Streaming Quarterbacks to Target Early (Fantasy Football)

by David McCaffery | @mccaffmedia | Featured Writer
Jun 23, 2018

Blake Bortles may be a lock for solid early-season production

Quarterbacks are difference-makers in fantasy football, but with so much depth at the position, there has been a movement towards waiting to grab a signal caller until the later rounds of fantasy drafts. In fact, many pundits have suggested that it’s an even smarter strategy to avoid selecting one altogether. The thought process behind such reasoning is simple. If you invest premium capital at the position, you have no choice but to rely on that quarterback on a weekly basis, even when he faces a daunting opponent, and that isn’t always a smart decision.

After all, if you draft Aaron Rodgers, you’re obligated to trot him out there against three straight top-10 pass defense over the first three weeks of the season. If you land Russell Wilson, you have to start him against the Broncos defense in Week 1. Is Tom Brady your guy? Super. Enjoy #Sacksonville in Week 2.

None of that sounds too appealing, mainly when there are players on the waiver wire with premium match-ups during these weeks who could theoretically out-perform their more established peers for a fraction of the cost. And make no mistake about it, these options do exist. As luck would have it, we’ve found four such quarterbacks who can help you win right out of the gate in 2018, and they likely won’t even cost you a draft pick.

The criteria for our study is simple. To qualify, a player must profile as an extremely late-round pick or waiver-wire material. As such, we’re excluding any passer with a top-150 Average Draft Position (ADP) from this discussion.

To analyze each quarterback’s prospects, we’re going to take a look at some of that data from last season, taking into account how their opponents performed against the pass and how many fantasy points they yielded to opposing signal callers on a per game basis. While last year’s numbers are no guarantee of what will happen in 2018, they still present plenty of reason for optimism. So let’s take a look:

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Mitchell Trubisky (CHI) Current ADP: 165 overall, QB25

Week Opponent Pass Defense Rank (2017) QB Fantasy Points Allowed/Game
1 Green Bay Packers 23rd 18.0
2 Seattle Seahawks 6th 13.1
3 Arizona Cardinals 14th 16.8
4 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 32nd 16.6

 

The 2018 off-season has been very kind to Trubisky. First, the Bears hired former Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Matt Nagy as their new head coach. Nagy’s reputation as an offensive guru can only mean good things for the sophomore signal caller’s development, and the implementation of a Chiefs-like offense is great news for the youngster’s passing volume.

Then, the franchise provided Trubisky with several new exciting weapons, signing former Jaguars stud Allen Robinson and Super Bowl champion tight end Trey Burton in free agency, before drafting Anthony Miller in the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft. With Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen in the backfield, suddenly the Bears offense looks incredibly deep on paper, and there seems to be a fair bit of optimism about Trubisky’s prospects in the fantasy community.

Certainly, a slate of appetizing matchups doesn’t hurt his outlook either. Trubisky’s first four contests (prior to the Bears going on bye in Week 5) have the potential to produce excellent fantasy output. For starters, the young Packers secondary looks like a favorable Week 1 matchup.

A Week 2 date with the Seahawks would have been a must-avoid a year ago, but things have changed a lot over the last six months. After all, the franchise lost Richard Sherman, Michael Bennett, and Cliff Avril during the offseason, Kam Chancellor’s NFL future is up in the air, and Earl Thomas is holding out. Suddenly, this looks like an exploitable contest for fantasy purposes.

In Weeks 3 and 4, Trubisky draws a Tyrann Mathieu-less Arizona team, and the Bucs’ worst-ranked pass defense in the league. Not a bad way to start out the season.

Depending on the size and depth of your league, Trubisky looks like a potential late-round selection at his current ADP, although he will find himself on plenty of waiver wires as the QB25. Of all the names on this list, he has the most season-long upside as he will enjoy quite a few appealing match-ups throughout the year. While we’re talking about him as a streamer right now, we could very easily be discussing him as a real breakout player in no time.

Blake Bortles (JAC) Current ADP: 174 overall, QB28

Week Opponent Pass Defense Rank (2017) QB Fantasy Points Allowed/Game
1 New York Giants 31st 18.7
2 New England Patriots 30th 17.4
3 Tennessee Titans 25th 16.2
4 New York Jets 21st 18.3
5 Kansas City Chiefs 29th 17.0

 

In some ways, Bortles is the Rodney Dangerfield of the NFL. No matter what he does, he just can’t get any respect. Even though he almost led his team to a Super Bowl appearance last season, people still scoffed when the Jags signed him to a contract extension during the offseason. Never mind the fact that he was a late-year league winner in 2017, throwing for 1,285 yards, nine touchdowns, and only three interceptions over the final four weeks of the fantasy season. No one seemed to care.

