If I offered to sell you one of three defense sleepers or your money back, how much would you pay?
Don’t get testy; I’m going to provide you with three defense sleepers for free. But work with me momentarily please. Assume I guaranteed you that the defense sleepers finished as D/ST1? How much would you pay for that? One dollar? 10 dollars? What if you had deep pockets, play in a high stakes league, play in an alternative league that has very high defensive scoring or you needed two defensive squads? Maybe you would pay a little more.
But the point is most of us will either grab one of the consensus Top 2 defenses a little early or will just take whomever is left from a similar set of rankings when it is our turn with our last or second to last pick. We’ll simply take the ninth or 10th choice because defenses are so close and move on, right?
You know how FREAKING STUPID THAT IS?!?!?!
Stop and think about it. Your defense is typically 1/10th of your roster and likewise accounts for about 10% of a team’s weekly scoring. Of course, if your defense gives you negative points, it is technically less. Yet that makes it even more important. You would not decide in advance to take the one letter grade penalty for a late term paper, would you? So why do that with your defense?
Since you’re going to trust me, let’s be clear about a few things.
First off, let’s agree that any team in the top half of the rankings is not eligible to be one of my defense sleepers. Therefore, that leaves us with the following taken from our friends at FantasyPros: ATL, GB, BUF, TB, CIN, IND, MIA, DAL, DET, WASH, TENN, SF, NYJ, CHI, NO, and CLE.
Secondly, I’ll bet any amount that New Orleans and Cleveland are not the bottom two defenses this year. For the record, I think both of those units will surprise and will top at least one unit currently being drafted in every draft. But will they climb into the top dozen? That’s not a bet I’m willing to make.
Third, allow me to outline my methodology…
For starters, hopefully you know that defensive touchdowns can fluctuate wildly from one year to the next. Defenses typically tend to regress towards the mean, both positively and negatively. It doesn’t happen all the time, but it happens more often than not. Five defenses failed to score a TD off of a PR, KR, INT or FR last year during the regular season: Buffalo, Cincy, Dallas, New England and Pittsburgh. Something tells me you will see a lot more defensive teams from that group this year.
On the flip side of that, sacks are actually pretty consistent. Obviously teams rise and fall within the rankings from year to year, but unlike defensive touchdowns, you are not going to see the Top 5 sack squads suddenly in the bottom half and the bottom five sack squads suddenly in the top half. You can trust me or do your own research. Either way, you’re going to come to a similar conclusion and five teams currently in the bottom half of our rankings that were above the league average in sacks include TENN, BUF, Pitt, TB, and Wash.
Low in Tackles?
Next, this might seem counterintuitive when looking for a good defensive squad, but when I am looking for defense sleepers I want teams that were low in tackles. First off, even if a team is scored upon, it means they usually get an opportunity for a kick return.
But more importantly, the more tackles means a higher preponderance of offensive plays run against them. A greater number of plays means a lot more sustained drives, meaning both a) defensive inability to get the offense off the field and b) the defense is on the field for more plays and more likely to be fatigued. A fatigued defense could lead to even more offensive success and likely resulting in negative points. Disagree? Last year Miami and SF had the most tackles at 1,143 followed by the Giants and Bills. I don’t remember seeing those defenses on many Fantasy championship teams. JAX, OAK, PHI, GB, and TENN were some of the teams who had far less tackles last year.
Finally, I like to look at other “softer” metrics. For example, did the team upgrade the defense during the offseason? Is their schedule easier? Do they play more games in nasty conditions? Is the coach a defensive minded coach?
3 Defense Sleepers
Let’s start near the top of the potential sleeper rankings:
Green Bay Packers
Is it me, or does the Green Bay defense have that “sure, why not” feeling every year? You know there are better options, but you also know you could do worse. If you do end up with the Green Bay defense on your team, there are a few reasons to feel good about it. Are you one of those whom pray at the Late Season Strength of Schedule alter? If so, you should know that Green Bay does not face a single top dozen offense from last year starting in Week 13, highlighted by the Browns in Week 14.
I also like them because of the aforementioned ranking in tackles last year. Plus, I also think the signing of DL Ricky Jean-Francois might be a key under-the-radar signing that makes up for the loss of Sam Shields and Julius Peppers. But if you’re planning to stream come the Fantasy playoffs, I have a better option for you…
Buffalo plays New England in Week 16. However, I would not be surprised if coming into that matchup they are one of the top dozen defenses. For one, two matchups against the poor excuse for an offense that is the Jets will help greatly. Yet one of the things I like greatly about the Bills is that they check both sides of the yearly comparisons in that they were both better than league average in sacks but are also likely to see an uptick in D/ST touchdowns this year as well. Buffalo is also not the most inviting place for a visiting offense to play late in the season. However, there is one sleeper defense I like that plays in a warmer part of the country…
The Titans are a sexy pick for a sleeper team but most of that is because of the offense. However, the Titans defense might be one of my favorite defense sleepers. Let’s begin with the fact that as one of the six options, you can easily grab them after your draft if you prefer. But they also were one of the aforementioned teams that were low in tackles. Even more attractive is that they had one of the highest sack totals last year. They introduced a quarterback holding the ball to the turf 40 times last year. But in addition to an already strong front, they bolstered the secondary by signing Logan Ryan and drafting Adoree’ Jackson in the first round.
The 27th ranked unit might be a little deep for a D/ST Sleeper for some, but I’ll bet you whatever you were willing to pay for the guaranteed sleeper that they will finish far better than 27th.
|2017 Fantasy Football Draft Kit|
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Looking for a few other sleepers? Check out Fantasy Pros DraftWizard.
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