2021 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 Josh Allen (QB1) in the 8th round, Ryan Tannehill (QB7) in the 14th, and Justin Herbert (QB9) off the waiver wire and received high-end quarterback production for a fraction of the cost of our opponents.

Similarly, a lot of the same principles apply to the tight end position. T.J. Hockenson (TE4) was available for taking in the 13th and Robert Tonyan (TE3) went undrafted. Both provided steady production for fantasy owners.

In typical fantasy leagues, you have to start two to three running backs and wide receivers every week, so you need to draft four or more of each of these positions in case of injuries, bye weeks, 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 three 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 another article, I wrote about the importance of selecting RBs early and often, and how it improves your playoff chances. 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 Josh Allen 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 quality replacement at a much lower cost. 

Replaceability of the position

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

 QBRB
1-622.418.6
7-1219.013.5
13-1816.211.6
19-2413.610.2

The drop from a high end starting QB to low end starting QB is only 3.4 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 2.8 PPG. RB on the other hand drops 5.1 PPG and another 1.9 PPG respectively.

If you were to draft a high-end QB1 and a low-end RB1 you would expect roughly 36.0 PPG from them. Whereas if you were to draft a high-end RB1 and a high-end QB2 you would expect around 34.8 PPG.

The production is very similar, but the cost isn’t. The first scenario would cost you a late first-round pick and a fourth-round pick. The second scenario would cost you an early first-round pick and a tenth-round pick.

The point being, it is usually a waste to spend an early pick on QB when you can get very comparable production for free at the end of 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.

Over the last three years, of the top 12 QBs to be drafted, only 67 percent finished as QB1s. The elite quarterbacks are no exception to this, of the top six QBs in ADP over the past three years, only 39% finished top six in scoring. This debunks the common misconception that you are taking a safe approach by grabbing a quarterback early.

The number of guaranteed touches a quarterback sees every week makes predicting their yardage totals a somewhat straightforward process. But due to the extreme volatility in touchdowns each year, successfully picking an elite quarterback is a lot more of a gamble than it seems.



This is why you are better off taking a late-round QB. They still have very safe floors due to their yardage, and they could even end up being a stud if the touchdowns bounce their way that year. And even if he isn’t a stud, you still got a reliable player for your fantasy team for very cheap.

Flexibility and Matchups

Being tied to one option because you picked him early and sacrificed other valuable early picks means having to start him every week. Even if he starts the season off slow you are likely to just continue to roll him out there each week in the hopes that it will get better since you invested so heavily.

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. Having this kind of flexibility gives you the opportunity to take chances on multiple quarterbacks who look like they are about to break out, without being tied down if it doesn’t work out.

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 Travis Kelce or George Kittle early in drafts. They are true difference makers and they are leaps and bounds ahead of their competition at tight end in 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 generally not worth the price of admission.

Overvalued Mid-Round Tight Ends

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Missing out on the elite tight ends can feel bad 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.

Player2020 ADP2020 TE ADP2020 FinishDifference
Zach Ertz5.04432-28
Darren Waller6.0452+3
Evan Engram6.12616-10
Rob Gronkowski7.0278-1
Hayden Hurst7.189-1
Hunter Henry8.12913-4
Tyler Higbee8.121018-8
Noah Fant10.071112-1
Jared Cook10.11217-5
Austin Hooper11.091321-8

Only one out of the ten tight ends drafted between rounds five and eleven last year finished better than their TE ADP.

This wasn’t a flukey year either. Over the past three years there have been 28 tight ends drafted in that range, three finished better than their TE ADP, two finished equal to it, and 23 finished worse.

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.

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 without the high price tag.

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 Evan Engram 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 it isn’t always clear which tight end to start against teams that struggle to defend the position. Whereas there almost always is a clear starting quarterback.


However, if you can identify those high-scoring matchups to take advantage of, you can find tight ends that deliver touchdown upside every single week.


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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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