Absurdly Early 2QB Mock Draft

Absurdly Early 2QB Mock Draft

One of our primary goals here at TwoQBs is to dispel the myth that there’s only one viable draft strategy for 2QB and Superflex leagues.  The most common misconception about drafting in a two-quarterback format is that owners are incentivized to draft QBs early and often.  An early-round QB strategy can certainly be viable, but any draft plan can work if you hit on the correct individual players.  

Around the time of this site’s launch, I organized an abbreviated mock draft among some of our staff to illustrate various 2QB/Superflex draft strategies in action.  The purpose of this exercise was to drill down and show off some of the more subtle variations you can apply to each of the three primary drafting archetypes for two-quarterback leagues.  Here are the settings we assumed:

  • 10-team snake draft
  • Starting lineups:  2 QB, 2 RB, 3 WR, 1 TE, 2 R/W/T Flex, 1 K, 1 D/ST
  • Standard scoring (4/pass TD, -2/INT) with 0.5-PPR

There were five drafters.  Each of us took two sequential picks in the draft order, as follows:

We mocked through eight rounds over the course of four days near the end of January.  Click here for the draft results and projected starting rosters of each team.  Keep in mind that the outcome of this draft is not necessarily indicative of how each analyst would draft “for realsies” from any given draft slot.  Many of us played around with strategies contrary to our typical inclinations.

Early-Round QB Drafters

2qb mock draft aaron rodgersThree drafters committed to locking up multiple passers in the early rounds — Josh at pick 2, Anthony at pick 3, and me at pick 6.  Josh’s pick-1 squad teeters on the edge between early-round quarterbacks and a studs-and-streaming approach, but his selection of Carson Palmer at the 4-5 turn felt more like a value pick than a commitment to ERQB, so I’ll discuss that team later in the studs/streaming breakdown.

Note that of the three true ERQB drafters, only one drafted a quarterback in the first round — Anthony with Andrew Luck at #3 overall.  His third-round selection of Marcus Mariota is considered the reach of the draft by some of us, but regardless of the QBs he chose, he selected two passers in the first three rounds.  It’s the structure of his draft that’s of note at this point in the offseason, not necessarily the individual players he drafted.

Of course, if Anthony had selected Ben Roethlisberger at 3.03 instead of Mariota, there’s a good chance my pick-6 team doesn’t take a QB at 3.06.  The effects of that decision would propagate through the rest of the draft results, perhaps pushing Carson Palmer up from Josh at 5.01 to me at 4.05.

Including his first three picks, Anthony merged his ERQB strategy with a #ZeroRB strategy, avoiding running backs until the seventh and eighth rounds.  He ended up with T.J. Yeldon and Buck Allen in those spots, respectively, which is a fine haul considering how long he waited.  Anthony said he’d target other high-upside RBs in the later rounds like Melvin Gordon, Duke Johnson, Jay Ajayi, and Tevin Coleman.  It remains to be seen if backs like Yeldon and Allen will continue to last into the middle rounds as the regular season approaches.  If they and similar backs stay put in terms of ADP, hybrids of ERQB and ZeroRB should remain viable in 2QB and Superflex leagues.

Meanwhile, after avoiding passers in the first round, Josh and I each drafted back-to-back QBs in the second and third rounds.  He landed Drew Brees and Tom Brady while I locked up Russell Wilson and the aforementioned Big Ben.  That foursome may not last quite as long in your average 2QB draft, though.  Late-round QB drafting is a relatively new concept in 2QB formats, but note many of the drafters in this mock opted for late-round passers.  The sharper your league is, the more likely your league mates are to understand the depth of the quarterbacks and wait on the position in fantasy drafts.  

