Stacking the Odds at QB and WR in Fantasy

*Note: for the purpose of this article, PPR scoring is for Weeks 1-17 according to PFF, and both tight ends and wide receivers are lumped in at the ‘wide receiver’ position. A top-12 fantasy scorer is considered a QB1 or WR1. ADP is based on August of the respective year, according to DLF Superflex mock drafts, unless otherwise noted.

The ability to roster both a top quarterback and a top receiver from the same team can be extremely beneficial for your fantasy squad. This ‘stacking’ of talent can yield major dividends. In 2020 alone, we had seven ‘stacks’ that both finished in the top-12 of their position, paced by Josh Allen (overall Quarterback 1) & Stefon Diggs (Overall Wide Receiver 2) who combined for over 795 PPR points. How common is a QB1/WR1 stack, can we predict year over year who may be the most valuable stacks, and is there value to be had in targeting stacks in startup drafts?

Historical QB/WR Stacks

To get a decent sample size, I looked back over the past five years of data in search of some trends related to the QB/WR stack. Some interesting findings emerged:

  • 32/60 QB1’s also supported a WR1 (53%)
    • Those QB1/WR1 stacks averaged a combined 626 fantasy points (39.1 per game)
    • 22/32 WR1s tethered to QB1’s were top-6 at the position (69%)
    • The sample set of 32 WR1’s averaged 138 targets
  • 28/60 QB1’s failed to support a WR1 (47%)
    • Those QB1/WR2+ stacks averaged a combined 520 fantasy points (32.5 per game)
    • 14/28 finished as a WR2
    • The sample set of 28 WR2+’s averaged 108 targets
  • There were 14 instances in the past five seasons of a top-6 QB supporting a top-6 WR (23.3%)
    • Those 14 pairings averaged a combined 683 fantasy points (42.7 per game)

You see that about half of your top-12 quarterbacks in any given season are able to support fellow top-12 pass catchers. While that percentage isn’t extreme, you can see the obvious benefit for fantasy to owning a stack, and even more clearly finding the top-end quarterbacks and wide receiver pairings (those that both finish as top-6 at their position) yields even greater results.

Predicting the Future (or at least trying to)

For trying to create the ideal stack, you first have to try to predict the QB1’s. This isn’t too terribly difficult to narrow down. There have been 26 different quarterbacks finish as a top-12 fantasy scorer since 2016, and eight of the 12 in 2020 were repeats from 2019. In fact, over the last three seasons we see an average of seven quarterbacks repeat as QB1’s from the previous season. To get even more granular, 80% of the quarterbacks that have finished in the top-3 at the position have also supported WR1’s so identifying the best of the best at quarterback can give you a solid idea of who to stack with whom.

Once you have identified your QB1’s, you can begin to predict which will support WR1’s. Remember, on average only half of them will support WR1’s. Look for receiving options that realistically can come close to 140 targets. The receiving options that are high-end WR1’s (finish top-6) average closer to 150 targets so keep that in mind as well. If the quarterback lacks a clear top-option in their passing game (i.e. Lamar Jackson, or 2019 Josh Allen & Kyler Murray, for example), they are not a great stacking option.

What’s the Cost of a Stack?

While a Double Stack from Wendy’s will only cost you $2.19, the price of stacking a QB1 and WR1 is usually a bit steeper. Using startup SuperFlex average draft position (ADP) provided by Dynasty League Football, we can take a closer look at the 22 QB1/WR1 stacks since 2018, and their average cost in a draft leading up to the season.

  • 10/22 instances required you spend two of your first four picks on the QB/WR stack
  • 8/22 QB1’s were drafted in rounds 5+, while only 5/21 WR1’s were

In Superflex, quarterbacks fly off the draft board quickly with about half of the league’s starters being drafted in the first five rounds of most startup drafts, so finding value is difficult.

Actionable Advice

When in a dynasty startup draft, I recommend keeping the QB/WR stack in the back of your mind. However, I do not believe going out of your way to secure one is necessary as it will assuredly require you to purposefully sink two earlier picks into the stack. The difference in a QB1/WR1 stack and QB1/WR2+ stack isn’t negligible, but also doesn’t have enough impact to map your entire draft strategy around that. 

The idea of a stack is especially appealing after this season where we saw TWO(!) top-3 QB / top-3 WR stacks (Aaron Rodgers / Davante Adams and the aforementioned Allen / Diggs). That has only happened four times though in the previous four seasons, so banking on that level of production is rare. My recommendation is to not put too much stock in the stacks. However, if you want to take a shot on some 2021 QB/WR stacks, I would focus on trying to secure a quarterback and wide receiver that both have top-3 upside, as that is where you see major advantages for fantasy. 

Stacks to Target

Some of my favorites that have potential to both yield top-3 seasons at their position within the next 2-3 years (ADP via DLF, as of December 2020):

  • Dak Prescott (1.05) and Amari Cooper (5.09) 
    • Dak was on an historic pace prior to his injury in Week 5, and Cooper was his favorite target. Even with the passing volume regressing a bit from 2020, the two Cowboys have already put up one QB1/WR1 season in 2019 and very well could provide top-end production going forward.
  • Justin Herbert (1.06) and Keenan Allen (4.10)
    • Herbert surprised many his rookie season, and from Weeks 2-16 he was QB7. Keenan Allen was the WR2 overall from weeks 2-14 (he missed time Week 15 and 16), and continues to be a value in startup drafts. Seeing both players finish as high-end options in 2021 is certainly plausible.
  • Russell Wilson (1.07) and DK Metcalf (1.12)
    • Okay, I am slightly cheating here. Obviously, this combo is nearly impossible to draft without some draft pick trading. However, for leagues already established it could be a trade worth exploring. Assuming you have Metcalf on your team, broaching a trade with the current Russell Wilson might be worthwhile. Wilson could come with a bit of a discount this offseason after fading down the stretch. If a buying window has potentially opened for Russell, you should leap through that as he has finished as a top-4 quarterback in back to back seasons and DK narrowly missed a top-3 season in his age-22 season.

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