Going Deep  

 

QB draft position could predict fantasy success

  • By Marcas Grant
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As the 2014 NFL Draft approaches, fantasy types of all varieties -- including yours truly -- are trying to figure out which of the incoming rookies are going to be the next fantasy stars. Of course so much of it depends on which teams take a chance on which prospects. But what if there were some defining traits of successful fantasy players? Some way to divine potential breakouts and busts before the seats at Radio City Music Hall had gotten cold.

That's what Going Deep is here for. We went digging into the fantasy crates to look at some recent NFL drafts to get a sense of how they correlated to fantasy football success. Over the next few weeks, we're unveiling what we've discovered.

Where better to start than with the quarterback position? This year's class might not have the panache of some previous groups, but there's still quite a bit of intrigue surrounding guys like Teddy Bridgewater, Blake Bortles, Derek Carr and of course Johnny Manziel. Hopefully this will take some of the guesswork out of what to do about those pesky rookie prospects when your draft rolls around.

First things first ... we back through the past five years to determine the draft positions of the quarterbacks who landed in the top 20 in fantasy scoring at the position. In that time frame, 39 different QBs accomplished the feat. We plotted them on this chart.

You probably noticed the dot near the bottom right that's encircled. That would represent Tom Brady, who was famously drafted in the sixth round with the 199th pick. Those of you with eagle eyes might notice that there are only 37 dots on that graphic. That's because quarterbacks Nos. 38 and 39 -- Tony Romo and Kurt Warner -- were undrafted. Which brings us to the first point.

You don't need to be a first-round pick


It goes without saying that quarterbacks selected in the first round are going to get more chances to produce in the NFL. Teams investing that much time and money on a player want to be absolutely sure that the player won't work out before moving on to the next option. It's also a given that opportunity is the foundation of fantasy value.

Of course, talent doesn't always equal draft position. Some franchises are traditionally very shrewd when it comes to their draft strategies and choose to wait until the later rounds to select talented players. Others just catch lightning in a bottle with a late-round pick.

Whatever the case, it's worth noting that of the 39 QBs on the list, 17 of them were drafted outside of the first round -- eight in the fourth round or later. That latter group not only includes Romo, Warner and Brady but also Matt Hasselbeck, who was a top 10 fantasy quarterback three times between 2003-07. Don't discount the diamonds in the rough.

It's better to be early than late


Lest you think we're putting too much shine on some of the later round picks, rest assured that the first few rounds are still where quarterbacks are making their money. That applies to both the NFL and fantasy football.

The overwhelming majority (31) of top 20 quarterbacks in the past five seasons were off the board before the end of the third round. To take it one step further, 21 of those 31 finished among the top 10 at their position at least once in their careers. There's a reason those guys were selected that high.

Life at the top


What about quarterbacks who go at the top of the draft? Generally speaking, QBs drafted first overall have had a pretty good track record. Going back to our group from the past five seasons, nine of those players were the first overall picks in their respective draft.

Dating back to 2003, eight signal-callers have been selected with the No. 1 overall pick. Five of them -- Carson Palmer, Eli Manning, Matthew Stafford, Cam Newton and Andrew Luck -- have finished in the top five among fantasy QB scorers. Seven of the eight have posted top 20 seasons. The only outlier? JaMarcus Russell. But you probably guessed that already.

You'll know early


Regardless of where a player is (or isn't) drafted, it usually doesn't take long for him to stake his claim to being a fantasy contributor. Of the QBs drafted in the past five seasons, 25 of them have been selected in the first three rounds ... and oftentimes it didn't take long for them to find success

Fourteen quarterbacks had their names called in the first round and within three seasons, six had posted top-10 campaigns. For second-round picks, three of six cracked the barrier within three years and for third-rounders it was one (Russell Wilson) of five selected.

That means the statute of limitations might be up for some guys. It just might not happen for Sam Bradford. Jake Locker, Christian Ponder and Blaine Gabbert? You're on the clock, fellas. It's not hopeful.

It's far from an exact science, but when you're facing a late-round pick in your fantasy football draft and trying to decide among rookie quarterbacks to take a chance on, it could be as simple as whether their names were called on Thursday, Friday or Saturday.

Marcas Grant is a fantasy editor for NFL.com and a man who has successfully predicted lots of things. Like the ending to "The Village". Though he'd rather not talk about that. Follow him on Twitter.

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