Week 1 Fantasy Football Quarterback Streaming: Is Geno Smith Worthy of a Start?
Week 1 of the fantasy football season often brings about immediate regret for those who selected their quarterbacks early. Social media and comment sections across the Internet are full of "Should I start Carson Palmer over Aaron Rodgers?" queries already, because the quarterback position is deep and replaceable, and early-round picks aren't always the "ideal" starter.
This is why many players roll with a streaming approach to quarterbacks. This means largely ignoring the position in the draft, and opting to pick up the best free agent passer every week, while loading up on other positions while drafting.
And that starts with Week 1, when there are some favorable matchups for quarterback streamers (and daily fantasy players looking to save a few bucks at quarterback) that could post QB1 numbers despite sitting on the free agent list for the past few days or weeks.
Here are four of the best streaming options for Week 1 at the quarterback position.
Shaun Hill, St. Louis Rams
While he may not have a Josh McCown-like breakout this season, Shaun Hill is a solid backup-level quarterback getting a chance to start in the place of the injured Sam Bradford this season. And he opens his campaign as the leader of the St. Louis offense with a game against the Minnesota Vikings.
Last season, the Vikings finished with the 31st-ranked passing defense according to our Adjusted Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) metric (which is adjusted for strength of schedule). They should improve this season with the addition of a defensive-minded head coach in Mike Zimmer and some personnel additions on defense, but they're still not all that formidable of a matchup.
Hill doesn't have much by way of weapons, but in spot-starting duty earlier in his career, he was able to post numbers on par with 2013 Carson Palmer and Alex Smith. And considering his availability in even the deepest of leagues, he's well worth a shot if you're scraping the bottom of the barrel for quarterback options this weekend. Our weekly projections are less optimistic, but he should be serviceable.
Geno Smith, New York Jets
Ultimately, however, Shaun Hill's upside is limited. He's not a special athlete, and he's little more than a game manager. The same cannot be said about Geno Smith, who is our second streaming option this week.
Smith and the Jets take on the Raiders in Week 1, which means a date with the fourth-worst passing defense a year ago. There have been some changes in "talent" on the Oakland defense, but not enough to make any noticeable improvements, so expect Smith to see a comfortable matchup.
And when given those easy opponents last season, Smith delivered. Despite finishing as the worst quarterback in our Passing NEP metric last year, Smith had a three-touchdown performance against the horrible Falcons defense, along with a two-touchdown game through the air bolstered by a rushing score against the Browns.
Down the stretch in 2013, Smith was running more than ever, gaining at least 40 rushing yards in his last four games and finding the end zone with his feet in three of those contests. Expect more of the same against the Raiders, which makes Smith the perfect "Konami Code" streaming option in Week 1.
Alex Smith, Kansas City Chiefs
Alex Smith was an average quarterback last season according to our passing metrics, and he plays for a team that doesn't push the ball down the field very often and likes to rely on running backs and defense rather than exciting, fantasy-friendly offensive plays.
But that doesn't always spell disaster for using Smith in fantasy football, it just means finding the right matchups. A Week 1 date with the Tennessee Titans, a bottom-12 defense a year ago that is now without top corner Alterraun Verner, is the right kind of matchup for Smith.
The freshly paid signal-caller for Kansas City will be playing behind a makeshift offensive line compared to last season's team, which may lend itself to more scrambles and runs. But even if it doesn't, Smith is capable of posting a big day with his arm in an easy matchup.
His five-touchdown performance against the Raiders in 2013, as well as a strong game against the Chargers, show what he can do against bad pass defenses, something he'll likely repeat this week.
Carson Palmer, Arizona Cardinals
Our final recommendation this week comes in the form of a player who may wind up being a surprise QB1 for the season, yet is still likely available in your fantasy league. Carson Palmer faces the San Diego defense in Week 1, the same defense that finished seventh from the bottom last year against the pass according to our metrics.
In a game that will likely still feature a decent amount of scoring (the Arizona defense is without multiple playmakers in Daryl Washington and Darnell Dockett), Palmer should be throwing quite a bit to keep the Cardinals in the contest. He never lit up the scoreboard in 2013, only posting one three-touchdown game, but his five two-touchdown, 300-plus yard efforts came against the likes of the Eagles, Colts and Jaguars (along with the Rams and 49ers).
Palmer had a stretch of games during the middle of last season when he was playing like a fantasy QB1. If he's able to channel that ability into this season, and do so under the lights of Monday Night Football in Week 1, he will be a solid streaming option who might be worth keeping in your lineup for weeks to come.