Fantasy 2011 quarterback rankings
Drafting a quarterback won't be the first, second or even third thing you do on draft day. It will be the most important thing you do, though.
Running backs always dominate the early rounds, and some fantasy owners love the diva receivers, but it is often too easy to forget: The highest-scoring player on your fantasy team is going to be your quarterback.
Funny, because the real NFL is determined by the quarterback and we still can forget it in fantasy. Elite quarterbacks win Super Bowls ... and fantasy leagues.
It doesn't mean you should draft your quarterback first, but you should model your entire draft approach around where you want to pick your passer. Decide on your target and draft accordingly.
Here are a few approaches:
If you're one of the few owners thinking of taking a QB in Round 1, take one that won't go down. That makes your pick Tom Brady over Aaron Rodgers (injured last season), over Peyton Manning (coming off neck surgery), over Drew Brees (played with a torn meniscus last year) and, yes even this guy, Michael Vick.
Vick might be the most exciting QB in the league -- maybe even the most promising one in fantasy -- but the way he plays makes it almost certain he is going to miss games. Heck, it even makes his recently signed backup Vince Young an intriguing late-round pick. Young is going to have to start games for the Eagles. Bank on that.
But picking your QB in the first or second round makes it likely you want to use that player every week, regardless of the matchup. You might not even need to pick a backup, just pick one up on that player's bye week. Doing that gives you roster flexibility other fantasy owners don't have. You can load up on running back and receiver fliers -- two positions where the depth is far more useful.
While QBs score the most points, most of the starter-quality options score a lot of points together. Six QBs scored more points than all other players at any other position.
So, perhaps your approach will be to draft two -- not one -- of the fantasy-starter quality options and play the matchups. You can maximize your scoring totals week to week, even if you aren't using your first eight rounds of players to fill out starters at QB-RB-WR-TE-FLEX.
Your starting quarterback is always going to impact your team's scoring in a standard league more than anyone but your top running back or receiver. You want to be sure to be covered at the position, even if the RB pool tends to get thinner after the early rounds.
If you draft your quarterback in Rounds 6-9, you can get two potential breakouts. A Matt Ryan-Ben Roethlisberger platoon could make your fantasy team a tough matchup every week.
If you don't decide to use either of the above strategies, the only other way to go is skip the elite tier, draft a few rounds of stars at RB-WR and then get a Tier II or III option. No fantasy team can afford to get shut out at the highest-scoring position.
Michael Vick was a rare case a year ago. Josh Freeman was, too. Big-time fantasy QBs just don't come out of nowhere. There is a very good reason NFL teams waste draft pick after draft pick trying to find their future signal-caller, which was especially apparent in this past draft.
If your wind up being the last owner in your league to draft your signal-caller, you need a lot of things to go right to compete. First, you need all your early-round picks to stay healthy (not easy with RBs) and consistent (tough for top WRs). Then, you need your QB starter to play better than some of those picked many rounds ahead.
Again, it's not impossible to find a Vick-like surprise at the position, but it is improbable.
There is a huge difference between drafting QBs and buying them in fantasy auctions. The premium options go for top dollar and everyone else goes for pennies.
This makes the waiting strategy (No. 2) the best. You can lock up two fantasy-starter quality passers (top three tiers) for a total of just $5-$10 of your budget. If you cannot believe that, you likely have never really participated or analyzed a fantasy football auction.
The options are many. Let's sort through the shopping list.