Fantasy football teams can win with a star quarterback, running back or wide receiver as an anchor. Teams won leagues this year paced by Patrick Mahomes, Derrick Henry and Davante Adams. Travis Kelce might have been the MVP on some teams. Many position strategies can lead to victory; that's part of the fun of the game.
Sadly, it's very different in the NFL these days. It's quarterback or nothing.
This year's Super Bowl contenders wouldn't be there without their quarterbacks. The Buccaneers were perennial losers (no playoffs since the 2007 season) before Tom Brady came to town. And Kansas City hadn't won a Super Bowl in half a century until Mahomes changed that. Nobody would argue that the team's quarterbacks weren't instrumental to their success.
But it's more than that. Teams are basically dismissed from contention by any and all experts unless they have a star behind center. And the facts bear them out. When was the last time a middling QB led a team to a Super Bowl victory? Nick Foles isn't necessarily headed for Canton, but his play that season in Philadelphia was impressive. Joe Flacco in 2013? To be fair, he didn't throw a single interception in those playoffs. Maybe Eli? Otherwise it's been Brady, Manning, Brees, Wilson, Rodgers, and Roethlisberger. Big names with big legacies and big success. A fantasy football team can win a league with a no-name quarterback. It just doesn't happen in the real game very often.
We're seeing that mindset across the league. If a signal-caller doesn't keep their play up, a team sours on them quickly. Jimmy Garoppolo isn't a lock to stay in San Francisco, and Jared Goff is now destined for Detroit. Both of those guys led their teams to Super Bowls the last couple years. It wasn't enough. The Rams will get Stafford, and the 49ers are rumored to have been interested in him. And the cost to make Deshaun Watson a team's new starter (if he's available) will be even greater. Proven quarterbacks command a bounty of picks and huge salaries because they're not just a key to success. They're necessary for success.
Even good players are on a short leash. Kyler Murray and Baker Mayfield are considered the keys to their teams' success. But what if they stumble next year, and the year after that? If they're not considered "the guy" anymore, they'll be disposable. And with a rash of retirements on the horizon (Rivers is gone, Brees isn't far behind and Roethlisberger is on borrowed time) even more teams will be in the market for a franchise quarterback. And there simply aren't that many of them.
In a way, that makes the league boring. Each division winner in 2020 (not counting Washington, because, you know) had a star quarterback except for Tennessee. They have a good quarterback, but Tannehill isn't their biggest star on offense. I'd like to see more teams replicate the Titans' success. Like a shrewd fantasy team, they found a way to buck the trends and win with their own formula. They don't have a title yet, but they have my respect.
Remember way back when fantasy teams all simply took the best running back still available in the first round? They absolutely had to build their team around a runner. That's how it is with quarterbacks in the NFL. It's a passing league and you need a passer. If you have one, you have a shot. If you don't, you don't. And "good" isn't good enough. It has to be a star, and they have to stay healthy. Otherwise, you've seen the Packers when Rodgers gets hurt. A great player behind center might not guarantee you a title, but not having one all but excludes you from one.
I live in Tampa, so I won't complain that this year's Super Bowl features Brady and Mahomes. The quarterback who plays better will likely claim another title. But really, the league needs more ways to win than via an elite quarterback. Otherwise, we're going to see the same guys competing every year. And you know how fun it is when that happens in your fantasy league, right? I hope teams get rewarded for finding different paths to a championship in the future. But for now, it all falls on one position, and may the best one win on Sunday.
Do you think the NFL is a better league with the emphasis on quarterbacks? Do you see things changing in the future? Who do you like on Sunday? Share your thoughts below.