2QB Draft Strategy: How to Win Your 2015 Leagues

Carson Palmer

Here we go. It’s draft time, and you’re in your first — or tenth — 2QB draft ever. What’s the play? Are we going QB-QB to start, or are you playing the late-round game of QB chicken? Do we trust Aaron Rodgers? Is this the year to pass on running backs?

This long, sprawling missive is my 2015 brain dump, sharing my take on the best of 2QB draft strategy for 2015.

Luck, Rodgers, or a Cloud of Dust

Andrew Luck and Aaron Rodgers are the best two quarterbacks in fantasy this season, and there is no debate. We can debate all day about which one to draft first, but they are a clear tier unto themselves.

I find the Luck vs. Rodgers debate fascinating as a case study into team-building philosophy. Aaron Rodgers is as sure a fantasy asset as you will ever find. He is incredibly consistent, reliable, and efficient. Andrew Luck, by contrast, is a young upstart with a high-powered passing offense around him. He will throw for incredible volume, he’s young enough to still be experiencing major skill improvements in the offseason, and his team added offensive weapons this year.

In essence, it comes down to this: Do you value reliability or upside more from your first-round pick? Rodgers is the sure thing in a nearly unchanged offense, and Luck is the next big thing with many new toys this year.

I’ve been leaning Rodgers all offseason, and I’m sticking with it. Luck may have a higher upside, but Rodgers has years of consistent production. We know who he is, and it is elite. The offense had almost no changes, so we know what we’re getting. He is incredibly efficient with an absurdly high floor. If I take Aaron Rodgers at 1.01, I feel confident I’ll be able to plug him into the starting lineup every week.

Yet we went through all that build up for small potatoes, because I’m drafting Andrew Luck at 1.02. There is a significant gap between those two quarterbacks and the rest at the position. Add to that the fact that I am not sold on one running back or one wide receiver over all the others at their position, and I’m taking the top two players at the most reliable position on the field. Regardless of the other league settings, I am taking Luck and Rogers with the first two picks in any 2QB draft this year.

Any Quarterback is a Good Quarterback

If I am unable to draft Luck or Rodgers, however, I will be waiting quite a while to draft my first quarterback.

Quarterback has never been deeper than it is in 2015. NFL offenses are passing for higher volume than ever before, and the NFL rules are progressively making it easier and easier for passing games to move the ball steadily down the field. That benefits all quarterbacks, and it contributes to the depth of the position.

Additionally, the late-round quarterback philosophy seems to have taken a much more firm hold on the two-quarterback landscape. Our 2QB mock drafts have consistently seen great quarterbacks falling into the fourth, fifth, sixth rounds and beyond. You can see the results in our 2QB ADP: Roethlisberger (26th overall), Tony Romo (41), Matthew Stafford (48), etc.

Those two trends combine into the perfect conditions for waiting on quarterback in a two-quarterback draft this season. If you can’t get either of the elite two, pass on quarterbacks in the first round. Pass again in the second round.

If my first pick falls late in the first round, I plan to draft some combination of RBs and WRs with my first two picks, before looking for my QB1 with my third or fourth pick.

My offseason research suggests quarterbacks have fallen into reliable tiers over the last several seasons, and I want to draft the last player in any given tier. This year, I believe those tiers fall at QB2, QB13, and QB20. So when I see QBs 10 and 17 go off the board, I know it’s time to plan to go quarterback with my next pick.

Quarterbacks I’m Excited to Draft

Although I’d obviously love to roster Andrew Luck and Aaron Rodgers as QB1 and QB2, that’s not happening. Instead, I focus a lot of my draft preparation time on finding mid- and late-round quarterbacks I want to target, perhaps a round or two early just to make sure I get them. Here are the quarterbacks I’m most excited to draft this season. Each of these fits into the tier I mentioned earlier, where I can draft them around QB20 in any given draft.

Andy Dalton

Andy Dalton is not the next Aaron Rodgers, and he doesn’t deserve to be drafted inside the top-ten this year. That said, there isn’t a quarterback I’m more excited to draft this year.

