Fantasy QB Strategy

Title: Fantasy QB Strategy
Date: September 7, 2011
Original Source: The On Deck Circle
Synopsis: For those fantasy owners lacking confidence in their QB situations, this piece outlined bye-week fill in options, potential caddie QBs, and a few ideal QB-platoon situations out there for owners to exploit.

There are dozens of different draft strategies a fantasy player could choose to employ on draft day. This is obvious – the old fashioned Triple-RB strategy, the QB-TE “elite options” strategy, a PPR-focused WR-RB-WR strategy, and many, many more. I’ve touched on some end-game WR and RB strategies in the past week, but today I wanted to look at the roster strategy that varies in the most significant way – Quarterbacks.

Unlike in real football, a QB isn’t necessarily the lynchpin of a great team or dynasty. While some would prefer one of the elite options and a set-it-and-forget-it approach at the position, others choose to stack up on the skill positions early and wait for a later wave of signal-callers. Either strategy has its merits, as long as the strategy is thorough and well thought out. In the past few articles I’ve spoke to using bench spots on high-upside players, this doesn’t hold across the board for your QB2, where your selection will be dependant almost entirely on your QB1.

I should also note that this article does not at all apply to my 14-team 2-QB league, where I’m stuck with two starters with the same bye week (Romo and McCoy), and will basically be punting Week 5. Seriously, don’t concern yourself too much with bye weeks in general, but make sure you have a look for QB2.
 More after the jump!
Note: All Strength of Schedule info per FF Toolbox.

Group 1 – Bye Week Fill-Ins
If you were lucky enough to draft a QB in this class, you really only need to worry about plugging in your back-up during your QB1’s bye week. This means you probably sacrificed at WR or RB, but it may be worth it to save you the hassle later in the year.

Philip Rivers – The most reliable fantasy QB in my books, Rivers has a bye in Week 6. The friendliest match-ups this week belong to QBs who will be widely owned, but there’s value in stashing Colt McCoy for a match-up with the Raiders. I’m high on McCoy as a QB2, and he seems to be underowned, so may be available.

Tom Brady – Tom Terrific has a Week 7 bye, and potential fill-ins should be available. Matt Hasselbeck faces the Texans, Colt McCoy draws the Seahawks, Chad Henne gets the Broncos, and Cam Newton duels the Redskins. I’d go McCoy, but maybe by this point Newton will have shown enough to make the gamble worthwhile for a week.

Aaron Rodgers – A Week 8 bye should give Rodgers et. al a clean bill of health for the second half. As a fill-in, Luke McCown (!!) draws the Texans, Andy Dalton sees the Seahawks, and Ryan Fitzpatrick gets the Redskins. By then you should know which of these options is less likely to produce a 0 for your squad, but right now it sure looks like Fitzpatrick.

Drew Brees – Sanchize gets the Broncos on a Thursday, McNabb draws the Raiders, McCoy lucks out with the Jaguars, and The Rex Cannon duels the Cowboys. Otherwise, your rolling with Brees.

Group 2 – Injury Concerns
No explanation needed, really – these are elite-talent QBs with looming injury concerns that may require in-season help at the position.

Mike Vick – The concern with Vick is that his run-heavy style gets him hit more often than other QBs. You can manage the odd bump or bruise or missed week in-season with a waiver fill-in. Unfortunately, Vick will be one of your top producers, so losing him for the fantasy playoffs could be the end of your season. The teams with the best match-ups for the fantasy playoffs are NYG, NE, Mia, Ind, and TB. It’s unlikely you’ll grab Peyton Manning or Tom Brady to go with Vick, so a mid-round pick of Josh Freeman, or a late flier on Eli Manning would be helpful. If you’re really gutsy, you could wait it out and grab Chad Henner or whoever replaces him later in the season, and use the roster spot for something else until Vick goes down (if, I suppose).

Peyton Manning – We don’t know how much time he’ll miss, but it sure sounds like he’s going to miss some games. I’d recommend using a roster spot on a QB until Peyton proves healthy, and then cutting bait. The teams with the friendliest early season schedule for QBs are Oak, Dal, Pit, NYJ, and StL, making Mark Sanchez an ideal target as an early Peyton-caddy. You won’t be able to grab Romo, Bradford, or Big Ben in all likelihood, and Jason Campbell is a scary thought as a fantasy starter.

Group 3 – Caddy Suggested
This group of near-elite QBs could be reliably considered QB1s, especially in deeper leagues. I’m comfortable with Ben as my starter in multiple leagues, but it doesn’t mean I’m not more comfortable with a quality back-up.

