Don’t be the first person to draft a defense in your Fantasy League. I’ll take it a step further: Don’t draft a defense until the second-to-last round. For most other positions (QB, RB, WR), there is a stronger likelihood of a high drafted player performing to expectations. This is not the case for D/ST units from year to year.
Let’s go back through the years and review the average draft positions of the predicted top defenses and see where they finished at year’s end. Additionally, let’s look at the players who were available around the time of when the predicted top-rated D/ST was drafted. Lastly, let’s examine when the actual top ranked defense at the end of the year was drafted.
Historical ADP values were found at MyFantasyLeague.com and year-end statistics were courtesy of Pro Football Focus.
2018: The Jaguars defense, riding on their breakout season the year prior, were overwhelmingly the first defense selected in drafts with an average draft position of 94.6. The Jags defensive unit came back to earth and finished the 2018 season ranked 14th, scoring 5.7 points less (!) per week than they did in 2017.
Players selected around the Jags according to ADP were Marlon Mack (finished season as RB21), Robert Woods (WR10), James White (RB7), and Tarik Cohen (RB11).
The top defense last year, the Bears had an ADP of 172.7 with eleven squads being selected before them. Obviously, they would have been drafted much earlier if the Khalil Mack trade happened before September 1st. But the general point remains that the Jags did not meet the expectations of their draft position. Wouldn’t you have rather had Mack, Woods, White or Cohen?
2017: The Broncos were, on average, the first drafted D/ST with a 115.1 ADP. They finished the year ranked 20th scoring a meek 6.31 points per week.
Players selected around the Broncos were Adam Thielen (WR8), Marvin Jones (WR11), Theo Riddick (RB26) and Duke Johnson (RB11).
As you read 80-some words ago, the Jags were the top defense this year. However, their average draft position in 2017 was 179.5 with eleven defenses being picked before them.
2016: Coming off the Super Bowl win, the Broncos were the top drafted D/ST in 2016 with a 109.0 ADP. The D/ST continued to perform and finished the year as the third best fantasy defense.
Even though the Broncos performed relatively close to expectations, there were many potential steals that were picked around the Broncos: Rookie Michael Thomas (WR7), Jay Ajayi (RB11), LeGarrette Blount (RB9), Stefon Diggs (WR31).
The Chiefs were the top performing D/ST in 2016. Prior to the start of the season, they were the sixth drafted defense with an ADP of 141.0.
2015: The Seahawks and their Legion of Boom were the first defensive team picked with an ADP of 100.28. In the 2015 season, the defense averaged more points per week, but actually ended the year ranked fifth.
Players selected around the 2015 Seahawks were: Devonta Freeman (RB1), Larry Fitzgerald (WR7), Eric Decker (WR13), Chris Ivory (RB11).
The 2015 Broncos ended the year as the top-ranked defense. They were the eighth drafted defense with an ADP of 156.6.
So why should you not draft a defense until the second to last round? Let me summarize:
- Defenses have more volatility than other positions. What you see one year is not always what you will get the next.
- Instead of picking a defense early, take your chances on a number of flyers. Sure – half (or more) of these picks may not pan out, but this is where you could find an added depth piece or even surprise breakout player. These are the type of picks that tip the scales in your favor over the course of the season. Picking the top rated defense doesn’t do that to the same degree. Look at the people who hit jackpots with Devonta Freeman, Michael Thomas, Adam Thielen, and James White in their respective years. Strong odds their team did better than the team drafting the highly touted defense.
- As we’ve seen in the cases of the Bears, Jaguars, Chiefs and Broncos, good defenses can be selected in the later rounds. See what is left for you in the second-to-last round.
- Not only can late round defenses perform, but defense is an easy position to stream week in and week out. You can find good plays each week on the waiver wire. A mediocre defense can be elite against a subpar offense. Look for the teams playing at home against an anemic offense.
Let’s look at the Bear’s estimated ADP this year. They are by far the best rated defense with an ADP of 101.55 (Chargers are next with 127.32). Alternative selections around the time of the Bears are Courtland Sutton, Golden Tate, Larry Fitzgerald, N’Keal Harry, Latavius Murray, and Ronald Jones.
Take your chances with flyers like the names above until it’s time for your second-to-last pick and then take the best defense available. After that, take a kicker in the last round.