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The Attack of the Two-Headed Fantasy Quarterback
John Tuvey
August 8, 2008
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So you missed out on Tom Brady. Peyton Manning, too.

While you were focusing on running backs and wide receivers—maybe mixing in an elite tight end as well—the rest of your league snapped up all the quarterbacks who enter 2008 without major questions marks. Now it’s the eighth round and you still need a signal caller.

First, the good news: you’re not as out of luck as you might think. Last year this was the range in which astute (and patient) fantasy owners landed Ben Roethlisberger, Brett Favre, or even Tony Romo—a trio that averaged 32 touchdowns and 3,800 yards, putting them firmly in must-start fantasy territory.

Now the bad: scattered amongst the Favres, Romos, and Roethlisbergers in those drafts were Vince Young, Alex Smith, and Chad Pennington. That trio combined for 25 touchdowns total, sending their fantasy owners into full-on scramble mode. Toss in the similarly-ranked Jake Delhomme and Matt Leinart, who amassed 10 touchdowns and 24 DNPs between them, and you can see the risk associated with hoping for a Big Ben-type reward out of the later rounds.

Since you’d much rather get good news from the top of your fantasy lineup, why not restack the odds in your favor? By double-dipping at the fountain of mid-range quarterbacks, you’re able to play the more favorable matchup each week—and put your fantasy team in a stronger position to win.

Yes, unlike with the bean dip at your draft party, double-dipping with your quarterbacks is allowed—in fact, if you wait until the eighth round to snap up your first signal-caller, it’s highly encouraged. There are multiple reasons why such a strategy can pay off.

For starters, you’ll be loaded at running back and wide receiver, having stockpiled premium players at those positions through the first seven rounds while others stray from that path to take their quarterbacks. For example, while your rivals may tab Romo or Drew Brees in Round Three they’ll be missing out on Jamal Lewis or Brandon Jacobs. If they use a fifth-round pick on Roethlisberger or Derek Anderson, you can capitalize by adding a receiver such as Santonio Holmes or Calvin Johnson.

Then, when Round Eight rolls around, your leaguemates will be picking through backs like Ahman Green and Justin Fargas or receivers such as Javon Walker and Derrick Mason. No question, your Lewis/Holmes or Jacobs/Johnson tandem gives you a solid leg up.

The key, then, is to minimize the difference between Romo or Roethlisberger and what you’ll squeeze out of the quarterback position. Enter the double dip.

A survey of average draft position results suggests that in Round Eight you’ll be choosing from amongst the likes of Super Bowl hero Eli Manning, the Rams’ Marc Bulger, and David Garrard of the Jaguars. It’s unlikely—though not impossible—to snag two of those three, so for your QB2 you can target potential 10th-rounders like Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers, the Texans’ Matt Schaub, or Carolina’s Jake Delhomme.

Obviously, there’s upside to each of these quarterbacks. Manning, as you may have noticed, finished last year on a high note—high enough that many forget he led the NFL in interceptions. Despite last season’s struggles Bulger is still averaging 260 yards per game for his career. And Garrard rewarded both Jack Del Rio and fantasy owners who took a flyer on him by emerging as a solid NFL quarterback and legitimate fantasy option.

The 10th rounders come with bigger question marks: Rodgers’ 59 pro passing attempts, Delhomme’s reconstructed elbow, and a combo platter of injury and inexperience concerns for Schaub. But Green Bay’s offensive system may allow Rodgers to work through his growing pains, Delhomme has been a fantasy stud when healthy, and Schaub flashed similar skills when both he and top receiver Andre Johnson were on the field together in Houston.

So what if you could mix and match one from Group A and one from Group B all season long? Odds are you’d cobble together a solid fantasy quarterback—both by riding the hot hand and by playing the favorable matchup.

Let’s say you drafted Garrard in Round Eight and followed up with Delhomme two rounds later. Using last year’s statistics—which aren’t perfect but provide an idea of what to expect—if you tally the average number of passing scores allowed by Jacksonville’s and Carolina’s opponents, then start the quarterback facing the more permissive defense, you can expect 26 touchdowns from that position. Last year that was the equivalent of Carson Palmer, a guy who’ll go four rounds before you start thinking about a quarterback.

And that’s assuming the average; if Garrard’s development continues its upward trend or Delhomme recaptures the form that produced 29 touchdowns in 2004—or, in a best-case scenario, both—you’ll hit the same jackpot as those who plucked Romo or Roethlisberger out of the mid-to-late rounds last season.

Numbers for pairings among the other quarterbacks mentioned are within a couple touchdowns of the 26 cited above. So if you’re of the belief that the light has clicked on for Eli or Rodgers will make folks at Lambeau forget ol’ No. 4, follow your instincts and double-dip accordingly.

If your league’s roster sizes are large enough to accommodate a third quarterback, you can up your odds even further by bringing probable 12th-rounders like Matt Leinart, Jason Campbell, and Jeff Garcia into the mix. With the exception of Leinart, who sports serious upside so long as he holds off Kurt Warner, the upside associated with these quarterbacks isn’t as great. However, a third set of matchups increases your chances of a favorable one—and the 28 touchdowns allowed by playing the best matchups matches Brees’ total from last season.

So don’t fret if Brady or Manning escape your grasp. With a little effort each week sizing up your quarterbacks’ matchups—and a nod or two from the fantasy gods—your two-headed late-round quarterback monster will put up numbers that hang with the big boys. Couple that with the superior talent you assembled at running back and wideout while your rivals chased quarterbacks and you’ll be in great position to double-dip out of the championship trophy at your league’s year-end party.

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