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2015 fantasy football draft strategy: Michael Fabiano

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If you have been playing fantasy football as long as I have, waiting to draft a quarterback isn't a ground-breaking concept. Running backs ruled the roost and dominated the earlier rounds before the dawn of the internet, as superstars like Marshall Faulk, Priest Holmes and LaDainian Tomlinson were virtual locks to rush for boatloads of yards and make double-digit trips to the end zone. There weren't such a large number of backfield committees or goal-line vultures to ruin their value, either.

Of course, that was in the late 1990s and the start of the 2000s. It was a time when a select few quarterbacks threw the football over 600 times or reached the 4,000-yard mark. Consider the 2005 campaign, when Tom Brady and Trent Green were the lone field generals to throw for over 4,000 yards (and neither had more than 4,110). Furthermore, Brett Favre was the lone quarterback with over 600 pass attempts.

Times have changed, though.

In 2014, Drew Brees threw the football 659 times to lead the league. He was one of six signal-callers to post 600-plus pass attempts and one of 14 with 500-plus attempts. Two years prior, Matthew Stafford set an NFL record with 727 pass attempts, breaking the previous record held by Drew Bledsoe (691) in 1994. Six quarterbacks also recorded 600-plus pass attempts that year, and 18 went over 500 attempts.

In 2005, seven players had 500-plus attempts.

Here's another interesting nugget ... 12 of the top 15 single-season passing attempt leaders in NFL history have been established since 2010. That's amazing. This new trend of field generals burning up the stat sheets is going to make a lot of fantasy owners believe that the days of the running back being the top position are now in the rearview mirror.

Well, I remain 100 percent on the running back bandwagon.

Much like last season, I won't even consider a drafting a quarterback in the first five rounds. Truth be told, there's a good chance I won't draft a signal-caller until Round 6 at the absolute earliest. I know, I know, your friends are going to pressure you into going after a signal-caller. "It's a passing league, how can you overlook someone like Aaron Rodgers in favor of a No. 2 running back?"

Again, don't fall into the trap.

The fact of the matter is that drafting a quarterback in the first few rounds is not a smart decision based on what is called "relative worth" in fantasy land. This term assists owners in determining which player(s) and position(s) is the most important when it comes time to draft. Forget about points ... if we rated players based on points lone, the first round would be almost all quarterbacks. Instead, you should be looking to target a position in each round that offers the best relative value.

Here's an example.

If you had to guess, which player between Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson had more value last season? Most would argue Luck based on the fact that he scored more fantasy points. But when you consider that Luck (34.13 ADP) cost a fourth-round pick while Wilson (80.00 ADP) had an average draft position of Round 8, well, the Seattle quarterback was the better value. He wasn't the lone solid draft bargain at his position, either. Of the top 10 fantasy quarterbacks in 2014, six were drafted in the sixth round or later. Furthermore, three of those six quarterbacks weren't selected before Round 13.

I can tell you this, it's going to be a lot tougher to get that kind of value at the running back position. Looking at the top 10 fantasy runners from 2014, the top seven were all selected in the first three rounds based on their average draft positions. The other three (Justin Forsett, Lamar Miller, Jeremy Hill) weren't projected to start for their respective teams when most fantasy drafts occurred.

Owners should also keep in mind that most leagues require just one starting quarterback. On the flip side, you could end up starting as many as three running backs and/or three wide receivers each week. So let's do the math. In a given week, a maximum of 10 field generals will be in active fantasy lineups. At the same time, you could see as many as 40 fantasy backs and wideouts active.

Next, let's discuss what can happen when you use one of your first four to five picks on a quarterback.

In my experience, it's almost a virtual guarantee that I will be forced to start a running back and/or wide receiver that I have less confidence in on a regular basis. How would you feel rolling out Chris Ivory as your No. 2 or 3 runner each week? Sure, he might have a handful of good stat lines during the course of the season. But I would argue that even against a favorable opponent, I have far more faith in a second- or third-tier quarterback than a runner of Ivory's caliber. If I wait on a quarterback, I won't have that problem because Ivory is going to be no better than the fourth-best runner I roster.

The bottom line is simple. Putting your focus on running backs and wide receivers in the first five rounds is a smart decision. Owners who want to wait even longer to fill the quarterback position (Round 8 and beyond) could go with a two-quarterback, matchup-based philosophy that includes drafting the likes of Tony Romo, Matt Ryan or Ben Roethlisberger. Whichever player has the more favorable opponent is the one to start in a given week. Regardless, you'll be in a great position to land at least two running backs and two wide receivers who can post elite numbers.

So when it comes time to draft your fantasy team, ignore the temptation of taking a quarterback. Use common sense, instead. Your chances of winning a league championship depend on it.


Michael Fabiano is an award-winning fantasy football analyst on NFL.com and NFL Network and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA) Hall of Fame. Have a burning question on anything fantasy related? Tweet it to @Michael_Fabiano or send a question via Facebook!

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