Passing stats have exploded in the NFL, leading to a devaluation of the NFL’s most important position in fantasy football. In 2006, only five signal-callers passed for 4,000-plus yards, with just 14 throwing for at least 3,000. Those numbers have exploded in the last 10 seasons. Thirteen quarterbacks threw for at least 4,000 yards last year, and 25 reached the 3,000-yard mark. Even mediocre passers are piling up yards and touchdowns, and, in turn, scoring more fantasy points.
With so many serviceable passers to choose from, waiting to draft quarterbacks in traditional one-quarterback leagues has become the dominant strategy. Playing in two-quarterback leagues will spice up your fantasy experience.
A Two-QB Primer
If you're good at logic, you’ve likely deduced that two-quarterback leagues require you to start two quarterbacks. One plus one equals two. It truly is that simple. In superflex leagues, one flex position expands, allowing you to start a second quarterback. superflex leagues are a great bridge between one- and two-QB leagues.
In the multi-quarterback universe, “2QB” and “superflex” effectively mean the same thing. Since quarterbacks score the most points in fantasy, starting a quarterback in your superflex spot is important. In 2016, 20 of the 24 highest overall fantasy scorers were passers. Late-round afterthought Joe Flacco scored more points than top-five running back DeMarco Murray.
Quarterback Values Restored
Flacco's 242.48 fantasy points in 2016 (QB20) would have been the QB5 finish and the 11th-highest score overall in 2006. Yet, in today's one-QB leagues, Flacco is a late-round pick, if selected at all.
Two-quarterback formats dramatically change the draft values of positions. You can’t wait until the last rounds of a draft, take Carson Palmer or Brian Hoyer, then drop your guy for a waiver-wire quarterback with a better schedule. Mid-to-low-end QB2s like Palmer and Hoyer get drafted, going much earlier in two-QB leagues than one-QB formats.
4for4's multi-site ADP tool for one-QB leagues shows Palmer with an ADP of 134 overall. His two-QB ADP on TwoQBs.com is 96. Hoyer's 4for4 ADP is 243, but he's being drafted 132nd in a typical two-QB league. What about elite QB1s like Russell Wilson? 4for4's ADP shows him at 61 overall, while his TwoQBs ADP is 32 overall (6.01 vs. 3.08 in 12-team leagues).
The Evolution of Two-QB ADP
Even though quarterbacks are drafted earlier and more often in two-QB leagues compared with one-QB formats, the late-round QB drafting mentality is gaining momentum in start-two formats. The chart below shows the evolution of quarterback ADP in two-QB leagues since 2013.
In 2013, five quarterbacks had first-round ADPs, compared wtih only one this season. We also went from 12 quarterbacks with top-30 ADPs back then to only four this year.
While quarterback ADP universally dropped from 2013 to 2016, we see an ADP bump in the QB6–QB22 range for 2017. The QB2 tier is muddied by the NFL’s logjam of serviceable quarterbacks. Once Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, and Drew Brees are gone, drafters struggle to distinguish between quarterbacks in subsequent tiers.
If you miss out on elite passers in the early rounds, do you panic and draft Jameis Winston around his 35.4 ADP, or wait and grab Kirk Cousins nearly two rounds later? Winston has the higher ADP, not to mention Mike Evans, but Cousins finished as the QB5 last season and has produced 16 weeks of top-12 fantasy performances since 2015. Winston only has 11 such weeks in that span. Do you wait even longer for Tyrod Taylor, who has finished among the top eight in fantasy points per game two years in a row? Carson Palmer has a 10th-round ADP, a six-round discount off of last year’s price, but he scored nearly 16 fantasy points per game in 2016 and is only two years removed from a top-five fantasy campaign. These are the types of decisions you’ll face in two-QB drafts.
Two-QB and Superflex Draft Prep
Prepping for your two-QB or superflex draft requires a mental recalibration. The format drastically shifts the supply and demand of usable quarterbacks, and the number of playable guys affects the value of performance over the baseline. Adding more usable quarterbacks also provides new potential roads to victory. Now that you can draft quarterbacks early without guilt, you must weigh the pros and cons of drafting one at every pick.
Trade-offs Between Early and Late QB Picks
If you pay for a passer early, you’re buying a safety net that doubles as a trampoline. Elite quarterbacks like Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees and Tom Brady are low-risk. Those three have collectively finished 81.6% of their games since 2012 as top-20 fantasy quarterbacks. You will not find such stability from anyone at other positions.
