There are four things that can explain why QBs are undervalued on Underdog Fantasy.
The thesis behind the original late round QB strategy is that there is more supply (30ish starting NFL QBs per week) than a demand for starting fantasy QBs in redraft leagues (12ish), so there are viable streaming options on the waiver wire. This is still true today, but not as much so in best ball where we can’t stream because all of the QBs get drafted. The demand side of the equation is different.
In 2014, things were easy. Sort by rushing projections among QBs being drafted in the double digit rounds, and print. Young Lamar Jackson. Young Josh Allen. Young RGIII. Young Colin Kaepernick. Young Justin Herbert. Well, that edge has been largely (not completely) erased. Jalen Hurts was a top-10 QB in ADP last year. Trey Lance and Justin Fields were top 16 as damn backups. It’ll be hard, if not impossible, to find a top-8 QB in the QB20s and QB30s in my opinion moving forward with the industry’s projections sharpening.
Sharps have been punting QBs for the last decade in redraft, so it’s hard to change consensus now. It’ll take a lot of research to prove that the pendulum swung too far against QBs, which is why I want to lean into being overweight on the top-14ish QBs this year. If my data and theory is correct, then this is the perfect time to exploit because it goes against the grain. Being right when everyone is right doesn’t really matter. To get to the top, we have to be right when others are wrong.
The impact of going from full to half PPR is felt most by WRs (they are the ones catching passes), but QBs are elevated in importance because they now score more points relative to the entire player pool. Last year's average QB contributed 116.3 points to a Best Ball Mania II team, followed by RBs (86.2), WRs (75.9), and TEs (63.9). If this was full PPR, the latter three scores would be higher, making QBs less valuable.
These “when it was optimal” charts (especially at the onesie positions) are prone to small sample variance, but last year’s data was very clear: 1) You were toast if you didn’t have at least one QB by Round 8, 2) having three late-round QBs didn’t make up the points from the top-end guys, and 3) having two semi-early round QBs didn’t cannibalize the earliest QB selected either. In fact, it was actually optimal to have 2 QBs as early as Round 8 (look at the green dots).
The reason why getting multiple QBs semi-early worked so well is because the late-round QBs all sucked. Is that sustainable? We’ll have to argue that throughout the offseason, but I do think this graph shows how the late-round rushing QB and high-upside rookie QB no longer exist. That old tier of QBs is the new Round 6-10 QB, and if you don’t adjust, you are going to be behind points at the position that literally scores the most on average.
The other reason why this Round 3-10 range is the sweet spot is because most of the top-10 scoring players each season are top-5 round selections. The green RB line really tanks after Round 2 because of the RB dead zone, and the purple WR line really tanks after Round 6 because all of the WR hardos refuse to take RBs. That leaves QBs just chilling in this tier, and they’re scoring a ton of points, sometimes even breaking into the top-10 overall.
This shows how many points each player contributed to a best ball team on average last season. Of the top-50 overall players in fantasy points over replacement, 11 of them were QBs despite only four of them having an ADP of inside the top-50 overall.
And they aren’t low-ceiling plays either. Josh Allen (6th overall), Tom Brady (12th), Justin Herbert (15th), and Patrick Mahomes (16th) didn’t even win MVP for crying out loud, yet still went off in fantasy relative to the field. In my opinion, the best season of Josh Allen’s career easily could be a top-5 overall season in fantasy points over expected, at least in half PPR best ball.
If drafting two QBs through Round 10 or so proves to be optimal like it was the last two seasons, is it still smart to draft a third QB? Prevailing wisdom would say no (the argument is that the 9th WR or 7th RB is going to add more points than the 3rd QB), but this 2021 chart says otherwise, despite all the mid- and late-round QBs stinking. The QB3 drafted on a best ball team contributed more points to their team (56.3) than the WR6 (50.3) and RB5 (43.0), and the actual debate that’s had in the draft room is typically between a QB3 versus a RB6 (32.7) or a WR9 (31.7). Those 20ish points can be the difference between advancing.
The market hasn’t adjusted to the unique format of half PPR best ball. The supply and demand equilibrium has shifted, QBs are scoring more points relative to WRs, RBs, and TEs, and the industry consensus is going to be hard to convince so ADPs could remain low. Based on the last two years of Underdog Fantasy drafts, it seems like a good time to be a year early before the market adjusts.
For that reason, I am currently ahead of ADP on 10 of the top-11 QBs in my top-250 best ball rankings: