Streaming your starting QB, TE, or D/ST isn’t the goal in fantasy football. But, if you’re weak at a position where you only have to start one player, picking up usable fantasy weeks from the waiver wire can be a beneficial process. In typical start-one quarterback, tight end, and D/ST 12-team formats, most of your league mates won’t — and shouldn’t — carry a backup QB or D/ST. Positional scarcity leaves the waiver wire flush with plausible weekly starting options based on their matchup and expected game-flow.
Simply put, because quarterback and defensive matchups are easier to predict and their output varies less on a weekly basis, sharp fantasy owners have an edge in their leagues if they can stream their "onesie" positions (usually their defense) better than their opponent.
If you lost Jimmy Garoppolo (ACL) for the season, Week 4 is a strong streaming slate for three passers in particular:
With weekly fantasy finishes of QB15 (at IND), QB8 (vs. BAL), and QB13 (at CAR) — Andy Dalton is currently the quietest low-end starter in fantasy football. Dating back to when Bill Lazor took over as offensive coordinator in Week 3, 2017, Dalton has now thrown multiple passing scores in 12 of his last 16 games. In this span, Dalton has tossed 33 total TDs (2.06 per game).
In Week 4, the Bengals travel to Atlanta to face a Falcons defense that just got waxed for 335 yards and three TDs by Cam Newton in Week 2 while Drew Brees hit 396 yards and three more passing scores last week. Already down LB Deion Jones (foot) and S Keanu Neal (ACL), Atlanta just lost its other starting safety to a season-ending injury as Ricardo Allen tore his Achilles in Week 3.
As long as A.J. Green‘s (hamstring) health checks out, fantasy managers that are down Jimmy Garoppolo (ACL) for the season should strongly consider adding Dalton. After their date in Atlanta in Week 4, the Bengals get Miami, Pittsburgh, Kansas City, Tampa Bay, and New Orleans over their next five games. Four of Cincinnati’s next five games are at home, too. Dalton should be viewed as a low-end weekly starter in 12-team leagues at this point.
Through three games, the Chiefs have allowed the most passing yards per game (375.5), the fourth-highest passer rating (102.1), and given up QB3 (Rivers), QB1 (Roethlisberger), and QB11 (Garoppolo) weekly fantasy finishes to quarterbacks. Now, Case Keenum, Emmanuel Sanders, and Demaryius Thomas get the Chiefs flame-able secondary at home. Keenum has struggled to start the year — he’s 29th in passer rating and 25th in fantasy points per game — but the combination of Kansas City’s high-flying attack and forgiving defense is going create shootouts all season long. Chiefs‘ contests have combined for 66, 79, and 65 points in Weeks 1-3. The NFL average is 45.2 points.
It’s officially Baker Time in Cleveland. This week, Mayfield gets one of the best spots possible for a quarterback. It’s a mouth-watering matchup in Oakland. This season, the Raiders have allowed the sixth-highest passer rating (101.9), the third-highest pass yards per attempt (8.7), and forced pressure at the league’s lowest rate (15.8 percent). Rookie quarterbacks are usually tough buys early in their career, but Mayfield’s matchup and performance in Week 3 in relief of Tyrod Taylor (201 yards on 23 attempts; 74 percent completion rate) should ease the first-year tension. If Dalton or Keenum are not available, Mayfield is a borderline top-20 option in Week 4.
After dealing with shoulder, ankle, knee, back, and foot problems over the last two seasons, it’s nice to see Vance McDonald at 100 percent health. After whacking the Bucs for 4/112/1 (on five targets) in Week 3 on Monday Night Football, McDonald will be on everyone’s waiver radar for claims this week. Since returning in Week 2, McDonald has run more pass routes (59) than teammate Jesse James (49) over the last two games, per Pro Football Focus. Over the last two years (including post-season), McDonald has averaged 1.95 receiving yards gained per route run, the sixth-best clip behind Gronkowski, Kelce, Ertz, Walker, and Reed (per Pro Football Focus). McDonald is still only a part-time player — he’s played 45 and 49 percent of team snaps through Weeks 2-3, respectively — but he is the best tight end streamer this week, by far.
Deep: Ben Watson, TE, New Orleans Saints (85 percent available) at New York Giants
With injuries to Greg Olsen (foot), Evan Engram (knee), and Delanie Walker (ankle) already, the majority of fantasy teams are hurting at TE. At the very least, Ben Watson is attached to an elite offense, he’s widely available in NFL.com fantasy leagues, and he’s seen four, five, and six targets in Weeks 1-3. Watson is presently 12th among all tight ends in receiving yards (134). The Saints have big mouths to feed, but Watson is a reasonable source of floor fantasy points for those in a bind. Plus, the G-Men just allowed 5/115 receiving to the Texans motley crew of tight ends in Week 3. Watson is next.
There are three robust streaming options this week, and all three have a similar range of outcomes. Green Bay is my No. 1 target because they are at home, but both the Browns and Seahawks D/ST are near-equal options:
Packers D/ST (79 percent available) vs. Buffalo Bills
Even after the Vikings debacle in Week 3, the Bills should still be considered a weekly target for D/ST streamers. Through three games, the Bills are tied for last with the Cardinals in offensive yards gained per play (4.0) while rookie Josh Allen has already been sacked 11 times (tied for fifth-most). Each defense that has played Buffalo has compiled at least three sacks. Now, Buffalo has to travel into Lambeau to face a Packers defense that has averaged 8.64 fantasy points per game in non-division home games over the last three seasons (11th-most).
Browns D/ST (80 percent available) at Oakland Raiders
Cleveland was oh-so-close to a 3-0 start, thanks in large part to their significantly improved defense. The turnaround is real. Now, the Browns‘ red-hot D/ST that has finished as a top-ten weekly option in each game so far gets a Raiders offense that is only 23rd in offensive points per drive (1.53). To start the year, the Browns have limited enemy passers to a 67.0 rating (third-best), they’re eighth in sack rate (7.8 percent), and only eight percent of runs against their front seven have gone for 10 or more yards (eighth-best).
Seahawks D/ST (89 percent available) at Arizona Cardinals
Here’s all you need to know: Arizona is last in scoring drives (9.7 percent), yards gained per play (5.0), and points scored per drive (0.65) in Weeks 1-3. Josh Rosen is finally taking over for Sam Bradford — but we can’t be afraid to fire our fantasy defenses against a rookie making his first start. Even dating back to include last year, defenses are putting up 10.3 fantasy points per game against Arizona (third-most in span). Seattle is extremely likely to make it three-straight top-10 fantasy D/ST performances after their Week 4 date in the desert.