03 Apr The Fantasy Contrarian – 2018 QB Draft Class Part 2:
By: Michael Roban – @FFContrarian
Michael will be joining the Dynasty Football 101 Podcast this Friday night at 9pm ET. You can listen to it live or on demand right here.
….Continued from part 1 of the article….
If you like 2nd rounders to find value, only 39% of QBs drafted in the 2nd round between 1990 and 2017 became long term NFL starters. And that includes guys like Brock Osweiler and Jake Plummer (which are both highly debatable as long term dynasty assets). The stars here are Bret Favre, Kordell Stewart, Drew Brees, Colin Kapernick, Derek Carr and Jimmy Garoppolo (who we will give the benefit of the doubt right now). Not bad I suppose but you have a less than 40% success rate of finding a quality long term dynasty asset. Much less if we take away Osweiler and Jake Plummer and last I checked Kapernick isn’t currently on an NFL roster. Interestingly though, the 2nd round QBs that have succeeded all had issues that concerned NFL talent evaluators – Favre had accuracy issues, Kordell Stewart was a “slash” type player, Drew Brees was thought to be too short, Kapernick and Carr played in non-pro style spread offenses in the Mountain West Conf. and Jimmy Garoppolo despite a prolific college career at Northern Illinois was considered to have “small hands” and a bit undersized with a less than overwhelming arm. Carr is really a head scratcher though – he seemingly had all the tools but perhaps there was bias against him because of his brother David Carr. Certainly the Texans did not want another Carr (they passed on him 2x!). The 2nd round guys that have hit all had flaws they were able to overcome in the NFL that spooked the talent evaluators. The talent evaluators weren’t wrong per se. It is just that these guys succeeded by overcoming these flaws.
How about the “sleepers”? Any QB drafted from the 5th round on basically is a dynasty waste of roster space. Of 140 QBs drafted in the 5th round or later, only 14 became useful NFL players. And yes, Tom Brady is in this group. Other “stars” that emerged from the later rounds include Brad Johnson, Jeff Blake, Trent Green, Elvis Grback, Gus Frerotte, Matt Hasselbeck and Tyrod Taylor. Ive included Bret Hundley and Trevor Simien in this group too since they are likely held on Dynasty rosters – particularly SuperFlex and 2QB leagues. That’s a 10% (or less hit rate). Still clinging to Nathan Peterman, Davis Webb, Brad Kaaya, Josh Dobbs and CJ Beathard? Good luck with that. What about 3-4th rounders? That’s about 14% and skewed badly by the 2012 draft which had Russell Wilson, Nick Foles and Soon To Be Very Wealthy Kirk Cousins. But none of these guys are going to go there so no reason to think about it other than when you consider grabbing a Kyle Lauletta or Mason Rudolph in the 4th round instead of one of these guys.
What about the middle to late first rounders? Interestingly these QBs only hit around 20% of the time (4-20) with only Aaron Rodgers, Teddy Bridgewater (whose long term success in the league remains to be seen), Joe Flacco and Chad Pennington as long term fantasy assets. Only Rodgers really has been a stud from this group. The mid to late first rounders are usually the domain of Tim Tebow, Paxton Lynch, Johnny Manziel (who slid because of character issues and his diminutive stature) and Brandon Weedon’s of the world. In 2004 Eli Manning went 1.01, Philip Rivers 1.04 and Big Ben 1.11 The other 1st rounder? JP Losman at 1.22. So what does this information tell us? QBs that are really really good get snatched up really really quickly in the NFL draft. Why is that? Well, because they are scarce. RBs and WRs are easier to find and more scheme oriented. Which explains why successful WRs and RBs are often found in the later rounds or even as UDFA’s.