The top signal-callers also reach untouchable heights. Recall Drew Brees’ 42-point masterpiece in Week 8 of 2015. The lofty ceilings of Brees and company are more consistent than lower-tier quarterbacks. Since 2012, the top five quarterback slots in ADP produced top-10 finishes at the position in more than half of those players’ games (52.8%). The quarterbacks slotted fifth through tenth in ADP only managed top-10 weeks 38.5% of the time.
The downside of picking quarterbacks early is losing chances to draft similarly high-end talent at running back or wide receiver. With more eggs in the quarterback basket, your roster either becomes riskier or less explosive at other positions, if not both. That’s opportunity cost. The limited number of elite passers is mirrored at back and receiver, so you must choose where you want to leverage your roster against other teams. Drafting quarterback early weakens your leverage at running back and wide receiver, where you need to go deeper each week in typical two-back, three-receiver, one-flex formats.
On the flip side, dedicating high draft capital to quarterback starts a countdown for your leaguemates to draft passers before they dry up. No one wants to get stuck on the fantasy season’s cusp with Josh McCown and Cody Kessler as his or her starters. Early-round quarterabck drafters are spreading fear of that scenario every time they take another passer.
Fear drives demand. If you wait too long or incorrectly forecast the pace of quarterback picks, you can become subject to drafting runs and fall behind at the position. The runs at quarterback are worse than other positions because each NFL team only ever plans to use a single quarterback each week, and the position is less prone to injury-based turnover.
Most franchises now use committees at running back and can support multiple fantasy-relevant receivers. Minnesota generated value for both Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen last season (admittedly not always at the same time), but the Vikings only had one usable quarterback in 2016. Expand this one example, look at the entire league, and you see the pool of players to consider at quarterback is smaller than other positions. Supply is limited.
Meanwhile, the safety nets are anchored much lower for late-round quarterbacks. Players like Jared Goff, Mike Glennon and Tom Savage don’t have name brands or productive track records to lengthen their leash. If they don’t perform for their NFL teams, they might lose their jobs and whatever fantasy value is tied to their starting roles.
Fortunately for late-round QB drafters, everyone realizes the bad quarterbacks are bad. If forced to pick one, you won’t invest much compared to other rostered passers. Furthermore, many drafters don’t understand which quarterbacks are actually viable in two-QB fantasy. Only floor is considered when evaluating unsexy players like Alex Smith and Sam Bradford. Late-round quarterback artists can live with lower floors, as long as the production is predictable.
Performance from quarterbacks is generally more stable than other positions. Teams are throwing more than ever, and volume reigns supreme in fantasy football. Even bargain players like Smith and Bradford can hit the attempts benchmarks you need to keep up at quarterback while you press matchup advantages elsewhere.
All that volume makes weekly matchups for quarterbacks more predictable. This drives plenty of drafters to stream signal callers in one-QB leagues, but two-QB waiver wires aren’t brimming with unwanted starting quarterbacks. You’re streaming from a much smaller pool, if the pool even exists. Regardless, having choices provides opportunity to maximize your weekly ceiling.
Breaking Ties at QB
Early-round quarterbacks are intended to be every-week starters, but quarterbacks in the middle tiers hold similar fantasy values to one another. In any given week, countless factors, such as injuries, supporting casts and matchup, shape their outlooks. With that in mind, try to land at least three quarterbacks in your two-QB and superflex drafts so you can mix and match during the season.
But where do you need to draft them? Here are the ranges of two-QB ADP (10 teams) for passers in 2017:
After the drop-off from Tier 1 to Tier 2, the next significant value gap historically doesn’t show up until after QB24 or QB25 in average draft position. Knowing that, you should aim to pick your three quarterbacks from the top-25 of the position. It’s easier said than done because other owners in your league are making similar gambits. You can’t always pluck passers from the bottoms of tiers. Eventually, you need to break ties among the thick cluster of middle-class quarterbacks.
Track record is a good place to start. Past performance illustrates skills of certain players while setting data points within a player’s range of outcomes. If you prefer reliable mid-tier quarterbacks with smaller gaps between upside and downside, draft Matthew Stafford and Philip Rivers over Eli Manning. If you happen to land both Stafford and Rivers as starters, the security they provide might open you up to a riskier QB3 like Jay Cutler, over a safer option like Alex Smith.
Other potential tiebreakers include strength of schedule, surrounding talent, pace of play and the potential effects of quarterbacks’ defenses on game scripts. How you chop up those considerations and spice your strategy stew is a reflection of your sensibilities and the needs of your roster when you’re making picks in the moment.
The best way to learn the ins and outs of two-quarterback drafts is doing more of them. Practice makes perfect. We at TwoQBs generally prefer waiting to draft quarterbacks. There are many different ways to win in two-QB and superflex leagues, though, and your league might reward drafting quarterbacks earlier.