Fantasy Strategy: Streaming Quarterbacks
Watch an NFL game from 2013 and it will be abundantly clear that the NFL is a passing league. Each year, teams break passing records that were broken in previous years and that doesn’t look to change in 2014. While it may seem that the emphasis on passing would make QBs more valuable in fantasy, it actually does the opposite. The production from the QB12 (worst starting option in a fantasy league) has increased tremendously in recent seasons. In 2008, Tony Romo was the 12th highest scoring QB with 204 points but in 2013, Nick Foles finished the same rank among his position but with 256 points, a total which would have ranked him 6th at QB in 2008.
The supply of QB’s who are fantasy-starter material is getting deeper and that is why it has become advantageous to “stream” quarterbacks. Streaming quarterbacks is basically playing the position as a week-to-week decision, instead of drafting a single signal caller and starting him every week regardless of the circumstances. When it comes to your fantasy draft, this means drafting 1-3 quarterbacks late in the draft (usually after every other team takes its starter). You need to decide in-season which of them to start on a weekly basis depending on match ups, injuries and other things that dictate a quarterback’s success in fantasy. One or more of these quarterbacks, who were low-end options to begin with, will be busts and you will end up roaming the waiver wire for QBs mid-season. Luckily for streamers, the QB crop runs way deeper than 12 and there are always quarterbacks who come out of nowhere to be great streaming options in the middle of the season, like Alex Smith and Nick Foles in 2013.
You might be wondering, why would I purposefully give myself the worst QB in my fantasy league? What is the benefit of that? Just like most everything in fantasy football, your goal is to get as much value as possible. By waiting on quarterbacks while the rest of your league takes them early, you have the opportunity to stock up in the early rounds on other positions like RB, WR and TE, where the drop in points between tiers is much more dramatic than at the QB position, thus giving more value to the elite options.
To show you how this value his beneficial, here is an example of two teams and how they allocate their respective 2nd and 12th round picks. Obviously, this example is not perfect and definitely not universal. It will vary mightily based on the players selected, but I chose players who had a 2013 ADP in the given rounds and players who relatively played up to their ADP.
Team 1, who isn’t aware of the advantages of waiting on quarterbacks, selects Drew Brees in the 2nd round and Darrius Heyward-Bey in the 12th. Team 2, who is a forward thinker and decided to wait on the QB position in 2013, selects Brandon Marshall in the 2nd round and Ben Roethlisberger in the 12th round.
The total points scored by Team 1’s two players in 2013 was 387 while the two players that Team 2 selected scored 446 points in 2013. That is nearly a 4 ppg advantage that Team 2 has over Team 1 over the course of a season and that is only accounting for two players on each team. This simple example goes to show that by waiting on QBs, you are able to draft elite RBs, WRs and TEs while other owners take QB’s, giving you a leg up on the competition.[ad id=”Ad1″]
While that example simply illustrates the value in waiting on QBs and taking elite players at other positions, Team 2 didn’t even maximize its production because it simply played Roethlisberger the entire season. The way that would make Team 2’s points advantage over Team 1 even better is by streaming Roethlisberger with other QB’s that he/she may have drafted or added off the waiver wire throughout the season.
Now here is disclaimer for streaming: it is not for everyone. Streaming is successful when the fantasy owners has the ability to pick which of his quarterbacks to play every week given the player’s match-ups and other circumstances that change week-to-week, such as injuries. If you do not feel comfortable with your abilities to “play the match-ups,” then streaming QBs might not be for you.
For those with the confidence to play match-ups and stream QBs, how well the strategy works depends on your ability to pick the right QB every week. While unlikely, QB streaming does have the potential to straight up out-produce the top QB options. For example, if you had Andy Dalton and Alex Smith in 2013, two very typical streaming options from last year and by no means the most optimized streaming combination, and you correctly picked the high scorer between the two each week, your season total for the QB position would have been 349 points. What would amount to the second most among QBs behind Peyton Manning.
If you think that playing match-ups is your forte, make that your in-season strategy of choice. It has the highest point potential when drafting QB’s late, but drafting a QB late can be fruitful for fantasy owners even without streaming. Every year, countless quarterbacks come from the depths or absolutely nowhere to be every week fantasy starters, similar to the top 8 or so options in drafts. In 2013, guys like Andy Dalton, Nick Foles, Alex Smith, Phillip Rivers and Jay Cutler all went from being drafted in the 10th round or later to playing as well or better than highly drafted QB’s such as Tom Brady, Matthew Stafford, Matt Ryan and Colin Kaepernick. This is another reason to wait on QB’s in your draft because even if you are not confident in your ability to stream, you can draft a couple quarterbacks, play the waiver wire mid-season and have a decent shot at finding the every week starter that you would need to draft in the first 5 or 6 rounds in your draft to get.
While waiting on quarterbacks and taking ones with question marks seems like a risky idea, there are a plethora of great options at QB12 or later that I would be more than happy with as my quarterback(s). Tony Romo (currently being drafted as the QB12), Jay Cutler (QB14), Russell Wilson (QB15), Andy Dalton (QB16), Ben Roethlisberger (QB17), Josh McCown (QB19), Carson Palmer (QB22),Alex Smith (QB23) and Jake Locker (undrafted) all make fantastic late QB picks and I envision many of them becoming every-week starters. In the June Gridiron Experts Mock Draft, I landed Jay Cutler in the 10th round and Tom Brady in the 12th. I could not be happier with that combination as my streaming options.
Whether you are looking to stream quarterbacks and play the match-ups, or you are hoping to find a cheap, every-week starter in the late rounds, drafting your quarterback after your league mates do is a great strategy in 2014. It maximizes value, allowing you to load up on other positions and it has the potential to be as productive as drafting an elite signal-caller. Waiting on QBs is the progressive way of thinking in 2014.