Two-quarterback leagues continue to grow in popularity, now getting mentioned on the major fantasy sites and podcasts. What is it about them that is so popular? Why are 2QB owners fanatical in their devotion to the format?
I have been playing in 2QB leagues since 2006, a decade now, and I am a firm believer in the format. I find 2QB and Superflex leagues more challenging and also more satisfying. If you’ll indulge me, I’ll share a basic intro to the two-quarterback format and suggest how you can go from beginner to league champ all in one season.
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Rather than allowing you to start only one quarterback, two-quarterback leagues give you the ability to start two, requiring you to dig far deeper into the pool of NFL signal callers. They change the drafting dynamics, and they open up the possibility for more trades during the season.
The Basics: What is a Two-Quarterback League?
There are two varieties of these quarterback-heavy fantasy leagues, although people often lump the two together. In one format, you are required to start two quarterbacks every week, come hell or high water. Those leagues are most commonly referred to as 2QB leagues.
A common variation of that format is known as a Superflex league. In Superflex leagues, you must start one quarterback, but you are allowed to start a second. One of your roster spots is much like a typical flex spot, but it permits you to start a quarterback or any other offensive position. In the vast majority of Superflex leagues, quarterbacks score higher totals than other positions, so owners start a quarterback in the flex spot whenever possible.
Quarterbacks take on a heightened value in both of those formats, where demand increases dramatically as every team starts an extra QB.
Why Should You Try a 2QB League?
Even though two-quarterback leagues are growing in popularity, they are still far from the norm. Many longtime fantasy football players still scoff at Superflex leagues, and most major sites still don’t cater to the format. So it is fair to ask, “Why start two quarterbacks?”
When I began playing in two-quarterback leagues about ten years ago, a common criticism was that the format is nothing like the real NFL, because NFL teams don’t start two quarterbacks.
But let’s be clear: fantasy football has never been an effort to perfectly mirror the NFL. NFL teams don’t start two running backs; they start one, even if he plays as part of a running back by committee. Additionally, NFL general managers have to study individual defensive players intensely, and the IDP format is only used in roughly two to three percent of all fantasy football leagues. Finally, the NFL cares deeply about offensive linemen, positions which are irrelevant to fantasy owners. Fantasy football’s highest goal is not, and should not be, to mirror the NFL.
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Instead, most who dabble in fantasy football are looking for a mix of entertainment and a competitive challenge. That challenge comes primarily from the educated guesswork of having to decide which players are worth drafting, worth stashing, and worth starting.
Should I Start Austin Davis?
Last year, fantasy owners in traditional one-quarterback leagues wouldn’t have been considering or starting quarterbacks much worse than Eli Manning or Philip Rivers, but they were agonizing over whether to start Eddie Royal or Kendall Wright some weeks. (Both players finished in the top 36 at their position in non-PPR leagues.) Heck, the D/ST spot usually takes more thought than you spend debating which quarterback to start.
Others, however, took the late-round approach to quarterbacks. That approach has grown in recent years, thanks in large part to the analytical work of writers like J. J. Zachariason. Savvy drafters know they can get high-quality quarterback values in the 8th round and later. You can feasibly win a league without drafting a quarterback before the double-digit rounds, so why bother wasting an early pick when there are fifteen or more quality fantasy quarterbacks in the NFL?
At least for me, that’s not how I want to play fantasy football. I want to focus on the position that makes the NFL great. I want to study the quarterbacks, and I want to look for rising talent. I want to dominate my league the way coaches dominate the NFL – by finding the elite young quarterbacks before they’re even starters.
Two-quarterback formats serve that exact purpose. They elevate the relative value of the quarterback position, and they require owners to become acquainted with the lower-tier NFL quarterbacks. It makes you ask yourself, “Just how good could Geno Smith be?”
2QB leagues bring the quarterback position back to life, and that’s a good thing.
What Changes in a 2QB League?
In the Draft
If we review last year’s draft data, particularly the first twenty picks, and compare the first twenty in 2QB leagues to the first twenty in one-quarterback formats, an immediate difference stands out.
In 2QB leagues, nine (!) quarterbacks were drafted in the first 20 picks, but only two – Peyton Manning and Drew Brees – had ADPs in the top-20 in 1QB formats. (Data courtesy of FantasyFootballCalculator.com.)
Because owners have a finite amount of capital to spend in a fantasy draft, the rising cost of quarterbacks leads to a decrease in the prices of other positions. Running backs and wide receivers slip further into the draft, and in auction drafts they go for lower prices. You will need to keep the shifting values in mind when you draft, which is why I will recommend mock drafts in a minute.
