SportsPulse: It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Fantasy Football draft season! Trysta Krick provides tips to dominate your draft and put your competition in tears.
USA TODAY Sports
It’s one of the great disconnects in fantasy football.
Having an elite quarterback is almost essential to an NFL team’s success. In fantasy, however, quarterback ranks somewhere around a No. 3 or 4 wide receiver in order of importance.
Blame it on the scoring systems most fantasy leagues use. Quarterbacks score the most fantasy points, but because there’s only a small difference in their per-game totals, there’s just not that much difference between the best and the worst starters.
Top 200 overall: How the best fantasy football players stack up in 2018
Fantasy football rankings: Top players at each position
For example, Russell Wilson was the top-scoring fantasy quarterback in 2017, averaging 25.7 points a game. Among those who played at least 13 games, Tom Brady finished fifth at 22.5.
Further down the list, Josh McCown of the lowly New York Jets ranked 14th at 20.1 points a game.
The difference between Brady and McCown in real life is huge, but not in fantasy. Yet many fantasy owners continue to draft quarterbacks in the early rounds instead of filling skill position slots in their starting lineup.
Return to glory
The de-emphasizing of the NFL’s most glamorous position might be one reason we’re seeing more fantasy formats with two starting quarterbacks. These leagues — along with the so-called “superflex” format, which allows a player at any position, including QB, to fill a utility spot in the starting lineup — require a completely different draft strategy.
Since there are only so many starting quarterbacks available, there’s a huge benefit here to grabbing an elite QB in the early rounds. The best ones, such as Brady, Wilson and Aaron Rodgers, vault back into the first round.
Not only is there value in excellence, but there’s also value in stability. Those top quarterbacks don’t have to worry about losing their jobs during the season, but the ones further down the list are often at risk.
Owners in one-QB leagues can usually find a decent waiver-wire pickup when needed, but with every team needing at least two QBs each week, the free agent pool can be frighteningly shallow.
Pendulum swinging back?
After seven consecutive seasons of record-breaking passing yardage from 2009 to 2015, NFL teams have taken the air out of the football (figuratively speaking) the past two seasons. After an all-time high of 243.8 passing yards per game in 2015, the average per team dropped to 224.4 yards per game last season, the lowest figure since 2010.
But it’s not like teams are running the ball more as a result. Rushing attempts and yards were up slightly over last season but still below where they were just four years earlier.
Touchdowns were also down across the board in 2017.
Despite all the great offensive minds in the game today, could we be seeing a push back on defense?
Perhaps. Or it could also be the result of the turnover the league has seen at quarterback.
The difference might be even more pronounced this season. Besides coaching and coordinator changes throughout the league, roughly one out of every four NFL teams will have a new starting quarterback in 2018.
As players adjust to new offensive schemes, defenses can take advantage.
For example, the Kansas City Chiefs had the league’s No. 5 offense last season with Alex Smith under center. However, they traded the 34-year-old to Washington and have installed second-year pro Patrick Mahomes as the starter.
What about Sam Bradford in Arizona? AJ McCarron in Buffalo? Tyrod Taylor in Cleveland? Case Keenum in Denver? Kirk Cousins in Minnesota? Smith in Washington?
And that doesn’t include the five rookie quarterbacks taken in the first round of this year’s draft.
Maybe there’s something to be said for stability, even if it comes in the form of a 36-year-old veteran.
Speaking of which, guess which quarterback has finished among the top 10 fantasy scorers in each of the past four seasons?
It’s Philip Rivers.
Formulating a plan
Inside this guide you’ll find the information to help you make those decisions, and much more, as The Huddle’s David Dorey goes through each position to find where pockets of value exist.
Three-down running backs will be at the top of just about every draft board, with Todd Gurley, Le’Veon Bell, David Johnson and Ezekiel Elliott going in some order. But what happens if you don’t have one of the first four picks?
No. 1 wide receivers are usually the most consistent points producers in fantasy, but beyond Antonio Brown and DeAndre Hopkins, who really qualifies as a lock anymore? As defenses get more complicated, teams are looking for more short passes to running backs.
Fourteen backs had more than 50 receptions last season; that’s up from 11 in 2016 and eight in 2015. Will the trend continue?
The easiest way to rack up fantasy points is by scoring touchdowns. But there’s an art to that, too. The best players don’t always get into the end zone the most. FFToday.com’s Doug Orth takes a closer look at the players who are likely to see their TD totals increase in 2018 and others who could be setting their owners up for disappointment.
The greatest unknown every season is how rookies will perform in their first taste of the NFL. Saquon Barkley has a ton of expectations on his shoulder pads after being taken second overall by the New York Giants. Can he live up to the hype as a fantasy first-rounder? Which of the rookie QBs will get a chance to play first, and will they succeed? Are any of the wideouts worth grabbing? The Huddle’s Cory Bonini runs down the pros and cons in this year’s rookie class.
Whether you’re in a single-season or keeper league, whether you play with traditional rosters or you want to include individual defensive players (IDP leagues), we have the rankings and auction values for them all.
It’s time to get down in the trenches with your fantasy preparations. But we’re right there with you.
Follow Gardner on Twitter @SteveAGardner