Streaming Quarterbacks: A Retroactive Look at 2013 FPAT
I want to wage war against the gut decision.
The only way Quarterback By Waiver Wire (QBBWW) can remain viable – or even improve -- in the face of more widespread acceptance is to become less reliant on making gut calls on the week’s best streamers and embrace a more formulaic approach in exploiting the best quarterback matchups.
Much of the concern surrounding the QBBWW system is the impact league mates can have on your best-laid plans. They can block your attempt to pick up that week’s streaming hero, they can stockpile signal callers, they can embrace QBBWW and leave fewer options for you from week to week.
These legitimate concerns leave less room for error in many leagues that aren’t on the casual side of the fantasy spectrum.
We notched 17.7 fantasy points per game with QBBWW picks in 2013 – a nice little haul considering we didn’t spend a dime of draft day equity on our signal caller. I think we can keep it up, or even improve that average, with the use of fantasy points per attempt (FPAT), a measurement of efficiency with which I dabbled in 2013.
FPAT isn’t limited to measuring just how good a quarterback is on a per-attempt basis. I also use it to measure a defense’s FPAT allowed, or how many fantasy points that unit gives up every time the opposing quarterback throws a pass.
Here are last year’s stingiest defenses on a per-attempt basis. Most of these secondaries were just plain great, while others made this list in part because they were dumpster fires throughout 2013 and opponents simply grinded down the clock after securing comfortable leads.
2013 Stingiest Defenses, FPAT Allowed
|Team||Pass attempts against per game||FPAT allowed|
And here are the defenses that allowed the highest FPATs in 2013.
Again, nothing shocking here, though teams like Washington and Houston are something of a surprise on this list. The top-three defenses were prime QBBWW targets for us in 2013.
Highest FPAT Allowed, 2013
|Team||Pass attempts against per game||FPAT allowed|
A retroactive look at FPAT
There’s no surefire method for finding the week’s finest waiver wire quarterback. We’re going to occasionally swing and miss because we’re not machines (yet), our measurements are imperfect, and football is ruled by randomness in the short term. The ball is oblong, after all.
My faith in FPAT as a useful tool for QBBWW adherents was bolstered after an extensive look at some of last year’s best streaming performances.
It’s hardly ideal to be backwards looking in fantasy analysis, but a full nosedive into FPAT is new to me, so I thought a retroactive examination of what FPAT would’ve showed us in 2013 was worth the effort.
Week 5 was a banner week for those who stream the quarterback position, as six of the top-12 quarterbacks were QBBWW options. Fully eight of the week’s top-15 signal callers could’ve been claimed off the vast majority of waiver wires.
Below is an analysis of how we would have – and could have – utilized FPAT and FPAT Against to evaluate these QBBWW standouts from Week 5. I calculated the FPAT for each quarterback and defense up to that point in the season.
Smith’s FPAT: 0.38
ATL’s FPAT allowed: 0.46
Remember that FPAT only measures a guy’s throwing production. It doesn’t account for rushing production, and up to Week 5, Smith had notched an averaged of four fantasy points per game on the ground.
Taking the average of Smith’s FPAT and Atlanta’s FPAT allowed, we get 0.42 FPAT. Quarterbacks were averaging 35 throws per game against the Falcons, so multiply that by our average FPAT and we get 14.7 fantasy points. Not exactly a glowing projection, but tack on that average rushing production and we get 18.7 points.
Geno scored 22.1 points against the Falcons, finishing with 199 passing yards and three touchdowns.
Bradford’s FPAT: 0.39
JAC’s FPAT allowed: 0.66
The Jaguars’ sloppy secondary had been roasted on a spit for the first four weeks of 2013, as indicated in that eye-popping FPAT allowed. Bradford had thrown an average of 45.5 passes during the Rams’ first four contests. There simply was no running game in St. Louis.
The average FPAT in this matchup was 0.53 – a hefty number. Bradford, with his average workload up to that point, would’ve been projected to score 23.8 fantasy points against Jacksonville. He threw for 222 yards and three scores and finished with 21.3 points.
Cutler’s FPAT: 0.44
NO’s FPAT allowed: 0.39
New Orleans had held two of their first four opposing quarterbacks to single digit fantasy production, making this a less-than-favorable matchup for Cutler, who hadn’t exactly set the world aflame up to this point.
Multiplying that average FPAT (0.415) by Cutty’s average attempts per game (37.5) gives us 15.4 fantasy points. That would’ve made him a decent streaming option that week, but FPAT wasn’t close to the 24 points Cutler scored against the Saints. This is decidedly an FPAT fail.
When FPAT seems wrong, but isn’t
There were two QBBWW scenarios in which FPAT-based projections seemed way off, but a closer look shows that they were quite accurate.
Fitzpatrick’s FPAT: 0.43
KC’s FPAT allowed: 0.30
The Chiefs had dominated opposing signal callers in the first month of the season. Kansas City played a string of horrid quarterbacks – including Blaine Gabbert and Eli Manning – and allowed a meager 11.25 fantasy points per game to signal callers.
Fitzpatrick’s prospects didn’t look good.
The average FPAT here, 0.37, multiplied by the average number of attempts for Fitzpatrick and against KC’s defense would’ve given us an 12.8 point projection for Fitzpatrick. Like we expected: Very ugly.
But Fitzy, as you might know, went on to score 22.9 fantasy points. How could FPAT be so terribly wrong? Well, a closer look shows that Fitzpatrick scored 11.9 points through the air – less than a full fantasy point off from our FPAT projection. Fitzy, that nimble-footed passer, scored an additional 11 fantasy points on the ground (50 yards and a touchdown).
Projecting a quarterback for 11 rushing points is, well, bad process. I would’ve backed off Fitzpatrick as a streamer against the Chiefs, and I would not have regretted it.
Smith’s FPAT: 0.45
DEN’s FPAT allowed: 0.49
The Broncos had allowed a handful of solid quarterback performances headed into their Week 11 tilt against the Chiefs. Opponents averaged 40.5 pass attempts against the Broncos as Peyton’s Perfect Machine piled up points.
The FPAT projection here, using the 0.47 average, would have put Smith at 16.5 points through the air. He finished the game with 17.2 fantasy points on 45 pass attempts. Once again, FPAT was a worthy guide, but it wasn’t all that close to the 22.4 points Smith scored against Denver.
Once more, the rushing comes into play. Smith, through his first 10 games, had scored an average of 3.8 fantasy points per game on the ground – a not-insignificant number. Tack that on to the FPAT projection and you get 20.3 points.
FPAT’s usefulness in 2014
FPAT, like any measurement we use in fantasy football, will get better with more data, more information, just as 4for4’s schedule-adjusted fantasy points improves with every passing week of the NFL season.
I’ve already identified three players I’m targeting as Week 1 streamers, in large part because FPAT analysis speaks highly of their prospects. I’ve also spotted two QBBWW options that I consider hands-off because FPAT breakdowns paint a hideous picture of their Week 1 outlooks.
I’ll continue to track FPAT and FPAT allowed. It’ll be a critical weapon in the war on the gut decision.