When To Draft A QB
By: Nick Zylak
Ahh the QB.
It’s the position that scores the most points and the one that people can’t seem to resist drafting. But why? Well it’s probably because QB is the easiest position to talk yourself into drafting. Almost everyone can get past the first round. We see guys like DJ, Bell, Brown, Gurley and think to ourselves “wow these guys are true difference makers” and so Rodgers and Brady stay on the board. Then the second round hits and there are still a few studs left. Maybe you grabbed a RB in the first so now you want to make sure you get an elite WR before they are all gone.
But then something interesting happens. It’s almost like we can’t help ourselves. Rodgers is sitting there and we think “Hmm…I already have Bell and Green…If I grab Rodgers I will have 3 guys who could all be #1 at their position…”
Someone posted a comment last year that was the most accurate thing I have ever heard. He said “Drafting a QB early is like being addicted to heroin. You know it’s bad for you but you just can’t help yourself.”
You see what we do is we start talking ourselves into taking a QB high because we think about the upside. We think about the weeks that Rodgers threw for 400 and 4 TD’s and we start to imagine our team with him. QB is by far the easiest position to talk yourself into reaching for, and we are really good at talking ourselves into things.
What I want to make abundantly clear to you is this…DON’T LET YOURSELF THINK LIKE THAT! If you even begin to think about drafting a QB in the first 4 rounds then do me a favor…take a deep breath, and remind yourself what I am about to show you. Then just draft Diggs and everything will be fine.
Now I know what you’re thinking “Well sure I won’t reach on Rodgers in the third, but if he falls a round past where he is projected then that’s a good deal right?
This is the completely wrong way of looking at things. Just because something costs less doesn’t mean you should buy it.
Let me give you an example. I used to work for Walgreens. The goal of any store, especially one known for slightly overpricing their goods, is to make customers think they’re getting a deal. There were a few ways we did this. The obvious ways are bulk sales, or holiday sales. Selling items for a reduced price while still making a profit. Then there are the non-obvious ways. The things you do to make items feel like a deal, when in reality they aren’t.
One of these tactics is the decoy effect. In many stores there are items that just don’t sell…or at least not much. They are placed on the shelf entirely as a decoy. Management knows that almost no one is going to buy the product because it is either too expensive or doesn’t provide much value over a similarly priced item. The goal of that product is to trick the customer into thinking they are getting a deal on a slightly lower priced alternative.
How can we apply this to QB’s? Well, the idea is that most of us know to hold off on the top QB each year. But when the first QB goes off the board it sets a frame in our minds. Now every pick that goes by requires a lower amount of draft capital (price) to take the next QB. Our minds think that we are getting a deal, even though the first QB was overpriced.
Another tactic we used (probably the scummiest tactic ever imo) is placing “New Lower Price” or just straight up “Sale” tags on items that's price had not changed, and were not on sale. We could have been selling a product at $3.49 for months, then one day place a “New Lower Price” tag underneath the price. What happens? People think they are getting a deal so they buy it.
Now this wouldn’t be a problem if people knew the actual value of items. If everyone knew how much things should cost then we would never be tricked into purchasing something at a perceived value. The thing is…we are EXTREMELY bad at determining value.
So how does this relate to fantasy?
Well, every year we are asked to estimate the value (round) for players (more specifically where certain positions should be taken)…and for the most part we are ok at it. We know that D/ST and kickers provide little value above replacements so we save them for the end of the draft. But for some reason we see the shiny MVP sitting there in the 4th round, the electric QB with a hyper efficient rookie season (I’m looking at you Watson), or that trendy 7th round pick with loads of upside and what do we do…we panic.
Everyone knows the feeling so don’t act like it’s never happened to you. Let me know if this sounds familiar.
The clock starts my pick and I’ve got my choice down to 5 players. That’s good. I’ve got time to narrow this down. As the seconds go by I start to eliminate players. The guy with no upside goes first because, well, he has no upside. Then I eliminate the sleeper because he’ll still be there in a few rounds.
