Monday, May 17, 2010

Fantasy: High-Priced QB or High-Priced RB?

For years I've tried to write about fantasy football on this blog without actually revealing what I think to my fellow competitors who read this blog. I can't believe it's taken this long, but I've finally found the way around this conundrum: an Argument/Counterargument gimmick, where I write both arguments. I'll do my best with both arguments, and you probably won't know which argument I actually favor. And since I've eliminated a debate partner (frankly, I've always thought PV's only worthy debate opponent is PV), I'm going to go ahead with a Q & A gimmick wherein I make up the question on a topic I want to write about, then answer it (like I'm pretty sure PETA does in Animal Times, but can't be sure). But if there's an actual question you want me to tackle with the Fantasy Argument/Counterargument, go ahead and ask it in the comments: there's a very good chance I'll actually answer it.

Q: If you are deciding between drafting an expensive RB or an expensive QB, which position should you take? Of course it will come down to the specific players available, but is there a position principle?

Argument: Draft the RB, not the QB
Too many Quarterbacks put up good fantasy numbers to waste an expensive pick.

In 2010, there were ten quarterbacks that threw for both 4,000+ yards and 26 TD passes (ESPN). Think about that: there's a pretty good chance you were getting elite statistical production from your fantasy quarterback last year. Maybe you were in a league with more than ten teams. Maybe somebody in your league drafted two good quarterbacks and refused to trade one to you. But there were ten star fantasy quarterbacks in 2009, putting up the sort of numbers you can win a championship with. And most of those quarterbacks could be had pretty cheap.

Contrast that to running backs, and let's go with nice round numbers again, this time 1,500 yards from scrimmage and 10 total touchdowns. There were four 1,500/10 RBs: Chris Johnson, Adrian Peterson, Maurice Jones-Drew, and Frank Gore, all high-ranking, expensive fantasy RBs. Elite fantasy running backs are much harder to come by than elite fantasy quarterbacks.

It's a pass-friendly league, and you can find decent quarterbacks.

Counterargument: Draft the QB, not the RB
QBs are predictably reliable, while RBs can be busts.

Last offseason there was relative consensus on the top four fantasy running back prospects: Adrian Peterson, Michael Turner, Maurice Jones-Drew, and Matt Forte. Peterson and Jones-Drew were highly productive, Turner was solid but missed five games with injury, Forte was a massive disappointment, and it was actually Chris Johnson that dominated the league with 2,509 yards and 16 touchdowns.

Meanwhile, can you name a quarterback bust from last season? I can't: 2008's passing leaders were mostly among the 2009 passing leaders. And if you spent a lot on a quarterback last season, that quarterback is probably one of those ten 4,000/26 guys. If you draft an expensive RB, he could be a big bust. If you draft an expensive QB, he's probably going to reliably get you what you were expecting.

Furthermore, PV really set an incredibly arbitrary RB standard with 1,500 total yards and 10 total touchdowns. Lower your standard to 1,400/9, and we add Thomas Jones, Jamaal Charles, and Ryan Grant, none of them expensive draft picks. Take the standard down to 1,300/8, and we add Ricky Williams, Ray Rice, and Rashard Mendenhall, again, very affordable draft picks (or mid-season free agent pickups). Sure, you probably have to get lucky. Maybe, though, if you're paying the most attention, luck will get you. The point is, there are RBs around that produce winning fantasy numbers.

Use your resources wisely: use high picks/auction money on sure things, and go cheap on riskier positions, hoping to find a breakout producer.


  1. I'mNotInHazelweird10:43 PM

    I have a question:
    Who is your number one target?

  2. I'm willing to tackle that question, but with over 10 different arguments.