While Josh and I had the same approach in rounds 2 & 3, we had different positional priorities in other rounds.  Josh took Antonio Brown at 1.02 and he balanced that pick with a running back, Dion Lewis, at 4.09.  For comparison, I took Todd Gurley at 1.06 and shifted to wide receiver in the fourth round, taking Jordy Nelson at 4.05.  Josh generally opted for positional balance, a tactic he explained was tied more to how the draft broke than a personal preference for team construction.  My ERQB team, on the other hand, had a distinct need to find undervalued wide receivers after avoiding that position for the first three rounds, so I spent three of my next four picks on wideouts.

A Quick Aside on Hoarding QBs

It’s also worth noting that Josh’s second-pick team was the first to draft a third quarterback (Ryan Tannehill at 8.09).  His first-pick team similarly hoarded three QBs in the first eight rounds, so I asked him about the strategy.  He explained that while it isn’t a tactic he regularly employs, it can be viable as a way to create more demand at the quarterback position and that hoarding QBs is generally more effective in deeper leagues.  

For a 10-team format like this, one might see potential appeal in cornering the market on signal callers, but I generally don’t like sacrificing depth at other more volatile positions to do it.  I believe late-round QB drafting is generally the best practice in fantasy football, even 2QB formats.  Having one or two QB-hoarders in a draft plays right into the hands of the LRQB drafters because the LRQB zealots can still find cheap quarterback investments in later rounds while loading up on RB/WR plays as the hoarders waste picks hoarding.  As more owners in your league become QB hoarders, the less reasonable LRQB becomes.  With that said, owners who overextend drafting bench quarterbacks early will lose out on valuable mid-round targets at other positions.  That’s a tough pill to swallow for the sake of screwing over a small subset of your opponents.

Studs-and-Streaming Drafters

Only Josh’s pick-1 team and Joe’s pick-7 team truly fit the studs-and-streaming description.  Sal’s pick-10 squad comes close, as he’ll certainly be streaming his QB2 position, but his QB1 — Tyrod Taylor — profiles as a “solid” option rather than a “stud.”  With that in mind, Sal’s 10th-pick team fits the late-round quarterback archetype more than studs-and-streaming.  By comparison, I discussed earlier how Josh’s first-pick team is closer to an early-round QB approach.  This further illustrates how each basic draft strategy has multiple flavors to suit almost any owner’s palate.

Of the examples in this draft, Joe’s seventh-pick team comes closest to vanilla.  After drafting Aaron Rodgers at 1.07, he spent the next four rounds taking wide receivers and running backs.  At 6.04 he landed Eli Manning amidst a run of mid-tier QBs that also included Jameis Winston, Tony Romo, and Andy Dalton.  

2qb mock draft eli manningAn advantage of a studs-and-streaming strategy is that you don’t necessarily need to hit the jackpot with your second quarterback selection.  The streaming options you draft or pick up later can often make up for the shortcomings of your QB2, so it’s fine to end up with a boring vet like Romo, Eli, or Dalton.  

On the flip side, it’s also acceptable to assume more risk with a second quarterback like Winston and balance with presumably safer picks like Alex Smith and Ryan Fitzpatrick later in the draft.  Streaming allows that flexibility.  Studs-and-streaming couples said flexibility with the anchor of an elite passer.

For leagues that draft early in this particular offseason, a studs-and-streaming framework offers a lot of upside.  In general, running back value has never been lower and wide receiver depth has never been better, so you can afford to grab a top-notch QB in the first two rounds and still grab highly talented flex players afterward.  Minus the need to draft a second quarterback early, you can pound the RB and WR positions for many rounds after the first to form a balanced team with elite players and depth at every relevant position.  

It’s possible, however, we’ll see running backs rise in value as the season closes in.  A player like Jamaal Charles may not be regularly available at 2.10 as he was in this mock draft.  If that becomes the case, the studs-and-streaming plan loses appeal.  Instead of landing the elite QB plus the elite RB, you’ll more often be forced to choose between them with one of your first two picks and grab an elite WR like many other drafters with your other pick.  

