2014 Fantasy Football: Don't Draft Elite Defenses

By Sean Cordy
Joe Nicholson USATODAY Sports
Joe Nicholson USA TODAY Sports

What’s that, you say?  Why wouldn’t I want an elite defense on my team?

I agree, I want my whole team to be elite, but when push comes to shove, paying top dollar for a top-tier defense just isn’t worth it. Take a look.

Last season, there were five defenses/special teams that topped 200 fantasy points – only nine position players had reached that milestone. So defenses have proven as effective, if not more so than the rest of your team, but the reason why you don’t need one of those elite D/ST teams is that you can implement a revolving door system that has proven more productive.

Referring to those top five defenses again, another stat to check out is not one that they produced, but one controlled by you, the owners, and that is percentage owned.

Only the Seattle Seahawks (the second ranked team) were 100 percent owned, the rest were at least above 95 percent owned, but that means in five percent of leagues you could grab a top defense. Of course, that could be due to fantasy GMs subbing their defenses out in the playoffs more often for  better matchups. That brings up my next point, why not sub out your teams for favorable matchups throughout the season?

Even if you had the top-ranked San Francisco 49ers, you’d still get turbulence in production (the team gave up three straight games of 27 or more points to their opponents). What you should do instead of relying on one team that you give up a high price (rounds 11-13 or so), is draft a team based on the matchups they have in the first quarter of the season.

Take a look at all the teams’ first four games and make your selection off of those games (I’d recommend the New England Patriots). As much as fantasy football is a long-term investment, your short term must be accomplished before anything else. What this does is create a trial basis for your D/ST. You can ditch them if they prove to be inefficient or you can keep them on your roster and sub them throughout the season with your backup.

You should always pick a backup defense in today’s fantasy football, especially when offensive juggernauts like the New Orleans Saints may be playing your team. Unlike position players, defenses are more disposable – you can switch defenses every week if your league’s rules allow for such measures.

Only nine percent of leagues last season had a team which owned the Miami Dolphins (the 11th ranked defense). In fact, in one of my leagues, only half of the top 10 defenses were owned. It just goes to show that you can pick up great additions throughout the season’s course. You don’t need to depend on the one you drafted.

But if your league rules have maximum number of transactions, this can become risky and influences you to keep that top tier team you drafted. But what if that team ends up like the Chicago Bears last season – drafted high, but yielded terrible output?

Refer to my original suggestion. Draft two teams with great potential and have a good first slate of games. That way you can substitute as needed and still have the rest of the season to find a replacement.

So while it’s nice to have a team like the Seahawks or 49ers, there’s no team that is a “for sure thing” anymore. You need to approach the season on a week-to-week basis. Rather than having a team that puts up 230 points for you, you could have a multitude of teams that put up over 250. Not to mention, you just drafted a much better backup for your positional players now that you opted for “lesser” defenses in the draft.

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