There’s a stigma in single-quarterback dynasty leagues where you should wait for your quarterback. I disagree. If anything, recency bias has taught me to stabilize your future. Even for two-quarterback leagues, waiting on the second seems to be foolish when building your team. Sure, you can find value later, but how many picks are you wasting down the line? How many trades are you making trying to solidify the super flex position or second quarterback spot?
“In any team sport, the best teams have consistency and chemistry.” Cowboys Super Bowl-winning quarterback Roger Staubach.
Quarterback is still one of the most skewed positions. Although the separation between scoring for quarterbacks is lower than any other position, when you account for lifetime points scored and consistency, it’s quite the opposite. A major contributor to lifetime points expanding for the quarterback is the Collective Bargaining Agreement in 2011.
Rookies had significantly more impact before the 2011 CBA agreement, as they could handicap teams with massive contracts for five to six years. In 2004, Giants quarterback Eli Manning commanded a 6-year/$54M contract which accounted for 12.5-percent of the cap. Chargers Philip Rivers signed 6-year/$41.25M or 11.1-percent. Those numbers compared to what players are resigning for currently seem like pennies, but Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert’s 2020 rookie contract is less than what Rivers received. With the salary cap set at $198.2M, Herbert’s $6M-per-year average is a drop in the bucket.
With teams unable to hide their young quarterback’s deficiencies, it was rare to see quarterbacks under the age of 27 in the playoffs. Without the time to develop while signing more lucrative contracts than some veterans, they were at a major competitive disadvantage. Tracking back to 2008-2010, only nine of the 36 playoffs teams had their starting quarterback on a rookie contract. From 2018-2020 we saw 15 quarterbacks on rookie contracts accomplish this feat across 38 teams. Almost 40-percent of the quarterbacks were under the age of 27 over the past few years compared to 25-percent in the years leading up to the CBA.
In 2010, the first overall pick Sam Bradford signed a rookie contract worth $78 million, which absorbed an average of 11.73% of the Rams’ cap space. Following the CBA agreement one year later, first-overall pick Cam Newton only received a 4-year/$22M contract and never absorbed more than 5.1% of the Panthers cap space. The new CBA was a game-changer. It allowed for massive upside as they built a robust support system surrounding their rookie. It was even more valuable if you could hit with a quarterback later in the draft, as we saw with Russell Wilson.
Seattle snagged Wilson third round of the 2012 NFL draft. Backed by the Legion of Boom, Wilson made the playoffs in three straight years, with two Super Bowl appearances and one Super Bowl win during Wilson’s rookie contract. Following this run, we saw the Los Angeles Rams duplicate the process with Dallas, Kansas City, Baltimore, Buffalo, Cleveland, Miami, and the Los Angeles Chargers soon to join. However, not all end in success stories as Houston failed to build correctly, and Dallas couldn’t get their defense right. But one thing is a lock: It’s good for fantasy.
How Do Quarterback’s Contracts Affect Teams?
Even if a quarterback sits for a year, we could still see them competing while on their rookie contract. Surround them with superior talent at a younger age as we saw the Cardinals do with wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins and the Bills with wide receiver Stefon Diggs. When we look at the Dolphins, they were able to bring in multiple high-profile guys while signing ten free agents in 2020, then add Willer Fuller in 2021. The Browns acquired stud right tackle Jack Conklin via free agency in 2020 after trading for Odell Beckham a year prior. They could obtain these expensive contracts because the rookies were being paid a small fraction of the cap, resulting in younger quarterbacks seeing early success. Meanwhile, teams like the Falcons had to sit idly by as Matt Ryan’s contract soaked up the books. However, that brings up another point.
Rookies aren’t the only ones providing QB1 upside. The 36-year-old Ryan is still fulfilling his contract. He led the league in passing attempts being second in yards and 12th in touchdowns. He’s not the only player who’s succeeding in fantasy late in their career. Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, and Ben Roethlisberger all had great seasons. Once again, this was a result of the CBA, along with rule changes. From 2000 to 2011, there were only seven finishes of 220-plus fantasy points from quarterbacks who were 35 or older. Since then, there have been 35.
How Do Rookie Quarterback Contracts Affect Fantasy?
The dynasty community values quarterbacks as if they would play five seasons with QB1 numbers and understandably so. Back in the mid-to-late 2000’s the average points scored to be a QB1 is around 220. Steve Young, Joe Montana, Randall Cunningham, Donovan McNabb, John Elway, Brett Favre, and Dan Marino were the only ones to surpass five seasons before 2011. Only Favre did it for more than seven seasons. Since 2011 we have had 14.
We are now getting 10 to 15 seasons of QB1 finishes from great quarterbacks. While some people would prefer to send mid-level players and rookie picks for a hold-over quarterback, others use veterans to trade up or draft values with those picks. For example, in a league where I had Patrick Mahomes, Justin Herbert, Derek Carr, and Josh Allen, I received two second-round picks for Carr and now won’t have to draft a quarterback for at least ten more years. As others reach for the position, I can focus on targeting bargains which fall to me while taking shots on players like Vikings second-round pick Kellen Mond. If Mond develops, then I get a value and flip again. The cycle repeats as I know I have multiple top-12 quarterbacks who will keep my roster stable.
Over the next several articles for Fantasy Intervention, I will uncover the rookie quarterbacks in this class with the system they are in, the tendencies of their front office, and the history of the organization. We will find out if they are suitable investments for you to build your fantasy team. Stay tuned in for those articles to drop under, Stabilize Your Future.
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