But maybe this will change some minds. Bortles starts out the season with matchups against the Giants, Patriots, Titans, Jets, and a Chiefs team that traded Marcus Peters during the offseason. All five of these franchises ranked as bottom-12 pass defenses in 2017, and they all yielded generous fantasy output to opposing signal callers.

The Jaguars are loaded with weapons. Wideouts Marqise Lee, Keelan Cole, Dede Westbrook, Donte Moncrief, and second-round pick D.J. Chark are all capable players. Leonard Fournette could become a top-five NFL running back. New tight end Austin Sefarian-Jenkins and Bortles have reportedly already established great chemistry this offseason. Bortles has one of the most favorable early-season schedules imaginable, and a strong supporting cast.

It’s a terrific combination. People will continue to avoid him, but you can exploit that and stream him to considerable early-season success.

Ryan Tannehill (MIA) Current ADP: 206 overall, QB29

Week Opponent Pass Defense Rank (2017) QB Fantasy Points Allowed/Game
1 Tennessee Titans 25th 16.2
2 New York Jets 21st 18.3
3 Oakland Raiders 26th 17.2
4 New England Patriots 30th 17.4

 

Tannehill missed all of last season with a torn ACL, but he produced some of his best football in 2016 and played a significant role in leading the Dolphins to the postseason before his injury. Now, he’s poised to pick up where he left off as he reaches a turning point in his NFL career.

Yes, his favorite target Jarvis Landry is in Cleveland now, but Tannehill will still enjoy plenty of options in the passing game. DeVante Parker and the underrated Kenny Stills should comprise a solid one-two punch at receiver, while free agent signing Albert Wilson is filled with untapped potential. Rookie tight end Mike Gesicki might take a while to develop, but has plenty of upside in his own right, and running back Kenyan Drake snared 20 receptions over the final six weeks of the 2017 season. The Dolphins’ cupboard is far from bare.

As far as why Tannehill’s early-season schedule is so appealing, the answer to that is simple. Pretty much anything you just read about Bortles applies here as well, as they have virtually identical schedules. Tannehill will also enjoy showdowns with the Titans, Jets, and Pats, and when you throw in the Raiders and their 26th-ranked pass defense, it’s icing on the cake.

A string of bottom-eight pass defenses to start out the season is a fantastic way for Tannehill to shake off the rust and re-establish himself as an NFL starter. Furthermore (and somewhat surprisingly), his career average of 34.2 pass attempts per game ranks 15th all-time. He’s going to be throwing a lot right out of the gate. At QB29 cost, he’s a virtual lock to be there for the taking on the waiver wire and could pay big-time dividends.

Nick Foles (PHI) Current ADP: 281 overall, QB36

Week Opponent Pass Defense Rank (2017) QB Fantasy Points Allowed/Game
1 Atlanta Falcons 12th 16.8
2 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 32nd 16.6
3 Indianapolis Colts 28th 17.0
4 Tennessee Titans 25h 16.2

 

Foles is more of a bonus option, but one to keep in mind as the season approaches. Yes, everyone knows he was a Super Bowl hero back in February, but the expectation is that Carson Wentz will be back on the field in Week 1 to reclaim his role as the team’s starting quarterback. I certainly hope that will be the case, but it’s far from a guarantee.

What if Wentz needs a little more time to heal? The Eagles are not going to risk the future of the franchise to rush their young quarterback back when they have a Super Bowl MVP as a backup. As such, it’s impossible to rule out the potential that Foles could make a couple of early-season starts.

If this should happen, he’s one of the best streaming options imaginable. The season-opening Week 1 tilt with Falcons could be a high-scoring affair, and then he draws two bottom-five pass defenses in the Bucs and Colts in Weeks 2 and 3, before another plus matchup with the Titans in Week 4.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. If Wentz does indeed have to miss time, Foles’ ADP will climb from where it stands as the QB36. It has to.

However, a potential short stint as a starter likely won’t position him as a draftable player in the eyes of most of your league mates. As a week-to-week option on the waiver wire, however, he could be an early-season game-changer for your squad. By now, you know what he’s capable of.


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David McCaffery is a correspondent at FantasyPros. For more from David, check out his archive or follow him @mccaffmedia.

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