Fantasy Football Slack and Forth: Diving Into 2020 Quarterback Strategy

In fantasy football, the quarterback position could be the trickiest of the bunch.

While some people might place a premium on the position, many fantasy players prefer to wait or even stream quarterbacks on a week-to-week basis.

Our editor-in-chief, JJ Zachariason, wrote an in-depth piece about whether Lamar Jackson has broken the late-round quarterback strategy. Trust me when I say it's worth the read.

Speaking of Jackson, a question that needs to be answered for 2020 is when do you need to start considering making him your pick even if you usually employ the "late-round" strategy. Ditto for Patrick Mahomes.

After Jackson and Mahomes are off the board, what quarterbacks are worth targeting in the middle rounds? And if you do plan on waiting at the position, which passers could be late-round values?

In order to answer each of those questions, I Slacked (Slack chatted? Chat Slacked? Slatted?) with fellow numberFire editor Austan Kas.

Here's what we had to say.

Elisha Twerski:
Let's start this one a bit differently than usual and talk strategy before we dive into specific players.

What's your strategy when it comes to drafting quarterbacks in leagues that only allow you to start one at the position?

Austan Kas: Normally, I'm a late-round quarterback guy. I would much rather invest early picks in receivers and running backs -- the two most important positions in fantasy -- than spend one on a position like quarterback, which is fairly replaceable. This year, I may get my quarterback a little earlier than usual because I like some of the midrange guys, but I'm probably not going to pay up for one of the elite at the position.

What about you?

Elisha Twerski: I also generally like drafting quarterbacks in the later rounds. Over the last two years, seven of the nine passers who appeared most often on playoff rosters in ESPN leagues were drafted after pick 90.

Though, that's not to say that I'm extremely rigid about the strategy. If a stud falls far enough, I'm more than willing to scoop him up. Last year, Deshaun Watson fell to an average draft position (ADP) of 42.1, and the team that rostered him appeared in the playoffs in more than half of ESPN leagues.

Speaking of studs falling, how far would Jackson or Patrick Mahomes have to drop in order for you to start considering them?

Austan Kas: In BestBall10 drafts in June, those two are coming off the board between pick 26 and 32. I can't justify them at that price. For me, if they slipped down closer to pick 40, I'd consider taking the plunge. What about you?

Elisha Twerski: That's fair.

I'm a bit wary of the curse of the "number one QB."

Of the last 15 signal-callers to finish first in fantasy scoring at the position, all but one scored fewer points the following season. And their scoring didn't just drop by a marginal number -- 10 of those 14 quarterbacks scored at least 44.4 fewer points the following season (ESPN scoring), with the average drop in scoring coming out to 116.5.

Is that a good enough reason to avoid LJax altogether? Probably not. But like you, I won't be considering him unless he drops to the late 30s or early 40s.

As for Mahomes, I'd be willing to take him ahead of Jackson. While the Baltimore Ravens could be headed for touchdown regression, I don't think the same can be said for the Kansas City Chiefs. My gut tells me that the Super Bowl MVP could have a season close to what he posted in 2018.

All that said, I wouldn't draft him earlier than mid-to-late 30s either.

How would you address the tier of quarterbacks going in the middle rounds this year?

Seeing as though the next passer off the board -- Kyler Murray -- has an ADP of 70.99, let's definite middle rounds as seventh through ninth.

Austan Kas: Ultimately, I know me, and I'll probably end up waiting until pretty late to get a quarterback. But I do have some interest in getting one from the group of Murray (71st overall), Dak Prescott (72nd), Russell Wilson (81st) and Watson (81st), the four signal-callers in the tier after Mahomes and Jackson.

That range is still earlier than I normally take a passer, but there's so much to like with all of those guys. Of the bunch, Prescott is my favorite, and he's easily my QB3 heading into the season. He was the QB2 last year, and the situation around him is about as good as it gets -- namely a great offensive line and a bunch of quality weapons. I'm not sure anyone can put up numbers that rival what a healthy Mahomes and Jackson do, but if anyone flirts with that kind of production, my money is on it being Dak.

How about you? Is there anyone there you are really into?

Elisha Twerski: Here we go again with you stealing my guys.

Of that tier (and any tier, for that matter), Dak's the guy I want most.

