Swimming Up Stream

I learned a new fantasy football term this week: streaming. Streaming is the act of choosing a player week-to-week on the waiver wire based on his favorable matchup, rather than holding one player season-long at a position. It’s the strategy you employ if you are unable to draft an elite player at a particular position, or if the elite player you did draft gets injured midseason, or if they turn out to be less elite than expected (and become a “bust” – I knew that one already).

Streaming is what I should be doing to cover Tom Brady’s suspension time.

I knew the principle of this strategy, but I didn’t know it had a name. But that’s what I’m doing here, right? Learning? This is the lesson I learned last week from the Alex Smith Debacle, only with a formalized name.

So, great! I’m using a strategy with its own terminology! I’m such a fantasy football insider now!

*cough*

But seriously, now that I know more about this strategy, it’s time to put it into action. I had four lineup questions for this week, so let’s consider each and see how my brand new streaming strategy helps me.

Question One: Quarterback

I now have three quarterbacks on my team and don’t want to start any of them. Well, I can’t start Brady, he’s not back for another two weeks. But I have Tyrod Taylor, who I don’t trust to start but also don’t want to cut – he should develop value that I can use for a trade, and I don’t want to just give him away. And I have Alex Smith, who I still like for a Week Nine matchup, but holding him just for that is a fool’s errand. Either he’ll still be available on the waiver wire then, or someone else will that I can stream at that time. (See me using my fancy new word? I promise, I won’t keep drawing attention to it, but I feel so professional every time it comes up.) Alex Smith is cutable to make room for this week’s streaming QB.

Next step is to identify my target. Obviously the best matchups are the real elite guys – the Drew Breeses and Andrew Lucks of the world. Those guys are spoken for and starting for my opponents, and it’s very very unlikely I would be able to get ahold of them. But I don’t need one of those guys. I can find the right matchup in the group of guys below them, perfectly decent QBs with favorable matchups. I’m looking for this at players who are either on my opponents’ rosters in backup positions (and therefore might be trade targets that I don’t have to give up my own starters to get) or players who are unowned and therefore on the waiver wire.

Once I combed through the matchups (and my spreadsheet – I’m keeping it up, of course, because it gives me a chance to mess around in Excel every week), I found three guys in that tier who interested me: Joe Flacco (Baltimore) and the Ryans Fitzpatrick (NY Jets) and Tannehill (Miami). Flacco was owned, but both Ryans were not.

I decided I wanted to use my waiver position to plug a different hole (more on that in a minute), so I tried first to see if I could create a trade for Joe Flacco. I proposed my first trade this week! It was straight up QB-for-QB, Flacco for Tyrod Taylor. I thought this trade made sense from my opponent’s perspective, which is why I proposed it – if it benefits him as well as me, then it has a better chance of going through. I get trade proposals all the time asking for one of my starters in exchange for two or three backup-caliber guys in positions I don’t need. I’m not going to give up my best wide receiver to get two mid-level running backs, especially when I have two of the top ten running backs already. But I thought Taylor as a backup could intrigue this guy – he doesn’t need a backup this week, so he could appreciate Taylor’s long-term value, whereas I need the short-term value of Flacco, who faces a soft Jacksonville this weekend.

Instead, I got a counteroffer that would give me Flacco and Doug Baldwin (an injured Seahawk – no thank you) for Julian Edelman. I have no desire to get rid of a starter-level player in order to stream a QB. So I gave up on the trade idea.

That left picking up a player in free agency, and I had to cut Alex Smith to give me the room to do so. Okay, fair enough. Maybe we’ll see each other again someday, Mr. Smith, but so long for now. And Ryan Fitzpatrick was picked up off the waiver wire by another competitor of mine, so that narrowed it down to Tannehill.

Honestly, I didn’t mind that at all, as Tannehill was my preferred Ryan from the start. He gets the Cleveland Browns this weekend at home, whereas Fitzpatrick gets the Chiefs in Kansas City. Neither defense is great, but the Browns are demonstrably worse. Fitz probably has better weapons, but Tannehill should still put up good numbers this weekend, and that’s all I need.

Week Three QB: solved.

Question Two: Tight End

Oh, Gary Barnidge. What in the name of mercy is up with you? I get that your offense is terrible, I get that you’re on your third starting quarterback in as many weeks, but – come on, man. Three points all season is just not enough. And I get that you’re playing Miami this week, which could be a decent matchup, but I sincerely doubt that a third-string rookie QB (from SC, no less) is going to be throwing the ball much to his tight end.

Do I think you’ll possibly improve and be usable the rest of the season? I hope so, anyway. So I want to hold onto you, but maybe it’s time to start somebody else, at least for a while.

Fortunately, I have two other tight ends. Unfortunately, neither one of them is startable either: neither Austin Sefarian-Jenkins nor Virgil Green have the matchup, the offensive role, or – in Green’s case – the reliable health to make them a good choice this week. I like them both, but I can cut one to make room for a streaming tight end.

Which is what I did, using my waiver wire pick to set Sefarian-Jenkins loose and grab Jacob Tamme instead, who has had a steady role in the Falcons’ pass-heavy offense. He was good for 13 points last week, and he faces the Saints this weekend, who his team should be able to steamroll over. Remains to be seen how long-term a solution he could be… but I’m not looking for a long-term solution necessarily, I’m looking to stream.

Week Three TE: solved.

Question Three: Flex

I’ve been playing a third wide receiver at the flex position, and I’ve been let down both weeks. My WR core is not as bright a spot as it could be. My RB core, however, is fabulous. I’ve got two guys ranked in the top 10 (Elliott is RB6 in my averages, and Gordon is RB7) and three in the top 20 (including Gore, at RB18). So why am I letting Gore waste away on the bench? Gore’s my new flex man as I play to my strengths. That means I only have to play two of my four WRs. A.J. Green is the only sure-fire start, in spite of his rough Week Two; Mohamed Sanu doesn’t have enough of a prominent role to be anything but a fill-in yet; that leaves two WRs and one starting spot. Randall Cobb has been the least productive so far, but I chose to sit Julian Edelman instead. He’s playing with his third-string QB this week, and he’s playing against my rock-star Houston Texans defense. I expect him to be amazing in the future, but not this week.

So I’m streaming my own bench player, Randall Cobb, as my second WR.

Week Three Flex/Lineup Shuffle: solved.

Question Four: A.J. Green’s Baby

It’s easy as a sports fan, and especially as a fantasy player, to lose our common humanity. When a hated rival gets injured, one might react with relief (or schadenfreude) instead of sympathy for a fellow human being in pain. I’ll admit that I’m thrilled with Melvin Gordon’s expanded role on the Chargers, and it’s easier not to think about how that role came about. But he got the full-time starter’s role because Danny Woodhead is injured and out for the season, and that’s not something to be happy about.

So my last problem is/was a problem as a fantasy owner, but let’s retain our humanity here: it’s the best kind of news. A.J. Green was expecting his first child this week, and he’d stated that he was going to be present at the birth, even if it meant missing a game to be there. With his wife’s due date looming, I wanted to be prepared for what I would do if it turned out he had to suddenly miss the game on Sunday. Probably this would have meant starting Mohamed Sanu, as Julian Edelman (my other WR on the bench this week) plays Thursday and would already be done by the time I’d have to make this decision. I could also look for a streaming WR option, although I wasn’t wild about cutting anyone to make room for him.

But, this problem was solved for me with the birth yesterday of A.J. Green’s son. Congratulations, Green family! The new dad is back in practice today and expects to play on Sunday, and I expect to start him.

Week Three Baby Mystery: solved.

Welcome to the world, Easton!

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