The Case for Quarterback by Waiver Wire: Part 2

The Case for Quarterback by Waiver Wire: Part 2

By Denny Carter (4for4 Contributor), last update Aug 23, 2013

C.D. Carter's picture

C.D. is a journalist and writer specializing in quarterback streaming. Carter's work has been featured in the New York Times Fifth Down blog, and he was nominated for the Fantasy Sports Writers Association's 2012 newcomer of the year award. He's the author of "How To Think Like a Fantasy Football Winner."

Follow Denny Carter on Twitter: @CDCarter13.

To identify tasty quarterback matchups in June could very well be the height of fantasy football hubris.

That won’t stop us though.

In Part One of this series, I walked through the basics of taking quarterbacks late in fantasy drafts and playing the waiver wire throughout the season to exploit favorable matchups as more signal callers throw more passes against defenses that have proven sieve-like against aerial attacks.

Beyond identifying quarterbacks whose crushing mediocrity will shine in the right situations, quarterback streamers have to find fantasy commodities with favorable season-long schedules. That’s where 4for4’s Strength of Schedule (SOS) Hot Spots reports can save our collective waiver-wire playing soul.

By using aFPA instead of straight fantasy points allowed, schedule bias has been drained from 4for4’s strength of schedule numbers, leaving fantasy footballers with a far more reliable “apples-to-apples” comparison. This, in short, gives us a much clearer picture of a quarterback’s matchup prospects than the simple scan of a team’s 16-game schedule. I can say, as a committed quarterback streamer, that 4for4’s matchup tools provide an undeniable edge on the competition, most of which is terrified to bench their middling signal caller for one with an irresistible matchup.


Identifying the Most Favorable Schedules

A word of warning to those who half-heartedly adopt the quarterback by waiver wire approach: you must commit.

You’ve already opted out of this strategy if you draft Andrew Luck in the middle of the seventh round or Tony Romo at the tail end of that same round. You know why? If you’ve invested a mid-round pick on Luck or Romo, you’re going to start them most every week – and for good reason.

Both signal callers likely demand that every-week plug-and-play starter status, and if you’ve already paid the seventh round price for either guy, you’re not going to bench one for a quarterback you snagged with a throw-away draft pick.

However, if you're committed to a quarterback by waiver wire approach, you will start your journey down this sometimes-uncomfortable road with a late-round selection, usually in the 11th round or later.

Below I’ve listed seven quarterbacks who I’ll target in all formats. The reason is simple, and I’ll explain it in painstaking detail in the third part of this QBBWW series: each of these late rounders are slated to see an increase in pass attempts. In fantasy football calculus, where all that really matters is skill and opportunity, each of these quarterbacks are projected to see anywhere from a slight jump to a startling leap in weekly opportunity.

Next to each late-round quarterback are the number of tough, moderate, and easy matchups as projected by the aforementioned 4for4 QB Hot Spots.

Draft day flexibility is critical in fantasy football, so I’d never begrudge an owner for taking one of these recommended quarterbacks in the back half of the 10th round, for instance, if and when their ADP rises. I’d recommend scooping up two of these quarterbacks on draft day, depending on the depth of your bench.


Late Round QBBWW SOS

Quarterback (ADP) Very Strong Opponents Moderately Strong Opponents Weak/Very Weak Opponents
Ben Roethlisberger (11.01) 3 4 3
Jay Cutler (11.12) 2 2 4
Joe Flacco (12.05) 4 3 3
Sam Bradford (13.04) 5 3 3
Carson Palmer (13.11) 2 3 5
Josh Freeman (14.01) 2 3 6
Alex Smith (14.02) 0 3 7
Ryan Tannehill (15.12) 2 3 3



Late Round Quarterbacks to Target

Sam Bradford, St. Louis Rams

Bradford, I must say, would be the crowning jewel of late rounders if he didn’t play in that blasted NFC West, with all of its soul-crushing defenses. He’ll have five heinous matchups this season, including two in the first four weeks. Expect him to be available on a glut of waiver wires come Week 5.

Bradford will still be more than a little valuable to quarterback streamers after the Rams supplied him for the first time with legit pass catchers and pledged the offense – finally – will run through his right arm (more on that in Part Three of this series).


Carson Palmer, Arizona Cardinals

Palmer is slated to fly off waiver wires in almost every fantasy format early in the 2013 season, as he’ll have three favorable matchups in his first four weeks as an Arizona Cardinal. It’ll get rough for Palmer in a Week 6-8 stretch against the 49ers, Seahawks, and Falcons before his schedule eases up in the latter half of the season.

If head coach Bruce Arians’ offense is as aerial as advertised, Palmer could fight his way even through the unfavorable matchups with a high volume of passes to three talented pass catchers: all-world Larry Fitzgerald, up-and-coming Michael Floyd, and tight end Rob Housler (more on Housler here), who has been treated more like a receiver than a tight end in offseason practices. 

Palmer, however, isn’t the guy who seized my attention.


Alex Smith, Kansas City Chiefs

The quarterback who jumps off the above chart is Alex Smith, as horrifying as that may sound.

The former San Francisco 49ers quarterback has a whopping seven games against weak and very weak defenses in 2013, including three in his first six games as the Chiefs’ signal caller. Take a second look at the table above: Smith is projected to face precisely zero strong opponents and a measly three moderately strong defenses. This may not transform the game manager into a set-it-and-forget-it fantasy football starter, but I promise Smith will quickly emerge as a killer arrow in the quiver of anyone committed to rotating quarterbacks based on matchups.

Smith will twice take on the Chargers’ secondary, which allowed 16.5 adjusted fantasy points per game to quarterbacks in 2012, seventh worst in the NFL. He’ll also get to feast on the Raiders’ defense that was second worst against fantasy quarterbacks last year, giving up an astounding 18.3 adjusted fantasy points per contest. He also has the luxury of facing the Bills (19.4 aFPA, worst in the NFL) and the Jaguars (17.7 aFPA, fourth worst in the NFL).

Alex Smith will be a shockingly valuable fantasy commodity throughout large swaths of the 2013 season. Mark it down.

If those words made you dizzy with fury and confusion, consider this: Smith averaged 27.3 pass attempts per game during his time in San Francisco. Andy Reid, Smith’s new head coach, had his signal callers chuck the pigskins 36.1 times per game over the past three seasons.


I’ll stop there for fear of spoiling Part Three of this series. Come back to see which streaming candidates are primed to see their pass attempts rise dramatically in 2013, and why that might be the most vital part of streaming quarterbacks this season.


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