The addition of a second quarterback spot increases the number of team compositions available to a 2QB owner. As Sal Stefanile says frequently, there is an incredible variety of ways to win in 2QB leagues; find one that works for you.
Some owners win by focusing all their attention on getting two stud quarterbacks, while others find great success by scraping the bottom of the barrel at QB and loading up on position players. Those different approaches will take shape during your draft, when you see owners taking divergent approaches to quarterback value.
Once the season kicks off, you will see new ways in which two-quarterback leagues differ from the norm. Starting in Week 1, you’ll notice yourself spending much more time thinking about the quarterback position, as you debate who to start in your QB2 slot. The most important position in football will no longer be a plug-and-play spot for you.
Your waiver wire decisions will be impacted as well. Depending on the depth of your league, there may be very few quarterbacks available on the waiver wire, because owners tend to stash QBs, knowing there is a very limited supply. So you may find yourself in a quandary along these lines: “Do I drop Dwayne Bowe to pick up Austin Davis?” That’s a debate unlikely to ever come up in a traditional league, but it is far from unusual in 2QB leagues.
Trade talks take on a new dimension as well, and most two-quarterback leagues see a higher trade volume because an extra position is now worth targeting. In a one-quarterback league, most owners won’t pay any significant price for a quarterback, because they can get one nearly as good out of free agency. In 2QB and Superflex formats, trades frequently involve at least one QB. My anecdotal experience has been that two-quarterback leagues spur more trade talks than do traditional leagues, largely because they have an additional position worth trading for.
How Can You Prepare?
If you have read this far, I’m confident you have at least a passing interest in joining a two-quarterback league, so you may be looking for next steps. Let me suggest a few actions you can take, and then I will pass along a few resources to get you going.
First, I would highly recommend that you put together a personal ranking of your top-35 quarterbacks. You can find hundreds of rankings online for one-quarterback leagues, position players, and quarterbacks down to say the top 20. You will have much more trouble finding reliable rankings of 30+ quarterbacks, but in a two-quarterback league you need to be familiar with those bottom-tier guys.
Putting together your own rankings will allow you to become more accustomed to names like Josh McCown and E. J. Manuel. I don’t advocate sticking religiously to your rankings; instead, the major benefit is in the process of creating the rankings. You’ll learn more about each quarterback, and you will start to build an intuitive sense for how you value the lesser-known guys.
Next, here is a recommendation that applies to any fantasy league: know your league’s settings. All of them.
For two-quarterback leagues, you want to understand how quarterbacks score points relative to the other positions. Particularly, are you in a four- or six-point league when it comes to passing touchdowns? Beyond that, make yourself familiar with all the other settings. Don’t be that guy or gal who doesn’t realize until midway through the draft that you’ll need to start four WRs every week. That’s a sure path to fantasy mediocrity.
Lastly, find good mock drafts to participate in. Make sure you find mocks that closely mirror your league’s settings. Drafting in a one-quarterback format is of moderate value because it gets you thinking about players, but you really want to find a way to mock draft in your own format. That provides the best experience before you draft for real.
I run two-quarterback mock drafts throughout the summer. To get involved in those, shoot me a message on Twitter (@LakeTwoQBs). You can also find automated 2QB mock drafts on FantasyFootballCalculator.
Resources for 2QB Leagues
Did you know that we have our own section of FakePigskin devoted to the 2QB and Superflex formats? You can keep up with all our content at that page. All of our 2QB articles and rankings are posted to that page, so it’s a great one to bookmark.
There are a few evergreen 2QB articles that I would suggest as a next step. Sal, who I mentioned earlier, wrote a great piece on why 2QB leagues are the future of fantasy football. Josh Berger wrote a definitive guide to winning your 2QB auction draft, and Don Davenport wrote an introduction to playing in 2QB dynasty leagues. Those articles will serve you well if you’re in a league without the typical redraft, snake draft format.
I would also highly recommend you utilize Twitter. Even if you have no interest in sending a single tweet into the ether, Twitter is an invaluable resource, because it allows you to follow the combined wisdom of dozens or hundreds of fantasy football thinkers and writers. Here are a few I’d suggest:
Then, follow @Joe_Siniscalchi from TheFakeFootball.com. @RyanMc23, @JS_Football, @BreezeIDP, and @bigmac9812 are great follows from DynastyLeagueFootball.com. Last but certainly not least, although he is on a fantasy football hiatus, follow the godfather of the 2QB format, @2QBFFB, for when he comes back.
Lastly, let me say welcome! I have no doubt that you’ll love the two-quarterback format once you give it a shot. Enjoy yourself, and please introduce yourself here in the comments or on Twitter. Welcome to the 2QB community!