Last season I wrote an article on the why the fantasy football writing
community as a whole was incorrect on the ranking of Patrick Mahomes.
The thesis of the article was pretty simple. If a quarterback has
a running back ranked in the top 12, two wide receivers ranked in
the top 30, and an elite tight end, that quarterback should be ranked
well within the top 10 at the position.
Either we as an industry were wrong about the rankings of the
Chiefs skill position players, or we were wrong about Mahomes.
It could not be both.
As it turned out, the fantasy community was correct with the
rankings of Kareem Hunt, Tyreek Hill, and Travis Kelce, but incorrect
with the average ranking of Mahomes, who delivered the second-best
fantasy season of all-time, behind only Peyton Manningís
record-setting 2013 season.
Mahomes proved to be a fantasy cheat code in 2018, leading fantasy
football owners to a championship with 494.1 fantasy points. He
averaged 30.9 fantasy points per game, threw at least two passing
touchdowns in all but one game, and finished the season with a
consistency score of 88.77, over 20 points higher than Matt Ryanís
65.11. Not only was Mahomes by far the best quarterback in total
points scored, but he was also the most consistent performer at
the position by a wide margin.
In a record-setting season in which two players threw for over
5000 yards (Matt Ryan came up just 80 short to be the third),
nine players threw for at least 30 passing touchdowns, and six
quarterbacks completed 69% or more of their passes, Mahomes was
still head and shoulders above the competition.
Despite this fact, the fantasy writing community is once again
incorrect with its ranking of Patrick Mahomes and is doing their
readers a disservice by ranking Mahomes outside the overall top
I will examine multiple popular narratives used by the industry
on why Mahomes should not be taken before the third round, dispel
those arguments, and provide data on why taking Mahomes in the
second round is the move that will win you a fantasy title in
Mahomes is only one of three quarterbacks to throw for 5000 yards
and 50 touchdowns in the history of the NFL. Tom Brady achieved
the feat in 2007 with Randy Moss and the team going full scorched
Earth after the spy-gate scandal and Peyton Manning set the NFL
record of 55 passing touchdowns in 2013 with the Broncos posting
a 13-3 record and a Super Bowl berth.
Both players saw a massive decrease in their production in the
year following their breakout performance. Brady suffered a season-ending
knee injury in 2008, and the dominance of the Randy Moss connection
fizzled out after 2009. The first ballot hall of fame player would
go on to have six more seasons of at least 30 passing touchdowns,
but he would not come close to touching the 50-TD mark again.
Manning was already 37-years old and dealing with severe shoulder
pain when he posted his ridiculous 55-TD performance. Manning
would play one more full season, leading the Broncos to a win
over the Panthers in the Super Bowl. Although he secured a second
ring, the team often won in spite of Manning, who was a shell
of his former self.
If Manning and Brady, two of the greatest to ever play the game,
managed to tally only 39 passing touchdowns the season following
their 50-touchdown year, then, of course, Patrick Mahomes will
regress similarly, or so the narrative goes.
If it has never been done in the past, then it cannot be done
in the future is a lazy way to evaluate players and teams.
Both Manning and Brady dealt with injuries, changes to their
team, and were well into their 30ís when they joined the
50-TD club. Mahomes enters 2019 with the same coach and offensive
scheme, the same offensive line, the same skill position players
as the season prior. Also, the defense that the Chiefs look to
put on the field could be even worse than the one that ranked
31st out of 32 teams last year. Like Matt Ryan last season and
Drew Brees for most of his career with a lousy defense, Mahomes
and the Kansas City offense will likely need to score a bunch
of points to make up for the poor play by their defense.
At just 23-years of age, no other quarterback has entered the
league with the physical and mental tools, the perfect offensive
scheme, and the skill position players to succeed like Mahomes.
Why do we assume, based on the play of aging players in the past,
that Mahomes will follow suit with a season of less than 40 passing
No other quarterback in NFL history reached 50-touchdowns in
their first full season. Is it that much of a stretch, considering
everything is in place for him to have another good season, for
Mahomes to reach 50 touchdowns again in 2019?
For many fantasy analysts, the argument against taking Mahomes
in the second round is not a knock on Mahomes as a player or his
fantasy production, but rather the players you pass on in favor
of taking a player at a position as deep as quarterback.
On face value, this argument does have merit, as there are many
players going in the second round who could provide fantasy production
at or greater than their draft cost. Like Todd Gurley in 2017,
there is always the chance of a second-round pick finishing in
the top-5 or leading the league in fantasy points.
But on the other side of the equation, there are always players
taken in the first and second rounds who turn out to be busts
and torpedo teams who mistakenly use early draft capital on a
player like Leonard Fornette in 2018, or Jay Ajayi and the Eddy
Lacyís of the world.
I went back and studied the Average Draft Position of the top
24 on Fantasy Football Calculator and compared it to end of season
standings. I wanted to see how many first and second-round picks
provide equal production to their draft cost.
What I found was somewhat eye-opening. In 2017, six of the players
taken in the first round failed to deliver top 24 fantasy production,
either because of injury or poor play. Five players taken in the
second round also failed to deliver top-24 fantasy production,
with some barely finishing in the top-100.
