Fantasy draft philosophy to avoid RB and WR busts tied to bad QB play

The idea of avoiding players on teams with bad quarterbacks is pretty obvious but not something I thought was worthy of a rule until trying to assess the odds of a resurgence for two previously productive players.

I found that having a quarterback as bad as Brock Osweiler made any chance that DeAndre Hopkins or Lamar Miller would bounce back practically hopeless — a 25% chance for Miller to be fantasy relevant and about a 0% chance for Hopkins.

I had no shares of Hopkins and Miller because even though Osweiler uncertainty was built into their average draft position, theoretically, it just never occurred to me to take them anywhere. I practically red-lined them. But what if I really red-lined them? What if instead of subscribing to the zeroRB philosophy (where you don’t draft a running back with a premium pick), you substitute zeroBadQB?

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All this means is that you don’t take any players on teams that are led by a quarterback who you expect to be bad. And I don’t mean bad in a relative sense like we sometimes get from Eli Manning and Joe Flacco and Ryan Tannehill. I mean straight up bad.

Now everyone who hears this theory says, “Of course I try to do this. Go to where the points are.” But I’m not talking about trying; I’m talking about doing. Just keep drafting players on teams with QBs who are okay or better and avoid the ones who play with QBs who are probably bad to terrible. Please note that this is not merely a strategy for drafting wide receivers but applies equally to running backs (and obviously tight ends) too. The result: you forget about a 30% of the player pool through at least five rounds and hopefully for much longer.

The best support for the zeroBadQB method happens to involve wide receivers and is provided by Jacob Rickrode (@clutchfantasy) via Rotoviz (subscription required).

“When projecting Top 24 (wide receivers) history has shown an average of 12 NFL teams will not have one. The Nos. 13-24 WRs since 2011 have averaged 125 targets on the season.”

Yes, those are most likely to be the receivers on the teams with the bad QBs. If you play with one, you can’t be expected to crack the top 24 in the end-of-the-season rankings. So at a minimum don’t rank one of these wide receivers in the top 24 at the position. And furthermore, we see that the target volume that we generally feature prominently in our rankings is overrated; if the wide receiver has a good quarterback, each target is worth more (and vice versa). So 125 targets from Drew Brees is worth at least 150 from, say, Blake Bortles or Carson Wentz. Better efficiency costs you volume, but that doesn’t mean it costs you fantasy points.

So now we have to decide which teams have quarterbacks that are so likely to be bad that we have to avoid all their players. Again, these players generally have low floors and low ceilings, so who needs them?

You can calibrate this however strictly you want. The quarterback and teams that are to be avoided on my cheat sheet are:

Jared Goff (Rams)
DeShaun Watson/Tom Savage (Texans)
Trevor Siemian (Broncos)
Josh McCown (Jets)
Cody Kessler (Browns)
Mike Glennon/Mitchell Trubisky (Bears)
Brian Hoyer (49ers)
Blake Bortles (Jaguars)
Carson Wentz (Eagles)

You can get into a game where you say, “If Bortles, why not Eli Manning.” But I have a hard line. And Manning has consistently supported elite performers. Bortles did in 2015, it’s fair to say. But I think he’s terrible and can’t stand the idea of having to watch him try to support my players. That’s a personal decision though. And maybe you like most Eagles fans think Wentz all evidence to the contrary is the man instead of Mark Sanchez 2.0. You have to work this out. The toughest calls for me on this list are Kessler and Siemian. I actually think Kessler is good, but the Browns don’t seem to agree and he’s a big injury risk regardless. So no Isaiah Crowell. But I’ll catch Kenny Britt (who has proven he can rise above terrible QB play) at a practically free price, currently going in the 120s.

Guys on my dead list in the crucial first five rounds due to zeroBadQB according to current ADP are Jordan Howard, Todd Gurley, Leonard Fournette, Hopkins, Miller, Allen Robinson, Demaryius Thomas (this one hurts but as great as he is, five TDs last year), Crowell, Alshon Jeffery, Carlos Hyde and C.J. Anderson. Only 11 players through 60 picks. So we’re sort of doing this anyway. But my advice is to go all in on keeping these guys off your roster.