Dalton was a top-five quarterback in 2013, when all the Bengals’ offensive weapons were healthy. This season, they’re all healthy again.

Currently off the board as QB26, Andy Dalton is being drafted lower than he finished last season, to say nothing of his 2013 season. Dalton isn’t spectacularly talented, but there is no evidence he’s regressing enough to merit a worse projection than his 2014 season when he played without Marvin Jones, Tyler Eifert, and A.J. Green — at times.

For such a cheap price, Dalton is a reliable QB3 for your team, in no danger of ceding snaps to a backup, and he presents fantastic upside far beyond where he’s being drafted. I wouldn’t be surprised if Dalton flirts with top-12 numbers this season.

Jay Cutler

Jay Cutler, the man, the myth, the legend. He has the physical talent and natural ability to be an elite quarterback, but his apathy and streaky concentration never allow him to produce at those heights.

Add to that the rumor that his team tried to trade him during the draft, in exchange for Marcus Mariota or Jameis Winston. Yikes.

But Cutler is a proven commodity whose draft stock is fallen because of concerns over whether he’ll start all year. The previous coaching staff benched him last season for Jimmy Clausen, and no one can promise you John Fox won’t do the same if Cutler struggles in 2015.

All that’s the negative, so where’s the beef? Why am I excited to draft Jay Cutler?

Jay Cutler finished last season as QB11 in points per game, yet he’s currently drafted as QB21! That’s an absurd ten-spot discount from last season’s finish, leaving plenty of room for you to gain value even if he falters. Yes, Brandon Marshall left, but Jay has been a successful QB without him.

From 2009-2011 in Chicago, when Cutler didn’t have Marshall, he averaged 31.7 pass attempts per game, 225.5 yards, and 1.5 touchdowns. Those numbers, combined with his small rushing averages from the same stretch, would be good enough for 18.7 points per game, which would have been good enough for QB16 last season. Since then, the team has added weapons, including Alshon Jeffery, Eddie Royal, and Martellus Bennett.

And even if Cutler begins struggling, his backup will be easily acquired off your waiver wire. Even in deep, deep 2QB leagues Clausen isn’t a likely stash.

I’m excited to draft Cutler’s weekly top-ten potential, but I’m even more confident doing so knowing I can grab his backup at any point, so long as I am willing to follow news reports closely enough to predict a benching before it happens.

Sam Bradford

I fully expect Sam Bradford’s ADP to rise as the month of August rolls on, but he’s QB19 right now. The longer Bradford’s knees hold out, the more we’ll want to draft him. The more starter’s reps Bradford takes, the higher his ADP will rise.

That said, QB19 is a very cheap price for a talented quarterback in a high-volume offense that recently made Nick Foles and Mark Sanchez look like talented gunslingers.

Long, long ago, in a 2013 season with the Rams, Sam Bradford was completing more than 60% of his passes, including 67% when the opposing team blitzed. He threw for 14 TDs and only 4 INTs in those seven games. With the Rams! Bradford’s targets were guys like Jared Cook and Tavon Austin that year.

Now, the former first overall pick appears healthy and primed to take over as the Eagles’ QB1. If Bradford stays healthy all season, he may put up the numbers to become a QB1 for fantasy football owners as well. As Rich Hribar has pointed out:

 

 

Carson Palmer

In six games last year, Palmer averaged 19.9 points per game, exactly the same as Cam Newton, who is currently drafted as QB9. Palmer is currently drafted as QB22. All of Palmer’s offensive weapons are coming back this year, and he’s fully practicing with no sign of ongoing knee issues.

Perhaps Palmer deserves some discount after two ACL tears and serious nerve issues in his shoulder last year, but there is no reason he should be falling behind 21 other quarterbacks. Palmer presents an outstanding value. He’s one of my top targets this year.

Targets at RB, WR, and TE

Quarterbacks are my specialty, but I have opinions about all the positions. Without getting into any detail, here are some players I see falling too far.

RB: Lamar Miller, Jonathan Stewart, Joique Bell, and Doug Martin.

WR: DeVante Parker, John Brown, Stevie Johnson, and Devin Funchess.

