An Introduction to 2QB and Superflex Leagues

May 07, 2020
An Introduction to 2QB and Superflex Leagues

One of the things I love about fantasy sports is how many different ways there are to play. When it comes to fantasy football, my favorite setup is two-quarterback, 2QB or Superflex. Now hold on. Before you tilt through your screen because I listed three different things as my “favorite” and didn’t explain how they are different (or similar), let’s start this primer with some definitions:

  • Two-quarterback is a catch-all for, you guessed it, any league where you can start two quarterbacks each week.
  • In a 2QB league, you must start two each week.
  • In a Superflex league, only one QB must start, and your second QB spot allows you to flex any other skill position.

In any two-quarterback case, you almost always want to start two passers because they tend to score more points than other positions. Weeks where you only start one tend to occur only when your primary signal-callers are injured or on bye.

Anyway, if I specifically pick Superflex as my favorite format, I’m still not sure if that’s descriptive enough. Redraft or dynasty? How many teams? How deep are the rosters? Do the scoring settings skew in favor of a specific position? The specificity required to identify one’s preferred format is crazy these days, and the subtleties matter when it’s time to talk strategy.

But let’s push-pull our lens, blur the extraneous details, and focus on the simple idea of starting two quarterbacks instead of one. What happens next?

More Quarterbacks Must Be Drafted

Duh. With a second quarterback spot added to starting lineups, fantasy managers must draft more players at the position. In a two-quarterback league with 10 teams, 20 starters are required week to week. If we assume each team wants two starters and one backup to cover byes and injuries, that’s 30 total quarterbacks to be drafted across 10 teams. Thankfully, there are 32 NFL teams from which to find passers, so the league’s supply is able to meet the two-quarterback demand of a 10-teamer, so you can pretty safely adopt the 2QB framework (over Superflex) when you start a league with that many teams.

Twelve-team leagues complicate the issue. With only 32 quarterbacks in starting roles at any given moment, a 12-teamer’s demand for 24 fantasy starters and 12 fantasy backups can’t be met. Even if we start to see more QB-eligible gadget guys like Taysom Hill work their way into the league, their situational usage limits their appeal in fantasy. Enter Superflex to solve the problem of (at least) a 36-player demand with only a 32-player supply. When a fantasy owner in a 12-team Superflex league only has one quarterback available, they can substitute a running back, wide receiver, or tight end into the Superflex spot that a signal-caller would normally occupy.

Starting NFL QBs per Fantasy Team
League Size: 10 Teams 12 Teams 14 Teams 16 Teams
QBs per Team 3.2 2.7 2.3 2.0

Thanks to the (wait for it...) flexibility that a Superflex position provides, we can take two-quarterback fantasy football to even larger league sizes if we want. But be mindful. As we add more teams to our Superflex leagues, the thirst to pick quarterbacks early will grow, and that brings us to the next major consequence of two-quarterback fantasy football.

Quarterbacks Are Picked Earlier in Drafts

To illustrate this, I pulled 12-team ADP data from FFCalulator for both one-quarterback and two-quarterback leagues between 2015 and 2019. As you can see, quarterbacks get drafted much sooner in a start-two setting:

Ranges of Quarterback ADP in 1QB vs. 2QB Leagues
Year
2015 2016 2017 2018 2019
Format 1QB 2QB 1QB 2QB 1QB 2QB 1QB 2QB 1QB 2QB
QBs in ADP Top-50 2 16 2 13 3 15 2 13 2 10
QBs in ADP Top-100 12 25 11 21 10 23 10 24 10 23
QBs in ADP Top-150 17 30 19 28 19 30 19 33 19 30

Here’s another way to look at it:

