2QB Draft Post Mortems

2QB Draft Post Mortems

Last weekend, I drafted teams in three different two-quarterback leagues. On Saturday, 12 of us from around San Francisco converged on The Wreck Room for the inaugural Bay Area Roto Fantasy (affectionately abbreviated to “BARF”) football league. We have nearly two years of fake baseball on the books, but this is our first foray into pigskin. I brought up the idea of Superflex early in league discussions, and met little to no resistance from others in the league. The format is gaining acceptance.

Sunday was a marathon of home league action. My 10-team Superflex auction with keepers kicked things off. The benches are short, the budgets are big, and most of the elite players are kept, so drafters take big swings in the auction to chop down the best remaining players. That bloodbath of overspending leads to mid- and later-round types going at drastic discounts. Patient spenders are rewarded, but because the benches are short, we must be methodical about which specific bargains we chase. Mike Gillislee might feel like a value at $14 (of a $260 budget), but you might kick yourself later if your bench is already stocked with RBs and the auction timer hits zero on a $7 Derrick Henry or a $4 Frank Gore. In this case, the same drafter made all three of those running back buys (me).

After the auction was over, we took a half-hour break before doubling down with our second draft. This was a more traditional 2QB league, with the same ten owners, but deeper benches. With most of the same gang since the early 2000s, our traditions and rivalries are strong. Charlie gets blasted with the “Charles in Charge” theme song on repeat when he takes too long to pick (YouTube has been a godsend for our in-draft banter and trash talk). Larry always pays up for tight end, kicker, and defense. Our pair of three-time champions never shut up about it (and yes, I hope they read this and get mad that I didn’t acknowledge them by name). You get the picture. It gets a little silly, but the game is unique and competitive, like most home leagues.

Premature Hindsight

Because each league is one-of-a-kind, I try to vary my strategies for what I believe are the best edges. It doesn’t always work. Whether you view draft strategy as a science or a black art, one of the ways you can improve your drafting process is by looking back at your choices and searching for mistakes. Rather than wait until the end of the season, when all the results are in, I also like to rethink my draft picks before the actual gameplay takes place.

I want to think about how my process can potentially be incorrect without the context of outcomes, so I can better learn to avoid results-oriented analysis. I won’t have the final answers regarding which strategies would have been best, but it’s important for me to simply ask the questions and think about all the possible answers.

My underlying hope is that by preemptively reevaluating my actions, I’ll become better equipped to make the correct decisions without full information. I want to tune my mindset toward a wider scope of possibilities by considering how all my moves can potentially succeed or fail. It helps build something like muscle memory for understanding ranges of outcomes.

Seeing all the angles is difficult in the moment of each pick, so let’s look back at some key takeaways from my weekend of 2QB drafting mayhem.

Reading the Room

I routinely promote the late-round quarterback approach (LRQB for short), but I worry nowadays that the title is too misleading for 2QB and Superflex leagues. Which rounds I use to grab my quarterbacks isn’t especially important. What really matters is the context of when I pick my QBs relative to the other QB selections. I simply want to spend less on my quarterbacks than other drafters, so I’m beginning to distance myself from “late-round” and trying to think more along the lines of “later-pick.” It doesn’t roll off the tongue, and “late-round quarterback drafting” will always be more well known and identifiable, but the subtle distinction of “later-pick” is more descriptive of the waiting-on-quarterback strategy. Keep that in mind when forecasting runs and depth of the QB position in your start-two drafts.

Just because I want to invest less draft capital in passers than my opponents doesn’t mean I want to fall too far behind at the the position. If the room is picking quarterbacks more rapidly than you expected from your pre-draft prep, you need to adjust your quarterback values accordingly. My BARF league draft is a good example of such a value shift in action.

I’m pretty used to 10-team leagues, and I was expecting an uptick in QB values for BARF’s 12-team format, but when Derek Carr went as QB4 at pick 1.11, I knew the LRQB game I was planning to play had changed. The second round claimed three more quarterbacks: Matt Ryan (2.03), Marcus Mariota (2.05), and Andrew Luck (2.10). When I came up for two picks at the turn, I couldn’t resist taking Russell Wilson as the eighth signal-caller off the board. He’s QB2 in my personal rankings, so I felt like I was getting plenty of equity with the pick, despite the fact that I’d typically wait longer to draft a quarterback, at least in terms of which round.

Reading the room on quarterbacks in a Superflex auction is a much different exercise, especially with keepers involved. Before the auction even starts, you should know which teams need QBs and have a rough idea of how much they might aim to spend at the position. Eight quarterbacks were kept in our auction, but two teams kept two QBs each. Those teams only needed to worry about buying back-ups, while four other owners (myself included) had to allot enough budget for two starters each, plus backups.

