We project the team defenses for the coming season, just like we do every other position that’ll be part of your fantasy football draft. The difference here is that you probably shouldn’t bother using them.
It’s not that we don’t believe the Bears will lead the league in fantasy points, or that the Bears and Steelers should battle for the NFL lead in sacks. It’s just that no defense is likely to deliver you starter value all year.
First, you can’t count on last year’s defense to repeat. In fact, no team D dating back to 2001 has repeated as fantasy’s top-scoring unit in standard fantasy scoring.
Would we bet on the Bears being a pretty good defense again? Yes. Of course. Does that mean you should draft them? No.
Even the Bears -- who outscored their nearest competitor in the D/ST standings by 25% last year -- only delivered 11 starter weeks among their 16 games. The Rams (who finished 2nd in NFL.com’s rankings) posted 10 such weeks. And 3 defenses provided 9 top-12 finishes, 8 others delivered 8 and 7 made the top 12 seven times.
All together, that’s 20 defenses who offered up at least 7 starter weeks. Only 3 posted fewer than 5 such weeks.
But this isn’t an article about not drafting the Bears D. (Well, actually, it kinda is.) Your MVP Board will almost certainly already keep you from doing that.
What we want to do here is figure out how to attack the D/ST position in our upcoming drafts and beyond.
Whenever possible throughout the season, you’ll want to target positive matchups in selecting your starting defense. That’s not even a controversial statement at this point.
“Streaming” defenses has become so prevalent that you might need to look a week or 2 ahead to have a shot at claiming the positive-matchup D for a given week. But let’s take a minute to look at a little bit of the why.
In last year’s edition of this article, we looked at how much each spot in the rankings can impact your scoring. I did so by looking back over every year of fantasy points allowed in the NFL.com database, dating back to 2010.
First I found the 9-year median for each spot in the rankings. Then I found the median for the whole set (7.41 fantasy points, in this format). And then I compared each ranking spot with that overall median. Here are the results:
Over the past 9 years, the most generous matchups for your team defenses have added about 75% to the median scoring. The top 9 matchups have added 20+%. The bottom 10, meanwhile, have taken away 20+% vs. the median. And the low matchup has removed nearly two-thirds of your scoring potential.
Where Does the Scoring Come From?
You know the main scoring categories for team defenses in most fantasy leagues. But which one(s) most strongly impact the fantasy points. Let’s check out the correlations over the past 9 years …