One of the key lessons to learn in fantasy football is that the game is played and won on a weekly match up, not based on season long production. What you should be looking for each week is a way to gain a positional match up advantage versus your opponent. A popular strategy is streaming positions that you only have to start one of (such as quarterback, tight end and defenses). If you play in a standard 12 team league, most teams will roster between 1-2 quarterbacks, which leaves 12-24 quarterbacks available on the waiver wire to stream in a weekly match up. This tactic is typically talked about in season, but why not look at defenses and quarterback that have great week 1 match ups and target these players late in drafts. I will be discussing 2 quarterbacks and 2 defenses that have great match ups for week 1 and whose ADP would leave them undrafted in most leagues.
Purely a Week 1 Starter Only: Sam Bradford
According to FantasyPros, Sam Bradford’s ADP is 178 as the QB23, which is where he finished in 2016 in total points among quarterbacks. Coming into 2017, he has a healthy cast of receiving options in Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen, and Kyle Rudolph. Now, I am not saying that Bradford has a great season long projection, but in Week 1 he plays the New Orleans Saints. The Saints in 2016 gave up 28.4 points per game, ranking them 31st in the league. On top of that, the Saints also gave up 275 passing yards per game, which was last in the league. To turn a weakness into a strength on defense, the Saints drafted Cornerback Marshon Lattimore as their 1st draft pick, but without the pieces around him, the Saints’ defense could still struggle against the pass. Bradford in 2016 was not a weekly starter, but was able to take advantage against poor pass defense like the Green Bay Packers in weeks 2 and 16 scoring 19.1 and 25.8 fantasy points respectively. Bradford’s ADP is low enough that he can be used as a match up based starter in week 1 and then be tossed to the waiver wire for a better option in week 2.
Week 1 starter with a great Schedule: Carson Palmer
Carson Palmer is coming off a disappointing season in fantasy football as he finished 19th among quarterbacks in total points. The fantasy community last season was high on Palmer due to his top 5 finish in 2015, but last season his wide receiver core was riddled with injuries. Jon Brown was dealing with the sickle cell trait and Malcolm Floyd was cut by the team in season, leaving only the dependable vet Larry Fitzgerald. This was coupled with the emergence of David Johnson, who scored 16 rushing touchdowns and led all players in fantasy points. All of this has caused Palmer’s ADP to be 149 and QB20, which is why he is a great streaming target for week 1. Palmer plays against the Detroit Lions in week 1, who in 2016 gave up 248 passing yards per game and 22.4 points per game. The Lions ranked 19th in passing yards allowed and 13th in points allowed, making them middle of the pack in pass defense. The Lions did not add significant pieces in the pass defense during the off season with the only main addition being second round cornerback CB Teez Tabor. The main take away is that the Lions allowed the 3rd most points to the quarterback position in 2016 with 19.0 points per game. Palmer has shown his ability to be a top scoring quarterback in fantasy in past seasons and could be a high-end QB1 in week 1. Additionally, the following match ups for Palmer are also in his favor, playing the Colts in week 2, the Cowboys in week 3 and 49ers in week 4. These teams gave up 17.7 ppt/game (7th most), 16.5 ppt/game (16th most) and 17.4 ppt/game (11th most), respectively.
The Jets are this seasons version of the 2016 Browns: Bills Defense
In fantasy football, streaming defenses is most the most popular type to stream. Teams rarely hold on to multiple defenses on a roster, leaving several good match ups on the waiver wire. For scoring points from the D/ST slot, you want to look for sacks and turnovers in potentially low scoring games. The Jets in 2016 showed a complete implosion of their offensive roster when compared to 2015. The Jets also seem set on hitting the reset button on the roster and trying to tank for the 1st overall pick in the 2018 draft. This past offseason they released numerous veterans on offense like Brandon Marshall, Eric Decker and Nick Mangold. This left Quincy Enunwa and Robby Anderson as the team’s top 2 receivers. Things got worse on Monday for the Jets when Enunwa suffered a neck injury and was placed on Injured Reserve. The team has yet to name a starting quarterback for the 2017 season with all odds being that Josh McCown starts the season opener at QB or worse Christian Hackenberg.
Now that the stage is set, here is why you should draft the Bills as your defense and play them against the Jets in week 1: the Jets were 31st in turnover differential (-20) in 2016 with 25 interceptions and 7 fumbles. They also gave up 35 sacks as a team, ranking them 15th worst. The Bills as a defensive unit had 39 sacks, which was the 8th most in the league. The Jet may be a team that we target each week for streaming a defense and right now the Bills have an ADP of 244 as the D/ST21 and could easily finish in the top 5 in points in week 1.
An Underrated Defense with a Good 3 Game Stretch: Ravens Defense
The Raven’s franchise has been known historically as a defensive team and won 2 Superbowl’s because of it. That and Joe Flacco’s crazy run in the post season throwing 10 TDs to 0 INTs making him “An Elite Quarterback” in terms of being paid. In 2016, the Ravens ranked 9th in total points allowed, allowing their opponent to score an average of 20.1 points per game. Additionally, the Ravens ranked 24th in sacks with 31 and 9th in turnover differential (16 INTs and 7 Fumbles). The Raven’s week 1 opponent is the Cincinnati Bengals, which may not seem like a match up worth targeting, but let’s dive a little deeper. In 2016, the Bengals allowed the 7th most sacks in the league with 41.0 and this could only get worse. The Bengals had big losses on the offensive line in free agency including Andrew Whitworth and Eric Zeitler. The Ravens and Bengals played each other in week 12 that ended in a 19-14 Bengals loss, where the Ravens forced 2 turnovers and 3 sacks as a team. Due to these teams being division rivals, it could be a low scoring game with the Ravens getting pressure on Andy Dalton and forcing turnovers and sacks. I would also recommend drafting the Ravens defense due to the next 2 match ups they have in weeks 2 and 3. In week 2, the Ravens play the Browns who gave up the 3rd most fantasy points to D/ST and 25 turnovers. The following week they play the team who gave up the 4th most turnovers in the league 8th most points to opposing D/ST. Can you guess who that was? The Jacksonville Jaguars. The Raven’s D/ST ADP is 214 making them the 18th D/ST, which would allow them to return on that investment for the 1st 3 weeks.
Look out for more streaming targets as the season progresses and you can leave a comment or find me on twitter @bshupe. Happy Drafting Season!