Specific Quarterback ADPs in 1QB vs. 2QB Leagues
Year:
2015 2016 2017 2018 2019
Format 1QB 2QB 1QB 2QB 1QB 2QB 1QB 2QB 1QB 2QB
QB1's ADP 16.9 1.3 34.5 2.9 23.4 3.1 31.4 6.9 19.3 2.7
QB5's ADP 63.8 9.1 61.1 14.3 64.3 17.0 66.9 26.1 69.2 28.1
QB10's ADP 82.1 27.3 93.3 34.3 89.9 31.6 96.7 40.4 94.4 46.0
QB15's ADP 119.1 40.7 118.6 57.4 116.5 44.8 118.1 55.6 114.6 64.1
QB20's ADP 154.5 65.9 146.5 84.1 155.9 71.8 151.7 70.7 145.8 83.2
QB25's ADP N/A 95.7 N/A 121.6 N/A 102.4 165.9 101.2 N/A 108.9
QB30's ADP N/A 135.9 N/A 156.7 N/A 125.6 N/A 130.1 N/A 131.0

The numbers above pretty much say it all, but I want to touch on some important trends from these tables:

The Overall QB1 is Expensive

Sorry, this is just the way it goes. The top-ranked quarterback is usually picked in the first round of two-quarterback drafts, and usually in the first half of the first round. So if you wanted to land the top overall signal-caller in past seasons—whether it was Andrew Luck, Aaron Rodgers, Cam Newton, or Patrick Mahomes—you had to give up a shot on one of the top overall running backs or wide receivers. That’s a big opportunity cost to pay for a quarterback, and it’s not always worth it. To that point:

  • The top quarterback drafted in 2015 was Andrew Luck, but he only played seven games and finished as the overall QB28. (But, for what it’s worth, he was the QB12 in points per game.)
  • The top quarterback drafted in 2016 was Cam Newton. He played 15 games and finished as the overall QB17 (QB13 in points per game).
  • The top quarterback drafted in 2017 was Aaron Rodgers. He only played 7 games and finished as the overall QB29 (QB7 in points per game).
  • The top quarterback drafted in 2018 was Rodgers again. He played a full season and finished as the overall QB6 (QB9 in points per game).
  • The top quarterback drafted in 2019 was Patrick Mahomes. He played 14 games and finished as the overall QB7 (QB6 in points per game).

Injuries figured prominently into some of these situations, but the fact that no top-drafted quarterback over the past five years has managed to finish top-5 in total points or points per game is pretty eye-opening. No matter how good a field general is, he has to get a little lucky in any given season to lead his position in fantasy scoring, typically through variance related to touchdown rate. And while finishing in the QB6 to QB9 range after being drafted as the QB1 isn’t hateful, it’s often more appealing (and manageable) to land one of the later-round passers who ascend into the top-5 or top-10. So just like in one-quarterback leagues, drafters in two-quarterback leagues are often incentivized to wait on drafting the position, and that brings us to the next trend...

In 2QB/Superflex, Later-Round QB Drafting Has Gained Momentum

You can see it in the nearest table above. When it comes to the later-pick QB1s and pretty much all the QB2s, two-quarterback drafters are picking passers later on average in more recent years. Here’s the same data from that table repurposed to show only the differences in two-quarterback ADP between 2015 and 2019:

QB ADP Shifts, 2015 to 2019
Year:
2015 ADP 2019 ADP Difference
QB1 1.3 2.7 1.4
QB5 9.1 28.1 19.0
QB10 27.3 46.0 18.7
QB15 40.7 64.1 23.4
QB20 65.9 83.2 17.3
QB25 95.7 108.9 13.2
QB30 135.9 131.0 -4.9

The QB5 used to be a first-rounder, but his ADP has slid down to the third round over the past five years. Similarly, the QB10’s price has dropped from a third-rounder to a late fourth-rounder. The biggest fall in the table above since 2015 belongs to the QB15, whose ADP dropped nearly two full rounds.

It’s worth noting, however, that while most players beyond QB15 are still going later than they used to, the discrepancies between 2015 and 2019 for those later-pick quarterbacks become less drastic as you get deeper into the position’s ADP. In fact, the QB30 was actually drafted slightly higher on average in 2019 than he was in 2015. And that brings us to our last trend for this section...

