For many fantasy owners, waiting on QB worked. But this deep-league gambit turned into a goof. Mosh, no!
By John Evans
In August, I unveiled a ballsy (nutty?) draft strategy to avoid quarterbacks early and stockpile the studs at other positions. By loading up at RB and WR before drafting a QB in the 7th, 8th or even 9th round, depending on the size of your league, I hoped you could insulate yourself against busts, injuries and under-performing offenses. Even if you burned an early round pick on a dud (think MJD, Ryan Mathews or Hakeem Nicks), you’d hit with a comparable guy a round or two later.
Especially in PPR leagues, which devalue passers, my thought was that you could wait for a QB until eight or nine were off the board. This was controversial because 2011 was the Year of the Quarterback — Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees and Tom Brady essentially lapped the field and led lots of fantasy teams to the title. Going into this season, many experts told us to take one of those three in the first round because it was a safer bet and a guaranteed advantage. Matthew Stafford and Cam Newton were expected to finish right behind them.
2012: A Deep Position and Regression to the Mean
We were both right, and wrong. In 2012, Rodgers, Brady and Brees fell short of the lofty totals they achieved in 2011. Stafford fell WAAAY short. Like Emmanuel Lewis short. No one QB was consistently dominant and the position as a whole was much deeper than expected. This year, the difference between QB No. 1 (Brees) and QB No. 10 (Stafford) was 74 points. In 2011, the difference between No. 1 (Rodgers) and no. 10 (Mark Sanchez!) was more than twice that much, 158 points. QB No. 6 in 2011 was Eli Manning (273 points). QB No. 6 this year was either Peyton Manning or Robert Griffin III. They both had a bonzo 304 points.
So with regression to the mean at the top and better production in the middle, you COULD afford to wait on a QB. You just had to get the RIGHT QB.
QBBC: It Worked, Unless It Didn’t
There was value at QB in the middle to late rounds of fantasy drafts. Good options emerged on the waiver wire, as well. You were happy if you drafted an ageless Peyton or precocious rookies RGIII and Andrew Luck. You got production if you picked up Russell Wilson after Week 6 (once he got hot). Colin Kaepernick was solid and Andy Dalton had 7 games with 19 or more fantasy points. Even CARSON PALMER was carrying fantasy teams for awhile.
Meanwhile, Stafford, Eli, Philip Rivers and Jay Cutler disappointed. Cam Newton struggled, then surged. Matt Ryan surged, struggled, and surged again. Especially early on, their fantasy managers wished they had gone with Rodgers, Brady or Brees. But there were plenty of options on the wire or trade market in most leagues.
The big three of Rodgers, Brady and Brees had more down games than anyone anticipated. And past the big three, it was tough to figure out which hurlers would perform on a week-to-week basis. The best matchups for quarterbacks were New Orleans, Tampa Bay and Philadelphia, but together these teams held QBs to fewer than 15 fantasy points six times in December. Peyton Manning was steady, scoring fewer than 14 fantasy points only twice. Once the Broncos ramped up their season-closing win streak, however, RB Knowshon Moreno got a heavy workload. Between Weeks 9 and 15, The Sheriff’s scoring average dipped to 16.4.
The best quarterback by committee (QBBC) pairings included RGIII or Luck because it took six weeks for Wilson to come on. If you waited on QB until the middle rounds and paired one of the top rooks with a Matt Ryan, Ben Roethlisberger or Tony Romo, you probably reaped the benefits of strong QB play while hopefully accumulating talent at other positions.
Could You Trust the Tampa/Texan Connection?
I identified two late-round guys ideal for 12- to 16-team leagues, Josh Freeman and Matt Schaub. On paper, Tampa Bay had the fourth easiest schedule for quarterbacks and Houston had the easiest matchups from Weeks 14 to 16 — the fantasy playoffs. This tandem had complementary schedules and bona fide WR 1s to throw to in Vincent Jackson and Andre Johnson.
So, how did “Mosh Schauman” do in 2012? Well, we knew you would be outscored by around 10 QBs most weeks, but by playing the matchups, Mosh wouldn’t kill you. Freeman finished QB 13 and Schaub was 17. After a slow start, Freeman had six solid to great weeks. Schaub was essentially unreliable all year, as he only cashed in on one obvious shootout (25 points at Denver in Week 3). I’ve heard rumors he’s been playing hurt. Regardless, he often looked like a statue in the pocket. I kept waiting for birds to crap on him.
If you did make it to the fantasy playoffs with Mosh, your QBBC promptly did a face-plant. Matt Schaub managed just 7 points in three of his last four games: New England, Indy, Minnesota and Indy again. These were all “plus” matchups.
Freeman did little better down the stretch and in Week 16, he had a fantasy flameout for the ages. A tantalizing match-up with the Saints turned sickening as Joshy-boy threw a bazillion pick-aroos and netted a single fantasy point in standard leagues. As in, one. I started Freeman in a semifinal match-up while Tony Romo (21 points vs. Pittsburgh) and Colin Kaepernick (24 points vs. New England) languished on my bench. My opponent played Russell Wilson in his gi-normous outing against Buffalo, in Toronto. Needless to say, it was curtains for me. Curtains!
You probably didn’t win your league if you went to war with Mosh Schauman, and for that I’m sorry. Hopefully you landed Pandrew Muck (Peyton and Luck) instead, or even better, Tobert Griffo (Romo and RGIII).
For the curious, here are the numbers Schaub and Freeman put up week by week (standard scoring). I considered anything less than 14 points a poor showing (red) and anything over 17 good (green). Lotta red ink on that page, especially at the start and finish.
Match-ups for Mosh
Schaub: Dolphins, 14 points
Freeman: Panthers, 10 points
Freeman: At Giants, 13 points
Schaub: At Jaguars, 7 points
Schaub: At Broncos, 25 points
Freeman: At Cowboys, 6 points
Schaub: Titans, 16 points
Freeman: Redskins, 13 points
Schaub: At Jets, 10 points
Freeman: At Chiefs, 23 points
Schaub: Packers, 5 points
Freeman: Saints, 29 points
Schaub: Ravens, 18 points
Freeman: At Vikings, 22 points
Schaub: Bills, 18 points
Freeman: At Raiders, 17 points
Freeman: Chargers, 16 points
Schaub: At Bears, 3 points
Schaub: Jaguars, 37 points
Freeman: At Panthers, 21 points
Schaub: At Lions, 14 points
Freeman: Falcons, 10 points
Schaub: At Titans, 16 points
Freeman: at Broncos, 15 points
Freeman: Eagles, 16 points
Schaub: Patriots, 7 points
Schaub: Colts, 14 points
Freeman: Saints, 1 point
Freeman: Rams, 11 points
Schaub: Vikings, 7 points
Freeman: Falcons, 10 points
Schaub: Colts, 7 points
John Evans is the co-host of the Xs & Ys Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @evansjo5.