A few years ago I wrote an article on how I pick defenses on MFL10s. This is an update to that article.
The key point I made when writing that article was that most players, even many of the smartest players, do not put more than two thoughts together on defenses. There is a strong opportunity to gain an advantage by putting more thought into how we pick the position. What are the two thoughts that players tend to have about defenses?
- Don’t pick a defense early because of the year-to-year volatility at the position.
- Whether or not to take two or three defenses in MFL10s(more on this later).
Now, those are not bad thoughts, but as you can see, it is very generic advice and leaves room for smart drafters to gain an edge.
It is very rare that the top scoring defense repeats and in general, only half of the top-six defenses taken each year finish as top-six defenses the next year, which is why not drafting a defense early is a rule that I believe should never be broken. The goal, therefore, is to try and find the NEXT set of defenses that might be in the top-six the following year.
But before we move on, I want to point out why I think defenses are so volatile. The answer is in 20-point weeks. I have studied each of the last four NFL seasons on Fanball and in each of those four years, 50-55% of 20-point weeks are scored by the top-six defenses. This is truly remarkable and consistent each year. So, we should be doing our best to find defenses that we believe have the potential to put up 20-point spike weeks that we crave in Bestball.
Key factors I look at in identifying Defenses to target
We are not drafting the early defenses that were good last year. So on Fanball, I tend to not pick defenses until the 16th round and even then, only a few teams make my criteria each year to be drafted that early. I tend to take three defenses in most of my Fanball drafts and all of my FFPC drafts. I take two defenses – one in the late 16th or 17th round and my second defense in the 18th round. In the 20th round, I will normally take a third defense unless I find a player I think will help my team more than the third defense will.
1. Winning teams. When I wrote this article two years ago I noted that over the previous two seasons that the top-six teams averaged 10 wins a season. Last year, the top six defenses averaged 11 wins. Winning teams have a distinct advantage in that late in games teams are throwing almost every play to try and catch them, which leads to more opportunities for sacks and interceptions – the key driver in getting the TDs that can cause 20-point weeks.
2. Defensive coordinator changes the first year or two. Again, when I wrote this article two years ago, I cited Wade Phillips move to the Rams as a key buying opportunity. At the time I said that it isn’t the first year that teams put up the huge numbers, but Phillips only needed that first year to put the Rams into the top six. Last year, I bought heavily into Dean Pees move from Baltimore to Tennessee and was rewarded with the seventh-best defense. I also bought some into Mike Pettine and his aggressive Rex Ryan style defense as a possible opportunity. This year, I am not seeing that kind of movement, but it is an important opportunity for you to think about for the future. Keep in mind that it doesn’t always happen the first year but very often happens at least once in the first two years.
3. Aggressive play callers. Greg Williams moves to the Jets and, like him or hate him, he is aggressive. The Jets are probably the sneakiest of the 20th round available defenses on Fanball.
4. Teams that have added key free agents and or early round draft capital. The last few seasons the Ravens poured early round picks into their defense. Teams that add quality pass rushers and defensive backs with a history of interceptions can give us the points we are looking for.
5. Young teams that have added key defensive talents over the past few years and are ready to improve. More on this in a moment
6. Teams with dangerous return men. This should be obvious but needs to be mentioned. If a team adds either a known quality return man or an exciting rookie, it is something to consider.
That’s nice Tod, but who are you picking this year?
Here are the teams I own the most of so far this year.
1. Tennessee Titans – 43 percent ownership so far on Fanball. I mentioned the DC change last year. The team continues to put early round capital into the defense and they are often available in the 18th round. I am going back to the Dean Pees well, expecting good results.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars – 35 percent. Two years ago, when writing this article, I called the Jaguars out for their young talent and was rewarded with a great season. After fading them completely last year and their 13th round or higher ADP, I was shocked to find the Jaguars going in the 17th/18th round early and still available often in the 16th and sometimes 17th round now. Almost all the key players are still there. This might be my favorite pick in the whole draft this year.
3. Los Angeles Chargers – 31 percent. The Chargers were hit with injuries to key players last year and still finished 17th. They are one of the two young, improving defenses I referenced earlier in the article. With a strong offense and a full season of Joey Bosa along with continued improvement from other young players, I think the Chargers fit the criteria we are looking for very well and you can find them very often in the 17th round.
1. Cleveland Browns. Young improving team with an elite pass rusher in Myles Garrett.
2. Dallas Cowboys. A favorite of Noah Ruddell’s, I believe the Cowboys are another 17th/18th round option worth taking ahead of many defenses going ahead of them.
3. New Orleans Saints. A winning team that put a ton of capital into its defense the last few years. Got off to a rough start last year but still finished sixth overall and is a true Super Bowl contender
4. Minnesota Vikings are last year’s third-ranked defense and often slip into the 17th round, which is a nice value.
Best Third Defense on the board
The Washington Redskins were just outside our top six, finishing seventh last year in scoring. With what should be a better offense and an ADP of 229 on Fanball, they are my favorite late choice. Runner up is the Buffalo Bills.
Who are your favorite defenses? I am always willing to learn. Hit me up on Discord chat and let’s discuss!