Fantasy Football: Two Quarterback Rankings. With a Grain of Salt

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Rankings seem so vague sometimes, right?  Someone recently asked me about how our Two Quarterback rankings translated to a best ball format.  I was also recently asked if the rankings were PPR or standard.  They’re PPR, for the record.  Just last weekend I was asked why I didn’t draft according to my own philosophy when I had the opportunity to play two quarterbacks.  The answer is that one size does not fit all.  Wide receiver and running backs are ranked differently compared to each other in a best ball format (where the highest performers are counted each week rather than requiring the owner to set a lineup).  In standard leagues, running backs rank higher than most other positions, and in a “superflex” league you aren’t required to start 2QB’s.  Some leagues have ten or fourteen owners rather than twelve, which changes the positional scarcity argument dramatically.

So why create combined position rankings at all?  Most of the time, we are ranking players according to our perception of the player’s value to our teams, rather than their individual stats value or average draft position (ADP).  Leveraging a higher-scoring player in a more scarce position has its advantages when you’ve taken that piece away from the competition.  If I’m watching you in a draft and I see the last starting running back on the table and you don’t have a second starter, his value in my own rankings increases.  Does that make him more valuable even if a wide receiver is ranked higher in my own rankings?  Sure!

Last week I drafted in a league (The 2015 SFB Invitational) where, if I wanted to, I could start six running backs.  Six #$&%ing running backs!  Woohoo!  Looking over the scoring I felt I could outrun any deficit from other positions’ scoring using RBs and – in the process – taking more of them away from my competitors who were focusing on wide receivers and quarterbacks.  I wouldn’t recommend this for other superflex leagues where you can only start two or three running backs.  Usually the scoring favors the reliable quarterback stats.

There’s also the “boots on the ground” problem, which you need to pay attention to.  Pat Mayo (@ThePME) was recently on the Fantasy Footballers Podcast, and he said in reference to Justin Forsett, “No one believes in the guy. So while I have him [ranked] at #6, I don’t need to take him in the first round.”  I think he nailed it.

The rankings we use are based on overarching value.  Just because I have Travis Kelce at 51 overall in a Two Quarterback rankings system doesn’t mean that I need to wait that long to get him or that I HAVE to take him before the sixth round.

Let’s keep Kelce in the hopper while we go over this.

Say we’re in a league that starts two quarterbacks but also starts two tight ends.  The first thing I’m going to do in that league is lock up the two best tight ends available as elite tight ends are even more rare than elite quarterbacks.  Kelce would be a first or second round pick.  If the scoring is tight-end premium he might go in the first or second round too.

If the league is drafting and I see that there’s an early run on a position, I might drop Kelce further down the board so I don’t get strangled out by a shortage.  If the league is a 2QB “best ball” format, I might not even want a top tight end, rather I’d take two late round guys like Jordan Reed and Jason Witten.

Here’s the thing: If you blindly follow anyone’s rankings in any scoring format you will not have a championship caliber team, because every league runs differently.  If you have three wide receivers already in a redraft league and the redraft expert rankings say you need to get Brandin Cooks in the fourth round since his value is actually third round, chances are you are going to need to ignore the expert rankings and start getting other positions instead.  It doesn’t mean the rankings are broken, but it does mean that the other 11 owners in your league aren’t using the same script you are and aren’t thinking like you do.  They can’t, to be honest.

One more example to illustrate my “get your two premiere quarterbacks in the first two rounds” philosophy and how it translates to the rankings:  Let’s say you started out with Aaron Rodgers in the first round, Matt Stafford in the second, Andy Dalton in the seventh and Carson Palmer at the back of the draft.  If someone agrees to trade you Rob Gronkowski for Matt Stafford halfway through the 2015 season, that’s a good offer and one you should probably take.  This doesn’t mean the whole draft strategy goes out the window as you trade away your second round quarterback.  You didn’t know you had a good, young second quarterback available in the seventh round until you drafted Dalton there.  When other teams start feeling the pinch of not having a top quarterback to run out every week or lose their due to injury, age or ineffectiveness, you can start taking advantage of it.  What good is using positional scarcity to your advantage if you don’t start exploiting it in every way possible?  That’s why Gronk is ranked as a top 24 player by me even though I’m standing on the table declaring you need a quarterback in rounds one and two.

And then maybe you can start looking to see what running backs I’ve left you.

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