Placing an Adjacent Bet (2024)

Throughout the offseason, and especially the last few weeks, I’ve heard a ton of sharp drafters tout Drake Maye as their highest exposure QB. I get it. Maye was my most-drafted QB in the pre-draft contests, checking in at 27% (despite my preference to be extremely diversified at QB, as seen below).

Placing an Adjacent Bet (1)

In an article titled, “Drake Maye’s Superstar Ceiling”, Pat Kerrane laid out the case for Maye, citing Maye’s aggressive mindset (deep ADoT) plus his willingness to run (at a rate just below that of Fields, Allen, Hurts) as exactly the type of profile that is good for fantasy. Bottom line, I’m very much in on Maye as a quarterback prospect.

But post-draft, Maye’s ADP has continued to fall. If Maye is the exact type of QB that is good for fantasy, why is he going at an ADP of 200 (QB28), while fellow rookies Jayden Daniels (QB11) and Caleb Williams (QB12) are going at ADPs of 103 and 104, respectively?

Placing an Adjacent Bet (2)

In short, mostly because the market is confident that each of Daniels and Williams will start all 17 games, while the market assesses that Maye will probably not. However, Maye also went significantly after Williams and Daniels before the market knew he wouldn’t start all 17 games. Why?

Maye also went later than Williams and Daniels in the pre-draft contests because the market was concerned he would go to the Patriots, and the Patriots suck.

And indeed, Maye did go to the Patriots, and we should have no illusions about the level of talent the Patriots have surrounding him. Last year, on limited routes, Kendrick Bourne ranked as the 34th best WR in the league (based on an average of PFF receiving grade, ESPN Receiver Rating, and YPPR), and is now coming off a torn ACL. Demario Douglas ranked 53rd, while K.J. Osborn ranked 96th. If there is upside here, Douglas will have to take a step forward or one of the rookies Ja’lynn Polk or Javon Baker will probably need to provide it.

Similarly, the Patriots lack talent at TE and offensive line. The Patriots finished dead last in Pass Block Win Rate (though 10th in RBWR), and Hunter Henry finished with a 32nd percentile in ESPN TE Receiver Rating last year.

In short, it looks bleak for Drake Maye.

However, the night is darkest just before the dawn. While supporting cast absolutely impacts QB success/production (as seen from QBs with elite supporting cast like Brock Purdy and Patrick Mahomes vs the weaker supporting casts of many others), great players often elevate those around them.

What if Maye (and the Patriots) are good?

Using a comparison many have made this off-season, the Texans were widely considered to be one of the worst offenses in the league, with a supporting cast devoid of talent and a defensive head coach taking the reins. The starting wide receiver trio of Nico Collins, Tank Dell, and Noah Brown plus TE1 Dalton Schultz had an average ADP of 151 right before the season. Stroud ADP’s fell from 150 at the open of Best Ball Mania to 205 right before the season started, showing that absolutely no one wanted anything to do with him.

Placing an Adjacent Bet (3)

And yet, Stroud was good (and/or Collins and Dell were also good), elevating the Texans to one of the best offenses in football (and Noah Brown to multiple 100 yard games, a feat he had not accomplished since high school). Because of this, and because of their bargain bin ADPs, every Texans pass-catcher had a higher than expected advance rate in 2023.

The 2024 Patriots share some similarities with the 2023 Texans.

For one, Maye is largely considered to be roughly equal to Stroud as a prospect, ranking similarly or just ahead of him by draft gurus such as Dane Brugler. While we shouldn’t expect Maye to be as good as Stroud, it is roughly the same bet as Stroud was before we knew he was good.

Secondly, and perhaps more importantly for fantasy, the Patriots’ 2024 ADP is even cheaper than the 2023 Texans. Maye is currently being drafted at pick 200, below where Stroud was going at this time last year. The Patriots presumed starting 11 personnel unit has an average ADP of 170, compared to the Texans 151 last year.

Placing an Adjacent Bet (4)

While it is unlikely that any of the Patriots receivers are as good as Nico and Tank were last year, if Maye is good, each of them is still extremely likely to outperformed their bargain ADPs.

So, Maye is roughly as good of a prospect as Stroud, and the Patriots are even cheaper than the Texans were, why is the market not just targeting the Patriots and driving their ADPs up?

Concern that Maye is a zero for multiple weeks to start the season.

Will Maye Play?

The market is correct that Maye is very unlikely to start the season. Source?

The Patriots.

Offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt announced Jacoby Brissett as the starter for the spring, using phrases like “it’s a marathon not a sprint” and “no timetable” when mentioning Maye. Head coach Jerod Mayo has made similar comments, emphasizing Brissett’s experience and leadership giving him an edge, while leaving the door open for Maye to compete and start if “he’s tearing the defense up.” Bottom line, the market is probably correct in its concern that Maye will not start all 17 games.

