Two-QB league strategy

Updated: June 19, 2013, 11:05 AM ET
By AJ Mass | ESPN.com

Not every league plays by the same set of rules, and that's a perfectly good thing. People are going to have their own likes and dislikes about almost anything, so why should fantasy football be any different? So if you want to play with punters, just go ahead now. And if you want to have head coaches, just go ahead now.

Of course, to many fantasy football players, ideas such as this sound about as appealing as listening to the Spin Doctors. But whatever your feelings toward "Two Princes" might be, playing a league in which teams are forced to start two quarterbacks is growing in popularity with each and every passing year.

What makes this particular format so intriguing? For one thing, there are 32 teams in the NFL, and, apart from the odd Tim Tebow type gumming up the works and coming in for a series here and there, most teams are going to stick to one and only one quarterback unless an injury forces their hand.

In a standard league in which you start a single QB each week, you really don't even have to draft a backup at the position. Even if each one of the 10 owners in the league does happen to opt for a backup, there are going to be a dozen starters sitting there on the waiver wire during your No. 1 guy's bye week should you want to go with an unexpected quality matchup or hot hand when the time comes.

Compare that to the running back or wide receiver, where you need to start two players at each position, plus a flex. Last season, among those who played at least 10 games, there were only 55 RBs who rushed for 20 or more yards per game and just 68 WRs with at least 25 receiving yards per game. Because owners tend to draft five or six guys at each of those positions, we're looking at far fewer point-scoring options left undrafted when all is said and done.

In other words, in a one-QB league, the surface of the quarterback position is barely scratched and far too many viable fantasy options simply go to waste.

One Has Diamonds In His Pockets

Of course, adding one extra man to your starting lineup is not without its repercussions in terms of draft strategies that an owner needs to employ on draft day. Those who don't grab their first quarterback early might be doomed to failure before the season even starts.

Quarterbacks typically score more fantasy points than those players at any other position. Last season, for example, the top six scorers in ESPN standard play, as well as nine of the top 10, came from the QB position:

However, in a one-QB league, even though quarterbacks might score more points relative to other positions, when it comes to comparing value relative to each other, the gap is not all that large. Once the first few QBs went off the board, passing on Matt Ryan (the No. 7 QB in 2012) in order to wait 10 rounds to draft Matthew Stafford (the No. 10 QB) would have resulted in a loss of only 1.75 points per week. That's certainly a reason to load up at other positions.

In a two-QB league, the gap as a result of waiting grows far more quickly. Now, you're not simply risking missing out on the No. 6 quarterback and still getting the No. 11 quarterback. Because two men have to be in your lineup each week, you're risking the difference between having Aaron Rodgers and his 22 points per week (No. 1 in 2013 projections) and Tony Romo at 17.8 points per week (No. 10) as your No. 1 QB.

That's already a 4.3-point hole you're digging for yourself.

Wait again until the end of the line for your No. 2 QB, and you risk spurning Andrew Luck (17.6 points per game) for Andy Dalton (13.2 points per game). Now you're looking at a hole bordering on double digits that you'll need to climb out of on a weekly basis, simply because you didn't take the initiative to grab your quarterbacks early.

It's all about what kind of replacement value you can get if things go horribly wrong. If Robert Griffin III gets hurt again this season, in a one-QB league, you wouldn't worry too much because you might still be able to find a Josh Freeman or Matt Schaub on the waiver wire.

[+] EnlargeJake Locker
AP Photo/Joe HowelHow important is it to get your quarterbacks early in a two-QB format? Even the likes of Jake Locker might not be available on your waiver wire.

In a two-QB league, you'd be looking at a best-case option coming from a group of guys such as Ryan Tannehill, Alex Smith and Jake Locker. Sure, it's conceivable a top-10 performer could emerge from this pack, but we're definitely looking at shot-in-the-dark territory.

With Rodgers, Drew Brees and Peyton Manning likely being drafted in the first 15 picks of one-QB leagues, one should not be surprised to see every team snare its first of two QBs in the first two rounds of a two-QB draft. By the time Round 6 is through, you might find that most teams have grabbed a second gunslinger as well.

That's a strategy that might elicit chuckles in a one-QB league, but it is essential for survival in those of a two-QB variety.

This One Said He Wants To Buy You Rockets

Don't forget to read up on the specific rules for your league to make sure that you take fullest advantage on draft day. With only 32 full-time quarterbacks in the pool, you might not want to stop at just two on your roster. Many leagues, because of this, will cap the number of QBs you can have on your roster at three in order to increase the chances that there will be enough bodies to go around.

If no such rule is in place, you can gain a ton of leverage by stocking up with the leftovers at the back end of the draft so that when the bye weeks come, you'll be in position to make trades with owners who had less foresight.

Yes, those bye weeks will rear their heads sooner rather than later, so once you've drafted your first QB, you have a choice. Either you make sure to avoid other QBs with that same bye week so you can cover your two lineup spots with your three QBs to avoid any automatic goose eggs, or you can draft a second stud QB with the same bye week, essentially tanking one game in exchange for not having to worry about the position for the rest of the season.

Remember, with only 32 teams, the waiver-wire fodder disappears quickly. In Week 8, for example, six teams will be off, meaning there are only 26 possible starting quarterbacks to choose from. If you are in a 12-team league, assuming equal distribution, there would be only two possible waiver-wire picks -- and odds are those guys might be on rosters as well. You might as well be the one with that extra ace in the hole, rather than being the guy on the outside looking in.

During the season, you're going to need to act swiftly at the slightest rumor of a quarterback change. The moment you hear a coach openly talking about a "competition," or perhaps as soon as the home crowd starts chanting the backup's name, you're probably already too late to add that potential replacement to your roster.

While in a one-QB league, the concept of drafting Luke McCown as a handcuff to Brees should never even be contemplated, it's not the worst idea to use the final roster spot in a two-QB league on this "worst-case scenario" kind of Plan B.

The bottom line is that you're adding more than just one guy into the starting lineup in a two-QB league. You're altering the entire makeup of your roster, and your draft priorities need to change right along with it. Quarterbacks score the most points of any position, and there are far fewer of them to go around than at any other position. Patience might be a virtue, but waiting on quarterbacks in a two-QB league can be fatal.

Understood? Good. Now heed my advice, and the fantasy gods will condone you. Ignore these words of wisdom, and they'll disown you. Go ahead now!

Editor's Note: This column is an update of what has been published in previous years. Updates include statistical trends and relevant player information to better relate to the upcoming season.