Fantasy Football: Quarterback Streaming And Dominant Defenses

Seahawks Defense
Seahawks Defense
Steven Bisig USA TODAY Sports

Fantasy footballers open to the idea of streaming the quarterback position in 2014, with more yearly starting quarterback options than ever, should wrap their head around the following concept: You can’t shoehorn a streamer.

What, exactly, does that mean?

There comes a temptation to ride the hot option — to insert a former waiver wire quarterback who has posted a couple monstrous stat lines and catapulted into fantasy relevance. It’s easy to see those eye-popping yardage numbers, the completion rates and touchdowns, and decide once and for all that this quarterback streamer has blossomed into a full-fledged fantasy starter.

Josh McCown is a prime example of a streamer who roasted some of the NFL’s worst secondaries in 2013. He fared poorly against the only top-end defense he faced — the Ravens in Week 8, when he threw for 216 yards and a single score. (It’s worth reminding fantasy owners that McCown isn’t who you think he is)

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Denver Broncos
Green Bay Packers
Detroit Lions

The streamer-to-starter metamorphosis isn’t unprecedented — hello, Nick Foles — but it’s more than a little rare. It’s so easy to ignore the role of matchups when we want to tab a quarterback as our starter. It’s easy to forget that the defenses he shredded were bottom-barrel NFL units.

I mentioned this week that I’ll use the fantasy points per aimed throw (FPAT) metric to spot the best weekly quarterback streaming options. It won’t be the only factor I use in determining which waiver wire options are startable players, but measuring the efficiency — or inefficiency — of a defense on a per-aimed throw basis could be a boon for those not committed to an every-week starter.

It might be a good time to mention that 44 signal callers finished among the 12 highest scoring fantasy quarterbacks in at least one game last season. That’s ludicrous, and really calls for reform in leagues with traditional rosters.

Below are the defenses that were the stingiest in giving up fantasy points per aimed throw.


Team Pass attempts against per game FPAT allowed
Seattle Seahawks 32.8 .26
Carolina Panthers 34.9 .31
Cincinnati Bengals 37.1 .34
Miami Dolphins 36.2 .35
San Francisco 49ers 34.8 .36
Tennessee Titans 34.1 .37
New York Giants 37.6 .38
Buffalo Bills 35.1 .38
Kansas City Chiefs 37.5 .39
Pittsburgh Steelers 35.6 .40
Arizona Cardinals 39.1 .40
Baltimore Ravens 34.5 .41


  •  No surprise up top, where Seattle and Carolina show that they’re in their own category of pass-defending stinginess. I could go on and on about the ways in which they suffocated opposing aerial attacks — including elite pass offenses like the Saints — but suffice it to say that streaming quarterbacks have no place in a lineup if facing the Panthers or Seahawks. The Bengals aren’t that far behind in FPAT allowed. Cincy gave up just 14 schedule-adjusted points per game in 2013.
  •  The Dolphins are borderline elite in FPAT allowed, it seems. They were just as good as the Bengals’ secondary in schedule-adjusted points allowed to quarterbacks a season ago, holding eight signal callers to single-digit fantasy outputs in 2013. Miami this off-season signed safety Louis Delmas, who is expected by team beat writers to compensate for the loss of Chris Clemons. The Dolphins also have aged cornerback Cortland Finnegan, who was rated as Pro Football Focus’ second worst corner in 2013. For now, I’m putting Miami in the do-not-stream category.
  • Arizona, while giving up more fantasy production to tight ends than any defense in recent history, was actually decent on a per-aimed throw basis. That’s surprising given that the Cardinals gave up the 15th most fantasy points to quarterbacks in 2013. Zona allowed the same per-game production to quarterbacks as the Jets, and Gang Green is nowhere to be found on the above list. Adding Antonio Cromartie to a secondary to anchored by Patrick Petersonwho is good but not great, apparently — could make the Cardinals a hands-off streaming defense in 2014 (along with the rest of the NFC West). Speaking of the Cardinals, remember that Carson Palmer, up to his eyeballs in terrible 2014 matchups, is really good against top coverage units.
  •  Not listed here: The New England Patriots’ defense, which gave up .42 FPAT in 2013. The Pats, as you may have heard, signed Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner this off-season — and plan on using Revis the way he was meant to be used — and instantly became a potentially elite defense. I could see the New England defense rising to the level of last year’s Bengals’ secondary, or even the Panthers. That makes the AFC East — check out Buffalo’s FPAT against — a conference filled with red flags for streaming quarterback purposes. I have weird love for Geno Smith at his crazy-low ADP, but he might not be all that useable in games against division opponents. So, you know, half his schedule. EJ Manuel‘s fantasy usefulness could be close to nil in his second season under center.
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C.D. Carter Fantasy Football Analyst
C.D. Carter is a reporter, author of zombie stories, writer for The Fake Football and XN Sports. Fantasy Sports Writers Association member. His work  has been featured in the New York Times.