Pitfalls in 2QB Auction Strategy

As a largely QB-agnostic drafter, I like to bid actively on most passers. By bidding within my comfort range on all quarterbacks, I’m feeling out the market, testing for discounts on boring or out-of-vogue players. I commonly run into two roadblocks with this strategy. The first is how I occasionally get caught up in the action. It usually begins with some simple price enforcing on a player I and others like, and it can escalate to a full-blown bidding war if perhaps I’ve had one beverage too many. Over the years, though, the worst cases of this phenomenon have faded away as I’ve developed a better respect for staying on budget (both in terms of auction dollars and drinks allowed during the auction).

A more common issue these days is when my comfort zone for quarterback values is out of tune with the rest of the league. I’ll sit around, bidding idly on the passers who are nominated, but other drafters always seem to go one dollar more (or many dollars more). Suddenly I’m looking at a cheat sheet minefield of remaining quarterbacks, and my lack of action can be leveraged against me by other drafters. My snake-draft mentality of later-pick quarterback drafting is a detriment in the auction because quarterbacks aren’t always nominated in ADP order. I’m so accustomed to temporally w a i t i n g to draft QBs, that I’ll often miss big values when less desirable guys are nominated early in an auction.

In Sunday’s auction, Drew Brees was the first quarterback and fifth overall player nominated. As the clear-cut best available QB (Rodgers, Brady, and Wilson were kept), Brees fetched a whopping $66. The next player nominated was Carson Palmer, and he only cost $15. I know Palmer is a much riskier player to own, but is he really only worth 23 percent of Drew Brees? Not a chance. It’s definitely not as simple as this, but even in a disappointing 2016 season, Palmer posted only 27 percent fewer fantasy points than Brees. My cursor hovered anxiously over the $16 button, but I froze. There were enough quarterbacks left that I tricked myself into thinking I’d find a better bargain later.

What I didn’t consider at first was how those two specific nominations set a nebulous market for quarterbacks. The space between $66 for the best available QB and $15 for one of this season’s least desired/most discounted veterans left too much room to explore. The ADP gap really mattered, because it exposed Palmer’s price as a value and Brees’ price as an overpay. Effectively, we had very little idea of where the high and low ends of quarterback costs should actually be.

From then on, quarterback bidding was a fistfight. Everyone was price enforcing to make sure no one else got a Palmer-level discount. Simultaneously, we were all terrified of a Brees-level overcharge, so the bidding for QBs never again broke $36.

I took too long to get a feel for the market, and I got caught scrambling to catch up with a $31 buy of Philip Rivers. I don’t hate that price. I was able to safely overpay because I was patient with my purchases, but the context of Tyrod Taylor for $24 before and Matthew Stafford for $23 after makes my price for Rivers look too rich. Whoever was bidding against me could probably tell I was all-in on making the buy and likely drove the price up on purpose, knowing I’d pay. Thankfully, that run of quarterback nominations helped me recalibrate my values, and I was able to redeem myself later with a $19 Andy Dalton share and a $6 Brian Hoyer share.

Patience is a Double-Edged Virtue

Those good prices on Dalton and Hoyer admittedly had more to do with my advantage in buying power than some magical sense of when to click “bid.” My keepers were all extremely affordable, and I didn’t have any egregious overpays, while many of my opponents did. It eventually became easy to strongarm the players I wanted onto my roster. By waiting to spend, I leveraged values like a $5 Donte Moncrief, $4 Frank Gore, and $1 Eric Decker.

On the flip side, think back to that $15 Carson Palmer transaction. Waiting to spend is why I missed on on that particular value. In the end, it probably doesn’t matter how you find your values in the draft, as long as you find some. But being as successful as possible in fantasy football means maximizing whatever values you can. Auctions provide so many potential avenues to find equity, but bidding against other free-thinking people and the otherwise innumerable moving pieces make it difficult to see all the values as they happen.

In the BARF league, I already noted how I cast aside patience in drafting quarterbacks, but my home league draft was a different story. I considered taking Ben Roethlisberger as my first passer at 4.09. He would have been the 11th QB off the board, falling behind a few I have ranked lower than Big Ben (Matt Ryan, Kirk Cousins, and Dak Prescott). I instead took Allen Robinson as my WR3 behind Michael Thomas and T.Y. Hilton. It’s a justifiable pick considering our 0.5-PPR scoring. I want to carve out a big advantage with my wide receivers, and say what you will about A-Rob being overrated, gambling on him to get closer to his 2015 numbers is a lot more palatable when he’s your third wideout instead of your first or second.

