Which DTs were most productive in 2010?

Other positions: QB | RB | WR | TE | DT

When doing a postmortem on any fantasy football season, I like to look at how a particular player performed on a per game basis adjusted for his strength of schedule (SOS). DTs are no different, except that they all played the same number of games. SOS will have an impact, but the per game aspect of it won’t make much of a difference.

Keep in mind that I used the following scoring system:

DT/ST TD = 6 points
Safety = 2 points
INT = 1 point
Fumble = 1 point
Sack = 1 point

Defensive Points Allowed
Shutout = 10
2 – 6 = 8
7 – 10 = 6
11 – 14 = 4
15 – 19 = 2
20+ = 0

Here’s a look at how the 32 DTs stack up against each other when SOS bias is removed:

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2010 Fantasy Football Preview: Defensive Team By Committee (DTBC)

All 2010 Fantasy Football Articles | 2010 Position Rankings

Very few defenses are elite year to year, and performance can be tough to predict. One way to approach the position is to form a committee of two (or more) defenses that have favorable combined schedules but are being drafted in much later rounds than the so-called elite defenses. The idea is that a mediocre defense with a great matchup will provide approximately the same production as a great defense with a mediocre or bad matchup.

Clayton Gray of Footballguys.com does an excellent job of compiling the strength of schedule data, and he even writes his own DTBC column (though he calls it ‘TDBC’). However, I like to go a step further and add the impact of home and away games, as middling defenses have a tendency to score more fantasy points at home.

Last year, my top recommended combination was Green Bay and Dallas, which turned out well as both teams turned out to have Top 10 fantasy defenses. While I would have been better off just running the Packers out there every week, the duo’s recommended schedule netted 135 points (under a high performance scoring system), which were DT5-type numbers. My alternate recommendation, GB/ARI, netted 142 points, so DTBC does work.

Here’s how I identify the top DTBC combinations:

1. Use FBG’s SOS for DT9-DT28 along with David Dodds’ defensive projections to produce a week-by-week estimate for each defense.
I eliminated NYJ, MIN, GB, PHI, BAL, PIT, DAL and SF from the study because all eight defenses are being drafted by the 12th round, which is just too early to start a DTBC. Please note that I don’t use Dodds’ fantasy point projections, just the projections for points allowed, sacks, interceptions, fumbles and touchdowns scored. So the point totals won’t look the same.

2. Apply home/away adjustment.
With relation to a team’s mean performance, I found that middling defenses (DT6-DT25) scored 2.8% higher at home in 2009 and 8.6% higher in 2008. I took the average (5.7%) and applied a bonus to home games and a handicap to away games. The more home games, the better.

3. Run the numbers for the resulting 190 possible combinations to find the best DTBCs.
I also calculated the playoff averages for Weeks 14-16 (and just Weeks 15 & 16 for a two-week playoff system) as a tiebreaker.

So now I’m armed with a list of 190 possibilities sorted by total projected points. But numbers aren’t enough. I want a real-world perspective on this list. So I enlist the help of our NFL guru, Anthony Stalter, to give his thoughts on the defenses in question. After some discussion, we narrow the list of the best candidates to eight teams: SD, NO, NYG, CIN, MIA, CHI, NE and IND. When picking our DTBC, we shouldn’t stray from these eight teams.

Here are Anthony’s rankings along with his thoughts on each defense:

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Defensive Team By Committee (DTBC) for the rest of the season

Back in August, I recommended a few DTBC combinations for fantasy owners to use throughout the season. My top recommendation was GB/DAL, who have combined to score 69 points through eight weeks (8.6 ppg). This combo started a bit slow, as Dallas posted a goose egg in Week 2, over the last three weeks, it has scored 44 combined points.

Still own these two defenses? You can still hold onto them, but Week 15 is looking a little rough as the Packers play in Pittsburgh and the Cowboys visit the Saints. Green Bay just isn’t putting much pressure on the QB, so Ben Roethlisberger may be able to sit back and pick apart the Packer secondary.

