Draft Strategy

Best Ball Bargain Hunting: Defenses

The Best Ball Bargain Hunting series looks at the ADP differences for players across popular platforms in order to identify players who may be flying under the radar on specific sites. For an explanation of the methodology, check out the running back article that kicked off the series.

Some important scoring notes before getting into the analysis:

  • FFPC awards 5 points for a safety while MFL10s and Fantrax only award 2.
  • The scoring for points allowed creates a huge difference between FFPC and  the MFL10s/Fantrax format. FFPC awards slightly higher points for a shutout,1 1 to 6 points scored,2 and 7 to 10 points scored.3 However the big difference is that beyond 10 points, FFPC scoring doesn’t give any points, whereas the other sites still give 4 points for anything between 7 and 20 points allowed, and 1 point for points allowed between 20 and 29. MFL10s and Fantrax also actually subtract 3 points if a defense gives up 30 or more points.

So how does this affect the rankings? FFPC teams are much more reliant on the “counting” stats than points scored, and score much lower overall. For purposes of best ball, where you’re drafting two or three defenses and only the best one starts, you’re still looking for a defense that will give you a “startable” week that significantly exceeds the baseline for the format. It’s a major difference, but there’s a lot of variability in defensive scoring that makes it difficult to account for. For the purposes of this article, I won’t make any adjustments, but will acknowledge the difference and how it might affect rankings.

FFPC

PlayerFFPC - AverageFFPC - MFL10s
OAK Team Defense66
SF Team Defense43
CLE Team Defense48
GB Team Defense32
NO Team Defense2.52
PIT Team Defense2.52
CHI Team Defense2.51
TEN Team Defense2.52
CIN Team Defense2.51
KC Team Defense20
BAL Team Defense1.50
LAC Team Defense10
SEA Team Defense10
MIA Team Defense1-1
DET Team Defense0.5-1
NE Team Defense0.53
ATL Team Defense0.51
DAL Team Defense0.5-1
JAC Team Defense00
TB Team Defense01
LA Team Defense-0.50
PHI Team Defense-10
MIN Team Defense-1.50
DEN Team Defense-20
NYG Team Defense-3-2
BUF Team Defense-3.50
ARI Team Defense-4-6
HOU Team Defense-4.5-1
CAR Team Defense-4.5-6
WAS Team Defense-5-7
NYJ Team Defense-5-6

Bargains

The Browns defense was next to last in both formats last year, but MFL10 drafters are anticipating a leap forward in 2018. Is there reason for optimism? For starters, it’s unlikely they go 0-16 again. Even though Sashi Brown, the architect of their rebuild, won’t get to make the picks in the upcoming draft, the Browns have a ridiculous amount of draft capital and should improve their team almost regardless of who they pick. They’ve also been aggressive in free agency and the trade market, improving both their offense and their defense.

Led by Deshone Kizer, the Browns also led the league in turnovers by a substantial margin. Between giving opponents extra possessions and rarely having game-script that put them in a favorable defensive position, any improvement by the offense should also help their defense. Don’t bank on a huge improvement, but being able to wait until almost the end of the draft to grab a defense that has almost nowhere to go but up will allow you to shore up other positions a bit earlier.

The Saints defense took everyone by surprise in 2017 after years of futility. With an infusion of young talent and a potent offense that keeps their defense in favorable situations, it’s not unreasonable to expect that they could repeat or even improve upon last year’s success.

There’s also a slight discount on the Titans defense. The team changed head coaches and brought in former Baltimore defensive coordinator Dean Pees this offseason, and also brought in Malcolm Butler from the Patriots. A change of coordinators doesn’t guarantee success, but it makes for a great upside pick late in the draft.

Premiums

The Panthers come at a premium in FFPC drafts, mostly because they scored much higher relative to the field on the site last year. The Panthers will have a new defensive coordinator this year4 and have some turnover at key positions as well.

Other than Patrick Peterson, many of the players who made the Cardinals defense special in years past have departed. They’ll also employ a new defensive scheme, with former defensive coordinator James Bettcher departing for the Giants, and former Panthers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks coming in as the head coach. With so many changes, it’s hard to predict how this unit will perform, so targeting it where it’s cheapest is probably the smart play.

FanTrax

PlayerTRAX - AverageTRAX - MFL10s
HOU Team Defense7.57
BUF Team Defense77
DEN Team Defense44
CLE Team Defense48
NE Team Defense3.55
MIN Team Defense33
NYG Team Defense32
PHI Team Defense22
TB Team Defense1.52
LA Team Defense11
NYJ Team Defense1-2
ATL Team Defense0.51
JAC Team Defense00
CAR Team Defense0-3
WAS Team Defense-0.5-4
ARI Team Defense-1-4
LAC Team Defense-2-2
NO Team Defense-2-1
PIT Team Defense-2-1
SEA Team Defense-2-2
TEN Team Defense-2-1
DET Team Defense-2.5-3
DAL Team Defense-2.5-3
BAL Team Defense-3-3
GB Team Defense-3-2
CHI Team Defense-3.5-3
SF Team Defense-3.5-2
CIN Team Defense-3.5-3
MIA Team Defense-3.5-4
KC Team Defense-4-4

Bargains

It’s been two years since the Texans had an elite defense, and probably not coincidentally, two years since J.J. Watt played a full season. Even if Watt can return healthy this year, have the Texans lost too many other key players over the past couple years to be dominant again? MFL10 drafters are betting they haven’t, selecting the Texans as the eighth defense off the board. The price to find out if they can be elite again is much lower on Fantrax.

