How to Rank Your Fantasy Defense Part 2
July 10, 2013 in Fantasy Football Strategy
By Guest Writer Josh Essig:
Now it’s time for my second installment of how to go about picking a proper fantasy DST. Be sure to check out Part 1 HERE!
Your DST Can be Killed by Their Respective Quarterbacks
Believe it or not, a very important thing to consider is the quarterback of the team who’s DST you covet. The Arizona Cardinals are a great example of why. Arizona had a decent defense last year. Arizona led the league with 8 defensive touchdowns, returning 5 picks the other way for touchdowns. However, their takeaway/giveaway ratio was -1. Why am I saying this? There are a couple of reasons. First a bad quarterback, incapable of sustaining long drives and converting for first down, puts extreme strain on a defense, keeps them on the field longer than necessary, and leaves them gassed. Secondly, when a quarterback throws a pick six, fantasy leagues charge the points surrendered to that teams DST. So even when your defense isn’t on the field, they are unfairly charged for their respective quarterback’s mistakes. So while Arizona had a 12th ranked total defense, their poor QB play did nothing but hurt them.
In addition, this example further validates utilizing the points per game method. This is because a defense can still surrender points even if the opposition hasn’t gained a yard. So while touchdowns will always be charged, yards will only be charged on offensive. So it’s far more valuable to draft a defense that will surrender less points, as opposed to one that surrenders less yards.
Another facet of picking DST is the free agency turnover. Who did the teams lose, and who did they add? Who did they draft to fill these vacancies? Did they promote from within with less experienced players? These are important things to consider. If a team has cap room a team will address their biggest need through free agency or with a high pick in the draft. A perfect example to consider is the Tampa Bay Bucs.
A team like the Tampa Bay Bucs will not stick out to you on draft day, because on your fantasy rankings their defense had a mediocre 2012. A differential of 3, with an overall ranking of 29th, giving up more than 24 points per game, and finished last in the league in passing defense. However, they were number one last year in rushing defense. What killed them was their secondary, and you wouldn’t know that because their poor pass defense that anchored their total defense statistically.
Now imagine that secondary with Dashon Goldson and Darrelle Revis? A more experienced Mark Barron, and Eric Wright? Well that defense sure sounds a helluva a lot better. So now you have the number one rushing defense with a completely revamped secondary. I imagine that defense will be within the top 5 next year. So please consider who the teams have added and drafted.
Coaching Changes and The Defensive Systems
Coaching turnover also affects a DST. When considering the coaching change, consider the systems they employ, and don’t give credit too quickly because of the name. Sometimes a coaching change, and more importantly a system change, isn’t always as quick of a transition as people think. Good examples are the Bills and the Saints. While they are bringing in well-traveled and highly credible defensive minds in Mike Pettine and Rob Ryan, they are changing their defensive systems from a 4-3 to a 3-4. They are going from emphasizing more of a down set pass rush with greater numbers in coverage, to a complex blitzing system that relies on a pass rush from strength in numbers and trust in their coverage, especially within secondary. Oftentimes free agency and the draft is not enough time to acquire the personnel you need for a seamless transition. In addition, sometimes the personnel in place are not capable of the change. When Eric Mangini was hired by the Jets he implemented a 3-4 system. Jonathon Vilma who had played well as a middle linebacker in a 4-3, struggled to play the MIKE inside linebacker in Mangini’s 3-4. He later left for New Orleans and thrived once again as a middle linebacker. So while a change in defensive systems doesn’t mean there will be bumps in the road, there can be, which is worth weighing.
Look at Each DST’s Opposing Offense Week by Week
First off, if you don’t know by now that the NFL schedule is perfect you need to get your head checked. I hear people complaining often times, “oh the NFL always gives so-in-so such a hard schedule”. False. Your team gives your team a hard schedule. As soon as week 17 ends, your team knows who they are going to play the following year. This is important to know to because if its common knowledge to you on draft day, you’ll have a better idea of your prospects schedule for the coming year. The basics: Each team plays 6 games within their division, 4 games against another division within their conference (on a 3 year rotation one for each remaining division ), 4 games against an entire division outside of their conference (on a 4 year rotation for each out of conference division ), and two conference games against teams who placed the same as your team in their respective divisions the prior year. So don’t look at strength of schedule because it’s based on independent data from the prior year. Instead, look at the individual opponents and consider their respective offenses.
The reason why I left this category until last it because it requires you to utilize all the different evaluating characteristics I recommended in both parts 1 and 2, but in respect to the opposition’s offense. Lets look at a prime example of how strength of schedule can be misused as a means of selecting a DST. The single easiest way is to consider the opponents within the division, as they make up 6 games. A good example is the NFC West, as their divisional games should be extremely competitive this year.
The New York Times recently released their fantasy rankings and showed each week’s respective matchup. So lets site a few examples of why just the strength of schedule is a bad measuring stick. Seattle has a week 7 matchup at Arizona, and the this matchup was ranked by the Times as a very favorable matchups for Seattle’s DST. I strongly disagree. I believe marking this as a favorable matchup fails to consider the hiring of Bruce Arians and the acquisition of Carson Palmer and Rashard Mendenhall, to pair with Michael Floyd and Larry Fitzgerald. Would I consider that as a favorable matchup for Seattle’s defense? Not favorable at all in my opinion. Another example comes when Houston DST travels to KC. This was also rated as a favorable matchup. I truly believe that this is another matchup considered favorable based on the 2012 Chiefs and not the 2013 Andy Reid Chiefs. Does it consider a new quarterback in Alex Smith, who’s solidified himself as a solid game manager capable of utilizing the talent around him. I think it does not. So when putting your own rankings together, evaluate the matchups the same way you would evaluate the DST’s, utilizing all the criterion I listed.
So please, take all these things into consideration when setting your own DST rankings, it will allow you to make the best possible prediction, and select the best possible DST all things considered. Have your heart set on three come draft day. Finally, let the draft dictate where you pick your defense. If 2 teams pick their defenses too early, that doesn’t mean you have to counter by picking a defense. Hope this helps everyone. Happy drafting.