They Can’t All Be 2001 Tom Brady, Right?

Quite simply, nothing affects an entire offense more than a QB change. We recently dug deep into what positions a QB switch hurts the most, but there’s a question we didn’t answer: Is there value in the replacement QB themselves?

I get the allure of the replacement QB. There is definitely something to be said for shiny new toys and the element of surprise. This could be especially true if going cheap with a replacement QB allows you to pay up at other positions.

However, I’m not sure the grass is always greener on the other side at QB. Are QB changes situations to chase or are they an easy fade, especially in guaranteed prize pools?

Details About the Sample

For the purpose of this study, I looked at 2016-17 (through week 8) as well as the entire 2015-16 season. Teams were excluded who satisfied one of the following.

– Their QB played all 16 games.

– Their QB situation looks like this with no clear rhyme or reason.

hou-qb-sit

– Also, situations like Tom Brady’s suspension this year are inverted. So Weeks 1-4 without him are lumped in with the ‘replacement QB’ category.

Let’s talk about the data. I went deep into our Trends Tool and looked at outcomes based on our signature Plus/Minus metric.

By the way, a player’s Plus/Minus is his actual points minus his expected points. Here’s an example: In Week 7, Colin Kaepernick scored 15.1 FanDuel points against the Buccaneers. His salary-based expectation was 13.5 FD points. As a result, he had a +1.60 Plus/Minus in that game.

What Does The Data Say?

The following chart displays the average FD Plus/Minus values for each replacement and starting QB from my sample of 254 games.

qb-plus-minus

Historically, replacement QBs have offered significantly less value than starting QBs from the perspective of salary-based expectations.

Remember, right now I’m talking about value. Often times these replacement QBs are substantially cheaper than most starting QBs, and rostering them could allow you to pay up at other positions in your DFS lineups.

So it is possible that a replacement QB on his own might not provide great value but that his salary could allow you to roster other, more expensive players who offer such outsized value that the lineups as a whole is overwhelmingly profitable.

That said, we should also remember that, when a replacement QB takes the field, every position in his offense is downgraded. Even if a replacement QB isn’t hurting you in DFS because of the way in which you’ve constructed your lineups, he’s almost certainly hurting his NFL teammates.

What about Raw Points?

We might assume that replacement QBs score fewer points than starting QBs. But what exactly is the difference between the two?

The following chart displays the average raw points scored by replacement and starting QBs. Keep in mind this is from the same sample as above, so were not even counting starting QBs from teams who played the entire season.

qb-raw-points

Replacement QBs on average are roughly 30 percent less productive than the starting QBs on their teams.

This information seems extremely relevant for tournaments, especially when these replacement QBs are chalky.

For example, people seem to be on Kaepernick at home this week against New Orleans. In our Player Models, we currently have him projected at nine to 12 percent ownership in the Sunday Million on FD. For $900 more, you can get Cam Newton at five to eight percent projected ownership. Cam is more expensive, but he has much more upside and will be in fewer lineups. In comparison to Cam, the replacement Kaepernick seems extremely risky, in part because Kaepernick is far more reliant on his rushing ability.

Rushing Ability Does Matter Though. Right?

Rushing ability raises both your floor and your ceiling. There are lots of reasons why Kaepernick is rated higher than Nick Foles in our Models this week, but Kaep’s rushing superiority is probably one of them.

But rushing upside is much more appealing if a QB can also throw, since a QB who can’t throw is almost certainly going to lack the large overall upside desired at the position for tournaments.

In cash games, I can see the argument much more for a replacement QB with rushing ability:

cheap rushing QB

This subgroup of replacement QBs has a relatively high Consistency and a solid Plus/Minus. If you’re going to use replacement QBs in cash games, guys who can run the ball are players to consider.

Conclusion

When a starting QB goes down, it may be enticing to roster a low-salary replacement, but keep in mind that historically such a player provides less value and fewer raw points. While some of these replacement QBs might be viable in cash games, it’s possible that the salary flexibility they afford in GPPs simply isn’t worth it.