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I didn’t really have a catchy title to the sequel to one of the most helpful 2-QB fantasy football articles I posted last season so I went with the Next Generation angle. And I don’t even like Star Trek. The Next Generation in this instance refers to the 2014 season.
If you remember last offseason, I experimented with a strategy known as ‘Studs and Streaming’ in 2-QB leagues. The basic premise: draft a top-end QB1 in the early stages of your 2-QB league, and then stream the QB2 position with a couple of QB2 types you take later in the draft. This allows you to have a top-end QB1 to anchor your starting quarterback tandem, while also drafting top players at other positions.
The Studs and Streaming approach to drafting in 2-QB leagues was my most successful draft method last season (probably thanks to Alex Smith and his cheap 2-QB cost). It was also a strategy employable in 2-QB leagues the size of 12 teams, not just 10, as argued in last year’s article. Although, it’s still easier to pull off in 10-team 2-QB leagues.
Other than drafting Alex Smith everywhere, the key to a successful Studs and Streaming 2-QB draft was hitting on your QB2 streamers and being an active owner so that you know which quarterback to start in the QB2 slot every week. It’s not all that difficult to draft a high-end QB1, as there were plenty of great options last year, just like this year. The challenge of the Studs and Streaming strategy is the ‘Streaming’ part.
When do you draft your QB2? When do you take a QB3? Which QB2 compliments which QB3? What about bye weeks? Drafting Alex Smith as your QB3 last year made things a little easier because his “soft” schedule had plenty of opportunities for you to stream him almost every week.
What aided our research last year was the excellent work done by Pat Thorman of PFF Fantasy; particularly his outstanding quarterback streaming piece for PFF. If you recall, Pat broke down fantasy pass defenses that you would either want to start your fantasy quarterback against or avoid them entirely. It came with an easy-to-digest color-coded weekly schedule, which was helpful when coming up with QB2 streaming pairs.
Good news is we’re fortunate enough again this year that Pat wrote a sequel to his 2013 SoS article, and he has updated his quarterback strength of schedule chart for the 2014 fantasy season. Read Part 1 and Part 2 of Pat’s QB SoS series for this season. There is some bad news though, as it looks like there might not be an Alex Smith type we can lock down in that QB3 slot.
This year Mr. Thorman has broken down the tougher fantasy pass defenses into Must Avoids and Avoidance Advisable. There’s seven in total:
Must Avoids (Red)
Avoidance Advisable (Orange)
Then there are the pass defenses to exploit, in which you want to start your fantasy defense against. Again, there are seven teams in total:
Surefire Shootouts (Dark Green)
Favorable Foes (Light Green)
That leaves 18 teams that don’t fall into any of the four groupings from above. For those of you interested, Pat created a second chart in which he broke down those groups into Proceed with Caution (or Neutral), which are teams that can shut down passing games, but have enough questions surrounding them that they don’t have to be avoided entirely.
The Proceed with Caution (yellow coded) teams are Green Bay, San Francisco, Baltimore, Kansas City, Cincinnati, Houston, Cleveland, New York, and Oakland. The rest of the teams are neutral and you don’t have to worry yourself too much with your quarterback decision against those particular defenses. Below you can see the chart (with Yellow teams included) in full.
For this year’s Studs and Streaming approach in 2-QB leagues we want to exploit the Surefire Shootout/Favorable Foes pass defenses, and make sure to stay clear of the Must Avoids/Avoidance Advisable as much as possible. We also can’t forget about the Proceed with Caution grouping.
All that is easier said than done though. The main goal of Studs and Streaming is being able to put together a patchwork QB2 pairing you can easily decide between each week (and having someone who can fill in for your QB1’s bye). Finding the perfect QB2 streaming pair using Pat’s SoS chart proved quite difficult this year.
There is an easy out though, which is to go with a duo of Chad Henne (Blake Bortles) and Eli Manning as your QB2 streamers. With this tandem you have a QB2 with a favorable matchup almost every week. Week 11 is the only week to watch out for, but you could tack on Josh McCown (or Mike Glennon) who plays Washington that week.
A downside with Henne is he could lose his job to Bortles, even though the team is pretty adamant that won’t happen. But it’s something to keep in mind.
Drafting Eli means you trust he goes back to the Eli that was QB11, QB11, QB6, and QB15 in standard scoring leagues from 2009-2012, and not the 2013 Eli that led the league in interceptions, and finished as QB21. A better O-Line, and new offensive weapons in Rashad Jennings and Odell Beckham are pluses for Eli. Plus there’s an emerging Rueben Randle. If you have no fear, taking Henne and Eli in the mid rounds could be the QB2 streaming duo of choice. Their 2-QB ADPs are also favorable.
If you’re in the mood for something crazy, or are a disciple of the late-round quarterback strategy and want to see how LRQB plays out in 2-QB leagues you could draft Alex Smith and Carson Palmer as your “QB1/QB2”, and then add the following foursome later in the draft: Josh McCown, Jake Locker, Ryan Fitzpatrick, and Geno Smith. Every week, minus Week 2, you would be guaranteed two starting quarterbacks with favorable enough matchups.
The one drawback to this strategy is having to draft six quarterbacks. In most 2-QB leagues that wouldn’t be possible, mainly to roster limitations. Dedicating four bench spots to the quarterback position would also limit yourself during the draft and in-season, as you would be missing out on players at other positions that can produce for you.
What I do like about this strategy is all the quarterbacks are relatively cheap, even A. Smith and Palmer, based on their 2-QB ADPs. You could, in theory, draft running backs and wide receivers with your first 5-8 picks (depending on league size), then take Smith and Palmer in the mid rounds, load up on more non-QBs, and then draft McCown, Locker, Fitzpatrick, and G. Smith in the late rounds.
This isn’t a foolproof strategy though. You’re not guaranteed to land all the quarterbacks listed, so you would have to be very strategic with your picks. Not to mention that not all fantasy owners would feel comfortable starting the likes of McCown, Locker, Fitzpatrick, and Geno. Even Alex Smith and Palmer make some queasy. For this strategy to work, you have to trust the data, and hope an easy matchup is enough for your quarterback duo to put up solid fantasy numbers. Smith led this particular group of six with seven top-12 weekly quarterback finishes last season. The other five combined for 18 top-12 weekly finishes.
Take a look at the color-coded chart and play around with it to see if you can find some streaming pairs you’re comfortable with. Combine Pat’s SoS chart with the 2-QB ADP data to determine when you would have to consider drafting your quarterbacks if you decide not to go with two elite quarterbacks early and want to try out Studs and Streaming. Good luck.
*QB SoS chart used with permission from Pat Thorman
** Stats used in this article from FantasyData.com