2010 fantasy football positional drafting strategy: Team defense

Had my first experience the other day watching the television show Dog Whisperer. Realized fairly quickly that the show was less about rehabilitating dogs and more addressing the idiosyncracies of their owners.

I felt a little misdirected.

And I realized that many people misdirect their attentions when it comes to fantasy defenses on draft day. They overcomplicate things and lose site of what it takes to successfully draft a fantasy defense. Here is my personal strategy for the position.

First things first, let’s clear some things up. First, we all know that there are a handful of team defenses that seem to be solid year in and year out. They are the ones with easy-to-recognize players that always find ways to rally the troops to impressive performance after impressive performance.

Ed Reed of the Ravens is like that. So is Troy Polamalu of the Steelers. Darrelle Revis headlines a star-studded Jets defense (and yes, he’ll play this year. One of the sides will crumble).

The problem is that these name-brand players elevate their respective teams to near un-draftable status in fantasy leagues.

And by undraftable, I’m suggesting they’ll be chosen before the next-to-last round of your respective drafts. Notice I didn’t suggest the last round … that is reserved for your fantasy kicker.

But how can one so confidently wait on a defense while squads such as the Jets, Packers, Ravens and Steelers are swiped off the board?

Because the key to success with a fantasy defensive unit is not necessarily the star players or lack thereof. Check out a slew of various fantasy football rankings for team defenses. You’ll be amazed at how much difference you’ll find from list to list.

Every year, I stick to my guns on fantasy defenses, waiting until the waning rounds to pick a solid value squad and reaping the benefits of a more quality bench at RB and WR.

So which defensive units am I targeting this year? There are several that will pay great dividends out of a late draft slot. They include:

San Francisco. The Niners showed great improvements last season defensively under defensive-minded head coach Mike Singletary. They continued to tweak their defenses this offseason. Most importantly, they have a pretty easy schedule throughout most of the regular season, playing Seattle the opening weekend and having savory matchups against Kansas City in Week 3, Oakland Week 6, Denver Week 8, Rams Week 10, Buccanneers Week 11, Arizona Week 12, Seattle Week 14 and a very juicy fantasy championship matchup against the Rams. Problem is that the Niners could be taken before the next-to-last round in some drafts based on their performance last year.

San Diego. Here is the team defense that has me most excited this summer. Sure the Chargers lost Cromartie to the Jets. They weren’t as impressive last year as one would like. Both factors will ensure that the Chargers fall to the next-to-last round in most fantasy drafts. But the Chargers still have plenty of playmakers and have, as far as I’m concerned, the best schedule possible this season for a fantasy defense. They play the Broncos, Raiders and Chiefs each twice. San Diego will also fare well against the Jaguars’ one-trick pony, a Seattle program in flux, a Cardinals offense piloted by Leinart, the Rams and their rookie QB, among others. There are only a handful of games during the regular season that could cause the Chargers fits on defense.

Cincinnati. Another team a la the Niners that showed marked improvement last season on the defensive side was the Bengals. In fact, they were under-the-radar most of the season despite shutting down some high-powered offenses. This year, they don’t have the cakewalk schedule that either the Niners or Chargers do, but the Bengals do have a few juicy matchups that make them worth a late-round flier when all of the namebrand defensive units are off the board.

Chicago. If the Bears weren’t so successful in previous seasons, I’d have them higher on this list. However, they’ll likely be picked earlier than I am willing to pull the trigger. They open against Detroit and the defense should see benefits from a higher-octane Bears offense this season. More exciting for me, though, is that Brian Urlacher should be healthy and the squad brought in aging, yet fiercly passionate Julius Peppers.

Miami. My best attempt at a sleeper defense, the Dolphins will also benefit from an improved and more balanced offense, keeping the defense fresher and more keen to make big plays. The Dolphins also open against the Bills, meaning they should jump up the fantasy football spectrum of consciousness really quickly. The best part about the Dolphins, in my opinion, is the matchups they’ll have during most league’s fantasy playoffs … the Bills and Lions. For that reason alone, they should probably be rostered in all formats if you have room to spare.

Check back as I continue to post position-by-position strategies for draft day success. Completed so far: kickers.

How do you attack team defenses on draft day?

9 Responses to “2010 fantasy football positional drafting strategy: Team defense”


  1. Guest

    surprised, no mention of Minnesotas defense.

  2. Andrew

    I found your blog while searching for a draft strategy for a late pick (10th in a 14 teamer). Anybody out there have some sage advice for an approach to this apparent misfortune?

    I’ve conceded the fact that elite RBs will be gone…So I was thinking of trying for an elite QB and then a second tier RB with pick 2…this will probably give me a very weak WR corps…

    Any thoughts?

    Thanks

    Andrew

  3. ep

    @Guest:
    jzak was pointing out value defenses. Typically, the Vikings, Packers and Jets go far too early to be considered value.

  4. ep

    @Andrew: Picking 10th is no misfortune. Every slot offers plenty of value.
    The most important thing for you is to pick an elite receiver unless your draft took an unusual turn somewhere.

    Late in a 14-team round one the best players should be receivers and maybe QBs.

    In our 12-team mock draft — updates on the main site and ongoing in the fantasy draft strategies topic in the fantasy football section of our forums — I picked Miles Austin (my No. 1 receiver) with a late first round pick and Aaron Rodgers was still available in the second.

    Your mileage may vary, but it’s important not to zone in on running backs. Don’t settle for a marginal RBBC back in the second round. There are plenty of backs sharing carries in 2010 and you can get them a round or two later.

    Superstar WRs should be picked before you dive into the second tier of running backs.

  5. jzak

    @Guest: As ep stated, I am not one to target the Vikings defense because they never seem to fall to the last two rounds of a draft. If they do, than by all means, scoop them up. Two games against the Lions alone is something worth exploiting.

  6. jzak

    @Andrew: Andrew … Welcome to Chinstrapninjas.com. Hope you get a lot out of our site.

    Like ep said, the 10th pick in the draft is nothing to worry about. In the same mock ep mentioned, I had the 12th pick and was very happy to take Rashard Mendenhall, who is gaining more and more steam this offseason. There will be plenty of talent in the second round, too. Take some time to check out our rankings at each position and tackle the draft with an open mind. Like ep said, if you really want an elite QB, there should be one around at your second-round pick. If you don’t get an elite QB, it isn’t reason to panic … there are some great value QBs that are worth consideration later in the draft.

    What sort of scoring system do you have … this could dictate some of the flow of your draft (like if QB stats are heavily favored, than QBs may go earlier than the norm).

    Let us know and we’ll do what we can to help out.

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