QB streaming strategy for fantasy football leagues
One of the most prevalent fantasy football draft strategies that seems to receive general acceptance around the industry is QB streaming. What is it, how does it work, and why should you consider streaming your QB position as a strategy in 2021?
What does the term QB streaming mean for fantasy?
The general premise of a QB streaming strategy in fantasy is to play the matchup each week rather than riding the entire season with a singular player at the position. It is all about identifying favorable matchups that week and adding that QB off waivers. The hope is to cash in on a big day from a somewhat underrated or undervalued quarterback.
As an example, in Week 14 of the 2021 NFL season, Joe Burrow and the Cincinnati Bengals will host the San Francisco 49ers. The 49ers will be prohibitive favorites, and this is a difficult matchup for opposing QBs. Last season, the 49ers were eighth vs. opposing QBs, allowing 16.7 points per game and 219.6 passing yards per game. For as much as we love garbage time stats, Burrow is not likely to be someone we want to rely on as our starting QB.
In that same week, Ryan Tannehill and the Tennessee Titans are on the road playing the Jacksonville Jaguars. This is a smash start kind of situation. Not only is Tannehill one of the better fantasy QBs (currently QB11 in rankings), but he has a far better matchup. In 2020, the Jaguars were the 29th-ranked defense in points allowed to QBs (21.6 per game) while allowing 270.1 yards per contest.
Assuming that both are available options in this scenario, Tannehill would be the QB to add and stream for the week to take advantage of his matchup. You would use this strategy throughout the season. Rinse and repeat. This is a strategy that avoids bye weeks and troublesome matchups by streaming QBs that have advantageous matchups.
Is streaming QBs an advantageous draft strategy?
While I believe it can be advantageous and worth utilizing, things need to go right. First, you need to nail your pick on which QBs are worth streaming in a given week. In 2021, odds are we will heavily target teams playing the Detroit Lions and Houston Texans. Both teams had bottom-five defenses last season and are running for the No. 1 overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft.
Still, there is a significant discrepancy on what we can expect if, for example, Kyler Murray is facing them versus Sam Darnold or Drew Lock. Great matchups don’t always equal success in fantasy, especially if the player in question lacks both upside and talent.
Consider opportunity cost when deciding if streaming QBs is the strategy for you
Where the streaming QB strategy comes into its own is the opportunity cost during the draft. Essentially meaning, if you draft Player “X,” you pass up the opportunity to draft Player “Y.” A real-world example of this would be going to the movies because you really want to see the new Marvel movie. You could go to the concessions and get that giant bag of delicious popcorn and an Icee. Or you afford to pay the rent for the next two months. The choice is yours.
As for fantasy, opting to go “late-round QB” or a streaming strategy opens up a significant range of value in the fourth and fifth rounds. If we look at current ADPs as of July 13, Patrick Mahomes is the QB1 (17.1 ADP), followed by Josh Allen (38.7), Lamar Jackson (41.8), Kyler Murray (43.5), Russell Wilson (50.5), and Dak Prescott (57.9).
Outside of Mahomes in Round 2 (12-team league), these QBs are being selected in Rounds 4 and 5 of 1QB drafts. Meanwhile, these are the rounds where you could select your RB2 or WR2 instead. Moreover, it’s where some of the best value sits.
Is there an advantage to having someone like Allen or Murray on your team? Sure, no question. But is that weekly point differential enough to go from a Chris Carson or Terry McLaurin to a Melvin Gordon or Odell Beckham Jr.?
Should you implement a streaming QB strategy, and if so, what are the best practices?
Whether or not you should buy into the strategy of streaming QBs needs to start with an honest self-reflection on you as a fantasy manager. Be honest with yourself. What are your strengths and weaknesses? If working the waiver wire and projecting out game scripts is not your forte, then I would not recommend doing this.
We all have areas where we are stronger than others. For some, it is the draft. Some are better at trading or mid-season acquisitions. You could even be a savant of the waiver wire and find the breakout player of the week. There is a comforting feeling having one of the elite handful of QBs that you know week in and week out will provide QB1 performances and thus never need to worry. You take the good matchups with the bad and rely on their talent to overcome them, which they do more times than not.
Look ahead at the schedule when streaming QBs
If you feel confident in predicting matchups and knowing which games to target, streaming QBs is a viable strategy.
One week you can take Ryan Fitzpatrick, who is likely to be rostered in 50% or less of leagues but could be a low-end QB1 for a fraction of the cost. The same applies to Tua Tagovailoa in Weeks 6 and 7, when he plays Jacksonville and Atlanta. With both QBs, for example, you could then start Fitzpatrick in Week 8 against Denver (24th vs. QBs in 2020) when Tua is playing Buffalo. Then, in Week 9, start Tua again as they face the Texans.
In the end, you likely ended up with a QB1 for four straight weeks without having to spend the draft capital on one. The key is to look a few weeks ahead of schedule and snag these players before their juicy matchup is on everyone’s radar. Other managers will likely try to do a similar strategy.
If executed properly and with a bit of luck, a QB streaming strategy could be advantageous in 2021 and give your fantasy team that needed boost to get you to the playoffs.
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Tommy Garrett is a writer for Pro Football Network covering the NFL and fantasy football and a member of the FSWA (Fantasy Sports Writers Association). You can read more of his work here and follow him at @TommygarrettPFN on Twitter.