Welcome to the fifth installment of the Quarterback Streaming Challenge. As a quick recap: previous research of mine has found that quarterbacks average fewer points per game in weeks they were started than they do in weeks they were left on the bench. This finding challenges one of the underlying principles of quarterback streaming, which states that by assiduously selecting favorable matchups, one could get production from a player that exceeds his usual total.
Faced with this disconnect, I've designed a controlled experiment to test the hypothesis. I have invited 21 participants to try their hand at streaming quarterbacks based on a real fantasy football industry experts league. These participants are largely writers and contributors at various fantasy football sites— seven here at Footballguys, nine from elsewhere around the web— with five additional at-large spots awarded to fans.
This is primarily an attempt to measure the performance of the Late Round Quarterback strategy, as well as our ability to predict matchups without the benefit of hindsight. With that said, I'll be publishing a recap of how things stand every week so that it can serve as a roadmap for those of you who find yourself streaming in your own fantasy leagues.
I don't have any interesting insights or analysis this week, but I do want to do a bit of a data dump of results so far.
I'm not under any illusions that this experiment is a perfect measure of the strategies in question, but to my knowledge, it's the best replication of real-world situations that has been attempted so far. And the goal is not to settle the debate, but rather to gather data and see where it leads.
One point of data that I've been eager to see? I'm genuinely curious how often teams wind up starting a quarterback that they picked up off of waivers. J.J. Zachariason and Denny Carter host a podcast called "Living the Stream" where they give their weekly selections and track the results, demonstrating that an owner can start a quarterback off of waivers every week. But that's not how fantasy works in the real world.
In the real world, we have benches and persistent rosters. We can hold quarterbacks for multiple weeks. We can grab players pre-emptively and stash them until we're ready to use them. As an example, we had a participant roster Sam Bradford in week 1 despite announcements that he wouldn't play, and an owner this week added Tony Romo in preparation of his return.
From weeks 2 to 7, we had 21 teams name 6 starters each, for a total of 126 "quarterback starts". Here's the breakdown of where those quarterback starts came from, whether from one of the original two quarterbacks or, if someone acquired via waivers, how long ago they were acquired.
- Original Roster: 66 (52.3%)
- Acquired That Week: 27 (21.4%)
- Acquired Weeks Prior: 33 (26.2%)
- 1 6 2 5 4 6 5 1 5 3 5 1 4 4 1 1 3 1 4 1 3
- Acquired That Week: 2 0 2 0 1 0 1 1 1 2 1 4 2 1 1 1 1 3 1 2 0
- Acquired Weeks Prior: 3 0 2 1 1 0 0 4 0 1 0 1 0 1 4 4 2 2 1 3 3
Interestingly, given all the hype that it receives, "true streams" account for the smallest proportion of starts to this point. In fact, despite being extremely limited in what players were available at the beginning of the experiment, more than half of all starts have gone to one of the team's two initial quarterbacks.
Indeed, we could characterize teams that gave 4 or more starts via a single method as being "predominantly" that type of team. If that's the case, 10 of the 21 teams are "predominantly" the type that just play the guy they "drafted". By contrast, only one team has predominantly started players picked up on waivers that week.
Like I said, I don't really have any deeper analysis of what this means at the moment, but I found it interesting.
This week marks a second consecutive quiet one on waivers as teams seem to have settled on their preferred duo for the most part. With the year coming to a close, though, we're seeing a few teams make aggressive bids to ensure they get their preferred quarterbacks locked up for the stretch run.
And this week's starters so far:
- Marcus Mariota (x6)
- Matt Ryan (x3)
- Andy Dalton (x2)
- Sam Bradford (x2)
- Alex Smith
- Brock Osweiler
- Ryan Fitzpatrick
Best of luck to our participants, and to everyone following along at home in your own weekly streams.
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