How does Deshaun Watson’s value change in different formats?


Judge Sue L. Robinson delivered her decision: Deshaun Watson will be suspended for the first six games of the 2022 season. The NFL can still appeal the decision — the NFLPA has already said it won’t — so this saga isn’t completely over. The league would have called for at least a one-year suspension, so Goodell could still choose to put the hammer on Cleveland’s new quarterback. Still, it’s good to finally have at least some clarity on Watson’s prospects after months of speculation and conflicting reports.

In four pro seasons, Watson has never finished below QB7 per game. Once available, it’s likely to immediately resume setting monstrous fantasy numbers, even after a year’s absence from the game. Debates over its value will dominate the streets of fantasy content over the coming weeks as its ADP s ‘installed. Most of these discussions will paint Watson’s value with a broad brush, ignoring league-specific factors that affect where he should be drafted. Today we’re going to look at how your league settings impact the value of Watson. Let’s cut to the chase.


Watson’s value doesn’t change dramatically in the better ball against the redraft. You could argue that it is more valuable in the better ball for two reasons:

  • In redraft, you have to keep him on your bench for six games, which is another player you can’t drop for a waiver wire pickup. Your teammates have a liquidity advantage in this regard as they won’t have a blocked bench spot for the first month and a half of the season.
  • Opportunity cost in best ball is lower because a player going into Watson’s range (this will obviously vary depending on where his ADP sets up) is a low probability shot, whereas Watson will likely be a strong QB1 once he becomes available. In the redraft you would be able to drop that low probability dart if it doesn’t hit, but in the best ball you are stuck with a non-contributor. Because of that, Watson’s top 10 QB becomes more appealing.

A better ball team with Watson would theoretically benefit the most from his return if their other QBs are bad due to the points on the replacement he will provide once back. However, a 3-QB squad with Watson plus two late-round QBs would likely have hemorrhage points in the position for the first six weeks, especially given the growing gap between top-line QB1s and the rest of the peloton. On the other hand, a team with Josh Allen (Goodbye Week 8) and Watson would be fine for the first six games, but wouldn’t benefit much once Watson was back.

In rephrasing, a team with Watson plus a late-round QB isn’t nearly as bad because you can stream for the first six weeks and still start a top 12 QB each week (in most leagues). This is a point in favor of its greater value during the redesign.

Overall, Watson’s value doesn’t change drastically in best-ball against redraft. You can argue both ways and it’s hard to say which points carry more weight. Regardless of the format, teams with Watson will need to think about how they build their roster to maximize his impact once available and minimize the number of points they lose while he’s gone.


Watson’s value is correlated to your league weight at the end of the season and the number of teams that qualified for the playoffs. In a better cash ball league where every week counts the same, Watson becomes a much harder sell knowing you have to take a zero for the first six games. Most (all?) top ball rigs use the same ADP for tournaments and normal cash leagues, but we can’t apply a one-size-fits-all philosophy for Watson’s fantasy stock.

In a tournament like Best Ball Mania III, where weeks 15-17 are outweighed by the fantasy regular season, Watson becomes more appealing. Although his lead rate is likely to be below average since he’s not playing the first six games of the year, he will be available (and will likely have kicked the rust) by the tournament weeks. It should also be mentioned that it is an interesting piece from the point of view of uniqueness. Rosters with Watson will likely advance at a lower rate than normal, so any Watson team that advances has massive leverage in the field.

On the contrary, Watson needs to be massively devalued in contests like the Drafters’ NFL Best Ball Championship, because it’s a 55,008-team competition with no tournament structure (i.e. the team the performer from weeks 1 to 17 wins the grand prize).

The number of teams that make the playoffs is also a factor. In many local leagues, 6 out of 12 teams make the playoffs. Watson is pretty acceptable in these leagues knowing that you only need an average regular season team to qualify for the playoffs. If your home league has a 16-week regular season and only two teams win the championship in week 17, it loses value because you have to be very good in weeks 1-16 to have a chance of winning the championship. title. For top ball players, Watson’s value in a tournament like the Pomeranian (if Underdog opens another one) would be higher than it is in BBM3 because 4 out of 12 teams made it out of the group stage in this one rather than the standard 2-of-12.

One more thing: BBM3 (along with many other tournaments) opened in May, and Watson’s speech earlier in the summer hinted at a harsher suspension. Its Underdog ADP bottomed out below 200 in the first two weeks of July. In large-scale tournaments like this, it’s an ongoing debate among fantasy analysts whether it’s worth signing players whose ADP rises sharply because so many teams got those players at much cheaper prices. Watson in particular is an interesting case because his ADP has been close to his minimum during the highest write time so far. Its ADP in May and part of June was actually in the early triple digits, but not many people were writing then.

That being said, BBM3 is still not 45% full. The majority of the squads have yet to be created, and as such will be drafted when Watson no longer receives a discount. Also, it was only a two week period when his ADP dipped below 200. Personally, I won’t avoid Watson just because other teams got him at a cheaper price, but I wanted to talk about it because it’s not an exact science and there may be differing opinions.


In most 1-QB leagues, we recommend only taking one quarterback. Either you pay for a starter every week and don’t need a backup, or you’re stuck with a low-end QB1 and streaming the game every week. If your quarterback gets hurt or underperforms, you can just grab another one on the waiver wire, because most NFL starting QBs won’t get drafted.

In Superflex or 2-QB leagues, the quarterback position becomes extremely valuable to the point that they dominate the early rounds of fantasy drafts. For this reason, you ideally want to end up with three entries.

With that in mind, Watson is theoretically more valuable in SF/2-QB because you want three QBs anyway, so you’re not spending an extra spot on a QB to get it. Additionally, the increased QB value increases the payout if Watson eventually returns to elite QB1 form. The risk is also higher, but we are generally looking to increase our chances of getting a top result since we are aiming to finish first in our leagues. In other words, there’s no difference between finishing just out of the money and finishing last, so increasing the likelihood of a tails result is a good thing.

However, we don’t want to overdo it with this. Taking Watson in SF/2-QB probably means you have to spend on your QB3, so there’s a hidden cost to drafting it. Watson doesn’t skyrocket into an earlier QB tier in 2-QB leagues just because you need to start another quarterback, but he should see a small increase in value in theory. Like the best ball vs. redraft section, Watson’s value does not change this a lot in 1-QB vs. SF/2-QB, and teams in both formats need to be very aware of roster construction if they draft it.


Watson is more valuable in leagues with deep benches because the opportunity cost of having him on your roster is lower. In best-ball, deeper benches (i.e. in 20-round drafts like on DraftKings) allow you to draft three QBs to cover Watson’s suspension without worrying about being too weak at one position different. On Underdog, it’s more of a sacrifice to get a third quarterback.

The same logic applies to redrafting, plus you have to hold Watson on your bench for six weeks, which means you’ll have to drop someone else to pick up a player on the waiver wire. If your league has short benches, whatever player you drop probably has legitimate value. In leagues with deep benches, you don’t give up as much by stashing Watson on your bench, because you probably have a bunch of low-probability dart throws that you can give up without hesitation.


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