TE: Tyler Eifert, Kyle Rudolph, Dwayne Allen, and Delanie Walker.

K: Stop putting Kickers into fantasy leagues! This isn’t 1990.

PPR vs. Non-PPR Leagues

This setting, more than any other, determines my draft strategy this season. Both RB and WR are reasonably deep but have a clear top-tier in my rankings. In non-PPR, standard leagues I am heavily emphasizing the importance of getting a bellcow running back in one or both of the first two rounds. I want someone I can count on to get plenty of carries each week, with goal line touches as well.

As I’ve written elsewhere, I am quite comfortable starting a 2QB draft RB-RB-RB if quarterbacks and wide receivers fly off the board early, even if the league only allows us to start two. Running backs have a high bust rate, due to injuries, committees, and plain loss of talent. In non-PPR leagues the RB position is so valuable that I like the built-in redundancy of having a reliable backup on my roster.

In PPR leagues, however, I take a near-opposite strategy. Given that I like several of the running backs in the RB10-RB20 range, I’m willing to start my draft with two wide receivers if I can get elite ones who guarantee me targets and touchdowns. I have already started several drafts with combos like Dez Bryant and Demaryius Thomas, and I find that I can still draft promising running backs and quarterbacks later.

My QB Rankings

And, to wrap things up, here are my current QB draft rankings for 2015. These are ordered by how I would pick them in a 2QB draft, absent any knowledge of my team composition, in a vacuum. In some cases — Russell Wilson at QB5, for instance; or Tom Brady at QB10 even though his suspension is still in place as I write — my personal approach to the quarterback position weighs heavily, so this is not a pure projection of how they will finish the season.

Thank you. Thank you very much for reading. Now go out there and win one for the gipper!

1 Aaron Rodgers
2 Andrew Luck
3 Peyton Manning
4 Drew Brees
5 Russell Wilson
6 Ben Roethlisberger
7 Tony Romo
8 Matt Ryan
9 Cam Newton
10 Tom Brady
11 Eli Manning
12 Philip Rivers
13 Ryan Tannehill
14 Matthew Stafford
15 Sam Bradford
16 Joe Flacco
17 Jay Cutler
18 Teddy Bridgewater
19 Carson Palmer
20 Andy Dalton
21 Colin Kaepernick
22 Marcus Mariota
23 Jameis Winston
24 Alex Smith
25 Robert Griffin III
26 Ryan Fitzpatrick
27 Derek Carr
28 Blake Bortles
29 Nick Foles
30 Josh McCown
31 Ryan Mallett
32 E. J. Manuel
33 Jimmy Garoppolo
34 Brian Hoyer
35 Mark Sanchez
36 Johnny Manziel
37 Kirk Cousins
38 Tyrod Taylor
39 Matt Cassel
40 Geno Smith

Credit: All ADP values are courtesy of FantasyPros’ aggregated data from the major sites.

27 Comments

  1. Pablo

    August 14, 2015 at 7:42 pm

    I have sought out 2QB articles for years, so I have been loving your work this summer.

    What are your thoughts on spending ~64% of my auction budget to get both Rodgers and Luck? I have been toying with this idea all off-season, but wanted to hear some other seasoned 2QBer’s viewpoints. Thanks!

    • Joshua Lake

      August 18, 2015 at 5:38 pm

      Thanks, Pablo!

      I don’t think that’s a winning move in an auction format. Although you’d have a clear edge, you’d be leaving yourself too thin elsewhere. You can get 75-90% of their performance from someone much cheaper, but the same isn’t true at other positions. I don’t hate overpaying for one of them, but both is too much for me.

  2. Paul

    August 19, 2015 at 12:45 pm

    Interesting read, it’s nice to see some 2QB content. What strategy would you employ in a 2QB,2RB,3WR,TE,2Flex league? .5ppr, 5Keepers. I feel like its important to get solid WRs due to the many slots theyy can fill. Thoughts?

    Thanks

    • Joshua Lake

      August 19, 2015 at 4:02 pm

      Paul, thanks for the kind words.

