Week 14 Fantasy Football Quarterback Streaming: A Love/Hate Relationship With Johnny Manziel
I don't like Johnny Manziel.
Call me old or boring if you'd like, but my dislike for the man known as "Johnny Football" has nothing to do with his personality off the field. Sure, it adds fuel to the fire of reasons to dislike him as a prospect, but after watching his tape all spring, I was left with negative impressions in terms of his early-career prospects in the NFL. He thrives in chaos, but struggles in a clean, normal pocket, and doesn't have the accuracy or anticipation that an NFL quarterback needs to make throws into tight windows. The fact that Brian Hoyer won the job and kept it from Manziel for a good portion of the season was hardly a surprise to me.
But the Browns are getting desperate, and Hoyer has been particularly awful lately, so it makes sense for them to be considering a change under center. And from a fantasy perspective, I love Johnny Manziel.
We've discussed the merits of running quarterbacks so many times on this site, but it's worth repeating again how the fantasy football scoring system is broken by quarterbacks who run the football effectively (as Rich Hribar did before last season). The two headliners in Rich's article, Tim Tebow and Terrelle Pryor, were not and are not good quarterbacks. But both won quite a few people some fantasy matchups during their spells under center thanks to their rushing ability.
So as we look ahead to Week 14 of the NFL season and consider our streaming options, we'll begin with the Browns' polarizing quarterback, who may see his first NFL start. And in doing so, he'll be the top waiver wire quarterback this weekend.
Cleveland Browns Starting Quarterback
My recommendation for this game hinges on the status of two key positions, and who starts at those positions. The Cleveland quarterback spot and the Colts' cornerback spot will determine just how good of a streaming option this game is for those seeking waiver wire quarterbacks.
Let's consider every possible scenario of starters, so you're prepared for whatever happens this week.
Manziel starts, Vontae Davis doesn't: If this scenario unfolds, Manziel is the top streaming option by a long shot, and Josh Gordon stacked with Manziel becomes an ideal daily fantasy play. In Sunday's game against Washington, Davis left the game with a concussion, and just four plays later, Colt McCoy found DeSean Jackson for a long touchdown pass. McCoy and the Washington offense would then move with ball with a decent amount of success from that point on, but the game was well out of hand, score-wise.
Ben Roethlisberger's huge game against the Colts earlier this season came with Davis on the sideline due to an injury, meaning the two games during which Davis left with an injury represent the two highest fantasy point outputs allowed to opposing signal-callers this season for Indy. Manziel would have a dream matchup with Davis out, and Gordon would have no worthy opposition at defensive back for Indianapolis, meaning the Cleveland offense would be firing on all cylinders through the air.
Manziel starts, Vontae Davis starts: Manziel is still a solid option thanks to his rushing ability, but he's not the "must-start" option he would be with Davis out. The Colts are middle-of-the-road in our Net Expected Points (NEP) pass defense metrics on the season, meaning this isn't a matchup to go crazy over when the Colts are at full strength.
Hoyer starts, Vontae Davis doesn't: Fire up Brian Hoyer wherever possible, as he's proven capable of hitting big plays despite his lack of efficiency this season, and the Colts are a bad defense against the pass without Davis. Gordon is an elite option in this instance, as well, with the added safety of his familiarity with Hoyer.
Hoyer starts, Vontae Davis starts: Hoyer is a last-ditch streaming option in this case, and probably not worth your time with so many other players available who are less likely to get benched mid-game.
Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins
Ryan Tannehill is probably owned in quite a few leagues at this point, but some impatient owners may drop him after a frustrating Monday Night outing against the Jets. If that happens in your league, don't hesitate to pick up the Miami signal-caller and roll with him this week.
Since injuries took out most of the talent in the Baltimore defensive backfield, they've been in a nosedive, allowing huge games to everyone they play. They've given up 20 or more fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks in four of their last five, and Tannehill will be at home, where he's scored 18, 28 and 17 in his last three outings.
The Ravens are 20th in Passing NEP defensively, and have allowed the most points per game to opposing quarterbacks over the last five weeks. Tannehill is the safest and best streaming option this week in the rare league he's available for pickup.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, Houston Texans
I have some bad news. If you're expecting six touchdowns from Ryan Fitzpatrick, you're too late to the party. But that doesn't mean he's not a viable streaming option this weekend.
Fitzpatrick and the Texans take on Jacksonville in a very important game for the Texans' slim playoff hopes. They need to win this one to keep pace with the other teams in the AFC playoff picture, and while that doesn't seem like a challenge against the Jaguars, stranger things can and do happen in the NFL.
Vegas likes the Texans in this game despite their status as the road team, as they're predicting at least three touchdowns for Houston. Fitzpatrick figures to be involved in one or two of those scores, even against a decent Jacksonville pass defense.
The Jags are 16th in our metrics against opposing passing attacks, and have allowed 15 or fewer fantasy points in seven of their last eight. But they're also allowing nearly every quarterback to hit double-digit points, providing a safe floor for the seemingly rejuvenated Fitzpatrick.
There's not a high ceiling here, but something between 10-18 fantasy points is likely for the former Harvard standout. The low end of that spectrum would be disappointing for streamers, while the high end would probably be enough to make it through another week. In deeper leagues, Fitzpatrick may be your best bet as a streamer.
Tennessee Titans Starting Quarterback
The New York Giants have allowed 18 or more points to opposing quarterbacks in five of their last six, and rank 19th in our pass defense metrics. They face the Titans in Tennessee this week, which means it's a good spot to roll out whichever quarterback starts for the 2-10 AFC South team.
The Titans have been airing the ball out recently, throwing the ball 30 or more times in three of their last five games. They're not a very competitive team, and are forced to throw just to try to keep games respectable, and that volume leads to fantasy value. It doesn't matter if Jake Locker or Zach Mettenberger starts under center, you want the guy throwing 30 times against the Giants this week.
Eli Manning, New York Giants
On the other side of this matchup is Eli Manning, who has been as unpredictable as ever this season leading the New York offense. But with a golden opportunity against a bad defense, he's worth a shot as a waiver-wire pickup at the quarterback spot this weekend.
The Titans rank 26th according to our pass defense data, and have allowed the second-most points to enemy throwers over the past five weeks. Manning has scored 20 or more fantasy points in three of his last six, but failed to top 12 in the other three. This is as risky as it gets this week, but the upside is definitely there. If you're facing a heavy favorite in a playoff matchup this week, Manning could be the guy to turn the tide.
Shaun Hill, St. Louis Rams
Washington has allowed 32 points to Andrew Luck, 20 points to Josh McCown and just under 17 points to Teddy Bridgewater in the span of the last four weeks, and will face Shaun Hill and the surging St. Louis Rams. Jeff Fisher's team may be winning a bit too late for their playoff hopes, but they're playing for jobs and contract incentives, and that seems to motivate them just fine.
Hill posted 21 fantasy points against Oakland last week, who are significantly better at defending the pass (according to our numbers) than the 32nd-ranked Washington secondary. The Rams like to take the air out of the ball, so you may not get a ton of volume in this game, but the matchup is almost perfect against a Washington defense that is much better against the run than the pass.