However, roughly 67% of rookie quarterbacks have started 12 plus games since 2000, and that average is a bit higher for both recent quarterbacks and for top 3 picks. While it is plausible the Patriots are laying the groundwork for a redshirt season for Maye (and fellow fantasy-friendly deep ADoT rushing QB drafted #3 overall Trey Lance would like a word), it is likely that (if healthy) Maye will start the majority of the games for the Patriots in 2024.

Yet, the market’s concern for early season zeros for Maye is not without warrant.

Having Only 1QB Hurts Advance Rates

Taking a zero in your in one of your only 2-3 QB roster spots is extremely damaging, as we can see from the abject failure of 1 elite QB builds (h/t Mike Leone and ETR).

Placing an Adjacent Bet (5)

While Maye is unlikely to be a zero all season, if he begins the season on the bench for 5-8 games, it will probably have a negative impact on our advance rates (especially if our only other QBs have their bye weeks before he starts). Specifically because of this dynamic at QB, I’ve had a hard time targeting Maye.

I largely don’t care if the rookie running backs and wide receivers I draft in the late rounds play early in the season, because I have lots of other players to fill that void. If Bucky Irving barely plays the first few weeks, it’s probably not impacting my score much more negatively than any other running back pick going near Irving’s ADP. Similarly, tight end is such a low scoring position that taking a near or total zero at tight end is not ideal, but not a killer. If you score zero with Isiah Likely for the first three weeks, while Cade Otton goes 3-30 each week while running 115% of the routes, we don’t really care. But that isn’t the case at QB.

If Drake Maye is a total zero for 3, 6, or 9 weeks, there are QBs going near his ADP that offer a substantially higher floor of production. He’s not fun, but Derek Carr is going to start and score 12+ points most weeks, as is almost any QB that is regularly starting. Essentially, every starting QB offers a reasonable floor at the highest-scoring position, making those that don’t start particularly detrimental to our advance rates. So, while I believe in Maye’s talent, it is very likely that he falls into the non-starter bucket for at least the first few games of the season, and that will likely negatively impact our teams in those weeks.

However, the first few weeks of the season are also some of the least valuable in the tournament. Despite making up 23% of the season, weeks 1-4 are cumulatively worth roughly 7% of total expected value), and are the weeks most easily replaced (as bye weeks don’t start until week five and injuries have not yet piled up).

In many ways, Maye is a much higher floor version of the 2024 Justin Fields bet (as Maye is likely to start sooner and start more games), but with a slightly lower high-end ceiling (because Fields nuclear weeks are insanely good). While I’m in on Fields in the last round, I would very much like to avoid making “QB who may not start this season” a feature of my strategy. The challenge with drafting Fields is that he when he plays, he is the sun of his team’s universe. Called passing play? Congrats, Fields is either tucking the ball and running or taking a sack more than 20% (!!!) of the time. This absolutely decimates the fantasy production of most of his pass-catchers, or forces them to be extremely volatile and efficient to be productive (shoutout D.J. Moore). If we want access to Fields ceiling, we have to take Fields.

However, I don’t expect this to be as significant as with Maye.

Maye was slightly below average in Pressure-to-Sack ratio, meaning that while it is a concern, he is unlikely to take sacks at Fields’ (record-breaking and production-destroying) rate. Maye is also a willing scrambler, rushing on 7% of his clean dropbacks, but that is slightly less than other rushing QBs, including Fields. Because of this, and Maye’s preference for keeping his eyes downfield while scrambling, Maye’s supporting cast is likely to receive more opportunities than one with Fields.

Ultimately, Maye leaves us in a bit of a catch 22, a la Austin Butler in Dune 2. If Maye is good, both he and the Patriots supporting cast will probably smash their ADPs. But, Maye’s downside risk of not playing (or being bad) means investing in Maye himself is risky.

Placing an Adjacent Bet (6)

My primary strategy is to make an adjacent, correlated bet.

Adjacent Betting

To me, an adjacent bet is a bet that is closely correlated to an outcome, but that offers a slightly different (usually reduced) risk/reward ratio, similar to a directional bet (which I’m a huge fan of). In this case, I want to make an adjacent bet that allows me access to the upside that Drake Maye offers, but that limits my downside risk if he does not play until mid/late season. And to me, the way to do that is through drafting the Patriots pass-catchers, without taking Maye himself.

Currently, no team has a lower combined ADP for their presumptive 11 personnel starters than the Patriots. If Maye is good, these players are extremely likely to beat their ADPs, and perhaps significantly so, as we saw with the Texans last year. However, the Texans weren’t the only bargain bin team led by a rookie QB last year. There was also the Panthers.

