2020 Fantasy Football Draft Kit

Late Round Quarterback and Tight End Strategy

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Like many fantasy experts, I have long been a proponent of the late round quarterback and tight end strategy. It paid off handsomely for me and many others last year as we scooped Lamar Jackson in the back half of drafts and rode his monster season to a championship.

Similarly, a lot of the same principles apply to the tight end position. Mark Andrews was available for taking in the 12th and Darren Waller in the 13th. Both provided steady production for fantasy owners.

In typical fantasy leagues, you have to start two to three running backs and the same number of wide receivers every week, so you need to draft four or more of each of these positions in case of injury or busts.

However, with the quarterback position, you only start one player. Meaning there are only 12 starting QBs in a standard fantasy football league, but there are 32 starting NFL QBs any given week. Each fantasy team could fill its starting spot almost 3 times over. The same applies to the tight end position. The surplus at these positions makes waiting until very late in the draft a viable strategy.

In a previous article, I wrote about the importance of selecting RBs early and often, and how it improves your playoff hopes. Doing so often goes hand in hand with punting either tight end, quarterback, or both.

Ignoring these positions early in the draft allows you to stock up on valuable running backs and wide receivers

Late Round Quarterback and Tight End Strategy

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Punting Quarterback

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While Lamar Jackson is a shining example of why late QB strategy can work, it is important to note that the number one QB won’t always come from the back end of the draft.

The goal of late-round QB streaming is not to find the QB1 overall (although that would be a nice bonus); it is to find a good replacement at a fraction of the cost. 

Replaceability of the position

There is a reason why Superflex leagues exist. There is a surplus of fantasy production at the QB position in the typical one QB format. In the below chart you can see the average fantasy points per game at QB and RB over the past three years.

 QBRB
Top 620.718.7
7-1217.613.5
13-1816.311.5

The drop from a high end starting QB to low end starting QB is only 3.1 PPG. The drop to a backup QB, the type of QB you can get on the waiver wire after the draft, is only just another 2.3 PPG.

RB on the other hand drops 5.2 PPG and another 2 PPG respectively, and RBs 12-18 will still be starters as a typical league starts between 24-36 RBs when including the flex spot.

It is usually a waste to spend an early pick on QB when you can get very comparable production for free after your draft.

Predictability

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QB production tends to be predictable on a week to week basis since they touch the ball every snap. This gives them an extremely high number of guaranteed touches, resulting in a very safe floor.

So you can grab a QB who is locked into the starting role and guaranteed touches in the late rounds, or you can take a dart throw at a different position on players who might not even see the field and are therefore far more likely to bust.

In contrast, QB production is not very predictable on a season to season basis. QB scoring is largely predicated on their touchdown totals, which is not reliable and can change a lot each year. Yes, there are some surefire studs, but even they have down years.

For example, take a look at Matt Ryan’s stats from the past five years.

SeasonGames PlayedYardsTDsFPPG
20151645912114.6
20161649443821.7
20171640952014.3
20181649243522.1
20191544662617.8



Despite having a fairly similar number of yards each year, his touchdown numbers vary drastically, and subsequently, his fantasy performances do too. It doesn’t make sense to spend a high draft capital pick on a QB when their TD total can plummet so easily.

QBs throughout the draft have safe floors but unpredictable ceilings, so a late-round QB could end up being a stud, but even if he doesn’t, he will still be a low cost, reliable player for your fantasy team.

Flexibility and Matchups

Being tied to one option because you picked him early and sacrificed other valuable early picks means having to play him regardless of the matchup. You didn’t want to drop Baker Mayfield despite his ugly start last year since you paid up to get him.

Whereas if your late-round QB sucks you can easily drop him and pick up another. And another. And another after that if you have to, giving you many chances at a top QB option and costing you nothing.

On top of that, by streaming QBs, I can constantly have my fantasy QB matchup against the worst defenses in the league all season. Even mediocre QBs can put up elite numbers if the matchup is right.

Punting Tight End

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Streaming tight ends is not quite as popular as streaming quarterbacks likely due to a shortage of tight end talent, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a worthy strategy.

Superstars

I want to preface this discussion of streaming tight ends by saying I am not opposed to taking Kelce or Kittle early in drafts. This is because I believe them to be so much better than their competition at tight end in terms of risk, reliability, and overall production.

In addition, they are being drafted around wide receivers who put up very similar statistics. But an elite wide receiver is far easier to replace than an elite tight end, so I encourage you to take one of the elite two tight ends if the opportunity presents itself

However, if I miss out on those superstars, I am likely waiting on tight end until very late in the draft. The mid-round tight ends are not something I want to be involved with.

Overvalued Mid-Round Tight Ends

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It feels bad missing out on the big two tight ends but don’t let your emotions get the better of you. Spending up on a mid-tier guy likely isn’t the solution. This chart shows the tight ends drafted in the middle rounds last year and where they ended up finishing.

Player2019 ADP2019 TE ADP2019 TE Finish
O.J. Howard5.06429
Evan Engram5.09518
Hunter Henry6.0369
Jared Cook6.1177
Vance McDonald7.03832
David Njoku7.11983

Once the studs are gone, fantasy owners get worried about filling the tight end slot due to the lack of consistent production at the position. They end up overvaluing and overdrafting mid-tier guys with huge red flags.

It’s not a pretty sight. These players all had concerns surrounding them at the time of drafting. O.J. Howard had a new coach who had never utilized the tight end in the past, while Evan Engram and Hunter Henry had health concerns. Vance McDonald and David Njoku had never scored more than four TDs in a season. These concerns were largely overlooked because of their high upside.

Instead, owners should be targeting late-round breakout options that most people are sleeping on. Many of these players have as much upside as the middle round tight ends at a fraction of the cost. Guys like Mike Gesicki, T.J. Hockenson, and Blake Jarwin have all but been left for dead in fantasy drafts due to the long development time of tight ends.

Flexibility and Matchups

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The benefits of streaming tight end and quarterback do overlap in terms of flexibility and matchups.

Similar to QB you are not tied to one option. Getting stuck with a bad option you paid up for is a tricky situation. People who drafted Howard likely got stuck with him for far too long. This may have cost them matchups as well as opportunities to pick up suitable replacements off the waiver wire.



Playing the matchups for tight end compared to quarterback is also very similar. The main difference is that there isn’t always a clear tight end to start against teams that struggle to defend the tight end, whereas there almost always is a clear starting quarterback.

However, teams that struggle against the tight end tend to be consistently bad at doing so all year long. For example, you could reliably start whichever tight end was playing against Arizona last year almost every week.

About Nick Spencer

Nick Spencer is a Canadian business school student with a passion for all things football. He specializes in NFL fantasy re-draft and dynasty league formats. He loves offering draft and trade advice to anyone who will listen, so tweet @NickBSpencer with any fantasy questions.

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  1. Pingback: 2020 Fantasy Football Week 1 Quarterback Streaming - Fantasy Six Pack

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