Alright let’s think a little. I’ve already got 3 WR’s and we’re at a range where most of these guys are the same. Plus I have a pick coming up again soon so I can just wait and grab whoever’s left. The people after me don’t really need that position anyways so I should be good.
Ok maybe not as much time as I’d like, but I’m down to three so let’s eliminate another. I’m looking at two RB’s and a QB. Looking at the RB’s I notice that one is more of a satellite back. Sure this is PPR but even an injury won’t make this guy a featured back. This other one however has that chance. He was a decent, not great, but decent receiver in college and just hasn’t gotten his chance yet.
I panic. The next highest ranked player that’s about to be auto drafted is Frank Gore. Wait he’s still in the league? Didn’t he retire like 3 years ago?
I need to make a choice. It’s the 6th round so I’m not the first to take a QB. This guy has fallen a little further than I thought he would. I already have 2 RB’s, 2 WR’s and my FLEX spot filled out.
What did I just do?
I drafted him in exactly zero mock drafts and now he’s on my main team?
Welcome to a fantasy football draft! Where nothing goes your way, everyone steals your picks and you end up drafting Cam Newton and some guy on the IR because of a toe injury.
Seriously bro…your toe
But what really happened in this example? Well for starters every site has preset rankings. Now for the most part these rankings have gotten a lot better than in previous years. As the game has grown sites have been able to hire more and more people to produce content. This has reduced the edge more experienced players have over new players.
However rankings aren’t perfect. There is a reason rankings differ from site to side even when the scoring system doesn't change. It’s because everyone…even the “experts” have vastly different opinions on where players should be drafted.
Rankings DRASTICALLY effect where players are drafted. A steal on Yahoo might be a reach on ESPN. What happened was I fell victim to the fact that no one knows how to accurately value the QB position.
This is where statistics come in.
I know a couple of you just shed a tear. Most of you probably hate math.
But I love it. Numbers are my strong suit.
So don’t worry, I’ll play with the numbers and you just listen (I guess read) to what I’m showing you.
What we are going to look at first is expected value. This is the value that you can expect to receive from something given different likelihoods of outcomes. The formula is as follows:
Expected Value = (Odds of Gain) X (Value of Gain)
This is a super easy formula and should make sense conceptually. The value that you can expect to get is equal to the probability of each outcome times what you would get if that outcome came to fruition.
So how do we use this?
I’ve compiled the data of the past 10 years of QB’s. Both where they were drafted and what position they finished for the year.
This gives us the probability of success i.e the odds of gain for each draft position.
Next, to find the value of gain, we need to find what the value of having each position finish is. To do this I again looked back over the last 11 years and averaged the points each position finish would have netted you (so how many points you would get if you had the QB 1, 2, 3 ect.)
What you can then do is multiply the % of time the first QB picked finished as QB 1,2,3 ect…..by how many points this finish would net you.
Here is what the table looks like.
Looks beautiful doesn’t it!
What we really want to look at is this chart though.
It shows the results of the EV (expected value) of each QB draft position.
So what does this show?
Well the biggest thing it shows is that there is a noticeable difference between the first 5 QB’s drafted and the rest. And this makes sense. You should expect to receive more points from the QB’s drafted in the first couple of rounds. But it also show us that you shouldn’t expect many more points.
In fact the difference in expected points from the first drafted QB and the 10th drafted QB is only 50 points. Seeing how the 10th QB (depending on the year) is drafted 7-8 rounds after the first QB, it is easy to see that you aren’t getting enough extra value to warrant that early of a selection.
But that’s not all, the data also shows that there is little…if any measurable difference between the expected value of the 6th drafted QB and the 20th drafted QB!
This is the data from the past 8 years of QB performances
It shows that even if you have the 16th, 17th, or 18th best QB then it really isn’t much different from having the 7th, 8th, or 9th best.
This is huge because it’s something that a lot of people complain about. They say that once the top guys are gone there is no one left who is any good. And that’s just not true. In fact now more than ever there are almost too many good QB’s. If you look at this list of QB’s from last season you might not agree.