Team defenses are one of the least predictable aspects of fantasy football. One of the biggest reasons is that it is a whole unit that scores the points and not just one player.
Last season the Buffalo Bills were the highest scoring defense in all of fantasy according to standard ESPN scoring. They were far and away the best defense in the league, coming out 17 points ahead of the second place Eagles.
Even with the Bills’ impressive season last year, they only outscored the tenth ranked defense by three points per game. Now three points could make or break some weeks, but is it worth reaching for?
Last season, again according to ESPN, the top 10 defenses in order of ADP.
And the top 10 defenses according to total points at season’s end.
Only four teams drafted in the top 10 came out of the season in the top ten: Seahawks, Patriots, Rams and 49ers.
Four of the top five (Four) weren’t even drafted among the top 10.
When other people in your leagues are drafting defenses in the ninth round, draft guys like Arian Foster who are going around the same spot.
|4||St. Louis Rams||4||4||4|
|7||New York Jets||7||12||6|
|8||New England Patriots||11||7||8|
|13||Green Bay Packers||15||11||13|
|15||Kansas City Chiefs||16||13||16|
1. Which Defense are you most willing to reach for during your draft?
Andy: I usually take whatever is left in the second to last or last round of my draft. I tend to play matchups week to week and find a team going against a bad offense.
Joe: Buffalo Bills – On most rankings, they are the second D/ST that is being selected almost 2-full rounds after the Seattle Seahawks. But in standard scoring leagues last season, Buffalo was better than the Seahawks! Plus, the Bills now have defensive guru Rex Ryan leading the blitz. Repeating as the best D/ST is not out of the question.
Tommy: Most experts will tell you never to reach for a defense. I generally tend to agree with this advice, but there are some quirky formats where it makes sense. For example, one league I play in is called the “suicide league”. In this format, we draft in late May and are allowed zero roster moves of any kind. In other words, if you miss on your DST pick, you are stuck with a dud. In that league, I usually reach pretty early. But yeah, in most cases, don’t be the guy to draft a DST in the single digit rounds.
2. Which Defense will you be looking to avoid this season?
Andy: Like with reaching I just play matchups. I have played defenses that are in the bottom half of the league if they are going against a turnover prone team or a team that gives up a bunch of sacks. A team I am avoiding, but not because they aren’t good is the Seattle Seahawks. They get drafted way too early and the difference they provide over the other defenses just isn’t worth it when I can take a running back or wide receiver with upside at that point.
Joe: Of the better-ranked defenses, I have my doubts about the San Francisco 49ers. A new regime with new DC Eric Mangini takes over. “Man-Genius” may have a decent reputation but his defenses have averaged a disappointing rank of 22. Add in that the Niners have the third-toughest “Strength of Schedule” (.561) and have released Aldon Smith – it all just accentuates my hesitancy.
Tommy: A lot of DST play is centered on the matchup. I would not say that there are any particular defense I would avoid for the season, but there are certainly matchups that you should steer clear of on a week to week basis. You probably don’t want to start any D against Rodgers, Luck, or Brady.
3. Which Defense are you willing to settle for if you don’t get one of the top teams?
Andy: The Patriots don’t usually have a great defense, but almost every year I own them at some point. They force turnovers and when they jump out to big leads they tend to get some late game interceptions and sacks.
Joe: The Miami Dolphins had a stretch of 5 weeks where they scored double-digit D/ST points. I like the addition of Ndamukong Suh and the drafting of rookie Jordan Phillips. Both should help against the run and that could pay dividends in “points allowed” as well.
Tommy: Again, I don’t want to name any specifics here. I will almost always play matchups on a weekly basis, using mediocre D’s who happen to match up against bottom five offenses. One thing I do want to mention here is that if you have the bench space, it is not the worst idea in the world to use two roster spots on defenses. This way, you can work 1 week in advance when you seek out matchups. If you always focus on the current week, you can burn through a large percentage of your FAAB $ by streaming those DSTs.
4. Which team defense do you feel will be available late that may come big?
Andy: If you are looking for a defense to hang onto, I like the Minnesota Vikings later on. I don’t think they will be a big difference maker but I don’t think they will kill your team either.
Joe: If you wait too long to select a required D/ST and the remaining teams just seem like a crap-shoot, then the Indianapolis Colts might be for you. The Colts have the second-easiest “Strength of Schedule” (.416) and in standard scoring leagues last season, they did finish with a respectable rank of 16.
Tommy: Sticking with the streamer concept, here are a few DSTs to consider drafting late for their week 1 matchup:
- Jets vs. Browns: The Jets won’t come dirt cheap, but hosting the Browns looks like a great way to start the season.
- Panthers @ Jaguars: Another good looking matchup, but beware, the Jaguars might surprise at home in week 1.
- Bengals @ Raiders: I usually don’t like to stream road teams, but this one looks too good to pass up.
- Packers @ Bears: You usually want the winning team and the Pack are likely to throttle the Bears in week 1. Again though, a division rival on the road might not be the best spot.
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