Under those circumstances, you may be better off avoiding QBs altogether in the early rounds to ensure you lock up the best possible options at WR and RB.  You can shift toward a late-round QB approach or a solid-and-streaming plan like I mentioned above with Sal’s pick-10 team.  Another solid-and-streaming example case could have involved Josh passing on Newton at 1.01 for Antonio Brown or Odell Beckham, then trying to anchor his QB corps with a guy like Palmer at 4.10/5.01.  

Ultimately, you want to avoid having your draft decisions put onto rails based on your early picks.  If the relative values of RBs and WRs both become expensive enough, you might need to join the herd and take those positions early.  Opting instead for an elite QB could lock you into playing catch-up at the other, more volatile positions, which will likely lead to a team with a wider range of outcomes.  That is okay if the added distribution between floor and ceiling is relatively even, but I worry that selecting quarterbacks early pushes harder towards a lower floor than a higher ceiling.

Late-Round QB Drafters

Because quarterback scoring is generally more predictable than that of backs and receivers, it’s easy to count on lower-ADP QBs for consistent production.  By adopting a late-round QB strategy, you will draft mid-tier passers by necessity.  Luckily, the group of good-to-serviceable fantasy quarterbacks seems to grow every season.  With the supply of quality passers increasing while the demand remains the same (3-4 QBs per fantasy team in a 10- or 12-team league), a number of quarterbacks will be relatively devalued by default.  

We fantasy analysts are gluttons for value, so it should come as no surprise five of the ten teams we drafted in this mock opted for LRQB.  The squads drafted from the 4th, 5th, 8th, 9th, and 10th picks selected only two quarterbacks combined in the first five rounds.  It’s critical to understand that this won’t bear out in a typical 2QB or Superflex fantasy draft.  Passers are routinely overvalued in traditional one-quarterback formats and the same is true in two-quarterback leagues.  

2qb mock draft jameis winstonLate-round QB drafting steers into that skid.  Your opponents will drag race straight ahead to draft the NFL’s most publicized position, which is simultaneously fantasy’s most replaceable position.  With LRQB, you can use the whole race track as you see fit, properly cornering the first few turns to take an early lead on value with running backs and receivers.  After a lead is solidified, you’re free to sprint through quarterback checkpoints opportunistically to maintain your advantage.

Sal’s squad from the 9th-pick draft slot is an ideal illustration of the LRQB concept for 2QB leagues.  After nabbing two premium wideouts, he shifted into best-flex-available mode.  With so many quarterbacks occupying picks in the first three rounds, Sal found a colossal value with Devonta Freeman at the end of third round.  Freeman may seem like an obvious pick over QBs who remained available at that pick, but it was made possible through the generosity of the mock’s early-round QB drafters.  

If your 2QB league mates predominantly fall into the early-round quarterback camp, you can count on similar values at WR and RB by assuming the LRQB mantle.  Make it your duty as a member of the fantasy football community to repair the ADP damage inflicted by these wanton ERQB vandals.  It will help you win your league and make the world a better place

Sal’s 9th-pick team eventually landed Jameis Winston (6.02) and Alex Smith (8.02) at QB.  Smith is unexciting, but reliable.  Jameis, though, could make a production leap ala Blake Bortles did this past season.  A breakout isn’t guaranteed, but because the inherent downside of quarterbacks is so low, gambling on Winston over guys like Tony Romo and Eli Manning isn’t necessarily wrong.  Winson and Smith are merely the beginning of a larger quarterback contingent.  The passers Sal would select in later rounds (and waiver wire pick-ups) would surely be filtered into his lineup when appropriate.  That streaming foundation plus his wealth of pieces at other positions make for a frightening team, especially if Winston does ascend.