Even with Bryce Young leading one of the least productive offenses of the last decade in 2023, the other Panthers players were still relatively fine for best ball. While Young (14% advance rate) and Jonathan Mingo (14%) were poor, Adam Thielen (26%) and RB2 Chuba Hubbard (20%) were both higher than expected advance rate players. Even Young and Mingo’s advance rates weren’t horrible, falling only ~3% below expectation (or ~4 less advancing teams given 150 entries). Essentially, because their average ADP was so low (150), they were relatively neutral pieces in the regular season.

The examples from the Panthers and Texans lay out nearly the full range of outcomes for the Patriots supporting pieces in 2024.

  1. Maye is Bryce: If Maye is as bad (or if the zombie quarterback combo of Maye and Brissett is as bad) as Bryce Young was, the Patriots pass-catchers are likely small losses to average in advance rate (though the younger guys would probably still offer added playoff spike week potential).

  2. Maye is average: If Maye is in-between Young and Stroud (which is the likeliest outcome), the Patriots supporting pieces are probably small wins in advance rate (and potentially fun playoff spike week leverage pieces).

  3. Maye is Stroud: If Maye is as good (or nearly as good) as Stroud, the Patriots supporting pieces probably blow their ADPs out of the water, and will likely be some of the key teams you had to have to advance.

In each of these outcomes, I’m excited to roster the Patriots’ pass-catchers, as they have essentially allowed me to freeroll Maye’s upside scenarios without significantly harming advance rates. If Maye is bad, or simply doesn’t play, their ADPs are still cheap enough that it’s just a small loss, with some remaining playoff leverage upside. Meanwhile, selecting Maye in the he’s bad or he doesn’t start until mid/late season scenarios, will very likely negatively impact advance rates.

But what if you want to still take the aggressive stance on Maye?

How to Play Maye

While I prefer the adjacent betting strategy to selecting Maye himself, I do not want to have zero of him. Maye is not as heliocentric as Fields, but he is not a pure pocket passer. Moreso than Stroud and Young, part of Maye’s appeal is his rushing ability, which comes at the cost of his supporting cast’s production. If he’s good, he will likely have some weeks where he adds a rushing touchdown or two, and his supporting cast is left wanting a bit more.

So, the question becomes that when we draft him, how do we structure our team around him?

When selecting Maye, I think the following three guidelines make the most sense:

  1. Avoid QBs with early bye weeks and those in uncertain situations. If Maye is sitting early, the worst outcome would be to have another inactive QB. If possible, avoid teams with early bye weeks. J.J. McCarthy particularly stands out as a poor combo partner, given Minnesota’s week six bye and his competition with Sam Darnold to be the starter.

  2. Prioritize other QBs with the latest bye weeks. The later our other QB bye weeks are, the greater the likelihood that Maye is starting, reducing the potential for a negative impact to advance rate.

  3. Prioritize elite QBs. While I’m perfectly fine with 2QB or 3QB builds this year, drafting a 3 late QB builds with Maye likely reduces your QB scoring until Maye starts. With an elite QB, you already “know” that QB is playing well given you invested high draft capital in him (or your team is probably dead anyways). Your elite QB should be able to mostly cover Maye until he starts. Additionally, in the upside scenarios where Maye is good, you now have more access to the ping-pong leverage effect in the playoff weeks, where you might be able to survive a poor elite QB performance when Maye goes off.

For those interested, I’ve included a specific scenario of a way to draft Maye by following these guidelines at the bottom of the piece.

In Conclusion

In sum, I will almost certainly not be one of the guys with 30-40% Drake Maye this summer, probably keeping my exposure just above average (~10%). However, I will likely be extremely correlated with the Maye drafters through my adjacent bets on Ja’lynn Polk, Demario Douglas, Javon Baker, Hunter Henry, and the Patriots RBs. Here’s to hoping Maye is the second coming of Justin Herbert.

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Two Added Thoughts:

  1. If Maye starts week one, he’s probably the most mispriced QB, given even Bryce Young had a 14% advance rate last year. I would put the likelihood of that somewhere in the 15-20% range, based on the reports so far.

  2. I love the combination of Drake Maye/Pats plus Josh Allen/Bills to fight the WR avalanche. Allen is an elite QB with a late bye (but different week than Maye), hitting the guidelines I listed above. The Patriots and Bills play each other in week 16, checking a key correlation box. Allen and Maye are also extremely cheap to stack, despite Allen being one of the best QBs in the league and Maye being a blue-chip quarterback prospect. Specifically drafting teams like the one below allows us to leverage their ceiling outcomes and take their WRs later, which allows us to search for the legendary elite RB and TE upside usually only found in the first few rounds. In this team (usually slight reaches vs ADP so doable, though I’d want to push it), if Allen and Maye are good, they are probably bringing a pass-catcher or two along most weeks, enabling this team to be decent at wide receiver, while among the best projected each week at QB, RB, and TE. Additionally, we get Bills/Pats week 16 and Bills/Jets week 17.

    Placing an Adjacent Bet (7)

Placing an Adjacent Bet (2024)
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