Fantasy Football: Why You Should Stream QBs

Apr 25, 2015
Drew Brees did not return value for fantasy owners last season

Drew Brees did not return value for fantasy owners last season

Mike “The Fantasy Hitman” Wright takes a look at cost and production for quarterbacks and running backs. For more insight from Mike, check out his podcast, then head over to The Fantasy Footballers.

Weekly Quarterback Value

When it comes to fantasy football, streaming defenses is a widely accepted way to play the game and is a strategy employed by many. Things change when the word streaming is attached to the quarterback position. When I explain how I view QBs for fantasy, I’m usually met by a range of emotions that a veteran Broadway thespian only dreams of displaying. Hysterical laughter. Furious anger. Hysterical anger. I’ve experienced it all. Maybe I shouldn’t start out my pitch on streaming with, “Man that Aaron Rodgers guy is overrated!” No, I don’t actually do that. Come on people!

Draft Wizard Mock Draft Simulator

I used to be a part of the QB Club. Michael Vick with the first-overall pick? What could possibly go wrong? No I didn’t do it, but didn’t fault people if they wanted to. I saw the points that quarterbacks put up and figured they score the most, enso facto, it’s imperative to have an elite QB! Through my journey into fantasy football obsession I came across a book by JJ Zachariason, aka The Late Round Quarterback. It really got me thinking of the true week-to-week value of quarterbacks and the possibility that I could piece together a solid QB1 with leftovers on the waiver wire.

The reason for streaming has nothing to do with the talents of the elite QBs like Rodgers, Drew Brees, and Peyton Manning. Those guys are the best of the best. It’s all about cost. When I pay the price for one of the elite quarterbacks, I am forfeiting my chance at an elite player at a different position. A position from which I must field two or more every week. The position I’m specifically referring to is running back. To compete for a fantasy championship, you need to have at least one high-end RB. The most common rebuttal to this point is to argue that running backs have a high-percentage chance to bust. I’m here to tell you, yes, that is a possibility. However, the chance of a RB bust does not outweigh the benefits of taking RBs early. When I draft an high-round QB, I have lost a chance at drafting a high-end RB. Also, spoiler alert, QBs bust too.

Sure, there will be those who take a QB early and still hit on their running backs. The problem is the probability of drafting an elite-level RB is skewed even further from your favor.

I will get more into running backs in my next article. For now, I’m going to focus on quarterbacks.

When most fantasy players take the plunge early on an QB, they do so with the mindset that a quarterback carries the lowest risk of any position. They are the least injured. They are the position least likely to bust or return poor value, right? Let’s take a look back at some QB data from the past couple years.

2013 ADP & End of Season Rankings

ADP Rank  Player End of Season
2.07  Drew Brees 1  Peyton Manning
3.01  Aaron Rodgers 2  Drew Brees
3.08  Peyton Manning 3  Cam Newton
4.07  Tom Brady 4  Andrew Luck
5.02  Cam Newton 5  Andy Dalton
5.06  Matt Ryan 6  Philip Rivers
6.01  Colin Kaepernick 7  Matthew Stafford
6.07  Matthew Stafford 8  Russell Wilson
6.11  Andrew Luck 9  Colin Kaepernick
7.03  Robert Griffin III 10  Tony Romo
7.08  Tony Romo 11  Ben Roethlisberger
8.01  Russell Wilson 12  Nick Foles

Here we have the ADP of the top-12 QBs drafted as well as the final ranking of the top 12 from 2013. For a position that is considered “safe,” two of the top-4 QBs drafted were busts. Yes, Aaron Rodgers’ poor season was due to an injury, but we blame running backs for injuries. It is only fair to do the same to quarterbacks. Let’s expand the microscope to the top-5 QBs selected. It was tough in the streets for Manilla Ice (Matt Ryan for the those not in the know) after Julio Jones went down, another bust. But how about that Cam Newton?! Top 3? Yaaaaa-hoooooo! In your face quarterback streamers! Well, we will take a closer look at his and the other signal caller numbers, because final ranking does not necessarily reflect upon a consistent year. The most surprising names from the final rankings list would have to be: Andy Dalton, Philip Rivers, Ben Roethlisberger, and Nick Foles. All four of these QBs were drafted after the 10th round, if at all.

The following information is reflective of Week 1-16, because playing non-daily in Week 17 is just wrong.

2013 Player #1 #2 #3 #4 #5 #6 #7 #8 #9 #10 #11 #12 Total
1  P. Manning 3 2 2 1 1 1 1 11 4 7
2  D. Brees 4 1 1 2 1 1 1 11 4 4
3  C. Newton 1 2 1 1 1 6 9 4
4  A. Luck 1 1 2 2 2 1 9 6 2
5  A. Dalton 3 1 1 1 6 9 4
6  P. Rivers 1 2 1 1 2 7 8 3
7  M. Stafford 2 2 1 1 1 2 1 10 5 0
8  R. Wilson 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 7 8 1
9  C. Kaepernick 1 1 2 1 1 6 9 2
10  T. Romo 1 3 2 6 9 1
11  B. Roethlisberger 1 1 1 1 2 6 9 1
12  N. Foles 2 1 1 1 2 7 8 3

What do we want from our fantasy quarterbacks? We want huge points, we want them every week, and at worst we want them to finish as a top-12 QB. Let’s try to break down this information.

