Ranking Dynasty Quarterbacks
Ranking quarterbacks in 2QB dynasty leagues: you’re doing it all wrong.
Yes, that is a bit harsh for me to say and it is certainly veering into the world of hyperbole. But I do believe that you are making a mistake if you rank quarterbacks exactly the same in 1QB and 2QB dynasty leagues.
We all understand the simple supply and demand mechanics of adding a second quarterback position to the starting lineups: the demand for QBs is higher, fewer are available, and the price of quarterbacks goes up.
The impact that shift has on QB rankings receives far less attention.
THE VALUE OF LONGEVITY
The increased demand for quarterbacks, combined with their high price, creates a premium on quarterback longevity in 2QB leagues. Every year you keep a starting QB is another year of flexibility you gain. You are free to chase risky, upside plays, and you are not forced to spend an exorbitant amount to ensure that you can start two quarterbacks every week.
Although aging players lose value in any type of dynasty league, QB aging is particularly important in 2QB leagues. When a wide receiver ages out, retiring or failing to perform at startable levels, you can go to the well of 100 or more WRs and choose yourself another option. When a quarterback retires, you better hope you have another one already on your roster. In most 2QB dynasty leagues, all starting quarterbacks and many of their backups will already be on rosters, so you cannot simply pull from the grab bag of free agency.
Likewise, if you need a new running back, you can trust that the rookie draft will include at least a handful of RBs with a shot at fantasy relevance in their first season. Depending on the year, however, you might not even find a starting QB in the rookie draft. If the draft includes any likely NFL starters, their draft price will be far higher than in a traditional league. In recent years, you have needed to spend a top-six pick to guarantee yourself one of those few QBs who will start from day one.
The replacement cost at quarterback plays a large role in increasing the value of longevity at the position. Each year you keep a starting quarterback is another year you aren’t forced to overspend on a replacement at the position.
I owe much of my thinking on QB age to Brian Malone of Dynasty League Football. More than two years ago Brian wrote:
Young, above-average producers become more valuable the more spots you are allowed/required to fill. Old, elite producers become more valuable the fewer spots you are allowed/required to fill.
Please click through to the link for his full explanation, backed by some numbers, but the thrust is that adding a second quarterback position to the starting roster dramatically lowers the baseline QB against which quarterback value must be measured. Age takes on increased importance in that scenario, because each year younger means an extra year you (likely) have an asset scoring more points than the baseline option you would otherwise be starting.
Quarterback longevity also entails stability. For instance, one of Eli Manning’s positive traits has been his remarkable run without injury or benching. Over a long career, Manning has started every single game. That sort of long-term stability is highly valuable. By contrast, Robert Griffin III entered the league with a rookie season suggesting the potential for heights unreachable by Eli Manning except in his very best case scenarios. But instability has led to dozens of missed games, destroying his fantasy value for the last couple seasons.
You may not think Eli Manning is a great quarterback, but he has been an incredible value in 2QB dynasty leagues. For 11 straight seasons, Manning has started all 16 games and never thrown for fewer than 3,200 yards. He has only thrown fewer than 20 TDs once in those 11 seasons. Those numbers don’t make Eli elite, but they make him a highly valuable 2QB asset. For 11 seasons in a row you could have locked in a quarterback performing far above anything you could have found on waivers.
Manning and RG3 are meant as archetypes to establish the point. I will not suggest you can predict a perfect decade-long streak of starts when you draft an incoming rookie, or that you can foresee a collapse as bad as the one Griffin’s knee suffered in the playoffs. Instead, I suggest you consider stability a heightened factor in ranking dynasty quarterbacks for 2QB leagues. If you have evidence to suggest a quarterback has stability and longevity as the team’s starter, that should elevate a quarterback you might otherwise overlook.
The Reliable Type
Most go wrong in ranking QBs for 2QB leagues by ignoring this importance of longevity. The boring, bland quarterbacks fall too far in most rankings, ignoring the great value of having a reliable starter for the next decade.
If years ago you built a roster with two of Eli Manning, Matt Ryan, Alex Smith, or Joe Flacco, you would have saved enormous value over the years, because you have not been forced into overpaying for quarterback. You have been free to target other positions in your rookie drafts, and you haven’t overpaid for QB in trades with leaguemates. Extreme stability at QB allows you to spend all your currency at other positions.
For example, Mike Beers observed that over the last three years, Joe Flacco has finished as a QB1 or QB2 in 76% of the time. That level of consistency is immensely valuable in 2QB leagues, yet Flacco–and others in his mold–remain undervalued. With a quarterback like Flacco at QB2 or QB3, you feel reasonably confident at the position and you can take bigger risks on your other quarterbacks, chasing upside.
2QB leagues provide a valuable role for the reliable, low-ceiling quarterback. While that player is nearly worthless in a 1QB league, he is an overlooked asset in a team’s QB2 or QB3 spot. That’s a player you can stash and trust whenever you need a start. And in many leagues that is also a player your leaguemates don’t value properly, because they have unconsciously imported too much of the 1QB mindset.
Freedom to Gamble
If you properly value longevity and stability in your quarterbacks, you will tend to build teams with reliable QB2s. Once you have solidified that roster spot, you have the freedom to take risks with your later QBs. If you have a Flacco or Alex Smith at QB2, you can throw darts at players like Tyrod Taylor last offseason or Robert Griffin III this year. Yes, there is a healthy probability those risks don’t pan out, but you have built a roster that can handle some instability.
This is one reason I struggle to rank quarterbacks for 2QB dynasty. I value each differently depending on what role I need to fill. Do I want a one-year starter to push my strong team over the edge? That dramatically impacts my value. If, instead, I want a QB2 or QB3 to count on for years, I will significantly increase my ranking of steady, boring quarterbacks I can count on. And lastly, if I want to gamble on a later roster spot, I no longer care near as much about stability. Instead, I want to look for cheap, unproven players. Those are the players whose value could either collapse to zero or skyrocket to a huge return on investment.
My parting suggestion is to create a clear picture of what you want out of the quarterback position. In a 2QB league, I suggest you look for affordable, reliable options at QB2 and QB3, then begin throwing darts for any QBs beyond those roster spots. Good luck and good hunting.