I get it. Cam Newton looked like the safest pick on the board at 1.07. (Draft position references based on TwoQBs’ 10-team redraft ADP). … Then Andrew Luck fell to you at 2.07, and you couldn’t really pass him up at that price, could you? Plus, you knew Brandon Marshall or Jordy Nelson would still be there for you in the third round, so you would still get a WR1. Everything’s fine. Kind of.
The thing about going early QB is that when your league mates are drafting reliable starting QBs like Kirk Cousins and Tyrod Taylor in the seventh and eighth rounds, you’re trying to figure out whether Matt Jones will get enough workload to be your RB2. But don’t freak out. You can win with an early QB roster, but you need a plan. So let’s make a plan.
First, you’re going to be tempted to play it safe. After all, you have a big advantage at QB; if you can just get by at the other positions, you’ll be fine. Not so. You don’t know it now, but someone in your league is going to draft Eli Manning in the sixth and pick up the next Tyrod Taylor off waivers after the preseason. That’s the team you have to beat.
Beating that team means being competitive at every position. And because you’re starting from the back of the pack at RB, WR, and TE, you need to embrace variance. Start by grabbing a high upside WRs and TEs in the rounds three through seven.
Brandon Marshall is my target in the third. Sure, the Jets are due some passing touchdown regression, but Marshall would have been a WR1 in 2016 even if you halved his touchdown total. Consolation prizes include Mike Evans and Jordy Nelson.
Demaryius Thomas is the prize in the fourth. He’s going to command 150 targets, and that virtually guarantees a mid-WR2 floor. If you can’t get Thomas, Jordan Reed is a high-risk, high-reward play. He can give you Rob Gronkowski-like production at a two-round discount.
In the fifth, you’re looking for Jeremy Maclin. He was WR18 in points per game, and that was playing under a new, conservative Andy Reid. If the Chiefs aren’t as good or if Reid returns to his former self, Maclin could have his first ever WR1 season.
In the sixth, take the Julian Edelman injury discount. Edelman was the WR7 in points per game in 2015, though he only played nine games. But that’s basically what Keenan Allen did, and Allen is going three rounds earlier.
Finally, in the seventh, grab whichever remaining Arizona WR you like best. While they’re all healthy, their upside is capped. But if someone misses time, the other two each become high-end WR2s.
You’ve probably guessed by now: it’s time to shotgun RBs. Don’t be picky, and don’t give into the temptation of a QB value in round 10 — that’s what got you into this pickle, remember? You don’t have any good RBs, so you need to replace quality with quantity and leave the draft with at least seven RBs. That leaves exactly one bullet for a WR, TE, or — if you insist — QB value. Use your bullet wisely.
As for the particular RBs, you’re aiming for talent and situation, not opportunity. For example, avoid Jonathan Stewart. He has the talent (duh) and opportunity (he’s Carolina’s clear RB1), but the situation is pretty awful. The Panthers don’t throw him the ball, and Cam Newton takes more than his fair share of the goal line work. Better to take Jeremy Hill. He’s in a committee, but the Bengals are pretty good, and he’ll get the goal line work. Plus, if Gio Bernard misses time, Hill is an instant RB1.
Moving down the ADP ranks, I like pass catching RBs with upside if the other guy in the backfield misses time. These are guys like Charles Sims, Bilal Powell, T.J. Yeldon, and Bilal Powell. I also like clear goal line backs with the same injury upside: Chris Ivory and Jordan Howard (as your last pick, if at all).
A couple guys have so much handcuff value that I’ll take a chance on them even though they’re probably worthless without an injury. Namely, Jerrick McKinnon and Jay Ajayi. McKinnon because he’s an athletic marvel, and the lead RB in Minnesota is a valuable role. And Ajayi is just a bet against Arian Foster’s health.
Finally, Darren Sproles is so cheap and productive I’ll take him late despite his lack of upside. Since escaping San Diego, Sproles has never finished under 9.0 fantasy points per game. And he’s arguably the Eagles’ second-best receiving option. He’ll do in a pinch, and with this RB collection, you’ll probably need him.
QB Early Parting Thoughts
If you draft two quarterbacks early, you need to be prepared to draft a bunch of RBs late. You’ll also have to take more risk at WR and TE than is comfortable, but that gives you the best chance of keeping up with those savvy QB streamers.