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Quarterback By Committee

In this article I examined how many of the top fantasy QBs in 2004 were greatly aided by easy fantasy schedules. To recap: Manning, Culpepper and McNabb were phenomenal, and Marc Bulger performed much better than his end of year stats would imply. But Jake Plummer (QB5), Brett Favre (QB6), Jake Delhomme (QB7) and Aaron Brooks (QB8) really weren't that much better than the average QB last year; they just managed to play sixteen games and had easy fantasy schedules. There are very few true difference makers at the QB position - and the strength of one's schedule tends to have a great impact on his end of year ranking.

Last year, my Quarterback-by-Committee (QBBC) article suggested drafting Jake Plummer (good), Jake Delhomme (good) and Brad Johnson (not good). Since many fantasy players don't devote the necessary time to thoroughly analyze strength of schedule, extra value exists for the sharks out there. How did this system perform last year? Let's review the teams that I predicted to have the easiest eight schedules in 2004:

  • Denver - Projected to have the easiest schedule; actually tied for the 4th easiest fantasy schedule. Plummer was a huge steal, ranking fifth.
  • Tampa Bay - Projected to have the 2nd easiest schedule; actually tied for the 11th easiest schedule; Brad Johnson stunk, but Brian Griese had a great year and ranked 13th in FP/G.
  • Carolina - Had the 14th easiest schedule; Jake Delhomme was a great value, ranking seventh.
  • Jacksonville - Had the 3rd easiest schedule; Leftwich still wasn't any good.
  • Tennessee - Tied for the 4th easiest schedule; Volek was phenomenal in relief of McNair.
  • Atlanta - Tied for the 11th easiest schedule; Vick was a bit of a disappointment however.
  • Houston - Had the easiest schedule; Carr ranked 14th thanks to that cupcake schedule.
  • Minnesota - Projected to have the 8th easiest schedule; actually tied for the 4th easiest schedule; Culpepper had one of the greatest seasons ever (Note: Manning had the 2nd easiest schedule last year).

There were definitely more hits than misses when it came to predicting the schedules last year, which is a positive sign. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Carson Palmer was projected to have - by far - the hardest schedule. He ended up having the hardest schedule, and didn't hold much fantasy value. Among offenses with the ten hardest passing fantasy schedules last year, the highest any QB ranked in fantasy points per game was Tom Brady (15th).

Why is strength of schedule so important? Consider this: How good (or bad) the 11 guys on defense is simply the flip side of how good (or bad) the 10 other guys are on offense. We upgrade Manning thanks to Harrison, Wayne and Stokley; Trent Green produces excellent numbers because he plays in a great system with playmakers at RB and TE, and the fantastic offensive line in front of him. To put so much weight on supporting cast (Kerry Collins flying up the draft charts anyone?) but little weight on the strength of the opposition is foolhardy.

The QBBC Theory

During the first five-to-seven rounds of your draft, you want to accumulate the stud RBs and WRs that simply won't be available later in the draft. The drop-off at RB is much steeper than the one at QB, so your ideal first five rounds might land you three RBs and two WRs. So how do you select the top RBs without losing out on the points you'd get from having a star QB? By selecting two-to-four QBs whose schedules combine in such a way as to create ideal matchups against weak defenses.

Earlier this offseason, I came out with a Defensive Team by Committee article, which can be seen here. This article will follow many of those same principles in helping us find a committee. What are we looking for in our QBBC?

  • Lots and lots of bad pass defenses on our schedule
  • Three mid-level QBs that won't be among the top 10 QBs drafted
  • Alternatives in case one of our QBs is picked by another owner.

The first two principles form the basis of the QBBC approach. As often as possible we want our starting QB facing a weak defense. (In fact, with the teams I chose, your QB will face a bottom six pass defense every week but three times.) By weak defense, we mean defenses that allow high fantasy point totals to opposing QBs. This can sometimes be counterintuitive; teams with no offense and terrible rush defenses (and perhaps bad overall defenses) are undesirable opponents, since QBs don't pass much against them. Think the Dolphins or Browns last year. The flip side of that would be a team like San Diego. The Chargers scored a lot of points and had a great run defense, which resulted in their defense seeing the most pass attempts in the league.