I will refer to a top-3 weekly performance as an outlier week. Why? First, because it’s hard to finish that high, and second, because a top-3 performance really separates QBs from the pack. However, QB4 – QB12 aren’t as far apart as most believe.

7.57 points: That was the weekly average difference between QB4 and QB12 in 2013. Let me repeat. A meager 7.57 points separates the majority of the week’s top-12 quarterbacks. That is an extremely low number when factoring in the replaceability of the position.

The final top-12 rankings means those QBs were the best 12 options every week right? Not even close.

Per weekly average, there were eight quarterbacks with QB1 performances that finished outside the final top-12 rankings. Many of these quarterbacks were readily available on the waiver wire.

I’ll start breaking down the data with Cam Newton. “Cam is a superstar every week! His floor is high because he’s a running QB!” What do the numbers really say about Cam Newton? Yes his ceiling is high, giving fantasy players four top-3 outlier weeks. But upon further investigation, his alleged floor isn’t as high as thought. He finished as a weekly top-12 QB only six times. Six times. Only four of those six were top-3 performances. Sure those four weeks were fantastic, the only problem is, the fantasy season is between 13 and 16 weeks long.

Andy Dalton finished inside the top 5, so he must’ve been a weekly starter, right? Dalton, like Newton, finished as a QB1 only six times. Dalton was either greatness and garbage.

Yes, many of you will throw Peyton Manning in my face and I will concede the following point. If your QB puts up the greatest offensive numbers in the history of the NFL, you should draft that guy early. Good luck predicting that.

Brees was consistent for those that spent the high pick. He only finished outside of QB1 status four times, while providing good amounts of that elusive top-3 finish.

Ol’ Matty “Snapback” Stafford was surprisingly consistent for his owners. Unfortunately, he completely disappeared for the most important part of the fantasy season, Weeks 14-16. That’s really more of a shot at Stafford than pertinent to this discussion because he cost me a title that year. I’ll never forgive you Stafford!

Nick Foles’ tremendous season gets a little skewed by these numbers. He provided seven games of QB1 numbers. The sub top-12 number looks rough, except Foles only started 10 games in 2013, making him a QB1 in 7/10 games. Absolute waiver wire stud. Foles carried many players to a title.

Now that we have taken a look at the top-12 finishers, let’s discuss the guys who aren’t there. The few, the proud, the streamable.

How would you feel if I told you that if you ran with Kaepernick or Romo as your QB, you would’ve been just as fine playing Alex Smith every week? Alex Smith finished as a QB1 just as many times as the aforementioned players, finished just outside of the top-12 final rankings, but had an ADP number in the 13th round, if he was drafted at all in your league.

If you paid attention to match ups, with a combination of Alex Smith, Geno Smith, Thad Lewis, and Ryan Fitzpatrick you could have ended up with an average weekly QB finish of seventh. You would have even gotten some of those sweet top-3 performances from a ragtag group of waiver wire fodder.

Over the course of the season there was a weekly average of eight QB1’s who did not end in the top-12 for final season rankings. Of course, that does not equate to eight amazing and available streamable options, but there are options every week. Your league mates will desperately cling to their fourth-round investment in the name of Tom Brady, while you scoop up a scorching Josh McCown with a great matchup and watch him throw four touchdowns in the opening round of the fantasy playoffs.

The supply of streamable QBs is large enough to grab a great option every week. Even if someone else in your league has taken to the success of streaming and dove in, there will still be options, although you may have to look a little further ahead on the schedule.

Be careful falling in love with final rankings. Consistency is a far greater ally than a couple sexy outlier weeks. Final rankings will not give you the full story on a player’s year, especially for the quarterback position.

Yes, the early-drafted QBs are going to give you a better chance at hitting on the astronomical weeks, but as shown in the breakdown, Brees was a top-3 guy only four times. Another way to think about that, Brees could have single-handed won your week only four times. For the other weeks, hopefully your RBs or WRs could keep pace with your opponent.

Onward to 2014

ADP Rank  Player End of Season Rank Player
1.06  Peyton Manning 1  Aaron Rodgers
2.02  Drew Brees 2  Andrew Luck
2.06  Aaron Rodgers 3  Russell Wilson
4.03  Matthew Stafford 4  Peyton Manning
4.11  Andrew Luck 5  Ben Roethlisberger
5.04  Tom Brady 6  Drew Brees
6.03  Matt Ryan 7  Matt Ryan
6.06  Nick Foles 8  Ryan Tannehill
7.01  Jay Cutler 9  Tom Brady
7.11  Tony Romo 10  Eli Manning
8.03  Cam Newton 11  Tony Romo
9.01  Colin Kaepernick 12  Philip Rivers

Face value analysis. Of the first 12 QBs drafted, five were busts. One of the top-4 busted. Drew Brees, the second QB drafted, returned poor value for his cost. The end of year top-12 party was crashed by: Russell Wilson, Ben Roethlisberger, Ryan Tannehill, Eli Manning, and Phillip Rivers.