Lets see how this information would have been useful in a real life example. A few years ago (in my second season ever playing Dynasty), I made a decision that in retrospect was not a very good one. In the 2016 NFL draft there were 3 QBs taken in the first round – Carsten Wentz, Jared Goff and Paxton Lynch. I allowed myself to buy into the hype on Lynch – much of it because he was drafted by legendary QB John Elway. Surely Elway knows a great QB when he sees one! In 2016 before the draft I wanted to move Matt Forte knowing he only had a good year or two (at best) left. He had just signed with the Jets and looked to be the Jets main back so I knew it might be my last hope to extract some value. This is a SuperFlex league and I had Matt Ryan and Jameis Winston entrenched as every week starters. A newly retired Peyton Manning was on the roster and I managed to pull off trading the 1.02 and Brock Osweiler for the 1.01 (Ezekial Elliott). So far so good. I managed to trade Forte for the 1.10 that year which I thought was great value. Goff and Wentz were gone before the 1.10 but Paxton Lynch was sitting there. I could have taken Derrick Henry although there were many concerns about Henry’s viability as an NFL RB. The naysayers were down on him. I had bought into the Paxton Lynch hype and convinced myself I needed to take a QB at the 1.10. But it turns out that for all my sound strategic planning, my failure to properly understand the statistical improbability that a late first round QB will pan out as a dynasty asset cost me the ability to obtain a quality player at 1.10. The truth is, the odds of QB success in the NFL for QBs drafted outside the first 15 picks is not much different from QBs drafted in later rounds. I could have taken Derrick Henry there and had a solid dynasty asset (particularly as a replacement for Forte) who clearly was the best player available at 1.10 and taken a shot at a QB in the 2nd or 3rd round (indeed, Dak Prescott – a 4th round pick – wasn’t drafted until the 3rd round of this rookie draft). Sure I might have ended up with a bust like Connor Cook in the later rounds instead, but the point is that the opportunity cost of taking Lynch at 1.10 was Derrick Henry. Picking the bust QB in the third round would have only cost me Braxton Miller.
I suppose we cannot quite put an epitaph on Paxton Lynch’s NFL career. Maybe it all works out for him. Frankly, I doubt it. Most of the QBs that have succeeded in the NFL have flashed in the first few seasons. But after doing this analysis I am far less surprised by the notion he might be a bust than I had been. I felt that I was unlucky – that I made a “good decision” and got a bad result. But on further analysis I made a poor decision – using a first round rookie draft pick on a player that statistically had a 20% chance of hitting was a poor choice.
What else can we learn here? The numbers also indicate something very interesting – since 2000 the late round QBs that have made it in the league as long term starters have been very few and far between. These guys in the NFL who evaluate talent are – by and large – good at their jobs. If a QB has NFL talent – particularly starter caliber talent – they get snatched in the first 15 picks. You can point to the 2014 draft (with Blake Bortles picked at 1.03 and Carr and Garoppolo in the 2nd round) as evidence to the contrary but this draft when compared to the others is an anomaly. The numbers tell us that QBs drafted after 1.15 are flawed and come with risks. Buyer beware. Sure there are outliers – Tom Brady didn’t get a great deal of starts in college and his athletic skills weren’t eye popping. Russell Wilson is short and also was considering a baseball career. We can always consider intangibles to determine if a player is an outlier. But statistically speaking the odds are not good if they are not drafted in the first 15 picks.
Sure I love the upside and intangible qualities of Baker Mayfield and Josh Rosen certainly looks the part of a classic pocket passer. Lamar Jackson is a tantalizing athletic talent with massive fantasy upside. Sam Darnold has “small hands”, funky mechanics and is turnover prone. But if any of these guys fall to the late first or early 2nd round I am likely going to pass altogether unless they fall late in the 3rd round of my rookie draft. The 3rd round is where the dart throws are. Even in SuperFlex leagues this is important to watch. Sure it is fun to be the owner who gets to brag about snagging a Tom Brady or even a Dak Prescott. I am sure there are many stories of dynasty players drafting Tom Brady with the last pick in the 6th round of its rookie draft. But most likely you are going to get Jeff Smoker.