Quarterback FOMO Still Exists Later in Drafts

Even in this brave new world of late-round quarterback drafting in 2QB and Superflex leagues, folks still have fear of missing out on the position. The FOMO simply sets in later than it used to. This makes sense if you think about it, though. As more and more drafters are playing chicken with each other to see who can wait longest to draft their second and third quarterbacks, there is ultimately a tipping point where those fate-tempting drafters must scramble to pick up a low-end option before the supply of usable passers gets depleted entirely.

Just as there’s a steep drop-off perceived from the top two or three quarterbacks to the middle-class guys (starting somewhere between QB5 and QB8), there’s a similar cliff in perception between where the middle class ends (between QB25 and QB28) and the quarterbacks at the bottom of the barrel. In other words, no one wants to get saddled with the QB31, QB32, or worse. Those dumpster-dive options typically have the least season-long job security, so drafters are willing to pay just as much, if not more, for the QB30 now than they were five years ago.

The Big Picture: Seeing the Forest for the QBs

If at this point you feel compelled to try out two-quarterback fantasy football, that’s awesome. I just hope this primer hasn’t led you too far into the weeds with its sole focus on quarterbacks. Even when you start two, the players under center for your fantasy team are only one part of the larger puzzle. The other positions aren’t going anywhere. Okay, technically some of them get pushed down ADP, but you still need to draft a complete roster. That’s the beauty of 2QB and Superflex leagues. They give value to the quarterback position more on par with running back and wide receiver.

Some people will say two-quarterback formats give passers too much value, but like a quarterback coming off a career year in touchdown rate, I don’t buy it. The naysayers simply aren’t used to quarterbacks having any value in the first place. Their one-quarterback comfort zones strip the position of importance. Adding a second QB spot is a shock to the system that makes them uneasy. That’s their problem, not a two-quarterback problem.

My go-to argument in favor of two-quarterback formats is to compare to how running backs are approached in a typical fantasy draft. Two or three rushers need to start per fantasy team, so all of the projected starters get drafted, as do most or all of the relevant backups and role players. This should be the case with QBs as well. Quarterbacks are unequivocally the sport’s most important position, they touch the ball on almost every offensive play, and they score more fantasy points than all the other positions. It’s okay to evolve and move away from mimicking an NFL starting roster if it makes the fantasy game better.

And trust me, 2QB and Superflex do make our game better because they introduce more gameplay choices into the drafting process. You have to consider quarterbacks versus other positions much earlier in a start-two draft than in start-one, even as early as the first round. And then you have to keep considering QB vs. other positions at every other pick throughout the draft until you have your starters and backup(s) secured. Think about how that changes the opportunity costs of all positions. And think about how that grows and tangles the branches of your decision trees in a draft. The relative values of mid-tier passers actually matter in a two-quarterback league. In one-quarterback formats, those mid-tier guys all become replacement-level by default, and if you end up having to pick from that group, you might as well just wait until the last round to grab one, then stream in-season.

Speaking of in-season, two-quarterback leagues also introduce more challenging gameplay choices into transactions. On the waiver wire, the increased demand for field generals in 2QB and Superflex forces owners to weigh newly minted starting quarterbacks in the same way they’d consider a handcuff running back who’s just been promoted. In a two-quarterback trade market, passers are legit assets because a QB-needy owner can’t just dip into the free-agent pool when they want a new one. Again, try not to think of these factors making quarterbacks “too valuable.” All we’re doing with 2QB and Superflex is pushing fantasy quarterbacks up to the level that running backs and wide receivers have already attained.

Two-Quarterback Fantasy is a Better Way to Play

Ultimately, I believe two-quarterback leagues are the best way to play because they are more challenging than their one-quarterback counterparts, and they promote deeper study and understanding of the NFL’s most prominent position. Hopefully, this primer has given you a clearer picture of the two-quarterback basics, and now you’re ready to give the format a try. If you have any questions about getting started with 2QB and Superflex, please feel free to reach out to me on Twitter at @gregsauce. Otherwise, thanks for reading and good luck in all your leagues, regardless of their quarterback setup.

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