Traditionally, you select a quarterback or two during your fantasy football draft. And if you’re into following tradition, that’s all well and good. However, there’s another strategy that can pay off big if you care to be bold.
You could wait until late in the draft and use your last pick on a passer, stocking your roster with one more position player with upside. Sure, your starting QB may stink over the course of the season, but by scouring the waiver wire each week to find a starter, better known as “streaming” for the uninitiated, you could significantly benefit your fantasy roster.
There are currently six passers being taken in Round 12 or later, with equal or better options left in the pool of undrafted players. For example, Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jamis Winston, who is projected to score 179 points, has an ADP of 14.02. Ryan Tannehill of the Miami Dolphins, meanwhile, is undrafted with a projection of 170 points. Yet it is Tannehill who has the easier schedule. In fact, just one team, the Atlanta Falcons, has a harder slate of defenses faced in 2018 than the Buccaneers do. Meanwhile, only the Jacksonville Jaguars have an easier schedule than Miami, making it the difference between selecting a passer who faces the second-toughest schedule earlier or waiting and nabbing a quarterback who faces the second-easiest schedule overall.
Plus, according to ESPN’s Matthew Berry, there were 89 instances of an undrafted quarterback finishing the week among the Top 10 players at the position in 2017. That shows this gamble can pay off as does the relative value you’re adding to your roster by loading it with position players earlier.
By waiting on a quarterback you’re now able to draft a running back, wide receiver or tight end who can put up more points, relative to his position group, than those who will be available on the waiver wire. The average running back selected in Round 10, about the time each team has at least one quarterback on their roster, is, on average 23 points below the replacement level at the position. In Round 11 that drops to an average of 35 points worse than a starting running back and it continues down from there. Wide receivers are slightly better at five points below replacement value in Round 10 ending at 30 points below replacement value in Round 15. In other words, the more running backs and wideouts you can select earlier in the draft, the more positive value you will have on your roster.
Of course, to embrace this strategy, you also need to find the right quarterback to start each week. To be successful at streaming, you need to find a quarterback that is both available on the waiver wire and positioned to succeed in a given week, and that can take two forms: either the quarterback is going up against a below-average pass defense or his team is expected to play from behind, resulting in more passing opportunities. For example, the average NFL team passed the ball 66 percent of the time when trailing by seven points or more. That increased to 71 percent of the time when trailing by more than two touchdowns.
To take advantage of these factors, based on preseason projections, quarterbacks playing against five defenses — the Indianapolis Colts, New England Patriots, Oakland Raiders, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Miami Dolphins — will be targeted for a majority of the fantasy football season.
Aside from defensive end Jabaal Sheard — six sacks, 51 hurries and nine knockdowns in 2017 per data from Sports Info Solutions — there isn’t much to fear on the Colts’ defensive line. Indianapolis ended 2017 tied with the New York Giants for the second-fewest solo sacks in the league (24) plus a below-average amount of total pressures (179, T-18th) and pass deflections (10, T-19th).
The Patriots’ pass defense wasn’t a strength for them last season and, according to the game charters at Pro Football Focus, it won’t be much better in 2018. The Patriots are projected to have the sixth-worst pass-rushing unit in the NFL with the 13th-best secondary. They ranked last and 10th in these situations, respectively, in 2017.
Pro Bowl defensive end Khalil Mack is reportedly prepared to continue his holdout into the regular season and miss games if his contract situation is not resolved before the season opener on Sept. 10, hampering the early outlook of Oakland’s pass-rush scheme. His 79 total sacks hits and hurries in 2017 accounted for almost a third of the Radiers’ total and was nearly twice as much as Bruce Irvin, who ranked second on the team for pass pressure (41) last season.
Even if Mack returns, the Raiders still finished 26th in pass defense with the sack artist in the lineup in 2017.
Tampa Bay’s secondary, which Pro Football Focus believes is the worst in the NFL, allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete 27 of 66 passes (41 percent; league average was 33 percent) traveling 20 or more yards through the air last season, resulting in a passer rating of 92.0, several ticks higher than an average passer (76.9).
And Miami’s starting cornerbacks Xavien Howard and Cordrea Tankersley anchored the second-worst pass coverage unit in 2017 per PFF, one that ranks 26th heading into the 2018 season.
Add in a couple of spot starts against the Cleveland Browns and a Week 9 matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs and you have a good plan to maximize the quarterback streaming strategy.
Assuming 22 quarterbacks are selected in 12-team, point-per-reception, or PPR leagues, here is who should provide the most points per week among passers left on the waiver wire based on current average draft position results.
Week 1: Andy Dalton (CIN) at Indianapolis Colts
Week 2: Blake Bortles (JAC) vs. New England Patriots
Week 3: Ryan Tannehill (MIA) vs. Oakland Raiders
Week 4: Mitch Trubisky (CHI) vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Week 5: Andy Dalton (CIN) vs. Miami Dolphins
Week 6: Mitch Trubisky (CHI) at Miami Dolphins
Week 7: Tyrod Taylor (CLE) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Week 8: Andy Dalton (CIN) vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Week 9: Tyrod Taylor (CLE) vs. Kansas City Chiefs
Week 10: Blake Bortles (JAC) at Indianapolis Colts
Week 11: Sam Bradford (ARI) vs. Oakland Raiders
Week 12: Andy Dalton (CIN) vs. Cleveland Browns
Week 13: Blake Bortles (JAC) vs. Indianapolis Colts
Week 14: Ryan Tannehill (MIA) vs. New England Patriots
Week 15: Andy Dalton (CIN) vs. Oakland Raiders
Week 16: Andy Dalton (CIN) at Cleveland Browns
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