Streaming QB Strategy (Fantasy Football)
Donald Gibson provides running backs to target for those using the Streaming Quarterback Strategy.
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No one will argue that quarterback is the most important position in football. They are the unquestioned leaders on the field, and the play of the quarterback generally determines the performance of the team. Teams mortgage their entire futures in the draft to get the QB that they believe can lead a team and city for literally a decade. Quarterbacks are crucial from pee-wee through the NFL and everywhere in between.
…except for fantasy football.
Most fantasy football rosters only have one QB, and there are a minimum of 32 of them starting in the NFL. Sure, plenty of them are disappointing and would probably be better suited as a barback than a quarterback, but there is enough quality to go around.
Some fantasy owners prefer to just lock up their Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady and be done with it, but you should be using those picks to grab quality players at other positions. For example, according to FantasyPros ADP as of this writing, Aaron Rodgers is going at the 31st pick and would probably cost you a late 3rd or early 4th round pick. The three players on each side of Aaron Rodgers are Doug Baldwin, Travis Kelce, Joe Mixon, Zach Ertz, Derrick Henry, and T.Y. Hilton, and each of those players would probably end up being your RB2 or WR2.
Instead of spending such valuable draft capital to get Aaron Rodgers, I’d rather just wait as long as possible and get the 10th-12th QB off the board. For reference, Jared Goff is the QB11 and is going at the 97th pick at the end of the 10th round in a 10-team league.
Russell Wilson was the number one QB in 2017, and the number 10 QB, a.k.a. the last “starting” QB, was Matt Ryan. The difference between their performances on a per-game basis was 5.02. Again for reference, the difference between RB1 and RB20, again the last “startable” running back, was 12.5 points per game. That difference for wide receivers was 6.6 points per game.
In short, the difference between the first and last startable QBs is much smaller than that difference for running backs and wide receivers, making it much more plausible to try to cash in on quality RBs or WRs instead of using that pick on a QB when you can get a similar-enough one much later.
I prefer the QB streaming strategy, which is a schedule-based approach where you draft a QB in the 8-12th round (or later) with favorable early season matchups and use them until they either a) under-perform immensely or b) run into a tough matchup. You’re essentially looking for your QB to be serviceable and solid (think 15-20 points) while targeting matchups that give them a 20-30 point upside.
It should go without saying that you’re using the picks prior to a QB to load up your starting lineup and even your RBs and WRs on the bench. Don’t be afraid to fill at least 2 or 3 bench spots before taking a QB.
Let’s say you plan on taking the 10th QB or later in a draft where 13 QBs are drafted. The 10th through 13th QBs by FantasyPros ADP are as follows: Matthew Stafford, Jared Goff, Ben Roethlisberger, and Andrew Luck.
We take a look at the schedules before the draft and notice that Ben Roethlisberger plays Cleveland, Kansas City, and Tampa Bay in Weeks 1-3, so we end up drafting him at an ADP of 105. I admittedly don’t love the Kansas City matchup, but it should be okay.
In Week 4, we have Derek Carr (ADP: QB18) against Cleveland or maybe Philip Rivers (QB15) against San Francisco. We can then drop Big Ben if we feel uncomfortable about the matchup against Baltimore that week and snag Carr or Rivers. In Week 5, the Browns play the Ravens, and Joe Flacco will probably still be available in every league under the sun. You can do that all season long, and you can keep your QBs for as long or as little as you’d like. Did I mean to pick on the Browns three times in five weeks? No, no I did not. But would I use those quarterbacks against them? Oh yes, absolutely.
One of the reasons that QB streaming is preferable to many owners is because it doesn’t “hurt” to drop someone that you drafted in the 11th round. If you draft Russell Wilson in the 4th or 5th round and he has a slew of awful matchups, you’re either going to tough it out with him or drop a position player to use a fill-in QB like Carr against the Browns. With the streaming option, you won’t hesitate to mercilessly send your guys packing week in and week out.
Keep in mind that, if you’re utilizing a streaming strategy, you could end up with a gem. You may have picked up Carson Wentz after Week 3 last year, and he went on to be the QB5. If you end up with a QB that has a slew of good games, don’t feel like you need to drop him for the optimal matchup every week. The trick is finding a happy medium between QB quality and matchup. If the quality is higher than anticipated, as was the case with Wentz, it’s increasingly acceptable to continue streaming that guy as the matchups get tougher.
I’ve been utilizing the QB streaming approach almost exclusively for several years now. You end up being able to focus on the scarce positions of RB and WR in the early rounds, and there is always a late QB that ends up being serviceable at an absolute minimum. It’s a no-brainer to me, even if my QB on any given week won’t ever sniff the Hall of Fame like a Rodgers or Brady.
Oh yeah, I almost forgot the best part: the look on your opponent’s face when you roll out CJ Beathard against the Giants and he goes for 288 yards and two TDs with another TD on the ground. Forget the draft value and the season-long flexibility, that is the best part of streaming.