2015 was a season unlike any we’ve seen in recent memory. High-level running backs suffered injury after injury, and late-round quarterbacks blew up the league. … As a result, the fantasy community has overreacted, and late round QB is the new normal.
The chart below shows just how different 2015 was. The order in which we drafted QBs last year had nearly no correlation to the points per game they ended up scoring. In other words, we drafted very poorly, historically poorly.
After that historically bad year for drafting quarterbacks, QB ADP has tumbled. Early data shows that late-round QB has been accepted much more broadly this year than ever before, and owners everywhere are waiting several rounds to draft their QB.
As quarterbacks sit, and sit, and sit on draft day, I find myself wondering whether we may have overdone it. Are we too confident in our ability to get workhorse QBs out of the late-round guys, or was 2015 really the beginning of a new era? In other words, what is a QB2 really worth?
First, I took a look at points-per-game. While PPG is an imperfect indication of a player’s value, it at least provides one way of comparing. The charts and discussion that follow assume a 12-team league, so QB1s are the first 12 quarterbacks drafted in a given year, and QB2s are QB13-24.
As you can see, QB1 PPG has been declining slightly for the last several years, but QB2 PPG took a huge leap in 2015 after three relatively stable seasons. Below, you can see the same information in a different way.
From 2011-14, QB1s were reliably far ahead of QB2s, on the whole averaging anywhere from 3.7 to 6 points more every week. But in 2015, that gap closed with a vengeance. QB2s came to play. (Of note, Blake Bortles was drafted as QB25, just outside the QB2 range, so his incredible 2015 season isn’t even included in this data.)
Because PPG is only one metric for evaluating fantasy assets, I decided to look at another: top-12 weeks. For this, I only have data for the last two seasons, but in that we can see an incredible contrast.
In 2014, we picked quarterbacks well, and earlier QBs had far more QB1 weeks than did late-round QBs. Success! But in 2015, we see the same pattern we saw with PPG: nearly no correlation between it and ADP.
Top-5 weeks tell a similar story:
From all of this, I draw the conclusion that 2015 was an exception to the historical rule, an aberration. That does not mean it can’t happen again, and it could well be the sign of things to come. But it is important to note that it stands apart from the past when you are deciding whether to expect history to repeat in 2016. There is no guarantee that QB2s will provide the same value they did in 2015.
How Many Points Should My QB2 Score?
Even if things aren’t guaranteed, can we at least get a ballpark estimate on QB2 scoring? In an attempt to get that ballpark figure, I went back through the last seven seasons and averaged the PPG finishes for every QB draft slot. This lets history guide us to a reasonable estimate of QB2 production.
As you can see below, on average, there has been a negligible difference between QB13 and QB21 over the last seven seasons, suggesting you might do well to wait deep into the QB2 tier before pulling the trigger. This table is sorted by the order in which QBs were drafted each year, not by where they ultimately finished the season.