Recently I came across a very intriguing fantasy strategy: Streaming Quarterbacks. We’ve all heard of streaming defenses: a solid strategy that involves disregarding defenses in the draft and picking up a new one out of free agency each week based on the best match-up. If you don’t have a top 5 DEF like Seattle or Carolina, this strategy works quite well. But for quarterbacks? It sounded preposterous at first, but I started to warm up to it after realizing that several top fantasy QB’s from 2013 were mostly free agents to start the year (Phillip Rivers, Nick Foles, Andy Dalton.) This year, the QB class is even deeper. In a ten team league, based on current ADP, you can get Phillip Rivers, Jay Cutler, Tony Romo, Russell Wilson, and Andy Dalton in the 10th round or later. That’s amazing value for solid QB’s, and it doesn’t even account for the fact that several of those that go undrafted are bound to put up a few monster weeks here and there. So what would happen if you waited until the very late rounds of the draft to take a QB, and then switched him out every week for a free agent with a great match-up? Let’s crunch some numbers.
First of all we must assume some things: I play in 10 team leagues with no waivers: you can pick up whoever you want, whenever you want. That is the type of league I’m going to analyze this strategy for. If your league has a waivers system, you probably wouldn’t want to do this. Also, if you’re playing in more than a 10 team league, the quality of free agent QB is going to be lower. That doesn’t mean you can’t do this, but it won’t be quite as effective.
So how are we going to analyze this? I originally envisioned coming up with a formula to theoretically “pick up” a quarterback in each week in 2013 that was widely available and had a good match-up. I was unable to find the percent available statistic for 2013 anywhere, however, so I had to come up with another method. If you know where to get that data, let me know so I can crunch the numbers and come up with a better analysis.
With the afore-mentioned roadblocks, the best way I could find to analyze the “QB Stream” strategy was to use FFToday’s 2013 weekly advised waiver-wire QB pickups and add up the points scored for the QB’s they recommended each week. We’re actually just analyzing one writer’s waiver wire recommendations here, so while this method isn’t preferred, it will give us a decent gauge of this strategy. Below is the chart of the Free Agent QB that FFToday recommended to pick up and the points they ended up scoring that week (using NFL.com’s default scoring.)
These numbers surprised me quite a bit. That point total of 282.48 would put our Frankenstein-QB at SEVENTH overall for the 2013 season, right behind Phillip Rivers and right in front of Matthew Stafford.
It would sit at 8th in points per game because Aaron Rodgers would jump in front of it. Rodgers’s season total is much lower, however, because of his injury, which is important to note because this strategy is injury-proof. You’re not tied to a single guy so you can just switch it up again if someone gets hurt. Another thing to note about this analysis is that in week 14, FFToday actually had Jay Cutler vs Dallas as their #1 recommendation. Cutler had still not recovered from his injury at that point, though, so Josh McCown started and torched Dallas for 40 fantasy points. Since FFToday didn’t explicitly say to pick up McCown, I had to go with their #2 recommendation, Glennon, who only put up 7.6 points. I’m guessing that if FFToday had written their article later in the week and saw that McCown was starting they would’ve recommended him with such a favorable matchup, and our streamed QB would actually be looking at ~314 fantasy points on the season, good for 3rd place out of all quarterbacks. That is incredible.
Either this FFToday writer is an amazing predictor, or we’re on to something here. Since he still recommended quite a few duds over the course of the season, I’m going with the latter. Playing the QB-Defense match-ups actually works, so let’s put it into practical use for 2014. If we’re going to evaluate our Streamed QB as the 7th best QB (without the McCown game), we can compare it to Robert Griffin III, who is currently going as the 7th QB in 2014 drafts. His ADP is in the 7th round. Some comparable position players you could possibly get in the 7th round by skipping a QB are Torrey Smith, Joique Bell, and Jason Witten. Those are some potentially valuable players. If we DO include the McCown game and evaluate the “Streamed QB” as the 3rd best, it would be comparable to Drew Brees. Brees is currently going at the top of the third round on average, and by passing on him you could pick up a solid RB such as Alfred Morris or Giovanni Bernard, or a solid receiver like Jordy Nelson or Antonio Brown. VERY valuable assets. Not drafting a QB until the last few rounds is going to obviously give you a much deeper starting roster at the skill positions.
There are a couple ways you could execute this strategy. You could wait until the very last couple rounds and pick up one QB (and one only) based on their week 1 match up alone, with the intent of dropping them the next week for a player with a better match up. For example, you could easily target Sam Bradford in the very last round for his Week 1 start against MIN, and dump him the next week. This would give you an extremely deep team with all of your extra roster spots being used for RB/WR/TE potential. This could work, but I prefer a different strategy. Remember: the benefit of trying the “Streamed QB” method is that you get to use all of your good draft picks on position players, and not necessarily that you get to save roster spots. Since you’re not getting more than fliers and handcuffs in the 11th and 12th rounds and you’ve most likely thoroughly addressed all of your positions in the draft by this point, I would use a pick on a solid QB like Russell Wilson or Phillip Rivers. You can still stream QB’s for good match ups, but you give yourself more options if you have a decent one on your roster to fall back on if you don’t like any of the potential free agents. Even if the QB you draft only finishes as the 11th best QB overall, you can use four or five solid match up weeks out of them combined with streaming the best match up in Free Agency for the other weeks… and possibly end up with a Top 5 QB Performance by only spending an 11th round pick on the position. That’s amazing value, and if you hit on most of your position players, could set you up for a championship season.
Let’s try this strategy out in a 10 team ESPN Mock Draft and see what the team would look like. I have the #3 pick in my fantasy league, so I’ll start there:
QB’s went a little faster than expected in this mock, so I had to pull the trigger on Jay Cutler at the bottom of the 10th. Cutler is not a QB I’d be comfortable rolling with for the entire season, but with his sheer talent and the amazing weapons the Bears have, you can bet he’s going to be putting up a few monster games. I’d keep him on the roster for the whole season and throw him in the starting lineup whenever he faces a favorable match up (and there are a lot of them in the NFC North.) I love how this team looks, and when you account for the fact that your QB is going to have a great match up EVERY WEEK, the team looks even better. You can see how disregarding QB’s with the earlier picks increased the quality of all the other positions. I picked Carson Palmer at the end of the draft because he has a favorable Week 1 match up against San Diego. His roster spot will be your Streamed QB, and as you can see, you have plenty of depth even with two QB’s on the team every week.
If you’re doing this, and it’s working, people are going to notice and try to throw a wrench in it. I can totally see other teams picking up QB’s they don’t need just so you can’t get them. I did it last year when the Aaron Rodgers owner in our league was streaming QB’s until Rodgers came back. You’ve got to be quick on the Free Agent draw, or hedge your bets and keep a decent QB rostered at all times. I recommend both.
So what do you think? Will you be trying this?