Every year I hear the argument that defenses in fantasy football are all but irrelevant. “If I could only draft that sixth running back instead of a team defense.” Keep in mind it doesn’t matter if the defense wins the game or not only if they score fantasy points. Having a plan for your defense in a standard fantasy league may not automatically crown you the champion, but not having a plan can lose it for you.
There are two main attitudes when it comes to defense. The first one is to outsmart everyone else in your league and draft a stud defense early. If you took that approach last year let’s see how you did. The top six defensive teams from 2015 were Arizona, Kansas City, Denver, Carolina, Seattle, and Houston. Three of those teams were still top six performers in 2016. The other three wound up ranked eighth, 12th, and 18th. Looks like you got a fifty/fifty shot at picking a winner.
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If those odds aren’t good enough for you to draft a defense early, another popular way to fill that slot is by streaming your defense. There is more to that than just picking up a different one each week. You are looking for a defense that has the opportunity to score fantasy points. That could mean playing against a sub-par offense or playing against a pass heavy offense. Streaming works best if you pay attention to these types of matchups. Three simple questions to ask. Who is playing? Do they like to throw it or run it? Is it a divisional opponent?
Let’s look at week 9 from last year and pick two likely streaming candidates—The Oakland Raiders who finished 17th for the year and the Tennessee Titans who finished 23rd. The Raiders were at home against Broncos and the Titans were on the road against the Chargers. On the outside, the Raiders would seem the better choice. They are playing a struggling offense, at home. However, the Broncos play the Raiders twice a year. These teams know each other. Oakland’s defense scored a single fantasy point. That’s correct, one point.
Down south in San Diego the Titans defense was scoring 14 points on the Chargers in a shootout. The weeks highest fantasy score. Tennessee lost the game 43 to 35 but was a far superior choice because of opportunity. The Chargers threw the ball 43 times and turned it over three times which led to two defensive touchdowns. Defenses might not win championships in fantasy football, but defensive touchdowns do.