Before I start drafting each fantasy football season, I need to be in tune with the player pool. I then need to understand the drop-downs at each position within fantasy drafts.
There are all different kinds of fantasy football leagues across the country. In most cases, the best team doesn't necessarily win each season because of a poor playoff week or untimely injury to a starter. The goal is to draft a team with enough depth and upside to compete for the league title and remain in the conversation.
Each owner will be dealt a different hand as they will pick from various draft slots. Without an elite, first-tier player that comes with top draft selection, most fantasy owners will have to be creative in gaining edges at different positions to compete for a league or an overall title.
Before you sit at the draft table, one of the first steps is developing an understanding of what you need out of every position to be a contender. So, I will go through every position on a fantasy roster and give you the average player stats to help you see what it takes to have an edge at a position. The data listed is for 12-team leagues using the criteria below.
- This scoring system awards four points for quarterback passing touchdowns with 0.05 points for each passing yard.
- Each rushing and receiving yard is worth 0.10 points.
- Each reception is worth one point. Each rushing or receiving touchdown is worth six points.
The tables below show the average scores for the top 12 options at each position over the last four seasons.
The first part of the equation is learning the gaps and edges of each position. Here are the average position scores for 11 starting roster slots in the over the last four seasons:
These scores can be used as targets for each position. A winning team will need to have an edge at multiple positions to win their league, plus their roster will need depth while having success managing your team through bye weeks and injuries. The goal in this format is to score more than 145 fantasy points per week. If you do this, you will finish in the top four in your league with a chance to win your league championship. The best teams in the competition will average over 165 points.
The overall scoring for all 11 roster slots in a high-stakes contest over the previous four seasons came to 137.41 (2017), 144.60 (2018), 144.82 (2019), and 149.09 (2020).
In four of the past five seasons, there has been a spike in rushing touchdowns (443, 439, 447, and 532), which came after seeing a tight range (399 to 410) in scoring on the ground from 2010 and 2013.
The change in replay rules led to many more players being downed inside the two-yard line on passing plays, leading to easier scoring chances in close on the ground.
The success of some running quarterbacks also led to a rise in overall yards per rush in 2018 (4.42), 2019 (4.32), and 2020 (4.41).
The final total in passing touchdowns reached an all-time high in 2020 (871).
Top 12 quarterback fantasy point totals (2017 – 2020)
Quarterbacks 1 to 12
In 2020, the average quarterback in the NFL passed for 254.88 yards per game with 22.96 completions on 35.19 pass attempts, leading to 1.70 touchdowns per game with 0.77 touchdowns. These stats translate into under 20.0 fantasy points per game in leagues that award four points for each passing touchdown and 0.05 for each yard passing.
The overall number would be slightly higher as most quarterbacks do have some rushing yards each week while also having rushing touchdown production. The top 12 quarterbacks over the last four years have averaged between 20.94 and 25.32 fantasy points per game, with 2017 delivering the lowest output.
Over 16 games during the NFL regular season, the average top 12 quarterback production delivered about 405 fantasy points in 2020 in four-point passing touchdown leagues.
As is the nature of the NFL, quarterbacks will miss games or lose their jobs, so overall passing stats are delivered by the team passing yards (no deduction for yards passing lost via sacks), touchdowns, and rushing yards from the quarterback position.
Thirteen quarterbacks scored over 300 fantasy points per game in this scoring system in 2017. In 2018, 15 quarterbacks scored over 300 fantasy points in four-point touchdown leagues, with Patrick Mahomes having a 120 to 140 point edge (7.5 per game) over the bottom six top 12 quarterbacks while outpointing Matt Ryan (2nd highest QB in 2018) by about 4.00 fantasy points per game.
In 2019, Lamar Jackson had an excellent season (454.95 fantasy points) over 15 games of action, followed by Dak Prescott (399.80) and Jameis Winston (391.55). Fifteen quarterbacks scored over 300 fantasy points.
Last year, the quarterback position was front-loaded, with six quarterbacks scoring 419.00 fantasy points or more. Fifteen quarterbacks finished with over 300 fantasy points.
The average score for the top 12 quarterbacks was 405.13 fantasy points last season or 25.32 fantasy points per game.
The top four quarterbacks in 2016 averaged 403.6 fantasy points, which was almost identical to 2015 (403.7). In 2017, that number fell to 361.55 fantasy points. In 2018, the average of the top four quarterbacks came to 424.81 fantasy points with a regression back to 405.78 fantasy points in 2019. Last year, they averaged 439.00 fantasy points per game.
Over the previous eight seasons, there have been 1,214 (2013), 1,187 (2014), 1,207 (2015), 1,219 (2016), 1,121 (2017), 1,286 (2018), 1,244 (2019), and 1,403 (2020) rushing and passing touchdowns scored.
The NFL changed the rules for kickoffs in 2018, which may have helped the overall scoring due to better field position.
The quarterback position is dynamic, but it is one where a weaker quarterback can match a top quarterback over the short periods in league championship rounds, which is why many top fantasy owners will wait to draft a quarterback. By doing this, they will have the ability to be stronger in one of their other starting roster slots.
I've never been a very good matchup manager at the quarterback position, which leads me to draft a more reliable quarterback and ride him out throughout the season.
Of all the positions on a fantasy team, the quarterback position will offer the most points in the free-agent pool. In addition, a back-end quarterback could put up 20+ fantasy points in any given week, which is another reason to wait on the QB position.
A team that punts the quarterback position will give up three to ten fantasy points per week to the top four teams in the league. I know the goal for someone that waits on the quarterback position is to find the next breakout quarterback. In this strategy, it is vital to roster more quarterback depth on draft day to give your fantasy team more outs when setting your lineup each week. The downside with this is the week-to-week mistakes in decision-making by starting the wrong option.
Quarterback 13 to 24 point totals (2017 – 2020)
Final QB Thoughts
If a fantasy owner decides to select a quarterback early, he is looking for an edge at the position, plus he wants to eliminate the decision-making process each week.
A player who waits for a midrange quarterback looks to gain an edge at running back or wide receiver.
For a fantasy owner who wants to push the envelope at quarterback, he hopes to gather enough depth at other positions to have an advantage when replacing injured players or even covering his best players when they are on bye weeks.
When waiting on a quarterback position, it works best when there isn't a wide gap in scoring at the quarterback position. In 2010, the leading quarterback in this scoring system had only 356.70 fantasy points.
When the quarterback gaps are much tighter, it allows a drafter who waited at the quarterback position to have an advantage with depth at running back, wide receiver, and tight end.
This year, the quarterback position looks strong again upfront, but I also see multiple options drafted after round 10 in 12-team leagues with the talent to shine.
The first cut of the 2021 NFL Rankings & Projections should give some insight into this draft season's potential values and targets.
More Fantasy Football:
- 2021 Fantasy Team Outlooks
- 2021 NFL Projections & Rankings
- Fantasy Football Fades: Buyer Beware! Six Players With Red Flags
- Fantasy Case Against Kenny Golladay: New Team Leads to Decline
Senior analyst Shawn Childs is a multi-sport, high-stakes fantasy legend with lifetime earnings in the high six-figures. He has been providing in-depth, analytical break downs for years all while helping his subscribers to countless titles and winnings across season-long & DFS. A inaugural inductee of the NFBC Hall of Fame, Shawn can teach you how to prep like a champ!