Your Fantasy Football Draft Strategy Shouldn't Change in Leagues With 6 Points Per Touchdown Pass
Fantasy football is a weekly game.
So why are we so concerned with season-long numbers?
It's true. Before your fantasy drafts, you're flooded with rankings and four-month long player projections. You see how a player is going to potentially perform yearly, but not weekly. And while these things are helpful, they also don't tell the entire story.
You see, a lot of fantasy leagues use a six-point-per-passing-touchdown system, and when that's the case, fantasy owners start to make assumptions based on yearly projections. Logically, you'd think a player like Aaron Rodgers is more valuable than he would be in a four point per passing touchdown league, while a late-round quarterback strategy becomes a little less viable.
But, again, fantasy football is a weekly game. And this notion couldn't be further from the truth.
A Season-Long Look
Let's begin by taking a look at the numberFire projections for the 2015 season. Below you can find the list of our algorithm's top-12 projected quarterbacks, as well as their fantasy point projections in four- and six-point-per-touchdown-pass leagues.
|Player||FP 4 Pt/TD||FP 6 Pt/TD||Difference|
|Aaron Rodgers (GB)||345.00||417.22||72.22|
|Drew Brees (NO)||330.66||400.54||69.88|
|Andrew Luck (IND)||318.89||389.98||71.09|
|Peyton Manning (DEN)||316.36||385.73||69.37|
|Matt Ryan (ATL)||306.92||373.32||66.40|
|Russell Wilson (SEA)||295.58||338.52||42.94|
|Matthew Stafford (DET)||278.01||335.77||57.76|
|Tony Romo (DAL)||271.35||330.23||58.88|
|Cam Newton (CAR)||271.11||323.06||51.95|
|Philip Rivers (SD)||265.36||312.39||47.03|
|Ben Roethlisberger (PIT)||256.04||311.64||55.60|
|Ryan Tannehill (MIA)||253.42||304.04||50.62|
The table shows something that's generally obvious -- the advantage that the elite players give you on a yearly basis grows with the increase in points per touchdown. Because elite quarterbacks are throwing for more touchdown passes, the gap between them and the rest of the field appears larger. This is even truer when you look at end-of-season results, because there's more variance than more conservative projections. As a result, fantasy owners tend to reach higher for these players (and quarterbacks overall).
Fantasy football, though, is a weekly game.
Get these cumulative numbers out of your head -- you're playing weekly, dude.
Taking a look at top-12 and top-6 quarterback performances (QB1 and high-end QB1 performances in 12-team leagues) can often reveal truths about a particular season. Take Andy Dalton's 2013 as an example. At the end of the year, Dalton had the fifth most fantasy points scored. (And it kind of felt like a dream.) Yet, eight different quarterbacks finished with more top-12 weeks than Dalton, while five other quarterbacks tied him with six.
The reason Dalton was a top-five overall quarterback in 2013 was because five of his six performances resulted in top-six finishes. This type of inconsistency isn't exactly what you want from a player in fantasy football.
Most examples aren't that extreme, but that's also not even the real reason weekly data is important. The crux to the weekly performance argument has to do with quarterback usability and streaming -- the art of playing a signal-caller off the waiver wire each week based on matchup, despite that quarterback being, well, garbage.
Last season, my podcast cohost, Denny Carter, and I, giving one quarterback pick each week where the quarterback was owned in roughly 20 percent or fewer leagues, compiled a passer that was a little worse than Drew Brees and a little better than Matt Ryan. All from the waiver wire. You can read more about it in an article from January.
There are two reasons this type of strategy can work. The first is predictability -- of all the positions in fantasy football, quarterback is most predictable. At a high level, this is because they're touching the ball more than any other position on the field, giving us larger sample sizes to work with.
The second reason is replaceability. Because you're starting only one quarterback on your roster each week, the demand for the position is inherently small. As a result, the turnover week to week is pretty massive. And when you combine that with predictability, you're able to effectively stream the position.
Here's a quick glimpse to some math behind this: Last season in four-point-per-touchdown-pass leagues, 41 different quarterbacks had at least one top-12 performance. There were 20 passers with five or more. Considering the majority of leagues are starting one quarterback, that's a surplus.
And you don't get those same numbers from running backs and receivers when you consider you're starting more than one -- sometimes more than two -- of those positions. But that's for another article.
You would think, based on the season-long numbers above, that this number would shrink in six-point-per-touchdown-pass leagues.
It doesn't. It actually gets larger.
In these formats, 43 different quarterbacks finished with at least one top-12 performance last season. In terms of top-six performances -- elite ones, if you will -- the numbers were close to identical, too. In four-point-per-touchdown-pass formats, 30 quarterbacks had at least one top-six performance. When the scoring changed to six, there were 31.
At the individual level, there's little change as well. Andrew Luck's 13 top-12 performances, the most in the league, remains the same when touchdown passes are more valuable. Same with Aaron Rodgers' 11 and Russell Wilson's 10. Peyton Manning actually lost a top-12 week, while Drew Brees gained one.
And it's the same for top-six games -- nothing changes. The only thing that changes is that there's an additional usable quarterback out there.
It's because everything is relative. And it's because lesser-skilled quarterbacks can compete with elite ones weekly, but not yearly.
The fact is, whether you're in a six-point-per-touchdown-pass league or a four-point one, it shouldn't really matter. You should continue to approach the quarterback position as you always would.
I just hope that approach involves drafting them late.