Responses to the quarterback experiment

Quarterbacks did get the better of running backs last season, but there is still a lot of debate over which position should be targeted in the first round of fantasy drafts.

That was evident in the numerous emails I received in regards to Wednesday’s post, which described an experimental mock draft where I took Tom Brady rather than one of the two best backs on the board, Marion Barber or Larry Johnson.

Here are some of your emails.

I thought your article was very informative and quite intriguing. I’d have to say that I’d prefer the team that didn’t take Brady in the first round. I think the bigger story is the death of the “you must take RBs in the first two rounds” philosophy. I’ve seen several mock drafts where experts are still sticking with RBs in the first two rounds (and sometimes the first three rounds) no matter what. To me, after the Top 8 backs or so, there’s a lot of similarities. So, I’ll be taking a RB in the first round, then likely targeting a top QB or WR in the second and third rounds. I’m convinced you can draft RB-QB-WR-WR-RB and have a stacked team. Just my two cents. Keep up the good work! – T. Simpson, Westlake, Ohio

I agree with you wholeheartedly. Picking a QB in the first round will leave you scrambling to build a balanced team. I still believe your first pick should a stud RB. – J.M. Taylor

I enjoy the columns man. Keep up the good work! This has definitely become an interesting dilemma over the past couple of seasons. I think with more teams going to a “running back by committee” approach, the number of top tier RBs has dropped significantly. Add to that the fact some teams’ passing attacks have exploded (New England), and the decision of whether or not to take a QB in the first round becomes even more complex. One thing is for sure…this game we play is full of second-guessing ourselves. Unless we take our league’s championship, we’ll be left to wonder what would’ve happened if we had taken that player who exploded during the course of the season, over the player that busted (in last year’s draft, I chose Drew Brees over Brady in the second round…oh the humanity!). I feel if you’ve got one of the first few picks in the draft (1-8), you MUST go with a RB. However, the difference between the RB you would select towards the end of the first round compared to the one you would select towards the beginning of the second round is NOT that significant. I don’t think your Brady pick is really THAT bad. You’ve got a stud QB, and my personal opinion is the difference between Barber and Jamal isn’t that big. – C. Jones, Huntsville, Ala.

Tom Brady, QB
New England Patriots

2007 statistics
Comp: 398
Att: 578
Yards: 4,806
TDs/INTs: 50/8

Michael, while I can understand hesitation in taking a QB in the first round, I can’t help but wonder if your draft logic wasn’t still too formula based in always taking a running back first. I personally don’t feel you lost anything but an advantage in taking Brady over Barber or L.J. The line in Kansas City is still sketchy, as is Johnson. Barber is the stronger candidate, but he recently got his hands on a long-term contract and is still a tandem back. We haven’t seen him without Julius Jones, nor have we seen him with Felix Jones. This is the difficulty in the modern NFL. There are too many systems willing to split carries. With that said, the remainder of your draft seemed to hinge on your feelings of insecurity at the running back position, so you were playing catch-up. You reached for Lewis when his teammate, Braylon Edwards, is a higher value based on a potent pass heavy offense. This would have likely thrown off others draft strategies more, so it’s impossible for me to project who would have been available come Round 3. I think of fantasy football as part poker, part chess. In poker, it’s usually a stronger play to stay conservative, make the obvious plays and don’t overbid. However, when sitting at a table of conservative players, it can help to play strong, taking larger risks and wagering large bids. The same thing goes with fantasy football. If you’re in a draft and everyone is playing it safe on RBs, bet heavy on promised starters at other positions, (QB, WR, TE, DST). Realize your RBs will be a blind stab, but having heavies in other positions will give you a different kind of security. As this league moves further into the realm of 1-2 punch backfields or committee situations, fantasy footballers are going to be forced to take other positions more heavily into consideration, even in the first round. Take it for what you will. – J. McCormick, Denver, Colo.

The situation in which you drafted a quarterback in the first round resulted in a subpar team overall. In a 12-team format, a quarterback should never be taken in the first round, unless it is with one of the last two selections. However, I am participating in an 8-team league this season, among others. This draft could and probably will have either Brady or Manning drafted as early as No. 5 due to the increased amount of talent one can grab in a smaller draft, compared to a 12-team format. In a recent mock draft, I picked Brady at No. 6, just to see what happened. This may be an isolated incident, but I was not only able to grab Marshawn Lynch at No. 11, I was also able to somehow grab Braylon Edwards in Round 3, Maurice Jones-Drew in Round 4 and Bulger in Round 5. In a league with a smaller number of teams, drafting Brady or Manning with a late pick in Round 1 might not be such a bad idea, as your ability to acquire reasonable talent more quickly is increased. Thank you for your contributions to the fantasy news, you are by far the most intelligent analyst that I follow. – E. Batke, Cleveland, Ohio

I would have to go with the team you would have drafted. Taking Brady in the first round not only made your No. 1 RB worse, but it also made you downgrade you WRs and TE. So the conclusion is upgrading your QB will cost you a downgrade in three other positions, it’s just not worth it. – N. Falabella

Mike, the team you would have chosen with a RB in Round 1 is definitely the way to go. It gives you depth a RB, WR and still a quality QB and a great backup QB. I have done 25 or so mock drafts this year and found that using the following system in the first five rounds gave me the best team with the most depth: RB-WR-RB-WR-QB. This also depends on the flow of the draft. I also noticed if you draft with people with less experience, the QBs seem to go very fast. In two of my leagues I waited until Round 5 to draft a QB and ended up with David Garrard both times. Not bad, but it was surprising to see the likes of Big Ben and Derek Anderson taken in the third round. I’m not changing my system. – M. Andoney

I would rather have the team you chose without taking Brady in the first round. However, it seems to me that the trend is to take a QB early. Looking back at my fantasy drafts this year, I would’ve taken a QB much earlier had I known how fast they would go. I see that you would’ve taken Roethlisberger in the sixth round, but he was gone by the end of the second in both of my drafts. That forced me to take Aaron Rodgers as my No. 1 QB, as he was the best available option in the sixth round. However, I can’t complain because I ended up with Rodgers, Jake Delhomme, LaDainian Tomlinson, Clinton Portis, Michael Turner, Johnathan Stewart, Marques Colston, Roy Williams, James Hardy, Deion Branch, Donald Lee and John Carlson. – C. Holman

Mike, I found your experiment to be very interesting. Obviously, you were disappointed with the results, and rightfully so. My feeling is that the same experiment for others could vary widely, depending on key factors, such as draft position, draft format, league size, lineup requirements, roster limits and the available talent pool of RBs vs. QBs. Since there are too many variables to consider, I would call your experiment inconclusive, except within the exact conditions of your experiment as described. Having said that, I have yet to win a season with a first-round selection of an elite QB. My three winning seasons were all won with two of my first three draft picks being RBs. However, the times are changing. As much as I agreed with your preference for early RB selections in the past, I find the talent pool of elite RBs shrinking. With that in mind, my new strategy involves scrutinizing true value in RBs, looking more towards an early jump on elite WRs and QBs in early rounds.– J. Powell, Fullerton, Calif.

I just looked over the draft in which you selected Tom Brady with your first-round pick. While I think your “preferred” team would fare better, I think the one you drafted has immense potential. I don’t expect Brady to equal his numbers from last year, but I think he’ll still outscore all but about four or five stud running backs. Lewis and Jacobs are solid picks because they’re both the primary runners for their respective teams. The only shaky spot is the WR position. These picks are either really good or really bad. I hope you will keep us posted on your experimental findings. – B. Farrell, Brookings, S.D.

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