Late-Round QBs

*The article below is from the 2015 2QB Draft Season and is republished from*

**Click here to read the 2016 updated version of the Late-Round QB strategy**

Late-Round QBs

Shawn Siegele and the groundbreaking Zero-RB article from RotoViz is the stuff legends are made of. When the article was published many fantasy analysts and players took a stand one way or the other in regards to Shawn’s theory.

I’m not here to do a big investigative study on the topic of Zero-RB, as it’s not my area of expertise. I’ve been known to use the strategy on occasion. Like any other draft strategy, it’s worked and it hasn’t.

One other popular draft strategy with the word ‘Zero’ in it belongs to Steve Gallo of The Huddle, who penned the Zero QB Theorem piece back in 2013. It was an article I was immediately drawn to because of my affection for waiting on the quarterback position. In his study, Steve did a very damn good job at showing why streaming/or waiting to draft your quarterback is a league-winning strategy in leagues that start only one fantasy quarterback.

From his article, here’s how Steve describes the Zero QB Theorem: “If you zero out the quarterback’s points on a winning fantasy team, they still win a majority of head-to-head matchups.”

You don’t need to take the ‘Zero’ aspect of either Shawn or Steve’s article to heart, but I always wondered what Zero-QB would look like in 2QB leagues? Can you build a dominant 2QB squad by late-round quarterbacking the shit out of it?

At the very least I wanted to find out, and the idea was planted in my head after dissecting Steve’s article and almost losing a head-to-head matchup in a 2QB league to C.D. Carter, who actually started zero quarterbacks in his lineup because of injuries and byes.

To me, Zero-QB doesn’t actually mean you draft and start zero quarterbacks. What it means is that you wait to draft a quarterback, and in the case of a 2QB league, quarterbacks, until the end or near the end of your draft. You can also use the late-round quarterback tag for such a strategy, which we can thank JJ Zachariason for.

Now that we have a general idea of Zero-QB for 2QB leagues, what exactly does a Zero-QB team look like? When do you start thinking about drafting your quarterbacks? The only way to find out was to utilize the ‘Zero-QB’ strategy in a draft, and that’s what I did during one of my many recent forays into the 2QB mock draft lobby of Fantasy Football Calculator.

Below is a screenshot of a 2QB mock draft from this past week in which I utilized the Zero-QB strategy…


In this particular 10-team 2QB league that was 15 rounds deep, I waited until round nine to select my first signal caller. By that point every team had drafted at least both their QB1 and QB2, with two teams even selecting a third signal caller before I had one. That might not be the definition of Zero-QB in 2QB leagues, but it’s pretty darn close.

When everything was said and done here’s the starting ‘Zero-QB’ lineup I’d trot out every week if this were a real league:

QB1-Jameis Winston
QB2-Marcus Mariota/Alex Smith
RB1-Eddie Lacy
RB2-CJ Anderson
WR1-Calvin Johnson
WR2-Mike Evans
WR3-DeAndre Hopkins
TE-Travis Kelce
DEF-Philadelphia Eagles
K-Steven Hauschka
Bench: Golden Tate, Chris Ivory, Tyrod Taylor, Davante Adams

Not sure what you think of that lineup, but it looks like one that could hold its own each week. Depending on how you feel about some of the players drafted, you’re looking at a team with two potential RB1s, two wide receivers (Megatron and Evans) that could finish as top-12 scorers at their respective position and a third that could flirt with such numbers in DeAndre Hopkins. Travis Kelce is a tight end some fantasy analysts, myself included, feel can finish the season as the second-highest scoring fantasy tight end.

If you wanted to take the Zero-QB experiment even further, bypassing Winston and going for Allen Robinson would have done the trick, which would have meant a Mariota/Alex Smith starting duo.

How would such a squad fare if this were a real league? That’s a good question, and one that we can’t literally answer yet. But we can take a stab at hypothetically answering it. Using the scoring settings and starting roster requirements I inputted my Zero-QB squad and the team ‘Joe’ drafted from the 1.10 slot into the custom projections tool at Pro Football Focus Fantasy.

Team ‘Joe’ seemed like an ideal counterpart, as he was the only team to use his first two picks on the quarterback position, going with a Peyton Manning/Ben Roethlisberger start.

After tallying up the projected total points for our starters (I substituted Steve Smith for Kelvin Benjamin) the projection machine spit out a total of 1,860 points for ‘Joe’ and 1,805 points for my Zero-RB squad. A 55-point victory to the QB-QB team. (In a full-PPR setting the difference would have been a six-point advantage for Joe.)

Does that mean I think Zero-QB in 2QB leagues is a wasteland of an idea that should be thrown into a dumpsterfire never to be thought of again? No.

Taking a look at the fantasy equity scores from C.D. Carter for Winston, Mariota, and Smith leaves room for hope that they could out-produce their draft cost with ease. In his equity scores series, Carter uses the RotoViz similarity scores app to project a player’s conservative fantasy potential (median score) and their ceiling (high score).

When he input Winston, Mariota, and Smith (with some tweaking) into the Rotoviz machine he was greeted with the following results:

Winston — Median of QB19 — High of QB14
Mariota — Median of QB16 — High of QB7
Smith — Median of QB19 — High of QB9

Even if the trio of quarterbacks hit their median potential I’m looking at a small ROI based on where I drafted them: Winston-QB21, Mariota-QB24, Smith-QB26.

However, if they were to somehow hit their ceiling the returns would be astronomical in the case of Mariota and Smith, and we would still be happy if Winston were to reach his full potential. The high equity scores for Mariota and Smith both came back as QB1s. Even if Manning and Roethlisberger were to hit their ceilings, it would be baked into their ADP. We can’t forget that Smith was the fantasy QB13 only two seasons ago.

You would also most likely be disappointed if either early round quarterback finished the season as anything less than a top-five fantasy scoring quarterback, and their draft cost implies that. When utilizing a ‘Zero-QB’ strategy you’re not worried about downside, as the low draft costs makes it easier to swallow such a hit.

I recommend reading the entire equity scores piece by Carter for nuggets on Smith and Mariota’s equity scores, as there is some information that will make you want to bump them up your draft list. Joe Flacco, the quarterback drafted after Winston, also has an eye-popping equity scoring ceiling.

In the end I would feel comfortable enough going with a ‘Zero-QB’ draft if it allowed me to fill out the rest of my roster with elite talents at almost every other starting position. I believe the advantage gained at the other skill spots will make up for the discrepancy between your starting quarterbacks versus your opponents.

We also can’t forget how fantasy football is a weekly game and in any given week your fantasy quarterback, no matter how late they were drafted, could put up a QB1 performance. In 2014 we saw 41 quarterbacks put up at top-12 showing at least once. May the odds forever be in your favor.

How you feel about the quarterbacks you draft in the late round and would be forced to start will have a large impact on your decision to give any credence to a ‘Zero-QB’ draft strategy. The great thing about 2QB leagues is how varied draft strategies are, and mock draft are a perfect way to take one for a test run. If you’re intrigued by Zero-QB you can give it your own spin at Fantasy Football Calculator. Or just laugh at my attempt of giving it a shot.

*Stats used in this article from The Fake Football and Pro Football Focus Fantasy*