternative to Rodgers than Luck. Brees has pulled a rabbit out of his hat when losing key targets before, although Brady is a much better bet to stay strong at similar ADP. Wilson is an arbitrage play if you think his injuries were the culprit in his weak 2016 more than his offensive line (which hasn’t really improved in the offseason). The early drafting audience is pricing in a big drop for Ryan without Kyle Shanahan, maybe too big. He’s hard to ignore in the 8th. Newton was a disaster last year after a revelatory 2015. Some bounce back is possible and the scarring nature of the 2016 campaign is more than priced in. He’s a consideration if he slips through the 9th.

Of the mid-round options, Brady and Ryan seem like the best propositions at ADP if you want to wait as long as possible to get your QB2, while Wilson looks good if you aren’t against investing in a solid QB2 a few rounds before the quarterback gas tank gets to E. The opportunity cost of a solid WR3, boom/bust RB3, or solid TE1 isn’t too steep to dip your toes in the water here.

9th-11th Round Options

9th Round: Derek Carr, OAK
9th-10th Round: Jameis Winston, TB, Dak Prescott, DAL, Marcus Mariota, TEN
10th-11th Round: Ben Roethlisberger, PIT, Kirk Cousins, WAS, Matthew Stafford, DET
11th Round: Philip Rivers, LAC

This is an attractive tier to pick your QB1 or even QB1 and QB2 from because the opportunity cost is minimal. At this point, you are throwing darts at RB and WR, hoping to get a player who can contribute multiple startable weeks, and the solid TE1 options have usually dried. The quarterbacks in this tier have a similar weekly ceiling to quarterbacks going earlier, but perhaps with less frequent peaks. The way to mitigate that loss in weekly ceiling is follow up with a stronger QB2 than you would take if you selected an early-mid round QB1. This is a sweet spot for quarterbacks, but which one(s) should we target?

Carr had a strong showing of starts in the 23-25 point range, but not enough to justify the premium of selecting him ahead of a gaggle of quarterbacks with similar weekly and season-long ceilings. Winston has a stronger outlook with DeSean Jackson and should be considered in the 10th even though he plateaued as the season went on last year. Prescott is screaming value after having 80 percent of his MFL10 starts at 19.7 points or above and he’s even more attractive in the 10th than Winston. Marcus Mariota has been a preferred target of mine in this range. He has a similar scoring profile to Prescott with higher peaks, although his team hasn’t done anything to upgrade his middling wide receiver corps. Roethlisberger carries a very high weekly ceiling at home and could be upgraded by a Martavis Bryant return, but he also has injury risk and a low weekly floor (don’t buy the retirement talk. Cousins carries a lot of risk of regression with the changes in Washington. Stafford is a safer option with potential offensive line upgrades, but he is more QB2 than QB1 in MFL10s and should be drafted as such. Rivers is an ideal QB2 with his solid weekly floor and a likely higher weekly ceiling if Keenan Allen stays healthy.

Mariota or Prescott can give you a lot of the oomph of an early quarterback at a cheaper price, while Stafford and Rivers make for an excellent bookend to balance their ups and downs. The key takeaway here is that you can wait until the 10th-11th to start thinking about quarterback and like the names you see.

12th-14th Round Options

12th Round: Tyrod Taylor, BUF, Eli Manning, NYG, Carson Wentz, PHI, Andy Dalton, CIN
13th Round: Blake Bortles, JAX
14th Round: Ryan Tannehill, MIA, Carson Palmer, ARI

This is a good place to grab your QB2 unless you started with a Brady or Rodgers. Taylor gives you a higher weekly ceiling with his running ability, not to mention the bounceback possibility of a healthy Sammy Watkins. I found myself taking Eli Manning in a lot of my early MFL10s. He didn’t give us much in the way of useful starts in 2016, but the addition of Brandon Marshall and likely pass-heavy game scripts could change that this year. Your MFL10 QB2 should be focused on reward more than risk, and Manning’s supporting cast + offensive inclinations point towards a big potential reward. Wentz is unattractive compared to Taylor and Manning at a similar ADP, but could work out if he riffs with his new receivers this year, and Dalton is hard to like with a downgraded offensive line, but looks like a value if he can overcome it. Bortles is kryptonite despite a number of useful stat lines last year because he is a risk to be benched during the season. Tannehill was not much help in a run-first offense, he should be passed on for Palmer, who has some injury risk, but could also have his weekly ceiling restored if John Brown is healthy and JJ Nelson continues to grow. Palmer also could be helped by a defense that lost multiple starters in free agency without obvious replacements on the roster.

All is not lost if you have to take two quarterbacks from this tier, but I would prefer Taylor, Manning, or Palmer as QB2s that should give you 4-8 startable weeks to complement your QB1.

Late Round Options

15th Round: Joe Flacco, BAL, Tony Romo, FA, Alex Smith, KC, Sam Bradford, MIN
16th Round or Later: Brian Hoyer, SF, Mike Glennon, CHI, Jared Goff, LAR

I’m only interested in Flacco or maybe Smith as “oh %$#&” QB2 options when you get caught on the wrong side of a run. Flacco still gave up three starts of 25 or more points, he’s durable, and he’ll pass a lot, even though that didn’t amount to much with Steve Smith (who has retired) last year. Smith’s peaks are lower, but he is still safe to protect from zeroes in case of QB1 injury. Injury seems to be likely in Tony Romo’s future, although he does provide a higher weekly ceiling. Bradford’s weekly ceiling is a yawn and you never know about Teddy Bridgewater. Brian Hoyer was actually a decent weekly fantasy start last year with Chicago, but the possibility of San Francisco drafting a quarterback to replace him at some point this year is a problem, and well, he’s Brian Hoyer. He shouldn’t be part of any fantasy draft plan.