So in 2017, you had a 46% chance (11 of 24) of your first or
second-round pick failing to give you points relative to their
draft cost. Sure, the some of the players taken in the second
round, like Todd Gurley, proved to be monsters for fantasy owners,
but you had almost a 50-50 chance of selecting a guy who did not
give you expected production.
The same data holds when evaluating last year. Ten players taken
in the first two rounds failed to deliver top-24 point production,
and many of them, including Dalvin Cook, Devonta Freeman, Leonard Fournette, and Rob Gronkowski failed to give top 70 output. Many
of those players missed most or all of the season, effectively
robbing their owners of a top pick and torpedoing their season.
Fantasy analysts often preach the concept of using the first
two rounds of the draft to find safe, foundational WRs and RBs
to build your roster. Yet year after year, nearly 50% of the players
drafted in the top 24 either bust or donít live up to their
Why not use your first-round pick on a foundational skill position
player and then use the second-round pick on the consensus No.1
QB in Mahomes. Historically, and even more so now with the leagueís
emphasis on protecting the position, quarterbacks do not get injured
at the same rate as running backs and wide receivers, so Mahomes
carries less of an injury risk than the WRs and running backs
you could take in the second round.
From a production standpoint, even if Mahomes does regress to
40 touchdowns, he still will finish the season as an elite quarterback
and his consistent play over other streaming option will help
mitigate the risk of dropping a single-digit week. If Mahomes
does, in fact, continue at his pace near to what he did last season,
he will once again be the No.1 player in fantasy by a wide margin.
With upwards of 20 quarterbacks capable of being a fantasy football
starter it makes sense to wait on a QB in most leagues. The difference
in fantasy point per game production from the No.7 QB last season
is just two fantasy points more than the 15th overall quarterback.
You will hear from multiple fantasy football writers and podcast
hosts the benefits of streaming the position off the waiver wire,
with over 40 QBs posting a QB1 performance in each of the last
What if you play in a home league where most teams draft two
quarterbacks, leaving few options on the waiver wire to stream?
It is easy to say in August that you are fine choosing between
an Andy Dalton or Jimmy Garoppolo start, but when it is five minutes
before rosters lock and you are sweating a tough decision, wouldn't
you rather have a player like Mahomes who is a must-start regardless
Not only did Mahomes give owners 145 more fantasy points than
the No.12 ranked QB in 2018, but he also provided an unparalleled
level of consistent production. His 88.77 consistency score was
the best in the league and the fifth-highest by a quarterback
dating back to 2000. His highs were sky high, but even in his
games in which he did not carry the team, he provided no less
than 20.5 fantasy points.
You can find players late in drafts who can finish as a QB1.
You can stream quarterbacks each week and hit gold on a few choice
matchups. But you can just as easily choose the wrong streaming
option, or take a gamble on a late-round guy like Josh Allen and
Late-round quarterback proponents will always go back to the
notion of opportunity cost and the players you pass on in the
second round to grab Mahomes. They will also hound you with the
narrative that you can piece together a top-5 quarterback by streaming
I would argue that the nearly 50% chance a bust occurs in the
first and second rounds is worth avoiding with a player like Mahomes
who is safer and carries a much higher floor and a stratospheric
ceiling. I would also say that streaming can result in hitting
gold on a few weeks, but those hits on players often are overshadowed
by bad choices and bad picks.
The Best is Yet to Come?
A question that I keep asking myself and something that I have
posed to other people in the industry is why do we all assume
that 50 passing touchdowns and 5000 yards are the best Mahomes
will ever do? At just 23 years of age, he has more growing pains
to endure and will no doubt become a more experienced and talented
When Colin Kaepernick took the league by storm in 2012 and 2013,
he did so using his running ability and executed the run-option
in a way that caught many teams off balance. Eventually, the league
caught up and negated Kaepís legs to some extent, and he
was exposed for the subpar passer and pure quarterback that he
Many assume that a similar thing will happen to Mahomes and the
Chiefs. Opposing teams now have film on him, and they will draw
up plays to shut him down. But the difference between Mahomes
and Kaep are staggering. Not only is Mahomes one of the best deep-ball
throwers and can throw on the run as well as Aaron Rodgers, but
he was also rated as the highest-rated pocket passer in 2018.
He has an eidetic memory and can process information quickly
like Rodgers and Alex Smith. He throws as well or better than
anyone in the league on short and intermediate passes, his deep
ball is deadly, and his legs give him the ability to scramble
and extend plays.
Mahomes is blessed with the fastest wide receiving corps in the
league, the top tight end, an above-average offensive line, and
one of the best offensive minds in NFL history at head coach.
Everything is in place for another year, and the team more dynamic
with the additions of Mecole Hardman and Darwin Thompson.
The only plausible narrative is that we have never witnessed
anything like Mahomes. We tend to be pessimistic as an industry
and predict that amazing performances cannot be repeated because
they didnít happen in the past.
We didnít have a first-year QB throw for 5000 yards and
50 touchdowns before Mahomes. So why is it that crazy to think
he could be amazing again when all of the same factors are in
place that made him so good last year?