Best Ball Leagues: Finding Quarterback Value
The more best ball leagues you join, the more you’ll start to spot trends in draft picks. As noted in the first part of the series, running backs are dominating the first couple of rounds with wide receivers filling the gaps. The elite tight ends fall into the second and third round. Defenses start to disappear in the teens. Even late-round WR, RB, or TE picks present value. You know the talent is there, but the path to success isn’t clear.
“Taywan Taylor should be out on the field in three-receiver sets.”
“Dante Pettis was considered by some to be the best receiver in his class.”
“Chris Godwin has earned a starting position.”
They’re like lottery tickets. You just need one to cash in to help your team.
[Related: Best Ball Leagues: An Overview]
But quarterback selection operates differently in best ball leagues than the other positions. You can get a glimpse of a QB’s value from a number of variables:
- Historical data
- Offensive line
- Surrounding talent
- Coaching changes
From Aaron Rodgers in the fourth round to Joe Flacco in the 17th, there will be viable quarterbacks available throughout most of your draft. However, roster construction and positional scarcity might force you to wait. The position is deep with QBs who can be cheaply drafted while adding depth elsewhere. Here’s five for you to consider in your leagues (in no particular order).
The Quarterbacks (*3 QB Construction)
Andy Dalton – (QB 26, Week 9 Bye)
The offensive line concerns prior to the 2017 season manifested themselves as a living nightmare for Dalton. Errant throws and overreactions to defenses resulted in Dalton’s second-worst yardage total and TD:INT ratio for his career. He finished as QB 17 and currently ranks as QB 26.
All of Dalton’s starting skill position players are set to return in 2018 with rumblings of Tyler Eifert being available, giving him more options in the red zone. The Bengals passing TDs accounted for over 80% of their offensive output last year. While that’s expected to regress in 2018, Dalton should be able to bounce back in the yardage category through the upgrades to the offensive line.
While the Bengals didn’t land top center Frank Ragnow in the draft, getting Billy Price and trading for Cordy Glenn at least improves Dalton’s protection. Dalton was in the bottom 10 in completions and top 10 in sack rate when under pressure. He forced more three and outs while having one of the shortest times to pass in the league. He’s currently being drafted around the 14th round of best ball leagues and pairs well with one of the top tier quarterbacks.
Possible Pairing: Newton, Wilson
Eli Manning – (QB 25, Week 9 Bye)
The flow chart to determine if Eli will have a good season is simple. If Odell Beckham Jr. is healthy, yes. If he’s not, run away. Eli has crested 4,000 yards each year Odell has played the majority of the season. But through the dumpster fire that was the Giants 2017 season, two players emerged offering hope to 2018.
Evan Engram was thrust into the spotlight to the tune of 115 targets after the barrage of injuries decimated the Giants receiving corps. Sterling Shepard also showed his route running prowess despite battling injury for nearly half the season. Odell is on the path to be medically cleared, the team signed LT Nate Solder and drafted LG Will Hernandez, who was one of the top ranked linemen in the draft. Oh, and they drafted Saquon Barkley.
We love his weapons. We’ve seen him do it before. But the risk is real. Even with Manning’s weapons, his decline due to age could bring the entire offense down with him. He finished 2017 as QB 23 and is being drafted around the 14th round in best ball drafts. It’s recommended to draft him as a third quarterback to mitigate this risk. Pairing Eli with two other mid- to late-round QBs puts the emphasis on your skill players. A viable strategy for those who like to wait on QB.
Possible Pairing: Mahomes + Carr*
Alex Smith – (QB 17, Week 4 Bye)
It’s natural to look at Alex Smith’s 2017 season, label it an outlier, and assume he’ll regress in 2018. A perennial mid-tier QB, Smith has finished the past four years as QB 10, 15, 13, and 21 before having a career year and landing a QB 4 spot. But his current price at QB 17 screams value. The last time Smith finished worse than QB 17 was in 2012 when he suffered a concussion and sat the end of the season. Maybe it’s the move to Washington. Let’s look at their offense.
They’ve swapped the ghost of Terrelle Pryor for Paul Richardson who racked up 1,200 air yards in Seattle (second on the team) and will operate opposite Josh Doctson. Doctson himself appears to be working past his injuries and coming into his own. Jamison Crowder can still work the middle of the field. Chris Thompson is on schedule to be ready by training camp. Washington drafted a solid between the tackles runner in Derrius Guice and their offensive linemen are healthy. Jordan Reed might even be back. Where’s the downside to Alex Smith? If Kirk Cousins was in the top 10 every year with essentially the same personnel, Smith should be able to exceed his current price. Get him while you can.
Possible Pairing: Ryan, Stafford
Ryan Tannehill – (QB 29, Week 11 Bye)
Every player has value. At least, that’s what you have to tell yourself when you make a pick like this. Let’s walk through a hypothetical thought process for evaluating Miami’s QB.
Were people actually excited that Jay Cutler came in to to replace Tannehill last season? Yes, they were.
Is he coming off an ACL injury? Yes, he is.
Is he practicing without a brace? Well, yes.
Did Miami lose their most productive wide receiver in free agency? Yep.
OK, so it’s not pretty. But, it’s either Ryan Tannehill or Brock Osweiler. Which would you prefer? Don’t answer that. The only positive is that he’s the starter (barring injury) and the Dolphins are projected to be in positive game scripts. Miami ranked 19th in run defense and 31st in pass defense in 2017, plus they lost Ndamukong Suh, reducing whatever pass rush they had. So, at the very least, Tannehill could provide a floor as a third QB during bye weeks during the best ball season or insurance on a QB who could be hampered by injury. He can be had in the very last round of drafts, so if you’re in a pinch, you know what you have to do.
Possible Pairing: Brady + Luck*
Mitchell Trubisky – (QB 22, Week 5 Bye)
Under John Fox, the Bears ran passing plays on 54.8% of their total plays, which was 26th in the league. Mitchell Trubisky threw for 2,193 on just 330 attempts (27.5 ATT/GM), which was 28th worst. Even for a team that finished 5-11, there was no consistency in the offensive game plans nor in-game adjustments. It was clear the team needed a change in direction and the front office brought in the right mind to develop Trubisky. Matt Nagy is a former quarterback and QB coach of the Chiefs. His offensive scheme is steeped in West Cost style concepts, so Trubisky should display marked improvement in his first year under Nagy regardless of the personnel.
The Bears will feature Allen Robinson, Jordan Howard, Tarik Cohen, and Trey Burton, who are fantasy standouts in their own right. Their ancillary pieces in Taylor Gabriel and Anthony Miller also have upside in the late rounds. The offensive production all intersects at Trubisky, who showed flashes in his rookie season. Available in the 12th round of best ball drafts, Trubisky can be paired with a quarterback in the back half of the top 10 as a floor play with potential upside.
Possible Pairing: Cousins, Brees