My pick-5 team and Joe’s pick-8 team took a different tack with our late-round quarterbacks.  We each chose a different pair of veteran passers to anchor our respective QB corps — Andy Dalton and Philip Rivers for me, Tony Romo and Matthew Stafford for Joe.  Joe was surprised that these duller options were available later than youngsters like Marcus Mariota, Tyrod Taylor, Blake Bortles, and Jameis Winston.  Those unproven players carry more risk of negative regression in Joe’s mind.  I tend to agree with him.

With that said, LRQB is less about the order that individual players are drafted and more about ensuring you don’t spend too much draft capital on the position in general.  For example, if Sal had selected Andy Dalton instead of Jameis Winston at 6.02, my 5th-pick team would have been just as content drafting Romo, Eli, or Winston at 6.06.  Those quarterbacks are all close in value.  Each should produce a similar number of QB1 weeks vs. QB2 weeks.  Late-round QB drafting requires a level of disassociation from the players themselves.  If we assume that quarterbacks in a tier are all basically the same, it doesn’t matter which ones we choose.  

2qb mock draft josh gordonThe key is ensuring you don’t wait so long that a QB run from other drafters will leave you outside a value tier looking in.  That’s why after Sal took Winston, three of the next four picks were quarterbacks.  Those three teams saw the seal broken on an undervalued tier of quarterbacks and decided to extend the run to avoid slipping into the next tier of guys.  The teams drafting early in the run had more options to choose from in the value tier.  

I was drafting later in the run, with Dalton and Rivers pegged as the last two options in that tier.  I considered passing on both to take Josh Gordon, but decided against it for fear that neither QB would make it back to me in the next round.  I considered the fact that three of the four teams drafting between my picks already had two quarterbacks.  I only needed to fear Anthony’s pick-4 team, another LRQB club with only Blake Bortles in tow at QB.  At that point, I fell in love with Dalton a little too much.  I decided I’d much rather have him than Rivers as my QB1, despite the fact they were only separated by three spots in my quarterback rankings.  Of course, Mr. Lake drafted Gordon at the turn and Philip Rivers made it back to me anyway.  I then drafted Rivers, figuring if his tier of QBs was worth a pick in the sixth round, he was surely worth a pick in the seventh, if only to close the book on that particular tier.

Limiting this mock draft to only eight rounds may have made all of us trigger-happy on quarterbacks in general.  I’ve already noted Anthony’s touting of Marcus Mariota in the third round.  My choice of Dalton in sixth round was similarly flawed.  I now consider Bortles, Jameis, Eli, Romo, Dalton, and Rivers more in line value-wise with guys like Matthew Stafford and Matt Ryan.  Stafford wasn’t drafted until the eighth round and Matt Ryan wasn’t drafted at all in the mock (much to our surprise as a group).  

In hindsight, I’m not sure I pushed my LRQB strategy to the proper limit.  My 5th-pick team could very well have passed on Dalton for Josh Gordon and ended up with a QB corps of Phil Rivers and Matt Ryan.  Is the value gap from that pair to Dalton plus Rivers bigger than the gap between Josh Gordon and Devante Parker?  It’s impossible to know as I type, but my gut tells me I’d rather have Gordon/Rivers/Ryan than Parker/Dalton/Rivers.  Only Sal’s 10th-pick team finished the first eight rounds with just one quarterback and the more I stare at this mock’s draft board, the more I wonder if he had the right idea.  

Mock Draft Til You Drop

There’s no way to know for sure what the best picks or strategies are in fantasy football.  That’s why we play the game.  Still, mock drafts like this help us gain a better understanding of what is possible and where our preferences lie.  To disconnect from those personal biases, I asked each drafter to pick the opposing team they liked the best.  Josh, Joe, and I all chose Sal’s 9th-pick team, while Anthony chose my 5th-pick team.  Sal put in two votes — one for Anthony’s 4th-pick team and another for my 6th-pick team.  Note that five of the six votes placed were for late-round quarterback drafters.  I can’t think of a better way to exhibit the preferred draft mindset of the TwoQBs staff.  Are you on board with LRQB?  Make your case for or against in the comments below.

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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