Note: I strongly advocate adding a third QB. Quarterbacks often miss several games during the season, and you don't want to be caught with just one-or possibly zero-starters. Additionally, adding a third QB gives you one more chance to hit a home-run with a late pick. There's also the added benefit of taking away a possible strong starter from your opponents. For these reasons and others, I think you need to grab a third quarterback for this plan to work.

What if you play in a league that starts two QBs per week? I'd almost view them as two different positions - QB1 and QB2. I'd have no problem with going QBBC for your QB2 position, and possibly taking a stud like McNabb at QB1. I don't think going QBBC for one of the two QB positions should have a large effect on what you're doing at the other. However, it WILL be much tougher to get all three guys for a committee. You're probably only going to want to go with just two in these leagues.

So how do we rank the defenses? I used a variety of sources to help determine which teams would yield the best opponents for our QBBC. I factored in the following 2004 stats: fantasy points allowed to QBs (thanks to Clayton Gray), passing fantasy points allowed to QBs, quarterback rating allowed and yards per attempt allowed. Additionally, I added some personal opinion of offseason moves, to finalize the list.

Note: The scoring system for "2004 Rank" is as follows: One point for twenty yards passing, four points for every passing touchdown, minus one point for an interception; one point for every ten rushing yards and six points for every rushing TD.

The following table shows my ranking of the 2005 defenses, along with how each team ranked in some key 2004 categories. Remember, this ranking shows the "opposing defense we LEAST want our QB to face."

Team
2005 Rk
2004 Rk
PFPA Rk
QBRA Rk
YPAA Rk
Buffalo Bills
1
2
2
1
1
Pittsburgh Steelers
2
1
1
2
4
Baltimore Ravens
3
5
3
3
9
Philadelphia Eagles
4
9
9
8
3
Washington Redskins
5
3
7
5
2
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
6
6
5
9
5
Miami Dolphins
7
4
4
10
6
New England Patriots
8
13
12
7
11
Carolina Panthers
9
14
11
4
21
Arizona Cardinals
10
7
10
6
7
New York Jets
11
12
14
13
18
Denver Broncos
12
10
8
11
8
Cleveland Browns
13
7
6
16
10
Chicago Bears
14
16
17
14
16
Jacksonville Jaguars
15
11
13
18
20
Cincinnati Bengals
16
15
16
17
12
Seattle Seahawks
17
20
20
15
13
San Diego Chargers
18
18
21
12
19
Dallas Cowboys
19
25
27
27
25
Detroit Lions
20
23
24
23
17
Atlanta Falcons
21
16
15
19
22
St. Louis Rams
22
19
18
26
14
New York Giants
23
22
19
24
15
Houston Texans
24
25
26
22
23
Minnesota Vikings
25
30
29
28
29
New Orleans Saints
26
23
23
20
28
Kansas City Chiefs
27
32
32
30
32
Indianapolis Colts
28
28
25
21
24
San Francisco 49ers
29
20
22
29
27
Green Bay Packers
30
29
30
31
26
Tennessee Titans
31
27
28
25
30
Oakland Raiders
32
30
31
32
31

I applied the same technique to ranking the QB's schedules as shown in the DTBC article for team defense's schedules. If Detroit plays Green Bay in week one, they get 30 'points' for that week. When the Jets play the Bills, they get just one 'point' for the week. Bye weeks are assigned zero 'points'. I went through the entire NFL schedule, and assigned point values for each opponent on the schedule for all thirty-two teams. Obviously, we want our opposing QBs schedule to have as many 'points' as possible.

The Top Thirteen

Peyton Manning, Daunte Culpepper, Donovan McNabb, Marc Bulger, Trent Green, Aaron Brooks, Kerry Collins, Brett Favre, Mike Vick and Matt Hasselbeck are the consensus top ten among Footballguys.com projections, Footballguys.com expert rankings and most average draft position data. (Although Aaron Brooks has fallen out of the top ten more often than I'd expect). Three other QBs - Tom Brady, Jake Plummer and Carson Palmer - seem to immediately follow that top ten.

The QBBC Trio

The three quarterbacks I've selected shouldn't be among the top 12 QBs drafted in most leagues, enabling you to draft them after you've built the base of your team. In most leagues, teams won't start selecting a second QB until the 7th or 8th round. I'd suggest taking the QBBC trio in succession, beginning in round seven or eight.