It’s a similar situation for the Broncos defense. After their elite defense carried them to a Super Bowl victory, they’ve gradually lost many of their key players to free agency, not to mention Wade Phillips, who is now coordinating another elite defense in Los Angeles. The Broncos defense was underwhelming from a fantasy perspective last year, and gave up the 11th-most points in the league. They failed to create turnovers and were unable to pressure the quarterback like they had in years past.

However, they allowed the third fewest yards on the season, and weren’t helped by an anemic offense on the other side of the ball — both indicators that they could rebound in 2018. Losing Aqib Talib won’t help, but otherwise their defense from last year is largely intact. With some legitimate questions about whether they can figure out how to slow down opposing passers, their later ADP on Fantrax makes them much more appealing than they are at their MFL10 price point.

Premiums

The Chiefs were a better fantasy defense than real football defense last year. Without any major improvements and a potentially tougher schedule, it’s tough to make a case for them as anything better than an average defense. With a price four positions higher on Fantrax, it’s best to get exposure to them elsewhere.

Despite being the second-highest-scoring defense last year, the Ravens are being selected fifth in MFL10s. While it’s easy to make a case for all the teams ahead of them, there’s also no real reason to think the Ravens can’t repeat their performance, other than the inherent variance in turnovers and defensive touchdowns. The Ravens aren’t really a reach as the second defense off the board, but it may be worthwhile to wait and grab the Vikings or the Eagles defense a round or two later. There have also been some extremely early defenses picked in Fantrax drafts, with defenses being taken in the first 100 picks. Don’t be that guy.

MFL10s

PlayerMFL10 - Average
WAS Team Defense5.5
ARI Team Defense5
CAR Team Defense4.5
NYJ Team Defense4
MIA Team Defense2.5
DET Team Defense2
KC Team Defense2
DAL Team Defense2
BAL Team Defense1.5
LAC Team Defense1
CHI Team Defense1
SEA Team Defense1
CIN Team Defense1
JAC Team Defense0
NYG Team Defense0
GB Team Defense0
LA Team Defense-0.5
NO Team Defense-0.5
PIT Team Defense-0.5
TEN Team Defense-0.5
SF Team Defense-0.5
PHI Team Defense-1
ATL Team Defense-1
MIN Team Defense-1.5
TB Team Defense-1.5
DEN Team Defense-2
HOU Team Defense-3
BUF Team Defense-3.5
NE Team Defense-4
OAK Team Defense-6
CLE Team Defense-8

Bargains

The best bargains in MFL10s are naturally the teams for which you’re paying a premium on the other sites. The Panthers and Cardinals defenses are both on the cheaper side and worth a shot with their potential upside, while the Ravens are definitely a bargain as the fifth defense off the board.

The top defense on the list though is the Redskins. They’re currently being selected 29th, despite finishing 2017 as the 17th best defense in MFL10s. There are reasons to think the Redskins got a bit lucky last season as they faced a fairly easy schedule, but are they really the fourth worst defense in the league? It’s unlikely they transform into a top defensive unit, but considering they aren’t even being drafted the majority of the time, they have a good chance to outperform some of the other defenses drafted ahead of them.

Premiums

The strength of the Patriots defense last year wasn’t necessarily in their counting stats, but in their ability to limit points allowed. After a rough four-game stretch to start the year, the Patriots only had two games with more than 20 points allowed, and none with 30 or more. With an offense that keeps their opponents pressing to make plays and six games against a weak division, it wouldn’t be surprising for them to repeat. There’s plenty of room for improvement too, as two of the highest variance stats – defensive TDs and fumble recoveries — were weak points for them last year. You’re paying a premium relative to the other sites, but it may be that they’re a bargain across the board, and just less so in MFL10s.

The premium for the Cleveland defense is a strange one. I’ve laid out the reasons why they could be better than last year, but they’re still being selected unusually high. In fact, they went undrafted more times than three of the teams being selected after them.5 The defenses at the bottom are all tightly clustered in the final round of drafts, so you won’t really have to reach for them, but there may be higher-upside defenses available where the Browns are being picked.

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  1. 12 versus 10  (back)
  2. 8 versus 7  (back)
  3. 5 versus 4  (back)
  4. Though he is an in-house hire, so it may not change much.  (back)
  5. But were still drafted in more than 60 percent of leagues.  (back)
By John Lapinski | @http://twitter.com/FF_SkiBall | Archive

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