Week 1 Fantasy Football Quarterback Streaming: Rolling With Alex Smith
Quarterback streaming isn't for everyone, but if you're in a standard league -- like a 10- or 12-team league that features just one starting quarterback each week -- grabbing productive quarterbacks who have good matchups off the waiver wire is often doable.
Sure, you won't have the luxury of setting it and forgetting it with Aaron Rodgers as your quarterback, but when the top-end signal callers like Cam Newton draw a tough matchup at the Denver Broncos, their upside can be matched by a waiver-wire option in a more favorable matchup.
If you're looking for some options from the waiver wire -- regardless of league size -- then we have you covered.
Alex Smith, Kansas City Chiefs
ESPN Ownership: 20.6%
Alex Smith is on the Mount Rushmore of quarterback streamers. Never a highly-owned player, Smith is usually sitting there on the waiver wire, ready to be scooped up in a favorable matchup. He gets exactly that in Week 1 as the Kansas City Chiefs play host to the San Diego Chargers.
San Diego had an abysmal defense in 2015, ranking 29th in Adjusted Defensive Net Expected Points (NEP) per play. The Bolts were 21st in Adjusted Defensive Passing NEP per drop back and 31st in Adjusted Defensive NEP per rush, so Kansas City may be even more run heavy than usual in this one.
Averaging 394 rushing yards per season over the last three years, Smith provides a not-awful floor, and the matchup here is too good to ignore. Per our Week 1 projections, Smith is our 14th-ranked quarterback, and Kansas City boasts a solid 25.75 implied total, which is the seventh-highest of the opening week.
Brock Osweiler, Houston Texans
ESPN Ownership: 28.7%
There is definitely a chance Brock Osweiler isn't a very good quarterback, but his home Week 1 clash with the Chicago Bears might be his best fantasy matchup all season, which is saying a lot for someone who plays in the AFC South.
Osweiler's eight-game sample from last year doesn't tell us too much. Out of the 46 signal callers with at least 100 drop backs in 2015, he ranked 26th in Passing NEP per drop back -- not bad but not great.
The matchup against the Bears, though, is incredible. In 2015, Chicago ranked 30th in Adjusted Defensive Passing NEP per drop back, and the Bears allowed the 7th-most fantasy points to quarterbacks.
With Lamar Miller in tow, Houston may run the ball all over the Bears, but the Houston Texans' implied total of 25.25 is pretty attractive regardless. Will Fuller has been a stud in the preseason -- catching 8 balls for 144 yards and 2 scores -- and he should pair with DeAndre Hopkins to give Osweiler two good weapons. As an added bonus, Kyle Fuller, one of Chicago's starting corners, is questionable with a knee injury.
Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons
ESPN Ownership: 42.1%
Here's all you need to know about the fantasy community's feelings on Matt Ryan: he's owned in fewer leagues than Dak Prescott (47.3%). Now, Prescott may prove to be a useful fantasy asset, but he's a rookie. Ryan, on the other hand, has started 126 games and gets to throw passes to Devonta Freeman and Julio Jones.
Check your Matt Ryan biases at the door, though, for Week 1.
Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons get a home matchup with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Tampa really struggled defensively a year ago, checking in 27th in Adjusted Defensive Passing NEP per drop back. The Bucs did, however, rank ninth in Adjusted Defensive NEP per rush. Combine that with the fact Atlanta ranked 26th in Adjusted NEP per rush in 2015, and the Falcons may have to rely on an aerial attack in Week 1.
Our projections love Ryan this week, ranking him as the sixth-best quarterback. The Falcons' 25.25 implied total is solid, and Ryan was much better in his home starts last season. When playing in the Georgia Dome, Ryan averaged 8.1 yards per attempts and 294.4 yards per game, compared to 6.9 yards per throw and 275.9 yards per game on the road.
Overall, Ryan is due for some positive touchdown regression this year, so he may become a decent season-long play. But he's definitely worth a look in Week 1.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, New York Jets
ESPN Ownership: 36.4%
Ryan Fitzpatrick's low ownership doesn't make a ton of sense. This is a guy who finished as the QB11 last year, and not only did his team's offense not suffer any significant departures, but they also added pass-catching maven Matt Forte. Fitzpatrick was probably overlooked earlier this summer because of his drawn out contract negotiations, but his value hasn't bounced back the way it should.
In truth, Fitzpatrick has the worst on-paper matchup of the quarterbacks listed here, but he may be the best bet in terms of solid season-long production. Fitzpatrick and the New York Jets host the Cincinnati Bengals. Cincy ranked 10th in Adjusted Defensive NEP per play last year, and they were 14th in Adjusted Defensive Passing NEP per play. The Jets have a lowly implied total of 19.5.
Those are not the kind of numbers we want to target, and judging by his ownership, you may be able to wait a while to grab Fitzpatrick. You should probably do just that, too, as he opens the year with a some pretty tough defenses -- Bengals, Buffalo Bills, Kansas City Chiefs, Seattle Seahawks, Pittsburgh Steelers, and Arizona Cardinals in his first six games. Fitzpatrick's first plus matchup doesn't come until Week 8 against the Cleveland Browns, but his second-half slate is much friendlier.