Their combined schedule yields 443 'points' or 472 'points', depending on if your fantasy league includes week seventeen. (Note: For the rest of this article, all 'point' totals exclude week seventeen, as most leagues don't play that week.) What this means, is that on average your QBs face the 28th best defense every week. You should be able to mix and match the schedules, in the way I've outlined, to get excellent production out of the three QBs.

The Combined Schedule

  • Week 1: Tennessee (31)
  • Week 2: @Houston (24)
  • Week 3: New York Giants (23)
  • Week 4: @Cincinnati (16)
  • Week 5: Tennessee (31)
  • Week 6: @Oakland (32)
  • Week 7: Indianapolis (28)
  • Week 8: Kansas City (27)
  • Week 9: @Green Bay (30)
  • Week 10: @Indianapolis (28)
  • Week 11: Kansas City (27)
  • Week 12: @Indianapolis (28)
  • Week 13: Oakland (32)
  • Week 14: @Tennessee (31)
  • Week 15: Indianapolis (28)
  • Fantasy Super Bowl Week 16: @Kansas City (27)
  • Week 17: @San Francisco (29)

The last twelve (or thirteen) weeks of the season your starting QB will be playing one of the worst defenses in the league. This looks to be about as easy a schedule as you could ever dream up: each of those defenses should be routinely giving up big games to opposing QBs.

The QBBC Trio

Drew Brees

  • Draft in: Round 8
  • Start: Weeks 3, 6, 8, 13, 15, 16 (Giants, @Raiders, Chiefs, Raiders, Colts, @Chiefs)

    In four games against the Raiders, Chiefs and Colts last year, Brees averaged 293.75 passing yards, three touchdowns and 0.25 interceptions. With five games against those high-scoring teams in 2005, Brees should once again be able to post huge numbers. Antonio Gates and LaDainian Tomlinson form perhaps the top RB-TE combination in the league, and Brees should continue to rely heavily on them.

    Full seasons out of Keenan McCardell and Reche Caldwell could certainly help Brees, who had a Pro Bowl season last year. The fantasy community is down on Brees, who rarely is among the first ten QBs selected. But remember that Brees' great statistical 2004 could have been even better: he sat out week 17, and in a game in Cleveland a snowstorm made San Diego abandon the pass (just six attempts).

    Brees is just 26 years old and should become a larger part of the offense following his breakout season: he ranked 4th in passing fantasy points per pass attempt last year behind only Manning, Culpepper and McNabb. In high scoring games against the Raiders, Colts and Chiefs, expect Brees to rack up both the pass attempts and fantasy points.

David Carr

  • Draft in: Round 9
  • Start: Weeks 4, 5, 7, 10, 11, 14 (@Cincinnati, Tennessee, Indianapolis, @Indianapolis, Kansas City, @Tennessee)

    In five games against the Titans, Colts and Chiefs last year, Carr was mediocre averaging just 216 yards and one TD. But there's certainly reason for optimism for Carr in 2005. He has improved every year, seeing his passer rating jump from 62.8 his rookie year, to 69.5 and finally 83.5 in 2004. The Texans are becoming a legitimate NFL franchise, and that will enable Carr to become a viable fantasy starter against weaker defenses. Recall that both starting WRs, the left side of the offensive line, David Carr and Dom Davis have been in the NFL for three years or less. The Texans will continue to improve as the offense gets experience playing together.

    Some improvements were apparent last year. After ranking in the bottom four in completions, attempts, yards and touchdowns during their first two seasons, Houston ranked 23rd in completions, 24th in attempts and 16th in passing yards in 2004. Houston's defense isn't very strong, so the offense will have to be more aggressive to earn wins against the Bengals, Chiefs, Titans and Colts. With ultra-talented WR Andre Johnson and RB Dom Davis both entering their third seasons, Carr should have enough weapons at his disposal to put up some big games.

