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Monday, July 29, 2013

Modifying "Back-to-Back Quarterback"

If you've read the book (click here to see it!) or you have been a student of my "Master's Degree in Fantasy Football" then you've heard me talk about the "Back-to-Back Quarterback" strategy.  I'll give you a quick recap and then we can start to color outside of the lines a bit with 2013 in mind.

In a nutshell, the idea is that quality running backs are a very scarce commodity and stud wide receivers are also relatively scarce.  At quarterback you tend to have a few top-end guys followed by a strong second tier, and then everyone else.  Quarterback is not as scarce as running back or wide receiver and is also heavily affected by matchups. 

Okay, so with all of that in mind, the "Back-to-Back Quarterback" strategy says to start your draft with three running backs and three wide receivers (in some order) in the first six rounds and then follow those picks with quarterbacks in both round seven and round eight.  The rationale is that you'll get two guys in the #8-#12 range as far as the pre-season rankings and then during the season you would roll with whomever has the better matchup that week.

The strategy gives you an automatic bye week replacement and insurance against injury.  If deployed properly, your two guys should perform at a level similar to a much higher-ranked guy (the #4 QB, maybe) since that guy gets played even when the matchups are unfavorable.  The best part?  You improved your roster with all of the early picks at running back and wide receiver.

That's a quick version of it... There is more to it, but that's the idea.

Cool, but can we modify the concept this year?  Should we even try to modify it?  Maybe.  I recently wrote an article in this space talking about how there are a lot of red flags for quarterbacks in the #3-#10 range and that there is a chance of guys in the #11-#24 (yes, as low as #24!) bumping up into the top 10 this year. 

In other words, you could possibly look back in five months and see Jay Cutler ranked higher than Russell Wilson for the season.  That's not so outlandish, right?  Take a look at Ryan, Stafford, Romo, Luck, Kaepernick, Wilson, Griffin, Brady, Peyton Manning, and Newton.  Those are the quarterbacks currently ranked from #3-#12 but I listed them in a random order to illustrate a point.  Those dudes could slot in this year in any order and I wouldn't be surprised.  (By the way, maybe this cements the value of Rodgers and Brees?  Not sure, but don't get distracted... We venture forth!)  Plus, I'm willing to bet that one of them slips pretty far in a 12-team league and two or three of them in a 10-teamer. 

And when I say "slip" I'm talking at least a couple of rounds past their ADP.  The idea is that all of your competitors will grab their QB in an early round and then not even think about a backup until the double-digit rounds... round 11, round 12, round 13.  Maybe later.

So, if the quarterbacks from #3 all the way to #24 have some unpredictability to them... let's get a little crazy.  Since they are so affected by matchup and running back and wide receiver are more valuable resources, would it be insane to take four running backs, four wide receivers, and a tight end in the first nine rounds?  What if you followed that up with three QB's in rounds 10, 11, and 12?

That really juices the value of your RB's and WR's while giving you even more flexibility and maneuverability at QB.  If picking the best matchup among two QB's in the #8-#12 range is a good strategy, isn't it even better to pick between three guys in the #11-#16 range? 

Well, maybe.  Maybe not.  It is worth a look, so let's dig into some potential draft picks with each version of this strategy.

With the original version you'd use round seven and round eight for QB's that look like this and then use rounds ten and eleven for a RB4 and a WR4 like this:
  • QB1:  Andrew Luck
  • QB2:  Eli Manning
  • RB4:  Jonathan Franklin
  • WR4:  Sidney Rice

With the modified version you'd have a RB4 in round seven, WR4 in round eight, and then QB's in rounds ten, eleven, and twelve.  So, what would you think of rolling with something like this:
  • RB4:  Daryl Richardson
  • WR4:  Stevie Johnson
  • QB1:  Michael Vick
  • QB2:  Ben Roethlisberger
  • QB3:  Jay Cutler
That second group is just way better, right?  I love Andrew Luck this year and Eli is solid, but don't you think that most weeks there will be some fantastic matchup for one of your three alternatives in the second group?  But more importantly, the big thing here is that Richardson is way better than Franklin and Johnson is light years better than Rice.  If the combo of Vick/Ben/Cutler can produce as well as the combo of Luck/Eli than this strategy is a home run.

One obvious caveat is that you are using one more bench spot on a third QB, so there's less speculation on RB's and WR's.  Hopefully you won't need the extra speculation spot since you used rounds seven and eight on a RB and a WR and those positions are already upgraded.

Anyway, I'm always thinking of modifying the basic "No Brainer" draft strategy, especially with regard to the flux in rankings year to year.  This could be a nice way to do just that depending on league composition and the length of your bench.

You can also deploy this strategy on the fly.  Take a look at how many QB's are drafted in the first six rounds.  If you are already nine or ten deep I would say that means your competitors are investing fairly heavily in their QB1 so they may have a greater inclination to wait on their QB2.  As you go, you can get a feel for how long those second tier QB's will be hanging around, and adjust accordingly.

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