Still, I look back and wish I had taken Roethlisberger instead. Judging against the other quarterback picks, it was the right time for him to go, evidenced by the fact that the first-pick drafter grabbed Big Ben at the 4-5 turn. Furthermore, I could have tied my team to another high-powered offense with Roethlisberger and the Steelers instead of the offensive liability I took on with Robinson and the Jaguars.

By passing on Roethlisberger in that moment, I forced myself down a path of waiting much longer to pick my first quarterback. If 4.09 wasn’t worth a QB who I like, how could I justify drafting a lesser-than option only three picks later at 5.02? I felt obligated to press my advantage further at wide receiver by drafting Demaryius Thomas. You can guess what happened next. The middle tier of quarterbacks was picked clean in Rounds 5 and 6, leaving me with Andy Dalton as the best available passer at the 6-7 wraparound. I like Dalton this year, but the true agony of taking him as a QB1 is the realization that you’re drafting someone below Dalton’s value as your QB2.

Regardless, that moment around my sixth and seventh picks is where my patience finally started to pay off. While on the clock at 6.09, I surveyed the other teams and realized that only one other owner didn’t have two quarterbacks. And because those with both starters all pounced on the position so early, they had a lot of catching up to do at running back, receiver, or both. I decided I didn’t need to pick Dalton right then and there at 6.09. The drafter at the turn already had Russell Wilson and Roethlisberger, plus a gaping hole at wide receiver (Dez Bryant and no one else). I took the opportunity to draft a running back whom I really like in PPR formats, Ty Montgomery. Sure enough, neither of the next two picks were Andy Dalton, and I quickly added him to my squad in the seventh.

Perhaps I should have used both of those picks on quarterbacks, though. You might argue that my need at the position was too great to only walk away with one passer, but my choice of Montgomery in the sixth wasn’t based solely on the roster of my first-pick opponent. Remember that only one other team still needed a second starting QB. This goes back to reading the room. I was confident that most (if not all) of the other teams would continue to leave quarterbacks alone until my next pair of picks.

On top of that, the available QBs were all similar enough in value to me that I didn’t really care which ones came back to me in the eighth. To be fair, Eli Manning and Carson Palmer did stand above the others in my mind, but the dropoff in value seemed steep from Montgomery plus Dalton plus Bortles/Flacco/Bradford/Smith to a theoretical group of Dalton plus Manning/Palmer plus an eighth- or ninth-round running back like Eddie Lacy. Maybe I like TyMont too much, but time will tell.

Blake Bortles ended up being my actual pick in the eighth round, and I immediately hedged that bet three picks later with Sam Bradford as my QB3 (and this happened before Chad Henne became a thing on August 17th). Bortles and Bradford are not particularly exciting, but they have natural production floors thanks to playing quarterback, and I should be able to play match-ups to maximize their values throughout the season. If I pull off my QB streaming mission with moderate to good success, the advantages I cemented at deeper positions in the earlier rounds should keep my team competitive.

Cause of Death: Overanalysis

I hope this look into my drafting thought processes has been helpful. As you can probably tell, a lot of my tendencies are rooted in repetition. I have been drafting 2QB fantasy teams for more than 15 years, and all those reps have sharpened my intuition and understanding of positional supply and demand. Nevertheless, variance ensures that I’ll never have all the answers.

Looking back on your drafts to gain more perspective is important, but don’t fall into an abyss of overanalysis. Second-guessing your choices should be enlightening, not stressful. Fantasy football is a game. It’s supposed to be fun. Like me, you won’t have all the answers, so be sure to keep some perspective and reward/acknowledge yourself for the decisions that work out well. You deserve credit for whatever sense you can make of this often maddening game.

If you’re interested in diving deeper on 2QB and Superflex strategies, please consider purchasing the TwoQBs.com 2017 Draft Guide. I and a bunch of other amazing writers have crammed a truckload of high level analysis into it, and I truly believe we can help you win your two-quarterback leagues this season. Sales support the site, as well as the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, and you can get 10% off if you use the promo code “2QBXP” at checkout. Whether you get the guide or not, though, good luck in your upcoming drafts.

Greg Smith

Greg Smith is an engineer, co-founder of TwoQBs.com, and enthusiast for the strategy and design of variance-based games.  When he started playing fantasy football in 2001, his home league's small number of teams necessitated starting two quarterbacks.  That necessity has since grown into obsession, making Greg one of the preeminent champions of 2QB and Superflex formats.

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