If don’t own a top tier defense (PHI, NO, MIN, BAL and PIT, now that they have Troy Polamalu back), you may want to consider acquiring two good but not great defenses that combine to have a favorable schedule down the stretch. Normally, it doesn’t make sense to carry two defenses, but now that most of the teams are past their byes, it’s not necessary to hold onto bye week fill-ins because you’re probably not going to need them.

There are eleven DTs that are owned in more than two-thirds of ESPN leagues making it somewhat unlikely that they’re available on your league’s waiver wire. This list includes the aforementioned six teams along with the Broncos, Packers, Giants, Jets, Bears and Colts. If you have one of these six, it might behoove you to grab a defense with a complementary schedule.

I’m targeting nine defenses — the Cardinals, Patriots, Texans, 49ers, Bengals, Cowboys, Falcons, Seahawks and the Dolphins — that either mesh well with the Broncos, Packers, Giants and Jets, or with each other. These defenses are all ranked in the top 22 and are available in at least a third of ESPN fantasy leagues. These are defenses that relatively healthy and have had success in good matchups. Here’s a look:

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2009 Fantasy Football Preview: DTs, DTBC

All 2009 Fantasy Articles | 2009 Position Rankings

Defenses are tough to predict year to year, so fantasy owners are generally better off using their middle round picks to build depth at the skill positions. An emerging strategy is to utilize a Defensive Team By Committee (DTBC) approach, which involves drafting two late-round defenses whose schedules combine well. The idea is to get top 5 or top 10 DT performance at a much cheaper price.

Last year, we provided three recommended DTBCs: 1) SEA/BUF, 2) BUF/NO and 3) BUF/GB.

Seahawks/Bills was our top recommendation, and while the combo didn’t set the world on fire, they performed well. Under a high performance scoring system, the duo combined for 132 fantasy points over the first 16 weeks, which outscored all but the top 6 defenses in 2008. However, when we account for the bye week fill in by adding the average points per game of DT13-DT32 (5.4 per game), DT7 (Minnesota) would have also outscored the Seahawks/Bills combination. Still, getting DT8 performance with two late round picks is nothing to sneeze at. The duo also performed well in Week 15 (9 points) and Week 16 (14 points), when it mattered most.

Our second recommendation (and also the Footballguys’ recommendation, one of the first sites – if not the first – to outline this approach) was the Bills/Saints. Unfortunately, this combo did not perform well, posting 112 points over 16 weeks, mostly due to the Saints’ struggles. The duo would have finished the season as DT15, which is pretty bad considering that the Bills alone finished DT17.

Our final recommendation – Packers/Bills – posted 144 points, which would have been good for DT5 in 2008. This duo didn’t perform particularly well in the playoffs, scoring just 10 points over the last three games, but on the whole, this was a terrific DTBC last year.

Looking ahead to this season, Footballguys recommends a Cardinals/Packers combo, and while it certainly looks like a good one, we have another that we’d recommend first. FBG factors for home/away advantage/disadvantage, but they only go so far. Two years ago, we looked at home/away as it relates to DTBC, and found that middling defenses (ranked #6-#25) scored at a 31% better clip when playing at home. In the 2008 season, that number fell to 7%. This is a much smaller impact, but still significant.

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Love ‘Em & Leave ‘Em: Week 4

Every week, I highlight a few players to start and a few players to sit at each position. I’m a firm believer in starting your studs, so I won’t tell you about how Drew Brees or LaDainian Tomlinson has a tough matchup – just go ahead and start them. I’ll focus on the borderline guys – players you’ll only start under the right circumstances. It’s important to note that depending on your roster and situation, you may not be able to follow these recommendations. For example, if I suggest you bench a solid starter like Ben Roethlisberger, only do so if you have a clearly better option on your bench.

