2017 Fantasy Football Streaming Review
With the massive breadth and accessibility of fantasy football advice these days, even the more casual players have heard of the term “streaming.” If, by chance, you aren’t familiar, know that it has little to do with a flowing channel of water. Streaming in fantasy football is basically the concept of rotating players in and out of your roster through heavy use of the waiver wire, guided primarily by matchups and unique week-to-week situations. To the fantasy newbie who believes their entire season hinges on the draft, or the player hoarder who suffers from separation anxiety when advised to drop a player, streaming is likely a foreign and unappealing idea.
And yet, the streaming strategy is growing in popularity. The question now becomes: Can you actually stream your way to a fantasy football championship, or is it a passing fancy devoid of any true advantage? To find out, join me in a review of fantasy football streaming in 2017.
NOTE: This article will focus primarily on QBs and TEs, along with D/STs, as these are the positions streamed most commonly in the fantasy football community. Also, I will frequently refer to FantasyPros’ weekly streamer articles from 2017.
Before we get into the weekly ups and downs of players used solely for streaming throughout the season, we need to touch on the reality of streamers-turned-stars. Oftentimes, especially early in the season, the players we identify as solid streaming options in a given week very quickly turn into the breakout gems of the year.
Jared Goff found his way onto the very first FantasyPros QB/TE Streamer article of the season back in September. Goff was coming off a truly horrific season and was scarcely drafted or owned heading into 2017. But in a new offense with a plus matchup against the Colts, he was worth a shot. Not only did Goff not disappoint, posting 16.4 standard-scoring fantasy points, the sophomore proceeded to have a bounce-back season for the ages. He was a startable asset nearly every week and finished as the QB10 overall.
Or how about rookie tight end Evan Engram, who cropped up on the Week 2 Streamer article after a decent debut (four catches for 44 yards)? For anyone willing to snag and start Engram, the young phenom paid off immediately with 14.9 PPR fantasy points in Week 2. But more importantly, he was a consistent star throughout the season and finished as the TE5 in PPR formats. This is a guy drafted outside the top 20 at the position (or not at all), who was only 24% owned heading into Week 2.
Alex Smith, Carson Wentz, Matthew Stafford, and Deshaun Watson are a handful of QBs who similarly bloomed from waiver wire fodder to reliable starter early in the season. Jason Witten, Jack Doyle, Cameron Brate, and Austin Seferian-Jenkins also had stretches of excellence that kept them on your rosters for weeks at a time.
As for D/ST “stars,” consider this nugget: of 2017’s top five D/STs in standard scoring, only the Eagles’ ADP (Average Draft Position) broke the top 12. The Jaguars unit that was one of the best in history was largely undrafted, as were the Ravens, Rams, and Chargers.
Turnover at the Top
If I asked you how many different quarterbacks made a weekly top 12 at least once in 2017 – i.e. finished a week as a QB1 – what would you guess? I’ll bet you wouldn’t guess 44, but that would be the right answer. In a league with 32 teams, 44 quarterbacks managed to qualify as a fantasy starter at least once this season. The list includes plenty of instances of Wilson, Brady, and Newton, as expected. But it also includes appearances by C.J. Beathard, Jay Cutler, Blaine Gabbert, Kevin Hogan, Jacoby Brissett, and some guy named David Fales.
The top 12 QBs on the entire season (Wilson, Brady, Newton, Smith, Cousins, Stafford, Wentz, Rivers, Roethlisberger, Goff, Prescott, and Brees) made 96 appearances in the weekly top 12s, while the rest of the league accounted for 108 such performances. It’s not surprising that Brady finished third in the league with 10 such weeks, but it is surprising that both of his backups at the start of the season – Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett – accounted for four apiece. Despite ending the season as QBs 19, 21 and 24, respectively, Andy Dalton, Josh McCown, and DeShone Kizer each posted six finishes in a weekly top 12.
Believe it or not, reducing the window to weekly top-five finishes tells a similar story. A total of 31 quarterbacks posted at least one top-five week in 2017. That list features appearances by several of the names above, plus three by surprise Minnesota revelation Case Keenum and two by none other than Trevor Siemian. Weekly waiver fodder like Eli Manning, Brett Hundley, Brian Hoyer, and Nick Foles also made the cut once.
The point here is clear: There are a lot of options when it comes to starting a successful QB in fantasy. The position is deep enough, the league is pass-heavy enough, and there are enough porous defenses to find startable upside everywhere under center in a given week.
While tight end is a less fascinating exploration, the story is the same. Names like Jesse James, Demetrius Harris, and C.J. Fiedorowicz all pop up within the first week alone. For goodness’ sake, the top three PPR performances of the year were posted by Jack Doyle, Marcedes Lewis, and O.J. Howard.
Here’s an especially fun one involving this year’s go-to TE-streaming opponent, the New York Giants. Take the fantasy points scored by the top tight end facing the Giants each week and add them up over the course of the season. With “contributions” by guys like Jeff Heuerman, Tyler Higbee, Garrett Celek, Niles Paul, Clive Walford, and Jermaine Gresham, you end up with 195 PPR fantasy points – more than every tight end in fantasy outside Travis Kelce, Rob Gronkowski, and Zach Ertz.
Simply put, there is a melting pot of fantasy goodness at these streamable positions. Finding the right option each week can net you a win just as effectively as nearly any regular starter outside the truly elite.
Streaming To the ‘Ship
So what does it look like to stream your way to a championship? As a case study, we’ll pick the most successful QB named in each weekly FantasyPros streamer column and average out their collective performances. With killer showings by Sam Bradford in Week 1 (25.5 fantasy points), DeShone Kizer in Week 3 (22.1), and multiple appearances by Josh McCown and Blake Bortles, our “ultimate streamer” ends up averaging 23.3 fantasy points per game – more than any single QB in fantasy.
Tight end data tells a similar story. Using the same method, and featuring big weeks from Austin Seferian-Jenkins (16.6 in Week 6), Benjamin Watson (17.4 in Week 15), and even Antonio Gates (20.1 in Week 16), our imaginary streamer ends up averaging 13.6 points per week. Like with the “Giants-only” stream strategy, that’s better than every TE in fantasy outside Gronk, Kelce, and Ertz.
D/STs are the most reliable and lucrative of all. It’s incredibly easy to predict and prey on ineffective, turnover-prove offenses like the Colts or pre-Garroppolo 49ers. Using the FantasyPros D/ST streamers article and the same process as before, we end up with a minimum weekly score of eight standard fantasy points, and a season-long average of 15.1 per week. That’s better than the league-leading Jaguars by more than two points per week.
Now, naturally, you’re not going to make the right pick every week. There will be weeks that streaming lands you with a dud, like Nick Foles‘ 8.5-point stinker against Oakland in Week 16 or the Bengals D/ST’s one-point embarrassment versus the Bears in Week 14. But the fact that you can achieve ceilings like these with a pool of players sitting on the waiver wire gives insight into just how strong the strategy can be.
And if you need any further convincing, look at the championship itself. Of the top seven QBs in Week 16, four of them – Bortles, Garroppolo, Trubisky, and Flacco – were low-owned streamer material. So was the top-scoring tight end in Antonio Gates, and the top-scoring D/ST in the Arizona Cardinals.
It takes more effort and focus than your typical plug-and-play strategy, but streaming clearly has its merits. With some focused research and a bit of luck, it’s possible to stream your way to fantasy excellence and even to a championship trophy.