Ben Roethlisberger

  • Draft in: Round 10 or 11
  • Start: Weeks 1, 2, 9, 12 (Tennessee, @Houston, @Green Bay, @Indianapolis)

    Like Drew Brees, Roethlisberger should become a much more central part of the offense after his phenomenal 2004 season. The Steelers had the fewest pass attempts in the NFL last year, but Roethlisberger made the most of them: He ranked just behind Brees in passing fantasy points per pass attempt. He was top five in the NFL in yards per attempt and quarterback rating. Many expected Roethlisberger to struggle making the transition from the MAC to the NFL, especially since he only played three years in college.

    But Roethlisberger surpassed all expectations, and should only improve with experience. Road games against the Packers and Colts could be a blessing in disguise: last year the Steelers dominated weaker teams often, and would abandon the pass in the second half of those games. The Steelers starting two RBs are a combined 63 years old, and Jerome Bettis and Duce Staley are no longer elite talents. While Pittsburgh will remain a running team, Roethlisberger should produce strong passing stats against these weak pass defenses.

Two Out of Three Ain't Bad

What do you do if you can't acquire all three QBs? Here are the top QBBC alternatives. The top 10 QBs in the league are all excluded from this list. (The number of 'points' generated by the combined schedules of the three QBs is shown in parenthesis.)

Drew Brees, David Carr, AND

  • Trent Dilfer (444)
  • Eli Manning (432)
  • Tom Brady (431)
  • Kurt Warner (430)
  • Kyle Boller (429)

Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger, AND

  • J.P. Losman (417)
  • Kurt Warner (416)
  • Drew Bledsoe (415)
  • Steve McNair (408)

David Carr, Ben Roethlisberger, AND

  • Brian Griese (426)
  • Steve McNair (426)
  • Rex Grossman (421)
  • Jake Plummer (419)
  • Drew Bledsoe (418)

The Top Ten Other Duos

If you exclude the top 10 QBs, along with Brees, Carr and Roethlisberger, there are still some good late combos out there. Here are the top ten pairs:

  • Jake Plummer and Byron Leftwich (378)
  • Kyle Boller and Steve McNair (377)
  • Byron Leftwich and Steve McNair (373)
  • Trent Dilfer and Patrick Ramsey (372)
  • Kurt Warner and Steve McNair (371)
  • Rex Grossman and Steve McNair (370)
  • J.P. Losman and Trent Dilfer (369)
  • Rex Grossman and Drew Bledsoe (369)
  • Steve McNair and Patrick Ramsey (369)
  • Kurt Warner and Byron Leftwich (368)

Stud QBs

Some people really like the idea of having a stud quarterback leading their team. Here are the top four schedules that match up with the studs.

  • Peyton Manning with … Trent Dilfer, Byron Leftwich, Marc Bulger, Donovan McNabb
  • Daunte Culpepper with … Matt Hasselbeck, Kyle Boller, Drew Brees, Byron Leftwich
  • Donovan McNabb with … Rex Grossman, Drew Brees, David Carr, Patrick Ramsey
  • Marc Bulger with … Byron Leftwich, Kurt Warner, Trent Dilfer, Trent Green
  • Trent Green with … Marc Bulger, Peyton Manning, David Carr, Donovan McNabb
  • Aaron Brooks with … Kurt Warner, Donovan McNabb, Joey Harrington, Patrick Ramsey
  • Kerry Collins with … Marc Bulger, Matt Hasselbeck, Donovan McNabb, David Carr
  • Brett Favre with … Steve McNair, Rex Grossman, Trent Dilfer, Eli Manning
  • Mike Vick with … Trent Dilfer, Byron Leftwich, Kurt Warner, Donovan McNabb
  • Matt Hasselbeck with … Kurt Warner, Steve McNair, Brian Griese, Donovan McNabb

Best and worst QB schedules

Here are the top and bottom five schedules, for the 2005 season (week 17 excluded).

Top Five

  • Donovan McNabb (307)
  • Marc Bulger (293)
  • Matt Hasselbeck (292)
  • Kurt Warner (286)
  • Patrick Ramsey (275)

Bottom Five

  • Brett Favre (218)
  • Kerry Collins (213)
  • Tom Brady (212)
  • Mike Vick (210)
  • Chad Pennington (200)

There you have it folks, anything and everything you need to know about your fantasy QBs this season. If you have any questions or comments, shoot me an e-mail me at stuart@footballguys.com.

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