It’s a debate that has raged for many of the last fantasy football seasons — to draft a quarterback early, or to wait on the incredibly deep position. Fantasy analysts Dan Titus and Jorge Martin look to put the argument to rest for the 2023 season.
The case for drafting a QB early
Plain and simple, the goal of winning in fantasy football is to score the most points possible. Yes, it sounds too simple. Well, when you draft one of the elite quarterbacks like Patrick Mahomes, Jalen Hurts and Josh Allen, those three were superior to the rest of their peers to the point that Allen’s third-place fantasy points per game (24.3) in 2022 were almost three points higher than Joe Burrow (21.7) in the fourth spot. The advantage grew greater the further down the line.
The consistency factor for the big three in weekly scoring is quite stunning. Mahomes finished in the top six in weekly scoring a whopping 13 times out of 16 weeks (not counting Week 18). The Chiefs quarterback threw for at least 300 yards 10 times and accounted for multiple touchdowns 14 times on the season.
Hurts and Allen were similarly consistent, with the Philly dual-threat quarterback going top five 11 times (before he was injured), and the Bills’ star signal caller placed that high 10 times.
QB5 Geno Smith finished outside the top 10 in scoring nine times. Who would want that much of a weekly disadvantage?
Yes, some fantasy managers will say they’re bypassing star players in the second and third rounds to draft either of these three. Well, Hurts at his ADP of 27 is going in a range where he’s being drafted alongside good players — just ahead of Tee Higgins, Travis Etienne Jr. and Aaron Jones, but no one is comparing them to Cooper Kupp in 2021 or Josh Jacobs last year.
Mahomes (32) and Allen (33) are only a few spots later in ADP. Fantasy managers may have to sacrifice their second running back or first tight end to go elite quarterback in their drafts, but I’d rather end up streaming at those positions than wait on QB.
And how about Week 17 matchups, aka fantasy championship week? Mahomes will be home against Joe Burrow and the Bengals in a likely shootout. Hurts is playing host to the “rebuilding” Cardinals. The Bills stay home to take on the Patriots, and in five wins dating back to Week 16 in 2020 (including the 2021 playoffs), Allen has passed for an average of 283.3 yards per game and 17 touchdowns.
Early QB a winning strategy, mi amigo Dan — plus you don’t have to root against the quarterback from your hometown Eagles. Win, win and win! — Martin
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The case for waiting on QB in drafts
I’m not questioning the talent, upside and high-floor potential when selecting one of the top three QBs in fantasy. Over the past seven days in Yahoo leagues, Patrick Mahomes (ADP 13.9), Josh Allen (ADP 23.4) and Jalen Hurts (ADP 23.5) have gone within the first two rounds of 12-team leagues. However, with so much value available in later rounds of fantasy drafts, why spend up for an early-round pick on a quarterback when you can build out more positional depth?
Mahomes’ gaudy ADP is sandwiched between the likes of Derrick Henry and Davante Adams. Allen and Hurts are going in the range of Amon-Ra St. Brown and Travis Etienne Jr. (whom Jorge mentioned above). Whether you’re excited about the players going around that range or not, it’s better to stack a combination of WR1s or RB1s (I’d advocate for going WR) in the first few rounds of fantasy drafts than bypass them in favor of an elite QB.
Tua Tagovailoa carried an ECR of QB17 in the preseason last year and was a top-six QB for half of the year. And going a step further, Justin Fields (QB15), Trevor Lawrence (QB18), Daniel Jones (QB21) and Geno Smith (undrafted in most leagues) finished within the top 10 at their position in fantasy points per game and total fantasy points last season.
The moral of the story? You can wait on a QB!
The optimal strategy is to hold off until at least the fifth and sixth rounds to ensure you’ll get a competent, mid-tier QB who delivers (hopefully with some rushing upside). Still, worse case, you end up with a pocket passer tied to an explosive offense.
I’d be more than happy leaving drafts with a roster flush with WR and RB talent plus a quarterback like Fields, Lawrence, Dak Prescott, Deshaun Watson, Aaron Rodgers, Jones, Kirk Cousins or Jared Goff. And feel free to take a backup QB late in 12-team leagues to hedge your bet. — Titus