A lot of fantasy players ask me how I evaluate bye weeks and factor them into my draft strategy. I feel like bye weeks are often grossly overrated from a player-selection standpoint. Many owners will avoid players because they don't want two or three players on a bye any given week. Sure, you don't want to have an obscene amount of players off one week, but if you do, it's not the end of the world, especially if the bye is late in the year. Too much changes from August to Week 11 to hold steadfast judgments of situations.
I am of the mindset that as long as you don't draft a backup quarterback with the same bye as your starter, everything else is fair game. In a standard league (12 teams, 16-player rosters), I never draft a second kicker or No. 2 defense. They are wasted picks. I will be as blatant as saying that you don't want to win if you draft a backup PK or defense in a normal format. It's that simple. Sometimes I don't even bother with a QB2, depending on my roster composition and starting passer's bye week.
An examination of bye weeks and the quarterback position is necessary, because it could alter your draft plans a smidge. Knowing your options going into your draft is key.
Midseason byes are littered with talent
Most of the quarterbacks that you want to own have mid- to late-season byes, which means you have ample time for things to change between your draft and open date: the Detroit Lions' Matthew Stafford (Week 9), Atlanta Falcons' Matt Ryan (Week 9), Chicago Bears' Jay Cutler (Week 9), Indianapolis Colts' Andrew Luck (Week 10), New England Patriots' Tom Brady (Week 10), San Diego Chargers' Philip Rivers (Week 10), Washington Redskins' Robert Griffin III (Week 10) and Dallas Cowboys' Tony Romo (Week 11).
Only Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning (Week 4), New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (Week 6) and Philadelphia Eagles QB Nick Foles (Week 7) have pre-Week 8 byes. I wouldn't be too comfortable with Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (Week 4) as my starter.
Use it to your advantage, but be aware that your backup options are somewhat limited. I tend to outright avoid a backup in the draft if I go with an elite passer. The reasoning is that I won't use my backup for anything other than a bye week, and the chance of my backup carrying me is slim if I lose my starter long term. I'd rather invest in a weekly contributor or a sleeper at RB-WR-TE than pay for insurance.
Should I lose a starting quarterback for a long period of time, I am fully confident in my "scrambling" ability, if I can steal a golf term. By trading or weekly waiver matchup plays, my replacement quarterback situation will be a welcomed test. I understand few people prefer to do it this way, so if you're in the market for a backup during the draft, said backup should be addressed based on your starter.
A closer look
Do not draft a No. 2 until late in the process if you grab an early-round quarterback. You can wait. I see this time after time. Owners select two quarterbacks in the first four or six rounds. That's a waste.
Let's say you draft Peyton in Round 1. The only backup quarterbacks you cannot draft are from the Arizona Cardinals, Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns, Seattle Seahawks and St. Louis Rams, since all share Manning's Week 4 bye. That is notable, because each of those squads offers a backup in the general QB2 territory.
Therefore, you become limited in Week 4 to the likes of the Miami Dolphins' Ryan Tannehill (@OAK), Oakland Raiders' quarterback Matt Schaub (vs. MIA), Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Josh McCown (@PIT), New York Giants' Eli Manning (@WAS), Buffalo Bills' EJ Manuel (@HOU) and Pittsburgh Steelers' Ben Roethlisberger (vs. TB). I have omitted quarterbacks from the Jacksonville Jaguars, New York Jets, Tennessee Titans, Minnesota Vikings and Houston Texans, because there is a good chance your draft pick may no longer be the starter a month into the season. Oakland may fall into that category, too. All others are drafted earlier than you can justifiably select them or have very difficult matchups.
... Not a great stable of quarterbacks to choose from. Big Ben has a tough matchup but should be serviceable and safe. McCown could have a decent outing, but his ceiling is limited. Tannehill is the upside choice, although Oakland's defense has improved. Do you really want to risk it with Schaub or Manuel? Probably not. Eli is your best option to back up Peyton and can be had a fair price.
That is just a sample of how you can evaluate the influence of bye weeks on your selection process.
Drafting a quarterback late virtually guarantees you need a backup to play the matchups.
There is no right or wrong way of selecting quarterbacks. There is only a preference. Each predilection undoubtedly requires its own plan of attack during the rest of your draft, primarily with regard to how you address a reserve quarterback. I prefer to take an upper-end starter who is not exactly elite. I am just fine with the Staffords and Ryans of the world; that tier gives me the best option to successfully gamble on breakouts at other positions.
Whatever your philosophy may be, commit to it. Be confident during the draft. Most important of all, choose with your head and not your heart.
Don't forget to follow me on Twitter @Cory_Bonini and ask any fantasy football questions that may be troubling you!