I get the temptation. Really, I do, and taking Aaron Rodgers with your top three pick isn’t necessarily a bad strategy. It’s one being used widely enough since Rodgers’ ADP does indeed slot him into that lofty draft real estate. There’s just a better strategy.
Stay old school, and believe in the power of the bell cow RB.
On both his podcast and in his columns, ESPN’s Matthew Berry has led the quarterback charge this year, most notably under this premise…
Simply having a good quarterback isn’t enough anymore because good is the new mediocre. You need a great quarterback. It’s the same phenomenon we discussed in fantasy baseball this preseason; yes, starting pitching is deep, but it’s deep across the board. Everyone is going to be able to get good pitching, so if you don’t want to end up in the middle of the pack, you’ve got to have outstanding pitching. It’s the same with quarterbacks in fantasy football.
Your best bet at ensuring a weekly edge is at quarterback. Very simply, it’s not so much about the fact that they are the highest-scoring players, it’s that, as a whole, they are more consistent year to year and week to week than any other position.
And mostly, he’s right. There’s a lot of good among quarterbacks, but there’s a jagged edge separating the good from the elite. Consider the group that’s widely been dubbed the “big five” since we’re all so awesomely original with our monikers, and their fantasy point production last year. Rodgers, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Matthew Stafford, and Cam Newton were the only QBs to have over 400 points in standard scoring formats.
Following them, there’s a steep tumble to the second tier that has a handful of arms hovering around 330 fantasy points (Eli Manning, Tony Romo, and Matt Ryan). But those three are still highly productive, and the Matt Ryan preseason boners are popping up everywhere after his 329 passing yards through two games that have largely come due to his growing chemistry with Julio Jones.
And where’s Ryan currently being drafted? That would be 80th overall, says NFL.com. And 62nd, says ESPN. What about Romo? 38th and 50th. Eli gets the widest gap and therefore a collective shrug, coming off the board absurdly late at 60th among NFL.com drafters, and then a far more reasonable 28th over at ESPN.
We go to the ADP on major sites so often because it provides a gauge of draft preferences and tendencies. And right now, the current values of the second tier arms make a case for waiting on the position if you have a top three pick in a 10-team league with a snaking draft.
Let’s use our imaginations for a minute, because fantasies are fun while discussing fantasy. You hold the second overall pick, and Arian Foster is already off the board. It’s a tough spot, because you’re aware that if you pass on one of the top QBs, they’ll all be gone by the time you’re up again at 19th overall. However, the same can be said for the decision to pass on a running back. Now tell me, which position has far less depth, and far more uncertainty?
With the potential drop you’re facing at RB after the first round, rolling with the likes of Ryan, Romo, or brother Eli will be more than adequate even if the sex appeal isn’t quite on Aaron Rodgers’ level of bonerism. When you’re on the clock in the second round, Foster, Ray Rice, and LeSean McCoy will be long gone. Chris Johnson and Matt Forte will have imaginary teams and will have been signed to imaginary contracts by then too, and same goes for Adrian Peterson if the rosy reports about his health continue to roll in and his stock keeps rising.
That means you’d be passing on the chance to have Rice or McCoy as your RB1 — two of the three trustworthy options who aren’t dealing with injury concerns or a platoon — to instead possibly slot Darren McFadden or Marshawn Lynch into that position. Both are still fine options, but you’re aware of McFadden’s durability debacle (he’s missed 19 of the 64 games he could have appeared in over four years). Meanwhile, once you get to Lynch’s level, the difference between him and Rice is 160 rushing yards (moderate), 492 receiving yards (not moderate), and consequently 83 fantasy points (also not moderate).
The gap between Rodgers and Manning is massive too in terms of fantasy production. More massive even, with nearly 150 points separating the first and second tiers at QB.
The difference, though, is that you can pick away at that second tier of QBs much later, and sometimes in nearly the fourth round. But beyond the top three the RB pool is far more scattered and uncertain, and there’s the potential for serious pain.