Finding Best-Ball Quarterback Pairings

Apr 25, 2018
Finding Best-Ball Quarterback Pairings

In a recent article highlighting how to win best-ball leagues, one strategy that stood out was a roster construction of just two quarterbacks. The following will address how to plan for a best-ball draft where you select only two signal-callers.

Accounting for Bye Weeks

With the NFL schedule officially released, best-ball owners can confidently opt for just two quarterbacks without the fear of doubling up on a bye week. Since not all best-ball platforms clearly state bye weeks in the draft lobby, I've put together this grid showing the bye weeks for each probable starting quarterback.

QB Bye Weeks, 2018
WEEK 4 WEEK 5 WEEK 6 WEEK 7 WEEK 8 WEEK 9 WEEK 10 WEEK 11 WEEK 12
Alex Smith Jameis Winston Drew Brees Aaron Rodgers Dak Prescott Andrew Luck Case Keenum Jimmy Garoppolo Jared Goff
Cam Newton Mitch Trubisky Matthew Stafford Ben Roethlisberger Marcus Mariota Andy Dalton Deshaun Watson Ryan Tannehill Patrick Mahomes
Derek Carr Matt Ryan Blake Bortles Joe Flacco Tom Brady
Russell Wilson Philip Rivers Carson Wentz Kirk Cousins Tyrod Taylor
Eli Manning
Sam Bradford

Owners can bookmark this page for a quick reference when considering quarterback combos. The names in this table will be updated periodically as we get closer to the season and new starters emerge.

Pairing Quarterbacks by Consistency

Owners deciding to draft only two quarterbacks shouldn't do so blindly. In a winner-take-all best-ball format, more risk-averse owners might want to pair a reliable quarterback with a high-upside player while drafters hoping to land on the good side of variance might opt for two quarterbacks with wide ranges of outcomes. Both strategies have merit, but regardless of your personal risk tolerance, a two-quarterback approach should almost always pair two players likely to retain their starting jobs over the entirety of the season.

Anyone spending a relatively high draft pick on an Aaron Rodgers-type should virtually always wait as long as possible to draft a reliable QB2. In this situation, it's beneficial to seek upside over consistency since a consistent, middling quarterback will rarely outscore someone like Rodgers.

For those playing in a league that pays out three or more spots—assuming a 12-team league—pairing two quarterbacks who are consistent but don't offer much upside can be a fine strategy. In order to measure a quarterback's consistency, I used the Coefficient of Variation (CV) method, which is explained here. In short, the lower the CV for a player's weekly PPG, the more consistent that player is. Below is a list of 26 veteran quarterbacks with a decent chance to start Week 1 who have also started at least eight games in one of the past two seasons. Week 17 games were not included since teams often rest starters that week.

QB Consistency, 2016–2017
Player Team 2-Year PPG PPG Rank CV 2017 CV
Philip Rivers LAC 16.4 14 32.3% 37.6%
Matthew Stafford DET 16.8 11 33.4% 29.4%
Matt Ryan ATL 17.5 8 34.5% 27.2%
Aaron Rodgers GB 21.5 1 35.8% 45.4%
Kirk Cousins MIN 18.6 5 36.6% 40.9%
Drew Brees NO 18.7 4 38.1% 22.0%
Tom Brady NE 19.6 2 38.7% 40.5%
Carson Wentz PHI 16.6 12 39.8% 27.6%
Blake Bortles JAX 16.5 13 40.0% 43.1%
Tyrod Taylor CLE 16.3 15 40.9% 46.3%
Cam Newton CAR 18.2 6 41.4% 46.6%
Russell Wilson SEA 19.2 3 42.9% 37.3%
Jameis Winston TB 15.5 17 45.2% 56.5%
Dak Prescott DAL 17.8 7 45.4% 57.3%
Andy Dalton CIN 14.6 20 45.6% 56.2%
Ben Roethlisberger PIT 17.3 9 46.0% 42.1%
Marcus Mariota TEN 15.8 16 46.0% 33.6%
Alex Smith WAS 16.9 10 46.3% 41.8%
Joe Flacco BAL 13.1 25 46.6% 47.7%
Sam Bradford ARI 14.2 21 48.1% 126.7%
Derek Carr OAK 15.5 17 48.4% 49.7%
Eli Manning NYG 13.7 24 49.0% 62.0%
Mitch Trubisky CHI 11.4 27 49.0% 49.0%
Jared Goff LAR 13.8 23 56.3% 39.1%
Case Keenum DEN 14.0 22 56.4% 44.8%

A Few Notes...

  • Philip Rivers and Matthew Stafford—the two most consistent fantasy quarterbacks since the beginning of 2016—are going as the QB10 or lower in both DRAFT and MFL10 leagues. Using consecutive picks to pair Rivers and Stafford in a league paying out three or more places is a fine strategy, especially early in the draft season while skill position battles are up in the air.
  • Jared Goff's two-year numbers may look erratic but the Rams signal-caller finished as the QB12 in 2017 and had a top-10 consistency score. Consider him a similar option to Rivers and Stafford in terms of consistency and upside.
  • Like Goff, Marcus Mariota was markedly more consistent in 2017 than in 2016, but his fantasy scoring was pedestrian. With a new coaching regime and the addition of one of the best pass-catching backs in the league in Dion Lewis, look for Mariota to make the leap in scoring while maintaining his consistency.
  • Dak Prescott and Jameis Winston were both noticeably less consistent in 2017 than in 2016. While Dak has a considerably higher PPG average than Winston, Dallas' receiving corps has many more question marks than Tampa Bay's. Of these two quarterbacks, expect Prescott to bring more weekly volatility to your team in 2018, even if his PPG average remains higher.
  • Alex Smith and Ben Roethlisberger are the only quarterbacks who have averaged at least 16 PPG over the last two seasons with a CV of at least 46 percent. While both of these players figure to continue as QB1s in 2018, know that they have historically put up more duds than the typical top-12 fantasy quarterback.

Remember that the considerations outlined here are mainly for teams looking to roster just two quarterbacks. Owners who prefer three signal-callers can take on more risk, both in terms of consistency and draft position. As we get closer to the season and 4for4's Schedule-Adjusted Fantasy Points Allowed is updated, strength of schedule will be another layer to add to the quarterback pairing puzzle.

Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images.


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