Two-Quarterback Leagues: Which Strategy is Best?

How early should you be targeting quarterbacks in multi-passer leagues?

Tony Romo threw for more yards last season than all but eight quarterbacks…in NFL history.

Now, just a year later, Romo is being drafted behind 11 different fantasy quarterbacks. You read that right: a player who threw for nearly 5,000 yards last season is now the 12th fantasy quarterback taken off the imaginary board.

I mean, consider this: Last year, Jay Cutler was the 12th quarterback selected in the majority of fantasy drafts. The previous season, 2011, Cutler averaged 231 yards per game through the air. Romo averaged 306 per game in 2012.

Has the fantasy community gone mad?

Perhaps, but the Romo dip in average draft position has more to do with the depth at quarterback than Romo’s fantasy football future. Thanks to Colin Kaepernick, Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson, there’s a quarterback for everyone. Well, everyone in traditional one-quarterback leagues.

There’s a shift going on in fantasy football. Addicted owners are noticing the deep-quarterback trend, and they’re changing their league structures as a result. No longer will they be starting just a single quarterback on their fantasy team. Now, they’re opting to start two.

The straightforward supply and demand equation of fantasy football is being altered. Typically, the supply of quarterbacks is plentiful in leagues because the demand is small; you’re starting just one on each team. But in two-passer leagues, the demand side changes; instead of needing one, you now need two.

In response to this, strategies are rather unstable, and to many, this makes for a more interesting game. But which approach is best? Is there a tactic that seems to make the most sense, specifically for 2013?

The Kim Kardashian Approach

Kimmy K only wants the best. Knockoff brands? No way. I’m almost certain she hates Alex Smith.

Her approach to two-quarterback leagues would definitely be to take one in each of the first two rounds of her draft. She’d want the high-profile, elite ones. She’d only go for the guys who are making tons of money. Not the Andy Daltons of the NFL.

Is it a sound strategy? Probably not, especially in 2013. When you go back-to-back quarterbacks in the first two rounds of a multi-passer fantasy league, you’re left with a hole at running back and receiver that’s not easy to fill. And remember, because the quarterback position is in higher demand, the cost in snagging one rises. The chance of getting both Cam Newton and Aaron Rodgers is slim to none with this approach.

There’s a ton of two-quarterback league average draft position data on, and thanks to a couple of fantasy experts hosting multi-passer mock drafts, we’re able to see how owners think when the league structure changes.

From my findings, it looks as though it’s nearly impossible to snag two top-tier quarterbacks in a serpentine-style draft. Four or five passers usually leave the board in Round 1 of these drafts, leaving you with a Matt Ryan- or Matthew Stafford-type passer as your team’s QB2.

It’s not a bad thing; we happen to like both of those quarterbacks in 2013. But you have to ask, “at what cost?” Teams who go quarterback with their first two picks often end up with a low-end RB1 on their squad, and their second running back is usually someone with a lot of risk. In other words, the opportunity cost in going quarterback with your first two selections is a high-end running back, which could end up being a big deal.

And when you reach for a second- or third-tiered quarterback in Round 2, you have to realize that you’re not getting that much better production from your QB2 slot in your lineup compared to a guy who’s waiting for his passers (more on him later). If, for instance, you snag Matthew Stafford, you’re only gaining 30 points – according to our projections – versus an owner who drafted Eli Manning five-to-six rounds later (remember, ADP data favors quarterbacks in this league format).

Because you’re not able to get two true elite quarterbacks, snagging them early and often doesn’t seem like the smartest thing to do. In doing so, you’re not only getting a potential middle-of-the-road guy as your second quarterback, reaching for the position, but someone like Chris Johnson or Maurice Jones-Drew will be your top running back. The risk in that is frightening.

This season, you have to keep the positional depth in mind. The Kardashian approach may have made more sense to some folks in 2012, a year of quarterback scarcity, but not as much in 2013.

The Baltimore Ravens Approach

Who says you need a top-tier quarterback to win a championship? Tell that to Trent Dilfer and Joe Flacco.

You could call this tactic “The Ignorance Approach”, as owners following this strategy may be completely overlooking the league standards. It’s the opposite of the strategy detailed above, and it’s one that would have been laughed at a season ago.

In essence, instead of going for the high-end passers, you continue on with the typical fantasy football approach. You’ll load up on running backs and receivers – positions that are less predictable and more volatile than quarterbacks – ensuring you’ve got locked down weekly output from the those spots.

It’s possible to obtain two top-end runners – players with first round grades in single-quarterback leagues – with this approach. Take a look at our tiers to fully grasp this idea. Because quarterbacks are higher in demand, they’re being selected in the first round. When that happens, the top-tiered running backs and receivers are being pushed back. And when that occurs, you’re able to reap benefits at those positions, capturing them throughout the first few rounds of your draft.

So where do you draft your quarterbacks, and what type of quarterbacks are you looking at? Well, that’s where your knowledge of depth comes into play. If you look at numberFire’s quarterback projections this season, you see that there’s a massive group of guys being projected to score between 225 to 270 points. These guys are ranked anywhere from the 14th-best fantasy passer to the 24th. Quite obviously, if you’re in a 12-team league, those are all start-worthy players.

But each of these players, too, aren’t significantly worse than some of the top-tiered guys. Matt Schaub, our 14th-ranked passer, is projected to score just 67 points less than Cam Newton. That gap, considering where Newton gets drafted in two-quarterback leagues, is arguably smaller than the gap you’d see from an upper-tiered running back or receiver to a middle-of-the-road starter. Is it really that advantageous to get a top-notch passer?

We have to also keep in mind that fantasy football is a weekly game. You’re not just slotting two of those quarterbacks into your lineup every week, hoping for the best. Instead, because they’re lower-profile guys, you’re potentially altering your lineup based on matchup each week. This is the art of "streaming" a position.

That’s why you should get three or four of these lower-end starters when using the Baltimore Ravens approach. It can pay big dividends, as your running backs and receivers will be tops in the league. And, to be truthful, the quarterback positions depth will allow for favorable matchup plays throughout the season.

If you trust your weekly matchup playing abilities, then this is the two-quarterback league strategy for you.

The Carrabba's Italian Grill Approach

It’s not entirely elite, but there are components to a Carrabba’s experience that make you say, “This isn’t terrible.” Kim Kardashian has never eaten at one, but I think the Baltimore Ravens team dines there weekly.

This strategy is simple: You go for a top guy early, but then you wait; you wait for the dollar store passers. And you get a couple of them, streaming our QB2 slot throughout the season, similar to the approach mentioned previously.

Essentially, this approach allows you to view fantasy football in its most traditional form. Locking up your top quarterback spot with an elite quarterback will allow you to have a plug-and-play option, forcing you to just have to manage one quarterback spot throughout the season. This approach, in the end, is a mix between the two extremes above.

There’s still a “beware” component to this one, though. If you’re at the tail-end in a snake draft, the chance in getting an Aaron Rodgers or Drew Brees is eliminated. Therefore, it’s probably more helpful to get an elite running back of some sort in the first round, and follow it up with a passer in the second. Peyton Manning as your top passer is, after all, still a plug-and-play option.

I like to think the Carrabba’s approach is the safest one in 2013. The depth at quarterback will allow you to have plenty of options for your second quarterback slot, but at the same time, you’re able to benefit from only having to manage one in your lineup.