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NFL Best-Ball Quarterbacks: Opportunity Cost

The ‘onesie’ positions are a class unto themselves in best-ball drafts. Positional scarcity coupled with requiring just a single weekly starter (hence the ‘onesie’ moniker and h/t to JJ Zachariason for the term) limits how many and how quickly we draft them. Quarterbacks are the most complicated of the three. It’s the primary source of production for pass-catching positions and helps move running backs into scoring position. Their fantasy point totals outmatch most players at any other position. For example, in just 13 games, Baker Mayfield was the QB17 with 211 points. That same total would have been RB14 and the WR17 in PPR leagues.

Strategies for drafting quarterbacks vary on philosophy. Recency bias drives many of the previous year’s top quarterbacks to the forefront of drafts. To ‘lock up the position’, opportunity cost is sacrificed to replicate previous season stats. A separate approach looks at the mid-rounds. QB runs typically occur as the first two tiers are depleted. Drafters will grab two of this archetype assuming a weekly floor can be provided and the strength of the roster is the core previously drafted. Finally, the late-round guys. Cobble together the last of the starters and hope for a few QB1 weeks.

Each approach was used in some fashion throughout the 2018 best-ball season. Let’s see what we can tease out of the data.

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Top 12 Best-Ball Quarterbacks

NameWin Rate
Patrick Mahomes II20.66%
Drew Brees14.05%
Jameis Winston14.05%
Jared Goff12.40%
Ben Roethlisberger11.57%
Blake Bortles10.74%
Cam Newton10.74%
Deshaun Watson10.74%
Matt Ryan10.74%
Mitchell Trubisky9.92%
Philip Rivers9.09%
Russell Wilson9.09%

Patrick Mahomes was the Christian McCaffrey of quarterbacks with an all-time performance at the position (399.7). The obvious drop-off between win rates emphasizes his season, but the real advantage came with his price.

Opportunity cost has been a repeated concept throughout the series and Mahomes’ cumulative total can’t be analyzed in a vacuum. The 11th round cost gave best-ball drafters the ability to fill out the other positions and then add an all-time fantasy quarterback to their squad. At worst, the draft decision was between Mahomes and Kenny Golladay. The price tag also meant Mahomes could be paired with another QB1. In 121 leagues, he was drafted as the QB2 68.6 percent of the time. This is an outlier case, but it highlights how important waiting on a quarterback can be.

Factoring in ADP

When we overlay best-ball ADP with win rate, we can extract a process using Mahomes as an example.

NameWin RateFinal ADP
Patrick Mahomes II20.66%11
Drew Brees14.05%8
Jameis Winston14.05%13
Jared Goff12.40%11
Ben Roethlisberger11.57%10
Blake Bortles10.74%13
Cam Newton10.74%7
Deshaun Watson10.74%5
Matt Ryan10.74%11
Mitchell Trubisky9.92%13
Philip Rivers9.09%10
Russell Wilson9.09%5

As noted, the mid- to late-round quarterbacks didn’t affect rosters as much with respect to opportunity cost. That was not the case for the quarterbacks drafted earlier.

RB-WR Opportunity Cost

Surprisingly, the fifth round of best-ball leagues was an absolute dumpster fire. Most receivers and running backs selected here performed well below expectations, allowing the quarterbacks selected to produce better results. That certainly wasn’t the case for the earlier rounds hence Aaron Rodgers not making the Top-12 list. Rounds 7 and 8 where Newton and Brees were drafted had tougher decisions. Five players in the Top 12 win rates at their positions and a number of honorable mentions (Top 24 in PPR points per game) all went in that area. That’s why opportunity cost is important. The fantasy point drop-off from Russell Wilson to Philip Rivers was 12.6 points. Deshaun Watson to Rivers? 32 points. Yet both were selected 5 rounds prior.

It’s these examples that highlight the importance of roster construction with an understanding of the cost associated with a position we only need one of each week. Combining the concepts discussed in the running back and wide receiver pieces with the quarterbacks will help optimize best-ball rosters for success.

2019 Best-Ball Quarterback Trends

Current quarterback best-ball ADP by round.

NameRound ADP

The genie is out of the bottle. Everyone wants Mahomes. But this won’t last forever.

Quarterbacks are seeing an initial bump in price due to their listing on Fantrax. The primary variable is total fantasy points scored naturally bringing most of the quarterbacks to the top of the list. Seeing a player’s name coupled with possible draft timeouts will get the elite quarterbacks of 2018 pushed to the front of every draft. It’s likely once 2019 ADP is set their values will correct. It gives an edge to those diligent in checking their draft. Players coming off injury or those that came on late in 2018 are buried in the player pool. Establishing personal rankings or using a site can help get a jump on players before the market resets.

Value is still being found later as recency bias fills the early to mid-rounds. Despite the poor Super Bowl performance, Jared Goff finished as the QB9 and returns to a similar situation in 2019 (albeit questions at offensive line). Jameis Winston will be the face of the next Bruce Arians’ offense. Kirk Cousins enters his second year with Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen. All can be found in the double-digit rounds without sacrificing other positions to acquire them. If our goal is to maximize draft capital, then looking for situations like these should be our priority at the quarterback position in 2019.

Sources: Fantrax, Fantasy Pros

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