Why you can feel free to wait on a QB in fantasy drafts this year
Four players (Brees, Rodgers, Stafford, Brady) threw for 39+ touchdowns in 2011, but the next highest number was 31 (Romo), and no one else even had 30. Five players (Brees, Rodgers, Stafford, Brady, E. Manning) threw for over 308 yards per game, but the next highest was 289 (Rivers), and no one else reached 272.
My point here is that if you didn't have one of the guys who threw for 308+ yards and 39+ touchdowns, you probably did not win your fantasy league. This resulted in fantasy owners highly prioritizing the quarterback position in 2012 drafts - most people felt that they needed one of the elite options. That feeling was warranted after what happened in 2011, but the strategy did not end up paying off.
Only two players (Brees, Rodgers) racked up 39+ passing touchdowns, and Rodgers' value took a substantial step back with his 268.4 passing yards per game. Three other players (P. Manning, Brady, Ryan) topped 30 touchdowns. Six quarterbacks (Brees, Stafford, Romo, Brady, Ryan, P. Manning) averaged over 290 passing yards per game, with five of them falling between 291 and 311 yards per contest. Fantasy football's best quarterback - Drew Brees - also led the league in interceptions. In addition, with the evolution of the dual-threat quarterback, players such as Cam Newton, Robert Griffin III, Colin Kaepernick, and Russell Wilson all became reliable QB1 options.
Simply put, there were a plethora of quarterbacks capable of leading a fantasy team to a championship. Those who passed on RB1's and WR1's to grab the elite quarterbacks they thought they needed probably ended up disappointed. This evened-out playing field of fantasy quarterbacks looks likely to continue into 2013.
Most leagues these days are probably 12 teams, so let's take a look at the quarterbacks with the top-12 average draft positions in Yahoo leagues:
1. Aaron Rodgers
2. Drew Brees
3. Peyton Manning
4. Cam Newton
5. Tom Brady
6. Colin Kaepernick
7. Matt Ryan
8. Robert Griffin III
9. Russell Wilson
10. Matthew Stafford
11. Andrew Luck
12. Tony Romo
Here's a fun fact: Romo - the 12th quarterback off the board in Yahoo drafts - finished last season third in passing yards per game with 306.4 and sixth in touchdowns with 28. He was the sixth highest scoring fantasy quarterback last year, and he is the last QB1 being drafted. Other back-end QB1's such as Russell Wilson, Matthew Stafford, and Andrew Luck have immense upside. Is it really worth taking Rodgers in the second round when you can get Romo in the ninth? (For the record, Rodgers averaged 4.11 more fantasy points per game than Romo last year).
If you want to go after the sure thing at a crucial position early in the draft, I won't necessarily say it's a horrible move. What I am saying is that you should not feel obligated to go after an elite quarterback as you may have in the past - big-time fantasy quarterbacks are much more common in 2013 than they have been in recent years.
Reliable skill position players going in the second round (Dez Bryant, Matt Forte) and third round (Demaryius Thomas, Stevan Ridley) will be much harder to find in the middle rounds than a reliable quarterback.
You obviously have to play the draft based on what unfolds as it goes on, but I'll probably end up racking up running backs and receivers early, then going after a rock solid, high-upside quarterback in the middle rounds.