If there is one thing you need to remember about drafting a defense in Daily Fantasy Sports (“DFS”) it's that you want to look for the best value possible. While there are select times you will want to pay up for a defense (like when the Seahawks are facing a third string QB making his first NFL start), generally speaking you want to find the cheapest defense possible that has the best match up. This allows you to target higher priced players at other positions. This article is going to look over how you can find those value defenses.
There is one common, recurring theme you will find in all of my NFL research articles and that's relying on the Vegas lines as the preliminary research basis. Like I've said before and I'll continue to say until you've got it down pat, the odds makers in Vegas are in the business of making money and they aren't going to put out lines that will lose them money. They spend tons of time and money into getting the information as accurate as they possibly can because that's how they make money. The great thing about this is the information is available to us, the DFS player, as they release their lines each week.
When it comes to picking a defense, we want to first evaluate lines that project low points allowed for that defense. Giving up a lot of points can lead to a negative scoring day for a defense in DFS and that can ruin an otherwise great lineup. Ideally we want to target teams that are projected to give up fewer than 20 points. Failing that, it's usually a good idea to target defenses that are home favorites as teams typically do better at home. Last, target any team that is a heavy favorite to win as these teams have great DFS potential in that they won't give up many points and by being up big it will force the other team to pass the ball which will often lead to the subject of our next topic... turnovers.
The second thing to look at is how often the opposing team turns the ball over. Defensive TD's are huge difference makers in DFS and the more times a team gets the ball via turnover, the more opportunities they have for a defensive TD. Look at how often teams turn the ball over and target defenses that are playing them. On the opposite side of the spectrum, you also need to evaluate how often a team forces turnovers. If a team isn't good at creating mistakes, then it usually doesn't matter how bad the team they are facing is – chances are they aren't going to turn into defensive maestros overnight.
There are a few additional things you can evaluate in helping determine the likelihood a team will turn the ball over in a given week:
-How good the opposing teams offensive line is. If a team has a bad offensive line that gives up a lot of sacks, that's a good thing for our defense. Sacks = fantasy points plus the added bonus of a potential fumble by the QB which of course can lead to a potential return TD.
-How often the team passes the ball. It's more likely a team will score a defensive return TD when they intercept a pass then when they recover a fumble. In addition to more sack opportunities if a team passes often, you also will get more INT opportunities. In 2014, there were 73 defensive TD's scored by NFL teams. Of those 73, 47 of them were pick sixes.
-INT rates for QB's. Some QB's like Aaron Rodgers hardly ever throw an INT so it's a good idea to fade defenses playing those types of offensive play makers. Others though, like say Jay Cutler or Blake Bortles, have a propensity for making mistakes and are exactly the type of teams we want to face with our defense. In week 4, Pittsburgh gave up two late TD's and lost to Tampa Bay 27-24. In week 5, however, they were a great defense to target as they were facing the winless Jaguars and Mr. Bortles. Even though they would only sack Bortles once and pick him off twice, the late pick six they got on one of those interceptions would make a huge difference for those that rostered the Steelers defense.
-A backup QB getting a start is usually a great opportunity for an opposing defense. Such was the case for the Bengals when they got to face the over-hyped Johnny Manziel in his NFL debut. While many players were all over Manziel and his “value”, the smart DFS players were all over the Bengals defense that week. The Bengals would sack Manziel three times, pick him off twice, and pitch a shut out.
While special teams TD's are hard to predict, they do happen and if you're having a tough time choosing between two defenses go with the team that has the better return game. There's a lot of value in picking a solid defense with a great returner like Arizona for example with Ted Ginn or the Rams with Tavon Austin.