Daily Fantasy Football Defense Strategy: 6 Simple Tips For Drafting Defensive Players

Daily Fantasy Football Defense Strategy: 6 Simple Tips For Drafting Defensive Players

In daily fantasy football, quarterbacks get most of the glory. Running backs and wide receivers also get their fair share of attention. And let’s not forget the tight ends. A solid TE who’s having a great night can add 15 points or more to your score.

But what about defense? You don’t hear much about defensive players from daily fantasy football fans. To paraphrase the late comic Rodney Dangerfield, defense gets no respect.

That spells opportunity for you. While your competition all but ignores the position, you can fill the Defense/Special Team slot with a team that delivers reliable points. You might be surprised at the number of points you can rack up through sacks, interceptions, safeties, and defensive TDs.

So let’s set aside the silly notion that defense doesn’t matter. I’m going to give you 6 simple tips you can use to find a solid team for your lineup’s D/ST slot. Remember, in daily fantasy NFL contests, every edge counts.

#1 – Get Familiar With Defensive Scoring Systems

We’ll talk about some of the metrics you need to focus on in order to pick a good Defense/Special Team in a moment. To make the best use of those metrics, you need to be familiar with the scoring system used at your favorite daily fantasy sports site.

The good news is that the two most popular DFS sites – DraftKings and FanDuel – use the same system. There are no differences between them. A sack is worth 1 point at both sites. An interception TD is worth 6 points at both sites.

Here’s the complete defensive scoring system used at DraftKings and FanDuel:

Sack = +1 point
Interception = +2 points
Fumble Recovery = +2 points
Kickoff Return TD = +6 points
Punt Return TD = +6 points
Interception Return TD = +6 points
Fumble Recovery TD = +6 points
Blocked Punt or FG Return TD = +6 points
Safety = +2 points
Blocked Kick = +2 points
0 Points Allowed = +10 points
1-6 Points Allowed = +7 points
7-13 Points Allowed = +4 points
14-20 Points Allowed = +1 point
21-27 Points Allowed = 0 points
28-34 Points Allowed = -1 point
35+ Points Allowed = -4 points

Familiarize yourself with how points are scored by defensive units. That will give you the insight you need to fully leverage a defense’s strengths.

#2 – Analyze The “Points Allowed” Metric

The “points allowed” figure is a useful measurement of how effective a defensive team is. Its usefulness stems from its accuracy and the fact that it’s easy to understand. The more points a defensive unit allows, the less confidence you should have in it.

Is the “points allowed” statistic the best metric to use in fantasy football defense? Not necessarily. Other stats, such as the average length of possession and the number of fourth downs per game, are just as useful. In fact, they’re more useful when used together. But points allowed is accurate, simple, and easy to find.

#3 – Focus On Fumbles And Interceptions

A fumble can change the course and momentum of a game. More importantly, if your defense picks it up, you’ll get a couple of points added to your roster’s score. A fumble made by the opposing team that’s snatched up by your defensive players will earn you 2 points. If they run it for a TD, you’ll earn 6 points total.

It’s worth noting that using fumbles in daily fantasy football is tricky. They can occur for a number of reasons, not all of which have anything to do with your defensive players. For example, rain typically increases the number of fumbles in a game. Even the recovery of a fumble can be due to luck as much as anything else.

For that reason, concentrate on forced fumbles. It’s a much better gauge of a defensive player’s skill. Someone who has a track record of knocking the ball out of his opposition’s hands – linebackers Robert Mathis and Alec Ogletree are good examples – can be a valuable addition to your lineup.

Interceptions offer another useful metric. If a player on your defense picks off a pass, you’ll receive a quick 2 points. If he manages to get the ball into the end zone, you’ll receive an additional 4 points (6 points total).

Interceptions don’t occur very often. Those that are returned for TDs are even rarer. That being the case, their value as a metric is somewhat limited. One of the best ways to use it is to draft a defensive unit that’s scheduled to play against a QB who has a high interception rate. A defense with a strong record for intercepting passes should have multiple opportunities to exploit.

#4 – Choose A Sack Leader Against A Weak QB

You only receive 1 point for each sack your defense makes. But don’t dismiss this metric.

  • First, sacks occur in almost every game. That means you’ll have a chance to squeeze a few more points from your roster.
  • Second, a QB who gets sacked a few times is likely to get sloppy. He’ll look for opportunities to pass the ball – even if he can’t find an opening – just to avoid getting sacked again. That increases the odds of a fumble or interception.

Look for defensive players who racked up an impressive number of sacks during the previous season. In 2013, the field was led by Robert Mathis (Indiana), Robert Quinn (St. Louis) and Greg Hardy (Carolina).

Once you find a few suitable candidates, take a look at the QBs they’ll be facing during the week. Try to identify QBs who are sack magnets, like Ryan Tannehill (Miami), Terrelle Pryor (Seattle) or Christian Ponder (Minnesota).

Note that a quarterback’s sack percentage is influenced by numerous factors. For example, he might be overly-cautious to the point of never attempting a pass. Or his blockers might do a poor job of keeping the opposing team’s defensive line at bay. Or his wide receivers might stink. The point is that it pays to look beyond the obvious when targeting “weak” QBs to match against your defense.

#5 – Draft A Defensive Unit That Can Score TDs

Defensive touchdowns are where your defense can earn the big points. Take a look at the scoring system outlined in #1 (above). Notice that a TD will earn you 6 points regardless of whether it happens as a result of a recovered fumble, returned interception, kickoff, punt or field goal.

Defensive teams that have logged a high number of TDs from fumbles, interceptions, and the like can give your score a much-needed boost. Check out last season’s stats for the Chiefs, Bears, Bengals and Cowboys. All of them posted impressive numbers.

Admittedly, the number of fumble and interception TDs earned during a season is low. But if your defense manages to gain possession of the ball and run it into the end zone, the points they earn will come in handy. They could make the difference between cashing and busting.

#6 – Look For Value

One of the notable differences between DraftKings and FanDuel when it comes to NFL defense is the salary range. At DraftKings, the salaries in this category range from $4,000 all the way down to $1,500. At FanDuel, a much smaller chasm separates the highest and lowest salaries. At the time of writing, the top-ranked San Francisco 49ers cost $5,600 while the bottom-ranked Jacksonville Jaguars cost $4,500.

How should that influence your choice of defensive unit? Consider this:

At FanDuel, you’re not going to save much money by drafting a second-rate team. Only $1,100 separates the top and bottom of the list. So you might as well spend a few extra dollars and draft a great defense.

By contrast, you can save a ton of cash at Draftkings by picking up a second-tier defensive unit. The top and bottom salaries are separated by $2,500. That’s significant given that the highest salary is only $4,000.

It’s worth looking for a good value.

The most important thing to remember is that your defense matters. It can play a key role in whether you win the daily fantasy football contests you enter. Use the 6 tips outlined above to draft a productive defense that will contribute its share of points.