NFL Draft Strategy: The Case for Drafting Your QB Early in 2023-24

  • The quarterback position in fantasy football has been debated for years among experts, mainly on when to take a quarterback in the draft to maximize the rest of your fantasy roster. Obviously, in 2-QB leagues or Super-Flex leagues, the advice will be to get your quarterbacks early. But in a traditional one-quarterback league, you will often hear “Wait on your QB.”

    The perception among fantasy analysts is that it’s bad to draft a QB1 early. The reality is that there is a chance to capitalize on this thinking by going against the grain.

    The case for drafting a QB early

    One advantage of prioritizing the quarterback position early in a draft is that it eliminates the need to constantly search for replacement options on a weekly basis. We are witnessing a new era where quarterbacks are consistently delivering high-scoring performances of 25+ points per week. Finding such prolific production on the waiver wire is extremely challenging. By selecting an elite quarterback early, you can confidently start them every week regardless of the matchup, freeing up your FAAB dollars and waiver wire priority for other positions. These early picks offer a higher ceiling and a lower risk of underperforming compared to quarterbacks selected later in the draft.

    The current landscape offers a significant increase in value over replacement, a trend that has been overlooked due to the traditional practice of selecting quarterbacks late in drafts. Moreover, top-tier quarterbacks have demonstrated a higher level of predictability and difference in points per week in recent years.

    Last year, the No. 3 quarterback outscored the No. 6 quarterback by over six points a game. That is a big edge to have each week having one of the top three options at the position.

    Last season Patrick Mahomes had 12 top-6 weekly finishes. In his five full seasons of playing, he has averaged over 300 yards passing and almost 25 fantasy points a game. Josh Allen finished with 12 top-6 weekly finishes at the position last year as well. Allen has finished as a top-2 fantasy QB for the last three seasons and had 10 25+ point games last year. Joe Burrow had 11 top-10 QB weeks, including six games with three TDs or more and three weeks of being the QB1. That is some strong consistency I like to see in a selection anywhere in the first three rounds.

    Yes, last year owners who selected Jalen Hurts in round 5 or later (ADP was 5.08), Kirk Cousins and Justin Fields were rewarded, but Cousins and Fields had inconsistency at times.

    Kirk Cousins had 11 games of <20 fantasy points per game. Justin Fields averaged less than 13 points per game through his first six games. He then ripped off a tremendous five-game stretch, but in his last four games (he missed week 12 and week 18) he averaged 18 points a game.

    Your next QBs taken round 6 and on (ADP from Fantasy Football Calculator 2022 consensus drafts):

    Kyler Murray (6.02)
    In the games he played, Murray had three games of 25 or more points, but six games of < 20 points.

    Russell Wilson (6.12)
    Only four games of more than 20 points per game and had seven games of 12 points or less during the season last year.

    Aaron Rodgers (7.08)
    Not a single fantasy game of more than 20 points all year.

    Dak Prescott (7.12)
    A QB31 finish in week 1, then missed the next five games due to injury and responded in his first game back with a QB18 finish against Detroit. Five out of his last seven games were under 20 fantasy points.

    Tom Brady (8.03)
    Nine games of 15 points or less last year.

    Matt Stafford (8.06)
    Before his injury, Stafford averaged less than 13 fantasy points per game through nine starts.

    Trey Lance (9.02)
    Injured week 1.

    Derek Carr (9.07)
    A high week of 22 points and 11 games of under 20 points.

    As we see more NFL teams going to a running back-by-committee approach, I think this plays perfectly into the strategy of taking a quarterback early in your draft. You are going to see a lot more running back options in rounds 3-6 that are all in a similar group of potential. If you were to go WR-QB with your first two picks, you still have a good group of running backs to choose from in rounds 3-5.

    In a recent mock draft, where we start 1QB, 2RBs, 3WRs and a TE, here is what I was able to draft in the first eight rounds picking from the sixth spot out of 12 teams:

    1. Ja’Marr Chase
    2. Patrick Mahomes
    3. Kenneth Walker III
    4. Joe Mixon
    5. DJ Moore
    6. Calvin Ridley
    7. Khalil Herbert
    8. Rashod Bateman

    Now some of these player values will change as we get closer to drafting season in August, but the point is there is still plenty of value in the mid-rounds if you decide to pull the trigger on a QB1 as early as round 2.

    Last season, the gap between QB3 and QB12 in per-game scoring was equivalent to the gap between Derrick Henry and Raheem Mostert or the gap between Tyreek Hill and Parris Campbell. In 2020 and 2021, almost 70% of all top-six weekly finishes came from a QB drafted as a top-12 QB in ADP. I just don’t think we’ve quite reckoned with how much more valuable the high-end QBs have become over the past few years.

    In my early QB rankings, which can be by clicking the button at the end of this article, I really want to walk away with my QB1 drafted from my top 7 rankings. I think the range from No. 8 and on could be inconsistent week to week in 2023.

    The elite quarterbacks can be needle-movers who can give your team a major lift in your fantasy football championship quest.


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