Fantasy Football: Updated Quarterback Equity Scores

Remember, as quarterbacks fly off your draft board in the opening rounds of your various fantasy football drafts, that signal caller fantasy production is replaceable.

That’s not to say that we can replicate Peyton Manning‘s numbers with a quarterback Frankenstein composed of late rounders and waiver wire fodder. It was just two years ago that I pieced together a hideous signal calling monster that combined to score QB5 numbers.

If you’re already a late-round quarterback disciple, this is old hat, but it bears repeating: there were 45 quarterbacks who posted at least one top-12 week in 2013, while 37 had two or more top-12 weeks. Twenty-three quarterbacks had at least four QB1 outings. Repeat this like an incantation when the temptation to draft a top-end quarterback strikes on draft day.

This requires a departure from the all-too-common mindset of the fantasy footballer gamer turned NFL general manager. GMs want elite quarterbacks — they need the elites — while fantasy owners don’t.

King LRQB, JJ Zachariason, put it simply in his manifesto on the Return of the Early-Round Quarterback approach.

Fantasy football is a numbers-driven game that deals with really basic market-like principles. To me, it was clear that you devalue the quarterback and tight end positions in the game – you’re only starting one of them each week, they get drafted later than running backs and wide receivers, and as a result, they’re easily attainable off the waiver wire when you need them.

Flexibility, as always, should be a foundational piece of how we approach quarterback drafting in 2014. Stubbornly deciding that you’re going to be the last one to draft a quarterback is as foolish as it is nonsensical. And therein lies the central misunderstanding about the LRQB approach, as Zachariason wrote.

The key to the late-round quarterback strategy is not to simply draft a quarterback late, but to be flexible and understand value. The reason the late-round quarterback strategy is a thing is because it’s based on what happens in nearly every single draft. When you have an outlier, things can change. But that’s the case with anything you do. Just remember that this isn’t a game a chicken – this is a game of value.

The below updated fantasy equity scores reflect how replaceable quarterback points have become in fantasy football. Even a cursory scan of the first 20 quarterbacks off the board will show the top-end potential (high scores) puts late rounders in the QB1 conversation.

There are an incredible 18 quarterbacks with median scores that would put them inside the top-12. There are 24 signal callers with high scores that put them in QB1 territory. It almost goes without saying that every one of these 30 quarterbacks will have streaming appeal at some point over the next five months.

I’ve assigned two equity scores to each player (according to Fantasy Football Calculator average draft positions): the median score, indicating a very conservative projection, and the high score, reflecting a guy’s best-case prospects. Any quarterback outside the top-10 with a high score around zero should be avoided, of course.

I used the RotoViz similarity score app as a baseline for every median and high projection, with tweaks where needed.

Player ADP Median equity score High equity score Target?
Peyton Manning QB1 -2 (QB3) 0 (QB1)
Drew Brees QB2 -2 (QB4) 1 (QB1)
Aaron Rodgers QB3 0 (QB3) 2 (QB1)
Matthew Stafford QB4 -4 (QB8) 0 (QB4)
Andrew Luck QB5 -1 (QB6) 3 (QB2)
Tom Brady QB6 -5 (QB11) 0 (QB6)
Matt Ryan QB7 -2 (QB9) 1 (QB6)
Nick Foles QB8 1 (QB7) 7 (QB1) Yes
Robert Griffin III QB9 -2 (QB11) 3 (QB6)
Cam Newton QB10 3 (QB7) 4 (QB6)


  • I’ve written extensively about Luck’s fantasy ceiling should the Colts embrace the up-tempo approach that they were forced into during the last month of the 2013 season. The question arises: Why haven’t I tagged him as a draft day target? Well, Luck is still going at the start of the fifth round, which is far too high a price to pay, in my estimation. I would consider Luck starting in the eighth round, but you won’t see that come to pass unless you’re in a truly degenerate draft.
  • I’m on record as saying Foles is the only quarterback outside the Big Three with the QB1 spot in his range of outcomes. Probably that’ll get more than a few jeers and snickers as Foles has had a bit of a struggle this preseason, as Philadelphia runs an intentionally vanilla offense without a full complement of weapons. Foles’ ADP has dropped from the beginning of the sixth round to the start of the seventh round, and I could see it bottoming out at the end of the seventh. I’m going to scoop up Foles every time if he falls into the ninth round of drafts. There’s blood on the streets of the Foles market. It’s time to buy.
  • RGIII‘s median score strikes fear into my degenerate heart. If he’s asked to be something close to a pocket passer in Jay Gruden’s offense — something he’s never done — his prospects are less than thrilling.
  • Newton is an admittedly tough nut to crack. Like Russell Wilson, Newton would be an every-week fantasy deity if he were on a team with a worse defense that required all of his services. But he’s not. He had as many top-12 fantasy performances as Alex Smith just a year ago, delivering heartbreak to those who drafted him in the third round of 2013 drafts. Newton is going near the end of the seventh round today — a full round before Cutler. I don’t understand the appeal at that cost, though I’d have a tough time passing over Newton in the 10th round, if he fell that far. Remember: Newton was still top-5 in fantasy points per drop back in 2013, just below Wilson.


