- It's never too early to stream starters, even in Week 1. These short-term fixes at quarterback, tight end and defense can help fantasy owners start the season off with a win.
Drafts don’t always go exactly the way you intended. After spending countless hours scouring over stats, metrics, schedules and whatever other types of data you can get your hands on, you make a panic pick, or imbibe too much, or just plain screw it up. The good news is that the option of streaming is always there for you. It can help bail you out of a bad pick, get your team through a rough bye week, or simply be part of an overarching, season-long strategy. Streaming aims to find players with above average matchups, which can hopefully translate to starter production for your fantasy team.
For streaming purposes, 4for4’s Schedule-Adjusted Fantasy Points Allowed (aFPA) is a metric we rely heavily on to determine weekly matchup strength. Since aFPA requires a minimum of three to four weeks of data to provide truly reliable results, streaming options in these early weeks will be selected based on a combination of predicted fantasy points allowed, projected usage, and track record.
In order to provide advice that you can actually use, all streaming recommendations must be available in 40% of Yahoo fantasy leagues.
Sam Bradford, Vikings vs. Saints (19% owned)
The Vikings get a home opener against a Saints defense that ranked 27th at defending the quarterback position last season with an aFPA of 17.9 points. New Orleans allowed more than 18 standard-league fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks in half their matchups in 2016.
This year, Bradford begins the season with a healthy pass-catching corps, including Stefon Diggs and last season’s breakout tight end Kyle Rudolph. He also has a new shiny rookie running back in Dalvin Cook, who showed value this preseason as a receiver out of the backfield. Bradford, who was remarkably accurate last season, should be able to take advantage of this matchup with all his weapons at his disposal.
Alex Smith, Chiefs at Patriots (18% owned)
Sure, it seems a bit nuts to even think about playing Smith against the Patriots in Foxboro. The Patriots, however, are friendlier to opposing quarterbacks, at least from a fantasy perspective, than you might think. Last season, New England allowed the eighth-most schedule-adjusted fantasy points to quarterbacks, with an aFPA of 17.2 points per game. Smith himself averaged 14.7 points per game, but this is a better matchup than it appears at face value..
Smith will have to play well to hold off talented first-round pick Patrick Mahomes all season. He’ll be leaning on Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce most heavily, and rookie running back Kareem Hunt should be a weapon out of the backfield. Whether he can measure up to Spencer Ware’s pass-catching abilities, which carried Smith in a few weeks last season, remains to be seen.
Jared Goff, Rams vs. Colts (6% owned)
The Rams added to their arsenal of receivers significantly since Goff last took a regular season snap, adding Sammy Watkins, Robert Woods and rookie Cooper Kupp. Goff also has a more offensive-minded head coach in 2017, with former Washington offensive coordinator Sean McVay in the spot previously held by Jeff Fisher. In Week 1, Los Angeles gets a home tilt against a soft Colts defense that surrendered the fourth-most points to quarterbacks in 2016. With an aFPA of 18.4, a weak Indianapolis secondary bodes well for Goff on Sunday.
Evan Engram, Giants at Cowboys (21% owned)
Rookie tight ends are usually a risky proposition when it comes to fantasy, but in Week 1 Engram has all the makings of a solid streamer. The Giants head to Dallas to face a Cowboys defense that was the worst in the league last season at defending the tight end position a year ago, with an aFPA of 17.9 PPR points.
New York’s rookie tight end was used in an every-down role during the preseason, lining up both inside and outside. Even on a team with a lot of mouths to feed in the passing game, he’s set up for a large volume of targets when on the field. He was drafted to plug a gaping hole at the position in the Giants’ offense, which was previously occupied by the mediocre tandem of Will Tye and Larry Donnell.
Charles Clay, Bills vs. Jets (7% owned)
These teams figure to be at the bottom of the AFC East, but someone has to score the points in this game. The Jets allowed 13.4 aFPA last season, placing them among the worst third of defenses against tight ends. Clay is talented, as is quarterback Tyrod Taylor, but has an extensive injury history, including a chronic knee issue. He may not make it through the long and difficult regular season, but he should produce as a Week 1 streamer.
George Kittle, 49ers vs. Panthers (1% owned
We already broke the “no rookie tight ends” rule, so we might as well add another one. Kittle is in a great position to start the season after the 49ers shipped Vance McDonald to the Steelers. That makes the fifth-round draft pick out of Iowa the starting tight end in San Francisco.
The Niners get Carolina at home this week, a team with the fifth-friendliest defense to tight ends in 2016. They allowed an aFPA of 15.5 PPR points to the position, which bodes well for Kittle in his NFL debut.
Buffalo Bills, vs. Jets (40% owned)
It’s no secret that the Jets are a mess this season. The Bills defense won’t be one you want to play every week, but it has some playmakers and should be able to shut down a Jets offense led by Josh McCown, Bilal Powell and Robby Anderson.
The Jets offense helped generate fantasy-worthy defenses time and again last season. Opposing defenses scored the second-most points against the Jets, with an aFPA of 11.8. The Bills are favored by 9.5 points and playing at home, both factors that typically work in favor of a fantasy defense.
Cincinnati Bengals, vs. Ravens (23% owned)
The Bengals get a Ravens team with a somewhat-iffy Joe Flacco, who has just returned to the field after missing most of training camp and the preseason with a back injury. The Ravens added a couple of intriguing pieces in Danny Woodhead and Jeremy Maclin, but it’s still an offense with a low ceiling. The Bengals are three-point favorites in this game at home, as well.