Let’s dig into this list with a weekly breakdown! I expanded last year’s weekly breakdown list to top-15.

2014  Player #1 #2 #3 #4 #5 #6 #7 #8 #9 #10 #11 #12 Total
1  A. Rodgers 3 2 2 1 2 1 11 4 5
2  A. Luck 1 3 2 2 1 2 1 1 13 2 6
3  R. Wilson 3 2 1 1 1 2 10 5 5
4  P. Manning 4 2 1 2 1 1 11 4 4
5  B. Roethlisberger 2 1 1 1 1 2 8 7 2
6  D. Brees 2 1 1 1 2 1 8 7 3
7  M. Ryan 1 1 2 1 3 8 7 2
8  R. Tannehill 1 2 1 1 1 1 7 8 3
9  T. Brady 1 1 1 3 1 7 8 2
10  E. Manning 1 1 4 6 9 2
11  T. Romo 1 2 1 2 1 7 8 1
12  P. Rivers 1 2 1 2 1 7 8 1
13  J. Flacco 1 1 2 1 5 10 1
14  J. Cutler 2 2 2 1 7 8 2
15  M. Stafford 1 1 3 1 6 9 1

The investment in Rodgers and Luck resulted in a steady force at the position. Luck, despite finishing second, was the more dominant and consistent QB. Unfortunately for his owners, Luck really struggled in every fantasy playoff week. They did return a decent amount of top-3 performances, but not that many more than the field. Ryan Tannehill produced only two less than Rodgers.

Manning looked to be turning in another record-shattering year until the wheels came off in Week 13.

Russell Wilson was the ultimate value last year. He turned in five top-3 outlier games, and he only finished out of the weekly top 12 five times. Unfortunately when Wilson has an off fantasy week, it’s way off.

Drew Brees, while not having a horrid year, was a massive disappointment based on his cost. Brees only produced three top-three performances. On top of that, Brees wasn’t even a QB1 for seven weeks.

Brady was awful. Then he was great. Then he was meh.

The combo of Romo, Tannehill, and Eli came on later in the season. For those wise enough to scoop and stream, good things happened.

Here comes that gibberish on the availability to stream QBs again…

6.95: There was under a seven-point average weekly difference between QB4 and QB12.

There was a weekly average of seven QBs finishing as QB1s who did not finish in the final top-12.

I believe that quarterback is the most replaceable position in fantasy sports. For the uninitiated, the thought of starting a Kirk Cousins or Joe Flacco is justifiably nerve-racking. When you have finally settled on your lineup for the week, it can be overwhelming to see Ryan Tannehill matched up against Peyton Manning. Just remember, fantasy football is a team game! The chances that other team has Peyton and an RB1 are not high.

There’s also an unforeseen bonus of riding low-investment quarterbacks. You will have no problem moving on when a better situation arises. The players who drafted Manning, Luck, Rodgers, and Brees last year became entrenched with the investment. They are going to play ‘their guy’ regardless of all the red flags and warning lights going off.

It was Week 16. Fantasy championships were on the line. The bright lights went on. Battle was waged. Insults were hurled. Friendships were questioned. When the smoke cleared, the elite of the ADP QBs had crumbled. Between Peyton, Luck, Rodgers, and Brees, there was a combined ZERO QB1 performances. Meanwhile, Colin Kaepernick, Mark Sanchez, and Kyle Orton capitalized on their match ups and all finished in the top-10 for the week. Were there any Peyton owners willing to make the leap to a streamer, despite the previous three-week abomination?



  • 4 of top-12 QB ADP Busted
  • 7.57 – average weekly point difference between QB4 – QB12
  • 8 – average number of non top-12 quarterbacks who produced QB1 numbers per week


  • 5 of top-12 QB ADP Busted
  • 6.95 – average weekly point difference between QB4 – QB12
  • 7 – average number of non top-12 quarterbacks who produced QB1 numbers per week

We have been trained our whole lives to believe that brand names are the ultimate and best possible choices. I propose a challenge to those willing to listen. Summon the willpower and courage, keep walking past all the ‘boxed’ cereal, squat down to the lower shelf, and grab a big bag of knock-off sugary goodness! I think you’ll find that once in the bowl with the milk, the off-brand can produce similar results.

In Part 2, I will be talking about running backs. I break down the cost and return of top drafted running backs, as well as looking at the dreaded bust potential!

Mike “The Fantasy Hitman” Wright is a member of The Fantasy Footballers. Check out his Podcast and follow him on Twitter @FFHitman.

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