      Yes, I agree that WRs gain value when you increase their number of starting slots, similar to the effect on QBs when you add a second QB slot.

  3. Brian

    August 21, 2015 at 1:48 am

    Love the article! This helps a lot. I’m in a PPR, 12 team league that is a superflex and 3 WR. I’m the 4th pick. So you’re saying that if Luck or Rodgers falls to me grab them, otherwise target the top WR? Thanks!

    • Joshua Lake

      August 21, 2015 at 5:03 am

      Thank you, Brian!

      Yes, I’m right there with you on strategy. That’s how I’d have the top-four ranked in your format, but I wouldn’t blame you if you took Le’Veon there. He should be a stud in PPR.

  4. Craig Wood

    August 21, 2015 at 10:42 am

    Really appreciate your work on the 2QB format. I have 3rd pick in 10 team 2QB/.5PPR. I will take Rodgers/Luck if they make it but if they don’t I am torn between L. Bell or A. Brown. Given L. Bell suspension, I think A. Brown is the safer play. Thoughts?

    • Joshua Lake

      August 21, 2015 at 3:54 pm

      Thank you, Craig.

      I wouldn’t talk you out of either, but I treat 0.5 PPR more like standard than PPR so I’d be taking a RB if both QBs are gone. Even better, I’d want to trade down a couple spots and let other people choose which of the elite guys to take before I drafted, while also moving up in a later round.

  5. Tom

    August 21, 2015 at 2:14 pm

    Love your work here and on Twitter.

    Is there a good site to mock 2QB leagues? More leagues are moving that way but it is tough to mock them.

    • Joshua Lake

      August 21, 2015 at 3:55 pm

      Thank you very much, Tom.

      I can’t speak for any sites that do it well. I know that both Fantasy Football Calculator and Fantasy Pros offer some types of 2QB mocks, but I haven’t tried them.

      Beyond that, I ran mock drafts all summer but am now done. Sorry I can’t be of more help on this point.

  6. Tom

    August 22, 2015 at 10:15 am

    Love the commentary. It’s helped me re-look at a few of my projections. Let me introduce a thought to your process, however. I see how Rodgers and Luck are in an entirely different tier which is why they are ranked 1-2 in a 2 QB league. But when you look at relative point totals (pts vs average starter), there is a much higher value placed on the top RB/WRs. Knowing you could grab 2 QBs in the QB8-16 area that would be fairly reliable, strong producers — wouldn’t that change your opinion of the top part of the draft? i.e. Having Bell and Romo vs Luck and Ingram.

    • Joshua Lake

      August 22, 2015 at 10:26 am

      Tom, you are quite right that QB scoring tapers more slowly than RB/WR in a typical year, and QB scoring is also more predictable week-to-week. So that’s an argument for going Le’Veon or AP ahead of Rodgers/Luck.

      What I believe that analysis leaves out, however, is the bust rate of those other positions. With Rodgers/Luck, you have an insanely high likelihood of having a top-five guy at his position (80% of QBs drafted 1-3 finished QB6 or better over a five-year span). At RB, you have about a 50% chance of it. This year particularly, I believe the risk increases dramatically at quarterback after the top two. You’re paying for more certainty, combined with massive point totals.

      RB bust rates do, however, get worse as you wait, which is why I am firmly against taking two quarterbacks early. I think your point is a very strong argument for this. If you go Rodgers/Luck to start, wait, wait, wait on your second quarterback.

      Finally, I will note that I would agree with you wholeheartedly if I felt more certain about any particular RB. This year, I don’t see any one I’d clearly take over the rest, so I don’t want to play with their bust rates at 1.01.

  7. Dave

    August 22, 2015 at 2:15 pm

    Thanks for filling the 2qb void in fantasy! Love your stuff. Will you be updating the Aug 2QB ADP at all this month? I used it last year preppinv for my draft & it was really helpful. Seems like there’s been a lot of movement with injuries & draft stock rising & falling since the 8th.
    Thanks so much for the great content!

    • Joshua Lake

      August 22, 2015 at 2:30 pm

      Dave, thank you very much. I got into this because of that 2QB void, so I’m happy to do a small part to fill it.