Player ADP Median equity score High equity score Target?
Colin Kaepernick QB11 2 (QB9) 5 (QB6)
Jay Cutler QB12 0 (QB12) 5 (QB7)
Tony Romo QB13 4 (QB9) 9 (QB4) Yes
Philip Rivers QB14 5 (QB9) 6 (QB8)
Russell Wilson QB15 6 (QB9) 10 (QB5) Yes
Andy Dalton QB16 5 (QB11) 7 (QB9)
Ben Roethlisberger QB17 6 (QB11) 8 (QB9)
Johnny Manziel QB18 4 (QB14) 7 (QB11)  Yes
Eli Manning QB19 3 (QB16) 6 (QB13)
Carson Palmer QB20 5 (QB15) 12 (QB8) Yes


  • I’m your local Palmer propagandist, tabbing the elderly signal caller as one of my three late-round targets and showing that his Week 10-17 pace would make him something close to a plug-and-play fantasy starter (he averaged 37.1 attempts, 304.3 pass yards, and 1.6 touchdowns per game during that stretch). The addition of John Brown and Ted Ginn — along with Andre Ellington as a legit pass-catching threat — only makes me more bullish on Palmer in his second year as Bruce Arians’ quarterback. His median equity score leaves a lot to be desired, but in the 12th round of drafts, we’re seeking upside, not high floors.
  • Every equity score is based on production over the course of 16 games, even for Manziel, who is by no means guaranteed 16 starts. I think he’ll join the ranks of rushing quarterbacks with stupid high fantasy floors, even if his ceiling is squashed by Kyle Shanahan’s ultra-run heavy attack. JFF is going in the middle of the 12th round — a place I feel comfortable drafting him. I’d bow out of the Manziel market if (when) his ADP climbs into the 10th round.
  • Wilson has averaged .6 fantasy points per drop back over this first two seasons in the NFL — a number that has made him among the three most efficient signal callers of the past two seasons. Like an mobile quarterback, his per-drop back efficiency is going to be head and shoulders above pocket passing statues like Stafford, Brady, Brees, and Ryan.We saw just last week against the Chargers what Wilson can do when he’s let off the chain as head of Seattle’s offense. Wilson was asked to do very little in 2013 and finished as fantasy’s QB8. That amazes me.
Player ADP Median equity score High equity score Target?
Josh McCown QB21 4 (QB17) 7 (QB14)
Joe Flacco QB22 8 (QB14) 10 (QB12)
Ryan Tannehill QB23 9 (QB14) 13 (QB10) Yes
Alex Smith QB24 9 (QB15) 13 (QB11) Yes
Sam Bradford QB25 10 (QB15) 12 (QB13)
Blake Bortles QB26 8 (QB18) 12 (QB14)
Teddy Bridgewater QB27 6 (QB21) 9 (QB18)
Michael Vick QB28 12 (QB16) 16 (QB12)
Jake Locker QB29 12 (QB17) 18 (QB11) Yes
Geno Smith QB30 16 (QB14) 19 (QB11) Yes


  • McCown isn’t who you think he is. He was the benficiary of Marc Trestman’s fantasy godsend of an offensive scheme, along with Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery making things a whole lot easier in Cutler’s stead. Tampa’s new quarterback has averaged .33 fantasy points per drop back over his career. If he drops back a respectable 600 times in 2014, he’ll notch 195 fantasy points, which would’ve made him QB23 last year. I see no reason to take a flier on the journeyman.
  • I was a little surprised by Tannehill’s high equity score seeing that he’s mostly been really quite bad during his first two years as Miami’s franchise savior. Tannehill was just as efficient in 2013 on a per-attempt basis as Ryan Fitzpatrick, though that could change in new offensive coordinator Bill Lazor’s system predicated on shorter, high percentage throws. Tanehill was truly awful on deep balls last season — just ask your local Mike Wallace owner — as he completed a meager 32.8 percent of balls thrown more than 20 yards downfield, according to Pro Football Focus. I can’t pretend that high equity score doesn’t exist though, so I suppose I’ll take Tanny in the 14th round if Palmer, Geno, and Locker have been taken.
  • It’s time to come to terms with Smith as Gang Green’s starter. He posted top-end fantasy numbers during Jets’ wins in 2013 and has looked solid so far this preseason, for whatever that’s worth. He posted 10 fantasy points in one quarter of play against the Bengals last week, and that included a pick on a miscommunication with David Nelson. Geno once again showed a willingness to run against Cincy’s first and second-team defenses. I’m targeting him everywhere.


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