I like Murray a lot, but I think the hype surrounding him will drive his ADP even further past my comfort level. I'm worried about Watson without DeAndre Hopkins, though I'd be more on board with him if he was going a round later. I'd also take Wilson a round later than his current draft position.

As for Dak, I want as many shares as I can get. I just did a piece on why I'd hammer the over on Prescott's 2020 props, which very much applies to how I feel about him in fantasy.

Dak was a top-12 fantasy performer in 10 of his 16 games last year. He ranked top-17 in 13 of his contests. That's remarkable consistency.

Now he gets to play for head coach Mike McCarthy, who saw his team post a pass-to-run ratio of 1.30 or higher in each of his 13 seasons with the Green Bay Packers.

Additionally, Dak will get to throw to YAC (yards after catch) monster, and my favorite wideout in the 2020 draft, CeeDee Lamb. That's in addition to Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup. That can't hurt. Did I mention that Pro Football Focus pegs the Dallas Cowboys with the second-easiest fantasy schedule for quarterbacks? That can't hurt either.

I might even be willing to go a couple picks above his ADP to ensure I get him.

So ... I'm with you on Dak, and I have a feeling we're both in on the same guy in the next tier as well.

I'll let you go first and steal my thunder again. Who's the guy you'd target in the third tier at the position?

Austan Kas: Well, once we get to guys going 96th on, this is where we get to dudes I'd consider as late-round quarterbacks.

Matthew Stafford (122nd), Ben Roethlisberger (140th) and Matt Ryan (103rd) are the three late-round quarterbacks I love. You dove into Stafford recently, so I won't talk more about him.

Ryan has two really good weapons at wideout, and newcomers Hayden Hurst and Todd Gurley are good pass-game pieces, as well. The Atlanta Falcons were the most pass-heavy team in the league in 2019, and Ryan should have volume on his side again in 2020 as we project him for the second-most attempts. I think he can push for a top-five finish at the position.

Roethlisberger, if healthy, is very appealing as a late-round pick. He was the QB3 in 2018, his last full season, and while he won't have Antonio Brown or Le'Veon Bell, Big Ben has solid options in JuJu Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson and Eric Ebron. I think he's a little too cheap, though when I scan the list of late-round options, I like just about all of them. Maybe that's just me talking myself into guys I know I'll probably have to choose from, but quarterback is pretty darn deep, per usual.

Who are the guys in this range that you like?

Elisha Twerski: Whoa. You actually didn't steal my guy this time. That's a first!

After pick 96, the guy I like most is Josh Allen. I know hating on Allen is what all the cool people are doing these days, but, at least from a fantasy perspective, I think he could be in for a fantastic season in 2020.

Austan Kas: Yeah, I like Allen, too, and I think he's going at a very fair price.

Elisha Twerski: Yup, 96.86 is a great price for a player who was a QB1 in 47% of his games last year. And like Dak, Allen was a top-17 fantasy performer 13 times. He did that in just 15 full games (he sat for most of Week 17).

This year, Allen gets to throw to Stefon Diggs. And for those that don't know, that guy is a pretty damn good receiver.

In 2019, Diggs finished second in the league in yards per route run and yards per target, as well as first in receiving yardage on deep passes. And, since 2017, only Tampa Bay's Chris Godwin (58.8 percent) has a better catch rate on contested targets (minimum 50) than Diggs (58.7). That's impressive, no matter how you slice it.

Allen's a beast with his legs, but he could couple that with solid passing production in 2020.

I'm with you on Ryan and certainly on Stafford. However, I have a hard time warming up to Big Ben.

Yes, Ben was amazing in 2018, but the absence of AB is nothing to scoff at. What's even more concerning to me is the fact that he's 38-years-old and offseason pictures of him look like they should go with a headline starting with "Florida Man."

But like you said, he is pretty cheap, which lessens the risk significantly.

Austan Kas: Haha yeah, that's fair about Ben. I guess for me he's worth it at his price, and if he's bad, I'll just cut him and stream.

Elisha Twerski: That's always a safe strategy.

Let's finish it off with this -- who's one guy you'd be most willing to draft ahead of his current ADP? Is it Ben?

Austan Kas: Probably Matt Ryan. I think he checks pretty much every box I'm looking for, and he's priced modestly. You?

Elisha Twerski: Josh Allen for me. Price is more than fair, and the upside is immense.