Posted on: June 4, 2010 2:08 am
Edited on: June 4, 2010 2:33 am

Rethinking Round 1 QBs

Prevailing wisdom is, if you've got a top 3 pick, you take an elite running back in the first round.  That thinking is slowly evolving (notice how high up Brees and Rodgers are on the draft boards).

Here's the question:  at what point do we start to pick top-tier QBs before top-tier RBs?  How soon until tossers like Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees are drafted before studs like Chris Johnson and Adrian Peterson.

The answer:  NOW.

On March 4th 2010, Dave Richard of CBS Sports.com published an awesome interactive article LOADED with data:  "Which NFL Positions are Most Valuable?"

The data in that article was clear:  top tier QBs produced more fantasy points week over week.

I exported that data and did some light analysis.  For 17 weeks in 2009, here's the average production of QBs and RBs.

  Tier         Average Weekly Fantasy Points
QB           1              20.5
QB           2              15.4
QB           3              12.4

RB           1              14.3
RB           2              11.4
RB           3              9.2

Noice anything?  

1.  Top tier QBs outproduced top-tier RBs. 
2.  Even production by tier 2 QBs was slightly higher than tier 1 RBs. 

OK, there's no way that's the end of the story.  Looking at a single position doesn't tell you much about what you should do in a draft.

Here's the Skinny:

First, ask yourself:  "what's the optimal combination of picks?"  "Which positions should I pick in each round in order to maximize the fantasy points I get week after week?" 

Bottom line, is picking a QB in round 1 (and RBs in rounds 2 and 3) really the best combination of picks?

Based on the data.  Yes....but just barely.  Taking an elite QB in the first round will increase your overall fantasy production by approximately 5%.  Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Philip Rivers, Tony Romo, Marc Bulger (just kidding - wanted to see if you were still paying attention)...these guys could make or break your team.

Now, I don't just make stuff up.  Here's what I did:

I ran a simple analysis of possible draft scenarios through the first 3 rounds, using the QB and RB data from CBS.  Bottom line, taking an elite QB first results in a 5.4% improvement in fantasy production.  On average, that equates to 2.2 extra fantasy points per week.  How many games have you won or lost by 2 points or less?

Scenario 1:
  Draft Tier 1 QB first          Average Weekly Fantasy Points                          
Round 1   QB 1                                                            20.5    
Round 2   RB 2                                                            11.4    
Round 3   RB 3                                                            9.2      
TOTAL                                                                       41.1

Scenario 2:
  Draft Tier 1 RB first          Average Weekly Fantasy Points
Round 1   RB 1                                                            14.3    
Round 2   QB 2                                                            15.4    
Round 3   RB 3                                                             9.2      
TOTAL                                                                        38.9

Scenario 3
:  Draft Tier 3 QB                Average Weekly Fantasy Points
Round 1   RB 1                                                            14.3
Round 2   RB 2                                                            11.4
Round 3   QB 3                                                            12.4
TOTAL                                                                        38.1

I'll let the data speak for itself.

Final Note:
  When planning your draft strategy, for all positions, take the time to think about each player and break them into 3 tiers.  Feel free to move them around between tiers if you think a player is overrated or underrated.  This type of simple categorization will do wonders for your draft.  When the draft doesn't go the way you expected, this will be a lifesaver.  In a future post, I'll show you a past example of a "tiering" analysis I did.    

Special thanks to CBS and Dave Richards for their kick-*ss data visualization on the tableau platform.  This is one of the reasons I'm staying with CBS for FFBL! 

Looking for FFBL advice?  Are you trapped in "analysis paralysis" and need a fresh perspective?  Send me a message - ask for the skinny and I'll get right back to you! 

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com