Pushing the Late-Round Quarterback Strategy to its Limits

St. Louis Rams quarterback Sam Bradford
St. Louis Rams quarterback Sam Bradford
Dec 30 2012 Seattle WA USA St Louis Rams quarterback Sam Bradford 8 passes against the Seattle Seahawks during the second quarter at CenturyLink Field Joe Nicholson USA TODAY Sports

There is a season for experimenting in fantasy football, and this is it, as we await training camps and preseason games that will solidify the overvalued, the undervalued, and everyone in between.

Toying with approaches – even those that might make you squirm in your seat – is the sign of a fantasy football owner with a pulse. Try wide receivers early in drafts, try Jimmy Graham in the second round, try a string of running backs in the early rounds.

Just don’t try an early-round quarterback approach. It’s demonstrably inefficient and unarguably the best way to drain the upside from your fantasy football squad.

Read more about the best late-round quarterback options in 2013…
Late Round Quarterbacks with the Lowest Fantasy Football Ceilings

JJ Zachariason, the man who has spilled 10 million words on how to dismember your fantasy football rivals with the late-round quarterback (LRQB) strategy, often points to the opportunity cost of snagging a signal caller in the first couple rounds.

You’re giving up your chance to secure an elite wide receiver or running back by burning an early round selection of Aaron Rodgers or Drew Brees. The sacrifice is too great. The tradeoff – in fake football, not real – is laughable. Using an early pick on a top quarterback can be argued as an intentional undermining of your fantasy squad.

It should be noted that no one should turn up their nose at a top-10 quarterback who has — for whatever reason — dropped well below his average draft position. If Matt Ryan inexplicably falls to the seventh or eighth round, for instance, draft him. If Russell Wilson plummets to the ninth or tenth round, scoop him up.

Never be hard headed about anything in a draft. Be flexible. If an opportunity presents itself, pounce.

Waiting on quarterback, however, can mean different things to different fantasy owners. I experimented with what might be coined an Extreme Late Round Quarterback strategy in a recent mock draft, as owners’ selections were ticking along according to ADP and no mid-round signal callers dropped to draft spots that would afford me some equity.

I didn’t draft a quarterback until the 15th round of this 12-team, 19-round draft that required owners to fill not one, but two flex positions. Here’s what happened.

QB – Sam Bradford, STL
RB – Matt Forte, CHI
RB – Steven Jackson, ATL
WR – Jordy Nelson, GB
WR – Mike Williams, TB
WR – Josh Gordon, CLE
TE – Jermichael Finley, GB
FLEX – Reggie Bush, DET
FLEX – Chris Ivory, NYJ

QB – Matt Schaub, HOU
RB – Shane Vereen, NE
WR – Emmanuel Sanders, PIT
WR – Brian Hartline, MIA
WR – Greg Little, CLE
WR – Reuben Randle, NYG
WR – Alshon Jeffery, CHI
TE – Rob Housler, ARZ

Two things struck me most about the composition of this mock squad: The almost comical depth of running back and wide receiver. I don’t have one of the elite pass catchers, but I do have 2011’s No. 2 overall receiver (Nelson), a big-bodied red zone threat who led his team in targets over the second half of 2012 (Williams) and a potentially dominant guy whose two-game suspension has made him a draft day value (Gordon).

Sanders — a guy whose team expects 1,000 yards from him in 2013 — along with Hartline, a prime touchdown regression candidate who will likely see 100 targets, and Little, the Browns’ defacto Week 1 No. 1 receiver, provide more than a little cushion should any of my three starting receivers miss time.

Don’t forget the big and ever-efficient Randle. Giants offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride said this month that Randle, who shined in offseason practices with Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz absent, will play plenty of snaps this season.

Running back depth is where this team really shines, I think. I’ll get more than 1,000 touches from the four running backs I took in the first five rounds, with Vereen on the bench, ready to take on his new, expanded role in the Patriots’ offense.

With five runners who will be useable on an every-week basis, this team isn’t immune from the effects of a major injury, but it’s close. The running back depth makes this team viable in the case of a disastrous turn of events.

I took Bradford in the 15th round and Schaub in the 17th (read Zachariason’s breakdown for more on Schaub’s surprising pass volume and his viability as a streaming quarterback). No matter what you think of either passer, here’s the undeniable plus of spending almost nothing on quarterback and refusing to commit to one guy as an every-week starter: the entire waiver wire is your bench.

There were a half dozen useable streaming quarterback options who went undrafted in this mock. They’re mine if I want them, and in the meantime, I have wide receiver and running back depth that’ll give me an edge — week in and week out — against my opponents.

In short, I love this lineup.

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C.D. Carter Fantasy Football Analyst
C.D. Carter is a reporter, author of zombie stories, writer for The Fake Football and XN Sports. Fantasy Sports Writers Association member. His work  has been featured in the New York Times.