This is going to sound weird compared to the endless flood of fantasy knowledge spewed upon the world via the internet daily, but I’m here to tell you right now – PAY MORE ATTENTION TO DEFENSE WHEN DRAFTING!
I’m not saying you need to take the Seahawks in the first round. I’m just saying that you might want to look at the rules and scoring system in every league you join a little bit closer. Sort the previous season’s stats by fantasy points scored according to the rules of your league. You’ll likely notice, as I did, that several team Defensive/Special Teams units outscored dozens of players drafted ahead of them.
Over the years, we’ve trained our collective fantasy minds to wait until the very back end of a snake draft to take our defense and kickers. That may or not be a good idea depending on how your league scores points and what defense you draft. You win in fantasy football by scoring points. The position those points come from does not matter.
Bear with me.
I’m in a dynasty league with pretty standard scoring for running backs. Like most leagues, you start two of them. Alfred Morris, though he had a down season compared to his 2012 breakout campaign, still had a respectable year with 1275 rushing yards and seven scores on the ground. He’s a starter in almost any league. Then, when I looked at the defensive scoring in my league, I saw that the fourth best defense, the Bengals, actually outscored Morris on the season by 34 points. The Chiefs and Rams outscored Morris by 56 and 53 points respectively. Without going into great detail on the scoring system in the league, I can tell you it wasn’t anything too crazy. It could easily be the system of choice in any fantasy league you join where the commish tinkers with the standard settings.
Now, does this mean you want to run out and grab the Rams while Alfred Morris is still on the board? No. It does, however, mean you should look closer at each player’s value (defense included) in terms of how many points they historically score or are projected to score using the current points system of your league. Remember that every position matters. If the difference between Defense-A and Defense-B is looks like it’s going to be greater than the difference between Running Back-A and Running Back-B, maybe you should think about setting your sights on Running Back-B and grabbing Defense-A a little earlier than you have in the past.
This is just something to think about. You do what’s right for you, but remember, points are points. It doesn’t matter where they come from.
With that said, here are some quick tips when drafting your defense in 2014:
1. Look West — 3 of the 4 NFL West teams (Rams, 49ers, Seahawks) finished in the bottom half of the league in total offense in 2013. There were two reasons for that. For one, all four teams in the division have solid defenses. The other reason is the nature of their offenses. They are grind-it-out teams who like to pound the ball and milk clock when they get leads. They all have stellar between-the-tackles runners who are capable of doing the same in 2014. This is great for the win-loss records of these teams, but it also limits the damage done to a fantasy defenses started against them. I like all four NFC West D/STs as elite.
2. The NFC North has changed — Speaking of grind it out, no division used to do exactly that like the NFC North. Oh how the times have changed. The Bears were the only team in the division to crack the fantasy top ten at the position in my dynasty league. I’m betting they don’t repeat. With all of the offensive firepower in this division, more points are going to be scored on more possessions for both teams in every divisional game. I’m not sure the turnovers the Bears usually pile up will be enough to offset the offensive numbers scored against them in the division. I’ll avoid NFC North D/STs at all costs.
3. Don’t Sleep on the Pats – The New England Patriots get a combined six games against Ryan Tannehill, E.J. Manuel and either Geno Smith or Michael Vick. Maybe I’m biased or missing something, but I can’t see any of those quarterbacks lighting up what should be an improved Bill Belichick defense. The Patriots gave up less than 20 points a game in division contests in 2013. Ryan Tannehill put up the only two 300 yard passing performances in division play against them — one of which he accompanied with two interceptions. New England will hit a rough five-game patch in weeks 9-14 when they face Manning, Luck, Stafford, Rodgers and Rivers, but they’ll square off with Miami and the Jets during weeks 15 and 16 — perfect timing for the fantasy playoffs.