Fantasy Football Today - fantasy football rankings, cheatsheets, and information
A Fantasy Football Community!

Create An Account  |  Advertise  |  Contact      

Staff Writer
Email J.W.

J.W.'s Articles

Digging For Defenses

If you do not like overpaying for a defense in your auction or being the first one to take the plunge on the Ravens in the mid-rounds of your draft, then here are some tips for digging up some defenses overlooked by others.

When selecting, or ranking, defenses most people look at the actual defensive unit of the team. But you can get a little more insight when choosing your fantasy defense by looking at everything except the actual defensive unit.

#1 – Schedule

This is as easy as it gets. The less above average offenses you face, the more likely the defense is to post decent fantasy production. There is no guarantee of course, but would you feel good about a team’s defense that had to lineup up across from Carson Palmer and the Bengals offense every week? More often than not, teams that play the worst offenses have a better shot at being good fantasy defenses, even more so in leagues that factor in points against.

Spotlight: Jacksonville - The Jags play the Colts twice (still, they tend to play pretty well against Indy) and have to travel to New Orleans, but they have several great match ups with what are likely to be average at best offenses. Tennessee and Houston twice, Atlanta with Joey Harrington and an older Warrick Dunn could be nice, so could a late fall date with the Bills. Oakland at the end of season will likely feature a raw JaMarcus Russell if he ever signs a contract. Once the top ten defenses are off the board, you will have a tough time finding another option that has this many quality match ups throughout the season.

#2 – QBs Faced (Particularly Within The Division)

Break the schedule down further and look at the QBs a defense faces. Favre and Frye like to hold the ball and scramble around, forcing throws. Manning and Palmer are the reverse as they get the ball out quick and read defenses very well. Some QBs are just turnover factories and you should take advantage of it when looking at defenses.

Keep in mind this is a continuous process throughout the season, too. Every year skilled position players go down with injuries and untested or career backups are thrust into duty. Likewise, some do not play well and are benched mid-season. When these changes take place and everyone is scrambling to pick up the replacement quarterback or running back, don’t forget to look at remaining schedules for the season taking these switches into account. You might just find a nice second half defense for free on your waiver wire.

Spotlight: Washington - The ‘Skins face Trent Green in Week 1 who is coming off surgery and playing behind a poor offensive line. In the division he faces an unproven Romo, Eli Manning (35 INTs combined over past two seasons), and McNabb who is coming off injury. Non-divisional opponents include, Kitna, Leinart, Favre, Garcia, Grossman and whoever is starting for Minnesota. There are plenty of interceptions and fumbles to be had from that group.

#3 – Offensive Unit

Opportunity plays a big role. WRs that get more targets, RBs with more touches, QBs with more passing attempts all have more opportunity to post fantasy points and are usually more valuable. The same goes for a defense, although it can be a little trickier to figure out. A defense that is on the field more often has more plays to get a sack, interception or forced fumble leading to more points for you. However, if they are giving up a ton of points in the process then it may not be worthwhile if your league deducts fantasy points based on points allowed or yardage gained. Yet, there is something to be said for being the defense on a team that has an offense that scores quickly or is just flat out lousy because they have more opportunity.

Spotlight: Minnesota - The Vikings are a prime example of a defense that can benefit because of increased opportunity. Their offense should struggle to move the ball without a passing game. Also, they should run just enough to give the defense a little rest between series. With more downs played, the Vikes will out-produce most of the other middle-of-the-road fantasy defenses.

None of these factors has anything to do with how good or bad a defensive unit actually is talent-wise. I am not saying you just overlook how good the Ravens defense is, but if the best units are gobbled up before you can snag them, there is hope if you wait till the end. Only half of your league at most will have a defense that is productive on a weekly basis. So do some homework and you’ll be the one who gets a defense or two that can churn out solid production for a fraction of the cost paid to the brand names.

One Last Thought…

Many people like to rotate defenses off the waiver wire each week based on favorable match ups (many times I am one of them). It isn’t difficult to spot them in your league, so you only need to take a glance at your league schedule to see when you play them. If you play them in Week 5, you should plan on picking up a defense in Week 4 that has a solid match up in Week 5. There may be more than one defense on the wire with a good match up but at least they won’t have a shot to get the best defense available to play against you that week. After all, your fifth WR, second K, or third QB is not going to help you win that week. Then go ahead and drop the extra defense the following week.