And here is where the Josh Allen watch becomes fascinating. Josh Allen might present an outstanding contrarian opportunity particularly if he goes at 1.01 or even in the top 15 picks. It is quite possible that all of them go in the top 15 in which case we will certainly need a second level of analysis. That is where we consider the tape, the landing spot, and other factors. But if he goes 1.01 (which is where EPSN’s Mel Kiper is predicting he goes) we would have a very powerful tool to use to make a decision that Josh Allen, not Baker Mayfield, should be the first QB taken in any fantasy draft. There are always outliers and there are Jamarcus Russell’s. But consider this – in the 2007 draft the 2nd QB taken was Brady Quinn at 1.22 followed by Kevin Kolb in the 2nd round and John Beck and Drew Stanton in the 3rd. Not exactly a Hall of Fame bunch. Russell must have stood out as the only exciting prospect of the bunch thus making it easier for teams to ignore any warning signs. Since 1990, in drafts with 3 or more QBs drafted in the first round, the first QB selected has only been a bust one time. And that was in 1999 when Tim Couch was selected before Donovan McNabb by…the Cleveland Browns. This year, we might see as many as 5 taken in the first round this and ominously, like in 1999, the Browns are on the clock. Perhaps the Browns are just terrible at drafting QBs? Well since 1985 they took Bernie Kosar (supplemental pick that cost them a first rounder), Tim Couch (bust), Brady Quinn, Brandon Weeden and Johnny Manziel. Couch was the only 1.01 QB they have ever drafted in their history. And if not for the injuries he might have had a decent NFL career. Weeden and Manziel and Quinn were all drafted outside of 1.15 so statistically speaking it would be flawed logic to say the “Browns are terrible at drafting QBs” and to discount Allen accordingly. But remember, Couch led the Browns to the playoffs in 1999 and his career was cut short by injuries. Bruce Arians has defended Couch and called him “one helluva player” whose career was cut short by injuries to his throwing arm.
Being a contrarian doesn’t mean being different just to be different. It means using an objective set of data that can be at odds with public opinion. The important thing is to use your own analysis and your own tools to make the best decisions and try to ignore the “wisdom” of your Uncle Phil. Nobody said it was easy though. If Josh Allen goes 1.01 it is going to be tough to talk me out of making him my priority QB on the board. In one SuperFlex league I hold the 1.01, the 1.05 and the 2.01. Being a contrarian might allow the NFL 1.01 to slip down to 2.01 after guys like Darnold, Rosen and Mayfield are taken and allow me to also grab another top RB to go with Saquon Barkley rather than panic and take Mayfield or Rosen at 1.05 because I am afraid they will be gone at 2.01. One final note – beware taking the 2nd QB off the board when comparing QBs taken in the top 10 picks. Jeff George and Andre Ware, Drew Bledsoe (1.01) and Rick Mirer (1.02), Payton Manning (1.01) and Ryan Leaf (1.02), In Couch’s draft Donovan McNabb was 1.02 but the 1.03 was Akili Smith. David Carr and Joey Harrington were a draw. Carson Palmer (1.01) and Byron Leftwich (1.07), Matt Stafford (1.01) and Mark Sanchez (1.05), Cam Newton (1.01) and Jake Locker (1.08), Andrew Luck (1.01) and RGIII (1.02), Goff and Wentz look like they will both be successful and Trubitsky and Mahomes still both have the jury out on them. If you are a true contrarian though, perhaps Trubitsky is the guy to target this offseason over everyone’s fantasy dynasty darling Pat Mahomes. But that’s an analysis for another day.
In summary, I am not advocating drafting Josh Allen over Baker Mayfield. In fact, I suspect that Josh Rosen will be the best of the bunch. And Lamar Jackson might end up being the best fantasy asset out of all of them. Or maybe Mayfield is as special as he seems. But I am going to use their real draft stock to ultimately guide my decisions rather than Draft Twitter – and Uncle Phil. There are likely other statistics that are also valid to use here. I am not suggesting this is the only or even the best method. In order to be a contrarian you need to find a data based methodology that gives you the confidence to not only go against the grain – but make effective decisions at different points in your rookie draft.
In the next edition, I am going to use contrarian theory to decide what to do about Saquon Barkley and what to do with the 1.01 if you are lucky enough to hold it.