Fantasy Football Draft Advice: Take A First Round QB, Like B.J. Upton

  • Scott Engel, RotoExperts Managing Director

upton manning jerseyIt’s a bold move that some Fantasy owners want to make, despite the loud, protesting voices of Fantasy experts everywhere. We’re talking about taking a quarterback with the first overall selection in the draft. You’re not seeing it happen consistently in 2014 leagues, but it’s not unheard of. It goes against most of the related Fantasy Football Draft Advice you see from analysts.

In fact, one notable name you may recognize is directly linked to such an aggressive approach. Atlanta Braves outfielder B.J. Upton not only took Peyton Manning first overall in the team’s clubhouse Fantasy Football draft, he was openly proud of the pick and supremely confident in it when I interviewed him this week. Upton gladly agreed to let me snap a picture of him in his Peyton Manning jersey, which he had hanging in his locker. Obviously, no one was going to tell an experienced Fantasy player like Upton that he can’t and shouldn’t have taken the top superstar from last year with the opportunity to select anyone on the board. He knows his scoring system and definitely knew who he wanted for sure, even with a chance to pick any of the top four running backs so many other owners have yearned to be in a position to take this year.

Related: The King’s Guide to the First Round

“You’re getting six points for a TD,” Upton told me about his league format in an interview for the RotoExperts Sirius/XM Fantasy Sports Radio morning show. “I feel like he is almost automatic for at least two TDs a week.” Upton added that with more than five years of Fantasy experience under his belt, he was able to execute a strong draft even after passing on an elite RB with a golden opportunity to nab one. He landed Alshon Jeffery and Alfred Morris with his next two choices, and had no obvious regrets about how his early strategy worked out.

Most Fantasy analysts have vehemently advised against taking a quarterback in the first round, and certainly scoff at the notion of taking one with the first overall pick. There are too many reasons not to take a QB in the first round. You only have to start one, the field of potential starters is deep, and there simply isn’t any way Manning can reach last year’s historic totals again. At least, logic would dictate that position makes sense.

Upton did get Ben Tate and Golden Tate as his RB2 and WR2, respectively. So his starting lineup for Week 1 does not look weak at those positions. For all we know, Upton could turn out to be smarter than most of us when it comes to Fantasy Football, or it’s at least going to look that way if he wins his league title, especially if he dominates during the regular season on the path to a championship. There are many ways to build a winning Fantasy team.

Yet, taking Manning or another top-level QB in the first round hardly guarantees even a shot at the league title. According to an article in the National Post last year, only 16 percent of Manning’s owners on actually made it to their league’s Super Bowl in 2013. And that was during a historic season. Taking a top player from the year before is no surefire way to assure oneself of anything for the following year; far from it. Chasing last year’s production is not a savvy approach in Fantasy Football. In an ever-changing game, it’s always best to look forward.

There are two ways to look at the “B.J. Upton” approach. On one hand, it seems crazy because you can get some very good QBs, such as Andrew Luck, Matt Ryan and Tony Romo, much later on. Heck, I have seen Romo go as late as the 12th round in a 10-teamer. Yet, if you are very experienced and feel you can outsmart your leaguemates later in the draft, why not go for it? It’s your team, no one has the final decision on it but you, and you know your league best.

I’m not going to tell you I would not firmly recommend against drafting Manning in the first round, because I won’t. I tell people several times, maybe thousands of times a day to wait on a quarterback. I’d much rather have McCoy and Morris with Jeffery and Matt Ryan than Manning, Morris, Jeffery and Ben Tate. I’m sure lots of you feel the same way. I totally and respectfully disagree with what Upton did at No.1 overall. I still say don’t do it. There are about 13 QBs in Fantasy Football you can comfortably roll out as starters, including Philip Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger. I will never pass up a top RB or WR for a QB, it simply is not the ideal way of building a Fantasy roster.

Yet, if you’re like B.J. Upton, you don’t have to listen to anyone but yourself when you are on the clock. We can advise you of the best decisions to make, but ultimately, you have the final call. The Fantasy Experts are not always right.

I still strongly believe, though, that Upton and his Fantasy team would have looked a heck of a lot better with an Eagles No. 25 jersey than the orange Denver No. 18. This season, I didn’t even queue up my first QB until Round Four. And the earliest I drafted one was Round Six (Matthew Stafford).

We’ll find out in December who looked better between me and B.J. Upton in that regard. For now, I’ll wear my Russell Wilson jersey with pride and take a RB, WR or Jimmy Graham in the first round of my remaining drafts instead. I strongly urge you do the same.

Photo credit: Scot Engel