In 2007, my long-standing fantasy football league switched to a roster that starts two quarterbacks along with the normal two running backs and the not-uncommon three wide receivers. That year I finished the season rotating Peyton Manning, Donovan McNabb, and Trent Edwards into two starting quarterback spots, and I finished a pedestrian 6-7.
It wasn’t an easy transition, and I wasn’t the quickest to learn new strategies appropriate to the two-quarterback format. Thankfully, after years of practice, I took home our league championship this last year, rotating Russell Wilson and Joe Flacco into the second spot, alongside Tom Brady.
My goal in this article is to convince you that the two-quarterback format is an improvement over traditional one-quarterback leagues, and I'll show you reasons why.
Why Start Two Quarterbacks?
Although two-quarterback leagues are growing in popularity, they are far from the norm. Many long-time fantasy football players scoff at the idea and deride it for departing from the NFL model. So it is fair to ask, “Why start two quarterbacks?” and it is fair to doubt the need for change.
First, let’s get one thing straight: fantasy football hasn’t mirrored the NFL ever. NFL teams don’t have two starting running backs. They have to study individual defensive players (which barely two percent of fantasy leagues do currently). And they value linemen (if you’re not convinced, look at the top picks in this year’s draft).
So it’s hardly a convincing argument to point out that NFL teams don’t start two quarterbacks. The primary goal of fantasy football is not to create a virtual NFL; it’s to have fun picking teams composed of skill players. And fantasy works even better if you have a parity between those skill positions.
In a traditional league format, you’re starting 1 QB, 2 RBs, 2 WRs, and a flex (either RB or WR). That means that league owners are starting up to 30 NFL running backs and 30 NFL wide receivers, as compared to 10 quarterbacks. There is no parity between positions when you’re choosing from among the elite, top-10 quarterbacks while also having to pick from the dregs of the running back field.
Last year, this meant that traditional leagues weren’t starting quarterbacks lower than Matthew Stafford or Andrew Luck, but they were forced to play running backs like Danny Woodhead and Joique Bell on occasion. Because of the disparity, some weeks owners were having to choose between Jeremy Maclin and Cecil Shorts, but they were able to start the same top-10 quarterback all year.
During the year, this means that barring a major injury — or the one week where your quarterback goes on bye — you don’t have to spend more than twenty seconds thinking about the quarterback position. As long as you drafted one of the top-10 quarterbacks, you’re set. Instead, you spend all your time worrying about running backs and wide receivers. Heck, your defensive position gets more attention than the quarterback spot on most weeks.
And before the year starts, this means that your pre-season rankings have to be deep, detailed, and thorough at the other skill positions, but you can take about ten minutes to rank the quarterbacks and call it quits. You don’t really have to put much thought into it.
So What Changes When You Start Two Quarterbacks?
Those are the two biggest arguments for switching to a two-quarterback format: it forces owners to spend more time researching quarterbacks before the season, and it makes quarterbacks much more valuable during the season.
If we take only the end-of-season quarterback rankings, you can see what I mean. If you were starting just one, your toughest choices would be between Matthew Stafford, Andrew Luck, and Russell Wilson — the QBs that finished 9, 10, and 11 overall. But if you’re starting two quarterbacks, you have to look down near the 20th player, who was Ryan Fitzpatrick. Believe me, if week-to-week you’re struggling to pick between Fitzpatrick and Christian Ponder, you’re putting a lot more thought into the quarterback position.
That difficulty means that in the weeks leading up to the season each owner is obsessing over the entire list of NFL quarterbacks. Rather than glibly choosing between Tony Romo and Russell Wilson this year, two-quarterback owners will be studying stats on players like Philip Rivers and Jake Locker. The two-quarterback format means that owners have to research the quarterback position just as well as they’re researching running backs and receivers.
So why not try it out this year? I won't tell you to quit your longtime league; I just think you should also try out a format that places the appropriate amount of emphasis on the quarterback position.