LOVE ‘EM

QB: Trent Edwards (@ STL) has a great matchup with the Rams’ 30th-ranked pass defense. Edwards has been very steady in the first three games and is worth the start here unless you have a better alternative…Phllip Rivers (@ OAK) is playing well and should be in your lineup against a suspect Raiders defense…For the desperate, Damon Huard (vs. DEN) has a great matchup against a Broncos defense that has allowed 316 passing yards and 2.0 pass TD per game…Likewise, J.T. O’Sullivan (@ NO), JaMarcus Russell (vs. SD) and Brian Griese (vs. GB, who is without Al Harris) all have nice matchups this week, and are good fill ins for owners that need help at QB.

RB: He’s a no-brainer, but just in case you have several great backs, be sure to have Marshawn Lynch (@ STL) in your lineup this week…The same goes for Larry Johnson (vs. DEN) who showed some life last week against the Falcons; he has a nice matchup with the Broncos…Chris Perry (vs. CLE), Selvin Young (@ KC), Steve Slaton (@ JAX) and Maurice Jones-Drew (vs. HOU) also have good matchups this week.

WR: Lee Evans (@ STL) is a nice start this week against a bad Rams secondary…Dwayne Bowe (vs. DEN) and DeSean Jackson (@ CHI) each have nice matchups against secondaries that were torched last week. Bowe is an every week starter and Jackson is getting there…Vincent Jackson and Chris Chambers (@ OAK), go up against an Oakland pass defense which is talented, but just hasn’t been able to put it together thus far…Isaac Bruce and Bryant Johnson (@ NO) are sneaky good starts against a Saints defense that has struggled against the pass (259 yards, 1.3 pass TD allowed)…The Tampa Bay receivers (Antonio Bryant, Ike Hilliard) are also crafty starts against a Packers defense that is without its cornerstone cornerback, Al Harris.

LEAVE ‘EM

QB: Joe Flacco (@ PIT) shouldn’t sniff your starting lineup, not when he faces a tough Steelers defense this week…Kyle Orton (vs. PHI) faces an Eagles defense that is blitzing the hell out of their opponents…Gus Frerotte (@ TEN) has to try to find passing lanes in a Titans defense that has held opponents to an average of 151 passing yards and 0.3 pass TD per game this season…If you have a good alternative (i.e. Edwards, Rivers, Rodgers, etc.), it’s not a bad idea to bench Ben Roethlisberger (vs. BAL) who has a very unattractive matchup against the Ravens, who have allowed an average of just 92 yards passing and 0.3 pass TD on the season.

RB: Willis McGahee (@ PIT) had a pretty good Week 3, but he has a bad matchup against a Pittsburgh defense that has yielded just 64 yards and 0.3 TD on the ground this season…Likewise, Rashard Mendenhall (vs. BAL) gets his first start against one of the best defenses in the league…I wouldn’t expect much out of LenDale White (vs. MIN) who makes a living between the tackles. The Vikings have two of the best tackles in the game, so Chris Johnson is the better bet to score some fantasy points in the passing game and/or on the edge.

WR: Brandon Lloyd (vs. PHI) has had a nice couple of weeks, but expect him to return to Earth against an Eagles defense that is playing well…Bernard Berrian (@ TEN) is unlikely to breakout against the Titans’ suffocating pass defense…Lower your expectations for Santonio Holmes and Hines Ward (vs. BAL), who are still startable, but not attractive options at WR against a very good Ravens defense.

DTBWW

Welcome to the world of Defensive Team By Waiver Wire. Each week, you pick up a defense usually playing at home against a bad offense, and each week, you get pretty good numbers out of your DT position. All teams are available in at least 50% of ESPN fantasy leagues.

Here are this week’s picks:

Saints (vs. SF)
Bengals (vs. CLE)

Last week’s picks:

Falcons: 14 PA + 2 sacks + 3 INTs + 1 INT return TD = 15 fantasy points
49ers: 13 PA + 4 sacks + 2 INT = 10 fantasy points

ONE FINAL NOTE

If you’re disappointed with your kicker, pick up Matt Prater (DEN) or John Carney (NYG). Prater plays for the Broncos, who have one of the best offenses in the league. It looks like they’ll be in a ton of shootouts this season, so expect Prater to score plenty of points. Likewise, Carney is a good option (though not quite as good as Prater), as the Giants regularly put up a lot of points.

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