Of all the positions on the defensive side of the ball, for IDP Fantasy Football players, Defensive Backs are the most frustrating and inconsistent performers. In many ways, Safeties and Cornerbacks are the enigma of IDP – no scoring system replicates their real NFL value, as the best ‘shut-down’ cornerbacks do nothing statistically to warrant a roster spot in any scoring system. Furthermore, the base stat on the defence is tackles, and DBs have fewer opportunities to tackle than most other positions. Interceptions can present them with huge weeks but unfortunately INTs are far from predictable. Finally, the way that points are spread between CBs means there are basically no elite DBs, no tiers and DBs rarely finish in the top 10-15 in back to back seasons, or even weeks.
I always say that if your drafting a CB or S in the early rounds of a draft then you’re doing it wrong, for the reasons outlined above. Fact is you can pick up a DB off waivers at the end of the draft that might score 10% fewer points than a top 10 DB, so why pay a premium when the value isn’t there? Hopefully in this article I will be able to find a solution to the problem that is DBs in fantasy.
What is Streaming?
Streaming is a Fantasy Football strategy that has emerged in the last few years and really taken off on the offensive side of the ball as a realistic alternative when some position groups get saturated with talent, or have no distinct tiers. Two established (and published) fantasy writers, J.J. Zachariason (@LateRoundQB) and Denny Carter (@CDCarter13) host a weekly podcast called ‘Living the Stream’ (Thanks guys, now I have to find my own unique name!) which discusses the streaming options each week and also talks about streaming generally as a strategy. I was fortunate enough to get JJ’s thoughts and experience on streaming on the offensive side of the ball:
Me: Hi JJ, could you give me a basic idea of what ‘streaming’ is as a strategy?
JJ: Streaming is the art of playing a different player at a specific fantasy position each week, rather than riding the same players week in and week out. I always say that the goal is never to stream, but what it allows you to do is wait on a position during a fantasy draft, look only for upside, and even if that player doesn’t pan out, you can stream. Quarterbacks/Defenses/Tight Ends are the positions you stream because each lineup only has one (typically), so there are more available off the waiver wire. In other words, the positions are in lower demand from a supply vs. demand perspective, making the supply plentiful. You then play the positions by best matchups each week, compiling a Frankenstein at each position. Sometimes a group of quarterbacks can produce like Drew Brees if you play it right.
Me: What situations favour streaming, or make streaming more rewarding?
JJ: Like I said, you basically need to look at bad matchups for streamable positions, and then use that to your advantage. I played Geno Smith last year against Atlanta because Atlanta’s secondary was so pitiful. That was the night he went off. But it wasn’t because of luck — you play the matchups.
Me: What are the downsides of streaming, is it a risky strategy?
JJ: It’s not nearly as risky as people think because they assume their QB1/TE1/Defense is going to always perform at a high level, which isn’t true. While Jimmy Graham is fantastic, he can still lay an egg too. So even if your streamers don’t perform well, you still waited on them in your draft, and your RB/WRs (the high in demand positions) are the core of your team — they’ll lead you.
Me: Can you stream just as effectively in bigger leagues?
JJ: The bigger the league, the harder to stream, admittedly. But usually with bigger leagues, the points scored are lower. So while it’s harder to find guys who will produce, you don’t really need them to produce a lot. That, and if you go about looking for QB/TE/Def late in your draft, you’re bulking up on the scarce positions, and that gives you a huge edge in large leagues.
Me: Can you stream in dynasty leagues?
JJ: You can stream in dynasty leagues, but it’s more so playing guys on your bench. If you have three mediocre quarterbacks on your squad, you can play the best one by matchup each week. You don’t always have that luxury at WR or RB.
A few takeaways from JJ’s answers in relation to DBs:
– DBs should be selected at the back end of the draft anyway, and you’re highly unlikely to find one that is consistent. DeAngelo Hall was CB1 last year with 144.5 points. He averaged 9pts per game, but managed to score under 7 points in 7 different game weeks. Because DBs are so inconsistent and score erratically from week to week there is no safe DB to take and they are more likely to hurt your lineup with a score of say 4, than a QB, TE or even D/ST.
– Although JJ talks about streaming positions with just 1 starter on your team, for IDP there is a difference. DB is obviously made up of 2 real NFL positions, Safety and Cornerback, and even if your league starts 2 of each of these, there are enough starters in the NFL at that position for the supply/demand to apply here. Even in a 16 team league which starts 4DBs, there is a real possibility of streaming in some shape or form.
– A big task is going to be providing the right matchups on a weekly basis and I will endeavour to research DBs from last year to try and find a linkage to exploit.
– Regarding big leagues, IDP leagues tend to be larger leagues, so your DBs won’t have to contribute with big scores to make this strategy tick.
– IDP is mainly played in dynasty format, but the nature of IDP leagues means that only the top say 1/3 of the DB pool will be owned, so as long as you can get the right group of guys for the season you can keep them in place and rotate them between bench and starter. Furthermore, if you’re playing in dynasty and you have a guy who goes off 2 or 3 weeks in a row, you know it’s because you played the matchups, but you can still flip the guy out for a draft pick or an upgrade somewhere else on the field and find a serviceable replacement in the deep waiver pool.
I’d say it’s entirely feasible to apply a streaming strategy to DBs, and that is will be effective in almost all IDP formats because of the uniqueness of the position and the huge numbers of DBs available. In all probability, many IDP players probably stream already, but without a focus on who to grab from waivers each week. It’s not as easy as playing the DB that will face Eli Manning every week. I will follow up this article with a look into the numbers and report back my findings.
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A big thanks to JJ for taking time to answer my Questions – If you aren’t already familiar with his sterling fantasy football work, head over to https://www.lateroundqb.com/ and check it out. Denny Carter has a book published which I strongly recommend you read over an afternoon. No fantasy football player can read this book and not learn something about how the game is played and how to improve your chances of winning at it. ‘How To Think Like a Fantasy Football Winner’ is on Amazon for (a lot) less than a coffee at Starbucks.
Find Matt on Twitter @FFMattLane or leave comments on the article below!