Ben Roethlisberger – Ben comes with some injury risk and some potentially tough match-ups, but I have nearly complete faith in him as a QB1. In his Week 11 bye, Sanchez, McNabb, Grossman, and McCoy have favorable match-ups. In fact, for this group as a whole I’d try to target Colt McCoy as a potential back-up as the Browns have a favorable schedule and I’m high on his potential. I reached for Bradford as a back-up in one league, but regret jumping so early given my faith in Big Ben. After Week 1, the Steelers don’t face another tough pass defense until their Ravens rematch in Week 9, and then face mid-level defenses in the fantasy playoffs.

Tony Romo – I’m not as high on Romo as most, it seems, but he definitely has the tools and the track record to be a top QB. Some rate him among the elite class, but I have him here in the slightly-sub-elite. Jason Campbell and Eli Manning have nice match-ups during Romo’s Week 5 bye, and you may also want to grab someone with an easier schedule in the fantasy playoffs, as Romo goes Giants-Bucs-Eagles Weeks 14-16.

Matt Schaub – The same fill-ins apply here that applied for Ben and Brees, and Schaub may be just as reliable as either. His injury history is exaggerated, and other than a tough stretch from Weeks 3-6 where he’ll face New Orleans, Pittsburgh, and Baltimore, the schedule is relatively friendly.

Matt Ryan – Like Ben, I’d be comfortable playing him every week, but would want a decent back-up just to be safe…except for the schedule. During his Week 8 bye, McCown, Fitzy, Dalton, and Eli all have strong match-ups. Be patient with Ryan, as the Falcons have a tough fantasy schedule to start the year (Phi, TB, GB, and Car all in the first six weeks), but be ready to have a caddy on hand for a tough fantasy playoffs, as he’ll bookend a tasty Jacksonville match-up with Carolina and New Orleans in Weeks 14 and 16.

Group 4 – Platoon QBs
If your QB1 doesn’t even make this list, you may be in trouble, or you may need to more aggressively pursue the platoon strategy, employing more waiver-calibre QBs with strong match-ups. These QBs are all high-upside but have concerns and varying schedule difficulties. Luckily, that makes some of them good complements for each other, and owning two isn’t redundant or foolish, it’s prudent.

Josh Freeman – He and Cutler don’t match up well for byes, and it’s for the best as they have similar split-season difficulty profiles. Freeman showed a lot of potential last year but may take a step back, especially in the turnover department, so have someone else on hand. This is especially true for the early part of the year, as Tampa opens with a tough schedule that is the second most difficult Weeks 6-10. Joe Flacco would make a great platoon-mate for this reason, as that’s his only easy stretch of the year.

Matt Stafford – Stafford has plenty of weapons, a pass-heavy system, and tons of upside…but he also has durability concerns and a hellish fantasy schedule. You’ll want to play the week-by-week match-ups with Stafford until he proves himself an every-week starter, but be ready to roll with him Weeks 6-10 (mid-level schedule). Due to the difficulty of his schedule, Cutler, Eli, and Freeman would all be acceptable complements.

Sam Bradford – Bradford never gets a break really, with an easy Week 11-13 stretch and a decent starting schedule being his only smooth sailing. For that reason he may profile as a back-up, but he has enormous upside. Eli, Freeman, and Cutler all have easier fantasy playoff schedules and don’t share a bye.

Joe Flacco – An ideal platoon-mate with Freeman, Flacco’s only easy stretch comes Weeks 6-10. You can’t platoon him with Bradford due to the byes, and that’s good because they both have difficult fantasy playoff schedules. Flacco should post good numbers, but you’re not going to want to rely on him in the championship rounds.

Eli Manning – Yes, I’m an Eli hater, but he’s turnover prone and lost some weapons this year. I’d classify him as a back-up, but if you draft him as a QB1 make sure you have a QB1-B, preferably someone from this group. With a Week 7 bye, you’re free to jump on any of these players as a platoon-mate, but be ready to start Eli in the fantasy playoffs, as the Giants rank as the easiest QB schedule for fantasy purposes Weeks 14-16.

Jay Cutler – See the note on Freeman, but Cutler’s schedule is top-11 in each season segment from Week 6 on. Eli would make a nice early-season caddy, and you’ll have trade bait down the stretch as both QBs face easy late-season schedules.

Group 5 – Luke McCown
Just kidding.

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