Now more than ever, it's evident that getting a quarterback early in your draft doesn't have the same return on investment that it did in the past. Guys like Brady, Kaepernick, Wilson, RGIII, and Newton were all drafted among the top 12 at their position, but not one of them are even in the top 15 at the quarterback position through five weeks. What gives?
Gun-slingers who were often overlooked, or not drafted at all, such as Rivers, Vick, Romo and Bradford are all firmly entrenched in the top 10 while you’re stuck drowning your high draft pick in tears. So what should you do if the quarterback you drafted early is putting up duds, or if your stud is on a bye? What if you've been rolling with Vick and need a replacement in light of his injury? Stream and reap the benefits.
Streaming is the art of having multiple choices at a position such as quarterback, tight end, and defense, and playing the matchup. This has become popular strategy for defense and tight end, as those who waste an eighth-rounder on the top-ranked defense often spend their Sundays doing garden work as their fantasy teams are too terrible to follow. The idea of streaming quarterbacks, or as I call it playing “waiver wire quarterback”, is becoming very popular as well. So every week I’m going to give you some widely available field generals that can replace your under-performing bums, or plug in when needed for a bye or injury.
Jay Cutler (owned in 66% of ESPN.com leagues)
Many may be frightened by the fact that this is a Thursday night game, which produces more lackluster offensive performances than elite ones, but don’t fret my friends. Cutler has been thriving in Marc Trestman’s offense - along with all of his weapons - and the fact that this is a short week shouldn’t affect his value. “Smokin Jay” has a passing NEP (Net Expected Points) of 9.75, which is higher than the likes of Brady, Newton, and Kaepernick. NEP is numberFire’s fancy way of showing how many real life points a player is contributing for his team, which shows that Cutler has been playing exceptionally well. Through five weeks, the Bears quarterback is 10th in standard scoring at his position, having put up 17 points four out of five weeks.
If that doesn’t convince you, I’m sure the matchup will. The Bears are playing host to the 0-5 Giants, who have played worse pass defense than previously thought possible under Tom Coughlin. Ranking 30th in the league, the Giants are allowing over 23 fantasy points a game to opposing quarterbacks, including at least two touchdowns every game. Expect this trend to continue this week with only three days of preparation.
Cutler is an elite streaming option this week and for the future with a very quarterback-friendly schedule. Add him, use him, keep him, and be happy.
Terrelle Pryor (owned in 32.5 % of ESPN.com leagues)
We've been talking up Pryor for weeks here at numberFire. But in case you’re new, I’ll throw some stats your way. Everyone knows Pryor has weekly top-10 upside due to his running abilities, but his newfound passing proficiency is what makes him a great “waiver wire quarterback option”. Pryor ranks 7th in the NFL in Passing NEP, albeit on far less attempts than his peers, but impressive nonetheless. On his way to averaging over 17 fantasy points per game, Pryor has shown he has what it takes to be an NFL quarterback and not just a gimmick.
The matchup is not too inviting, as Kansas City has a very stout defense particularly against quarterbacks, allowing only 12.6 fantasy point per game. However garbage time potential looms in this game, and I believe that Pryor’s running abilities give him top-10 upside and limit his floor no matter the match up.
Matt Schaub (owned in 35.5% of ESPN.com leagues)
Schaub has regressed mightily since putting up those lofty numbers the first two weeks, but I didn’t expect this. He is now the laughing stock of the league by throwing six interceptions over the last three games, including setting the NFL record for consecutive games with a “pick-6”. He was even benched last week for T.J. Yates, with added speculation that the benching could continue. So why should you stream Schaub?
Matchup. While talented, the Rams are playing like one of the worst defenses in the league. Fisher has his bunch playing a soft zone, so the underneath stuff to the tight ends and running backs will be there all day. St. Louis' Defensive Pass NEP of 42.78 is ranked 26th in the league. The Rams pass defense isn't as bad in fantasy as real life, ranking 21st in fantasy points allowed per game to quarterbacks at 18 per game, but it's still dreadful.
Use Schaub this week as a solid streaming option, but don’t expect consistent production.
Alex Smith (owned in 54% of ESPN.com leagues)
The facts are well known: Andy Reid loves to throw and Alex Smith doesn’t. But wins and fantasy points are still piling up for this game-manager. Smith is 14th in the NFL in Passing NEP among those with at least 100 pass attempts at 13.13. That shows Smith’s known mediocrity as a passer and unwillingness to throw deep, so why is he a good waiver wire quarterback?
To date, Smith is the 12th-highest scoring fantasy quarterback and that comes from consistent and efficient decisions. Smith is a check down machine, as Jamaal Charles is one of the leading running backs in receptions. This gives Smith easy decisions, minimizing his turnovers and maximizing his consistent fantasy point totals. Reid is also using his quarterback in read option packages, allowing Smith to use his underrated speed in route to an additional 1-5 extra fantasy points per game on the ground.
The matchup against the Raiders also helps Smith’s cause, as they are allowing almost 20 points per game to opposing fantasy signal callers. Smith is a very consistent streaming option, but lacks the upside of other waiver wire quarterbacks.
Garbage Time Plug-Ins
Brandon Weeden (1.1%) and Chad Henne (.4%)
Unless you are in a crazy deep league or all your league mates are obsessed with hoarding back-up quarterbacks, you should not be resorting to this. However, I give advice to the masses, and that includes those who must sift through the dirt in order to find fantasy gold. Both of these quarterbacks are bad NFL ones, but they are in the right situations this week to put up solid numbers. They both have solid weapons at their disposal, Josh Gordon for Weeden and the Cecil Shorts and Justin Blackmon combination for Henne. Their respective games also have massive garbage time potential, as they are both facing off against far superior teams that will likely put the game out of reach quickly.
Don’t expect much, hope for positive fantasy points, and pray for garbage time.
Brock Osweiler (0.0%)