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When should I draft a quarterback in my fantasy football draft?

When you take a QB and who you pick could set you up for fantasy gold this season.

Josh Allen #17 of the Buffalo Bills looks to throw a pass during training camp at Highmark Stadium on July 31, 2021 in Orchard Park, New York. Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images

UPDATE: Check out our latest QB rankings as you wrap up fantasy drafts. The biggest news of the week is that Dak Prescott was a full participant in the Cowboys first practice of Week 1. He seems to be good to go from his dislocated ankle injury suffered last year.

When to draft a quarterback in your fantasy football draft? Few questions have tormented humans to the same extent. For some, it’s a waiting game, grab a mid-tier guy who’s going to be just fine most weeks in the middle rounds. For the bold, they’ll throw caution to the wind to use second- or even first-round pick to land the coveted dual threat signal caller, hoping to ride him to fantasy glory.

There really is no right answer. It’s your team, and you can do what you want. However, there are a few factors that you will need to weigh including, position scarcity, scoring systems, 2-QB superflex leagues and more.

When to Draft a Quarterback

There were 11 quarterbacks with more than 300 total fantasy points in standard formats last season. The top scorer was Josh Allen of the Bills, thanks to his 45 total touchdowns (37 passing, 8 rushing). He had 405 points in Yahoo! leagues and 396 in ESPN’s system, and he’s projected to be the highest-scoring signal caller this year, too. But the drop-off from Allen to the 11th leading scorer among QBs, Kirk Cousins, is less than 100 points.

Compare that with running backs. There was just one player with more than 300 points in standard scoring leagues (Derrick Henry) and only three in PPR leagues (Alvin Kamara, Dalvin Cook and Henry). And it’s a steep drop, too. From Kamara’s league-best 377 PPR points, you lose more than 100 points by the time you get to the fourth-highest scorer among running backs. The difference is even more stark with tight ends, where just two players—Travis Kelce and Darren Waller—had more than 250 points (in PPR leagues). Even among receivers, one of the most plentiful positions in all of fantasy football, there were only three players north of 300 points in PPR formats last year.

The reason you typically avoid a quarterback in the first three rounds of your draft is because there’s are nearly a dozen guys who can put up numbers within 100 points of each other. If you take a quarterback instead of one of the best running backs, receivers or tight ends in those early rounds, you’ll be stuck with an inconsistent producer in at least one of the key positions.

There are exceptions to this rule. For instance, if your league puts more weight on passing touchdowns — i.e. they’re worth more than the typical four points — the top tier quarterbacks have early-round value, even as soon as the last half of the first round. Another major exception is the league’s overall format, namely superflex and 2-QB leagues.

What About 2-QB and Superflex Leagues?

Every rule has it’s exceptions, and if you’re playing in a league with one of these formats, quarterbacks carry more weighted value and you’ll need to snag them earlier. In both cases, stud running backs are still going to be the first guys off the board. Position scarcity also makes tight ends valuable. But with two QBs in the starting lineup (most superflex leagues will see a QB in that spot) there’s suddenly more incentive not to get stuck with a mediocre starter and the Ben DiNucci’s of the world in your second spot.

For these leagues, it would not be a reach to take someone like Josh Allen, Patrick Mahomes or Aaron Rodgers late in the first round and into the second, depending on what other players are still available. At the very least, you won’t want to let the snake wind past the fifth round before taking your QB1. And it might be a good idea to think about a QB2 shortly after that. Remember, there are only 32 starting quarterbacks in any given week (fewer in most weeks because of byes), whereas you can still find a contributing wide receiver on the waiver wire in a pinch.

Who Are the Best Quarterbacks to Draft?

We’ve mentioned a few here. Josh Allen might not score another dozen touchdowns on the ground this season, but because he’s such a threat to run in the red zone along with his role in a supercharged passing offense, he’s a safe bet for the top producer at the position this year.

Dual threats are going to have a big appeal. Kyler Murray of the Cardinals was the third-highest scoring quarterback in fantasy last year (ESPN formats). I don’t know if the addition of A.J. Green will add to his passing stats, but a little more aggression from Arizona’s sidelines could boost his overall numbers. Lamar Jackson had a HUGE 2019 season, but the Ravens pared back his rushing attempts last year, and they don’t pass enough to make him a safe pick as a top-five fantasy QB. However, he’s still a no-brainer among the top 10 at the position.

Aaron Rodgers and Patrick Mahomes are a threat to throw 50 touchdowns every season, and anything less than 40 passing scores from them is a mild disappointment. Russell Wilson should build on the 40 passing touchdowns he had last year now that Seattle’s offense is poised to throw more. All three of those guys an Allen are high draft picks in leagues that reward passing touchdowns with more than four points.

Who Are Some Sleeper Picks at QB?

A lot of people took Kyler Murray after the big names were off the board last year, and were handsomely rewarded. But the secret’s out on him now.

After a down year from the Falcons offense, a lot of people will overlook Matt Ryan, but the upgrades Atlanta made this offseason, namely taking tight end Kyle Pitts in the first round, should put him squarely back into QB1 territory.

Kirk Cousins finished the season red hot, throwing 23 touchdowns and just three picks over his last nine outings. Better still, Minnesota is loaded with receiving talent, which helps Cousins punch far above his weight as an actual on-field asset.

Matthew Stafford is going to get all the opportunities in the world to throw the ball in Sean McVay’s offense. Better still, he’s got a talented cast to pass to with the Rams. I’m bullish on Derek Carr and the Raiders. If he gets the green light to air it out a little more, his numbers should spike.