      No, sadly, I’m not going to be updating the August ADP. You’re quite right that it would change — in small ways but also large ones for injuries. I am not able to run more mocks, so I don’t have reliable data to use for updating the ADP.

  8. Jeff

    August 23, 2015 at 7:20 pm

    Joshua, very helpful read. I am in a 2qb non ppr 10 team keeper league. I have the 2nd overall pick this year and my keeper is Demarius Thomas in the 2nd round. Would you take Rodgers or luck with my 2nd overall pick or should I shoot for a top Rb like Lacey or Charles? Thank you.

    -Jeff

    • Joshua Lake

      August 24, 2015 at 4:54 am

      Jeff, that’s an interesting conundrum, given that early QB would force you to wait on RB (in a non-PPR format) until the third round. Depending on how late your league waits on QB, I’d lean toward taking a RB at that 1.02 pick, because in most leagues you could get far better QBs than RBs in the third round. Even more ideally, I’d look to trade down a couple spots in the first round in exchange for moving up sometime later in the draft, if your league allows trades.

      • Jeff

        August 25, 2015 at 3:03 am

        Thank you for the response Josh. Unfortunately we cannot trade draft picks. Although it would be nice to solidify a qb spot with Rodgers or Luck, I do agree with you that there will be better qb’s available in the 3rd round than rb’s. AP, and Bell are gone as keepers in our league this year. Do you like Charles or Lacey for my 1.02pick this year?

        -Jeff

        • Joshua Lake

          August 25, 2015 at 4:47 am

          Jeff, I couldn’t fault you with either one, but I’d be taking Lacy. First, it’s non-PPR, so Charles’ catching doesn’t help him as much. Second, I like Lacy’s high floor in a good passing offense that usually leads to good RB play. And third, I like that Lacy is young with few NFL touches. This article helped shaped my thinking on that this year.

  9. Jeremy

    August 30, 2015 at 7:02 am

    Great read on the 2qb ppr article. I have a draft the first Wednesday of September and i have the 1st pick. It’s a 2qb 2rb 4wr/te k def. The qb’s score a boat load but i am unsure to take a qb with 1st overall pick since qb has so much depth. I am also unsure of Bell and Peterson, is Lacy or Charles worthy of the 1st pick or should i grab bell or Peterson

    • Joshua Lake

      August 30, 2015 at 1:45 pm

      Given the loss of Jordy Nelson, after I wrote this piece, I would likely take Andrew Luck at 1.01.

      That said, your league starts 4 WR, and that increased demand would make me consider a WR, likely Antonio Brown, with the 1.01.

      • Jeremy

        August 30, 2015 at 8:11 pm

        I apologize I just looked at my team page and we start 1 qb’s 2 rb’s 2 wr’s 1 flex 1 te 1 k and 1 def. The flex can be a qb. Would you consider luck to be 1 still or a rb like Bell, Charles, Peterson, or Lacy

        • Joshua Lake

          August 31, 2015 at 4:23 pm

          Yes, I would definitely go Luck.

  10. Pingback: 2015 NFL Fantasy Draft Guide – Part the first: Tips, tricks & top 10 | Fantasy Football Ranking Attack

  11. Matt

    September 1, 2015 at 4:57 pm

    Torn at the 5 pick… We also traded a draft pick last year for a player. We swapped our 5th round pick for their 7th… So we have 4 rounds and then sit out a round… Any suggestions?

    • Joshua Lake

      September 1, 2015 at 5:03 pm

      Like I suggest in the piece, for me it would depend on PPR or not. Antonio Brown, Le’Veon Bell, Eddie Lacy, Dez Bryant, and Julio Jones are names I like depending on your format and your ideal approach.

      • Matt

        September 1, 2015 at 5:12 pm

        It is PPR 2qb 2rb 2wr 1flex RB/wr k d

        • Joshua Lake

          September 1, 2015 at 5:13 pm

          After the Jordy injury I’d have them ranked Luck, Antonio Brown, Lacy, Bell, Rodgers in that order for your format.

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