NFL Draft Guide: Maximizing Value by Passing on QBs in Early Draft Rounds

  • Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen and Jalen Hurts provided massive advantages for fantasy teams in 2022. As a result, they are currently going in Rounds 2 and 3 in fantasy drafts for the 2023 season. Are they worth that high draft capital in 2023?

    I will dig into why I think it is not a good investment at that draft price.

    The 2022 Advantage

    The average of Mahomes, Allen, and Hurts’ 2022 fantasy points per game was 24.83. (Mahomes 24.55, Allen 24.72, Hurts 25.20). That number on its own is 10% higher than the Top 3 fantasy QBs’ average over the past 10 years.

    The major reason these three QBs were so valuable is because of the drop-off between these three and all other starting QB options. The average of QBs ranked 4 – 10 is 18.41 points. (I chose Top 10 because after the top 10 QBs you can normally just stream QBs based on matchup). That is a 6.42-point advantage each week over any of the other starting QBs.

    For historical reference, the average drop-off between the top-3 QBs and the top 4–10 QBs is 3.47 over the past ten years. If you just look at the years 2021 and 2020, the average drop-off was 1.92 points. The top 3 QBs had almost double the advantage historical top 3 QBs had over the field. If you could redraft 2022, all three of those QBs are worthy of a 1st round selection due to the positional advantage they provided.

    The Predictability of Top 3 Fantasy QBs

    Prior to the 2022 season, fantasy experts had Allen as QB1 overall, Hurts as QB3 overall, and Mahomes as QB5 overall. The loss of WR Tyreek Hill and questions about the Chiefs’ WR room led to a slight bump down the preseason QB rankings for Mahomes.

    Consensus QB rankings over the past ten years have a 26.7% probability of selecting a top 3 QB preseason that ends in the top 3 at season end. That means of the 30 chances to predict a top 3 QB, only 8 times it has been successful. Of the past ten years, consensus preseason rankings have selected 2 out of the top 3 QBs only twice. One time in 2022 and one time in 2013.

    Odds are that at least two of Mahomes, Allen, and Hurts will finish out of the top 3 at the position. If you draft a QB in round 2 or 3 and they do not finish in the top 3 at the season’s end, it will be a major reach. Preseason top-3 QBs have averaged 20.25 points per game over the past ten years. That number is only a 1.19-point advantage over the QBs that finished 4 – 10 in the rankings over that same period.

    I have heard the argument that the fantasy community is getting smarter at predicting the QB rankings due to the community valuing QB rushing production higher recently. However, in 2021 and 2020 consensus rankings selected only one of the six available top-3 slots over the two-year period.

    Consensus preseason fantasy rankings have not been successful in predicting the top 3 QBs over the past ten years. As well as Mahomes, Allen, and Hurts performed in 2022, that dominance over their peers is not likely to continue for each of them.

    Opportunity Cost in 2nd and 3rd Rounds

    If you decide to use a 2nd or 3rd-round pick on QB in the 2023 draft, it is important to know what you are missing out on with that selection. With a selection from picks 13 – 36, it is possible to draft a top-12 RB, top-24 WR, or top-3 TE.

    I gathered data from 2020 – 2022 to analyze the points per game drop-off over a 3-year period to compare to QBs over that same period. All three of those groups on average have a higher points per game drop-off compared to QBs.

    See the chart below:

    Position Points Drop-Off
    Top 3 QB vs Top 4-10 QB 3.42
    RB1* vs RB2* 3.92
    WR1&2* vs WR3* 4.00
    Top 3 TE vs Top 4-12 TE 5.09

    *RB1 or WR1 refers to an RB or WR ranked in the top 12 at their position. RB2 or WR2 refers to players ranked 13-24 at their position. WR3 includes players ranked 25-36 at their position. 

    The above chart shows drafting a QB in rounds 2 or 3 results in the lowest point differential from a replacement-level starter. The TE position has been carried by Travis Kelce and Mark Andrews for the past 3 years resulting in the highest point drop-off.

    Historical Comparison

    I looked back at 15 years of data and found 2013 was the year that most closely matched the 2022 QB advantage.

    Preseason rankings had Aaron Rodgers as QB1, Drew Brees as QB2, and Peyton Manning as QB3. At the end of the 2013 season, Manning was QB1 overall with 25.60 points per game, Brees was QB2 overall with 22.40 points per game, and Cam Newton was QB3 overall with 18.60 points per game. Rodgers ended up getting hurt this year, but he was on track to finish QB3 overall with 18.80 points per game.

    Like 2022, two out of the top 3 QBs remained in the top 3 at the end of the season the third QB, Newton, was ranked as a top-5 QB in the preseason as well. Manning and Brees were the true prizes and the drop-off started after them.

    The Top-3 QBs compared to Top 4–10 QBs in 2013 resulted in a 4.69-point difference. If we change that to the top 2 QBs compared to top 3–10 QBs in 2013, it results in a 6.35-point differential right in line with 2022. Not only did you have a great chance at being right on a difference-making QB, but the difference-making QB made an exceptionally large difference that is only comparable to 2022 top QBs.

    As you might expect, Manning and Brees were ranked 1 and 2 respectively going into 2014 fantasy drafts. Neither one of them ended up as a top-3 QB and the difference between the top 3 QBs compared to the top 4–10 QBs came back down to a 3.34-point differential.

    Now what?

    Mahomes, Allen, and Hurts are the best bets to finish top 3 at QB in the 2023 fantasy season, but that doesn’t mean it warrants a 2nd or 3rd round selection. History suggests that these three will not all finish as a top 3 QB, and even if they do, their impact compared to other starting QBs will not be as high as 2022.

    Fantasy managers are better off selecting another position in the 2nd and 3rd rounds and taking a shot at QBs in the middle to later rounds. Arguments can be made for Lamar Jackson, Joe Burrow, Justin Herbert, and Justin Fields to all crack top-3 in the rankings. Even Anthony Richardson, if he starts all year, has a shot at being a quality fantasy starter due to his expected rushing production.

    The value given up in the 2nd and 3rd rounds does not warrant drafting any QB that high due to the higher positional advantage you will miss out on at other positions.


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