Defense. For some daily fantasy players it is a four letter word. I have seen more than one daily fantasy player suggest that the D/ST slot should go the way of the kicker on Draft Kings, in other words, disappear. Their argument is that defensive production is too volatile from week-to-week, and just too hard to predict. The week-to-week argument kind of goes against daily fantasy in general so not much need to deal with that aspect of their argument. I suppose I can sort of agree with the hard to predict part, but you can say that about any position really. Regardless of the merits of the anti-D/ST argument, the fact is that the spot is here, and we have to fill it. More importantly, it is just as important as any other roster spot; it can even be argued that it might be more important.
Perhaps that seems like a rhetorical stretch, after all, rarely will a D/ST give you as many points as a quarterback or a good wide receiver – though they will at times, just ask the owners who owned the Rams D/ST in week 13. Why your D/ST slot is so important is the pricing of the viable D/ST each week. Sure, you can take a huge risk and draft a bad D/ST for $2000, but you will be lucky to get anything from them. Most weeks, you will be paying between $2800 and $3600 for a D/ST; the point spread between those defenses can be up to, if not more than 20 points. $800 might seem like a big difference when you spend it on a defense, but compared to other positions, it is a very minimal difference. You will routinely find yourself starting a running back – or wide receiver — who costs over $8000 and one in the $5000 range. Sure, you are not counting on your defense to win leagues for you, but picking the right D/ST each week can make a big difference in how much you stand to win.
All that is just a long way of going about telling you that you should not treat your defense as an after-thought each week. Yes, your D/ST might end up being your cheapest player each week, yet that will be the case with most teams. The extra 10-15 points that choosing the right defense each week will give you, can mean a big difference in the amount of money you stand to win. I will not presume to say I have any sort of great system for pick out a D/ST each week, but I can give you a few general guidelines to help you find those extra points that might earn you some extra money.
My most important piece of advice is just avoid bad defenses. I know, it is very tempting to use any defense against a team like the Jaguars, even the Giants. Not that the Giants D/ST was bad in week 13, they did score 11 fantasy-points. But for $100 more you could have taken the Vikings D/ST, which had been better this season, and nearly as good of a match up. If you had spent that extra $100, you would have added another 15 fantasy-points to your score in week 13. Just avoid bad defenses, by bad I mean those that rank 20th or below for the season – unless they had a lot of injuries early in the season, and have gotten those injured players back. Sort of related to the bad defense avoidance is to make sure that you see how the defense you chose has done recently. While the Rams D/ST had been slightly below average this season, they had scored 10 or more fantasy-points in three of their last four games, including against two good teams in Denver and San Diego. Their recent production – and very nice matchup – made the Rams a good play in week 13.
Probably more important than avoiding the bad defense against bad offense trap, is just not taking any defense playing in Green Bay, Denver, New England or New Orleans. Sure, on occasion a D/ST will have a good game in those venues, but most of the time they will not. With your D/ST you are playing the odds. You want to get ten or more fantasy-points from your D/ST; you would love to get 20+ fantasy-points. The chances that any D/ST will get you 20+ fantasy-points against any of those teams on the road are pretty minimal – actually, even if those teams are on the road you will want to avoid them most of the time. If you want to know why, just look at the owners who took the Steelers D/ST against the Saints. I understand their logic – New Orleans is not a good road team, they are not good in cold weather, they have been struggling lately. Thing is, they still had a dangerous offense, and Pittsburgh an average – at best – defense.
So, what should you be looking for in your defense each week? First of all, you want to make sure that you select a D/ST that has been playing well lately. They do not have to be great every game, but you want at least two if not three good games in their last four contests. You also want a defense facing a weak offense, or at least an average one. You also want a defense facing a team that turns the ball over. If you are choosing between a defense facing the Chiefs and one facing the Giants, the edge goes to the defense facing the Giants because they turn the ball over more – more turnovers mean more fantasy-points, and the potential for even more fantasy-points. Some added bonuses, if you can get them, would be a team playing at home, and or a team facing a division rival.
No, that is not an all-encompassing look at how to select your defense each week, but it is a nice, quick list of things to look for. Mainly the point is to not ignore your defense. Winning in daily fantasy means finding as many points as you can. While your D/ST seems insignificant, it will have an impact on your score, and thus your winnings. As such, you do not want to just take a D/ST facing a bad offense; you want to look at your options, see how they have been playing, see where they are playing and look at their opponents. In other words, you need to think just as much about your D/ST each week as you do your other players.
You can catch me on Twitter @STCDub.