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Fantasy Football and The Allure of Brand Name Quarterbacks

Starting a quarterback based on their name and body of work might seem like a good idea, but it’s not the best idea.

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees
New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees

Dec 2, 2013; Seattle, WA, USA; New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) looks to pass the ball during the second quarter against the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field. Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

Back when I went to high school all the rage was purchasing knock off Tommy Hilfiger sweaters for the sole purpose of looking cool to your friends as you walked down the hallways with the words of a middle-aged fashion designer emblazoned across your chest.

We would even go so far as to pay friends around $100 to sew a Tommy Hilfiger patch onto some sweater that had been collecting dust in our closets for year so we could be considered part of the cool fashion trendier clique.

Nowadays, to me, a sweater is a sweater, and my wardrobe mainly consists of shorts and NFL related t-shirts.

I wanted to reminisce about part of my high school experience because I feel that some fantasy owners place a “brand name” value to quarterbacks.

Never bench your studs, they say. Or ‘insert elite quarterback name here’ is an automatic start this week, regardless of matchup, is something else you often hear uttered by friends or fantasy analysts.

Heck, I’ve said them many times in my life, too.

However, should we automatically take those words to heart?

Take Drew Brees in Week 13 of the 2013 fantasy football season as an example.

On the season, Brees is the second highest scoring quarterback in standard leagues, behind Peyton Manning. That part makes sense.

Brees has also put up nine Top-12 weekly quarterback scoring fantasy performances this year, including three instances in which he was the highest scoring fantasy quarterback for the week. Those are great numbers. In 2-QB leagues, he only has one finish outside of the QB2 tier this season.

No matter how you analyze the numbers, he’s been a consistent fantasy quarterback, as we have come to except out of Brees every year.

However, Week 13 was a completely different story, as the only quarterback to play a full game in Week 13 who scored less standard fantasy points than Drew Brees did was Mike Glennon. For Week 13, Brees finished as QB29.

It was just that type of week for Brees, and it was understandable, seeing as how he was going up against the Seattle Seahawks, and its tenacious defense.

If you were in a league where the fantasy playoffs started in Week 13, and Drew Brees was the centrepiece of your 2-QB fantasy football team, you might have lost the game, and been eliminated from the playoffs.

The previous weeks Brees finished as a QB1 during the year wouldn’t have mattered much thanks to Brees’ Week 13 clunker.

No one can really fault you for starting Brees in Week 13, if you went that route. He’s Drew Brees. He can go off for 400 passing yards and four passing touchdowns any game. Against any defense. That’s just the type of quarterback he is. And he has had multiple such performances this year.

However, nobody could fault you if you wanted to bench Brees in Week 13 either, and start a quarterback you plucked from the waiver wire over Brees, such as Josh McCown.

One thing many fantasy writers such as CD Carter and Rich Hribar express is the mantra ‘process over results.’

The process in which you decide which quarterback to start is in your control. The results that fantasy players produce on the field are out of our control.

When making fantasy football decisions, we need to focus on what we can control, and not worry about what we can’t control, no matter how many shower cries may ensue because of the results.

If you look at the Drew Brees versus Josh McCown discussion, one which myself and Dr. Renee Miller of rotoViz got into on the XN Hangout last Sunday, you’ll see just how entirely different the thought process was regarding who we backed.

I had mentioned how quarterbacks such as Matt McGloin, Case Keenum, and Scott Tolzien had produced as QB1s already this year. Renee mentioned how any of those quarterbacks could easily finish in the bottom of quarterback scoring as well. Which is also true.

When looking at which fantasy quarterbacks to start, and which fantasy quarterbacks to bench, we need to go beyond what their first and second names are. The name Drew Brees is more valuable than the name Josh McCown because of the resume Brees has built during his career.

There’s a reason McCown is considered nothing more than a journeyman back-up quarterback.

But, fantasy football is a weekly game, and the 352 career passing touchdowns Brees threw prior to Monday night’s game shouldn’t automatically make us assume he’s a better fantasy option than a Josh McCown. At least that shouldn’t have been the case in Week 13, when Brees was squaring off against the Seattle Seahawks in Seattle.

In Dr. Miller’s book ‘Cognitive Bias in Fantasy Sports: Is Your Brain Sabotaging Your Team?‘ she says, “Sometimes what our brain is telling us is the best IS the best. But sometimes it isn’t.”

Simply starting a fantasy quarterback based on their name, and career body of work might seem like a good idea, but it might not be the best idea.

We have a lot of factors to consider when submitting fantasy lineups, and sometimes we can get too caught up in the name game. Even though an elite quarterback like Brees should be the better option than McCown, the final results don’t always agree with that thinking.

Of course, substitute Peyton Manning’s name for Brees last week, and you’re looking at a different story, as Peyton proved his worth in Week 13, even though he may of had a tough match-up as well against the Kansas City Chiefs in Kansas City.

One of the quarterbacks this week that will have plenty of biases thrown his way by fantasy owners is Joe Flacco.

We look at Flacco’s fantasy season so far, QB19 in standard scoring leagues, and see his game log consists of many performances where he scored 12 fantasy points or less, including three games where he couldn’t even score a measly nine fantasy points.

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