Dreaming of Streaming: The Fallacy of Elite Defenses August 19, 2013  |  C.D. Carter

I’d like to remind you that burning a mid-round draft pick on a defense is a mortal sin in fantasy football, indefensible on every level and punishable by four months of Sunday afternoon misery.

The reaction to my early-bird special outlining Week 1’s best streaming defense plays included quite a bit of the following: I want a solid defense that I can depend on week in and week out, and if I have to reach into the seventh or eighth round for that comfort, so be it.

This, of course, caused me considerable teeth gnashing, night terrors, and persistent indigestion.

It’s important, as we inch closer to our respective draft day apocalypses, to recall a vitally important statistic. Fantasy defenses have an average year-to-year correlation of 35 percent, meaning that 65 percent of those annual fantasy points will regress toward the mean.

That 35-percent correlation is by far the lowest of all fantasy positions, and it’s verse one of chapter one of the Defensive Streamers Bible.

See below if you don’t believe me.

Team Defense Average Draft Position 2012 Points/Rank
San Francisco 49ers 6.09 157/7th
Baltimore Ravens 8.08 133/14th
Houston Texans 9.02 150/8th
Pittsburgh Steelers 9.09 110/23rd
Green Bay Packers 10.01 126/17th
Philadelphia Eagles 10.02 59/30th
Chicago Bears 10.03 223/1st
New York Giants 11.06 141/11th
Detroit Lions 11.08 67/29th
Seattle Seahawks 12.03 182/3rd
New York Jets 12.04 121/20th
New England Patriots 12.08 185/2nd

Probably you were pretty smitten when you snagged the Steelers’ defense in last year’s ninth round, and if you plugged and played them every week, you hemorrhaged fantasy points unlike almost any team in your league.

There had to be a reason for fantasy owners to flock to the 49ers’ vaunted defense, right? Was it some complex algorithm that would make a Google programmer blush? Was it insight from a longtime NFL scout who said the San Francisco defense was the greatest single unit he had seen in his quarter century in the business?

Weirdly enough, it was neither. Tens of thousands of fantasy ballers threw away their sixth round pick because the 49ers, as you may have guessed, were fantasy’s No. 1 defense in 2011.

No. 1 last year must mean No. 1 this year, right? No thinking necessary.

Here’s the rundown of 2011’s highest scoring defenses. You might just see some correlation with the table above.

Team Defense 2011 Rank Average Draft Position
San Francisco 49ers 1st 12.08
Chicago Bears 2nd 10.02
Baltimore Ravens 3rd 8.09
Detroit Lions 4th 11.03
New York Jets 5th 8.02
Green Bay Packers 6th 7.01
Seattle Seahawks 7th 17.03
Houston Texans 8th 12.08
Philadelphia Eagles 9th 8.05
New England Patriots 10th 8.09


There’s a reason for the massive volatility among fantasy defenses. These units rely on predictably unpredictable events like defensive touchdowns, interceptions, fumble recoveries, and to a less extent, sacks.

Rushing yards, passing yards, and receiving yards are practically easy to project in comparison. There’s also no scarcity of weekly defensive options, unless you’re in a 16-team league with huge rosters. I’d still lean toward streaming in that format.

Beyond the three team defenses I suggested for Week 1, there are at least three others – the Texans, Rams, Cardinals, and Steelers – that could prove valuable late-round Week 1 plays. This isn’t isolated to Week 1 either. We see this every single solitary week of the NFL year, even during bye-weeks.

Here are the five most over-drafted defenses of 2013. Please avoid them and do your happy dance when your league mates fall for this horrendous trap.

They know not what they wrought on their fake squad.

Team Defense 2013 Average Draft Position
Seattle Seahawks 9.01
San Francisco 49ers 9.08
Denver Broncos 11.03
Chicago Bears 11.04
Houston Texans 11.06


Stop throwing away your mid-round picks on the Seahawks, Bears, and 49ers, and draft your defense based entirely on their Week 1 match-up. You’ll avoid the mortal fantasy sin, and football season damnation altogether.


10 Responses

  1. Bobby says:

    John, if every other team already drafted/kept their defense, why wouldn’t you wait until your last pick to select your defense?

    You lost a ton of value by panicking to pick the 16th-best defense in a 16-team league with your 2nd (14th) round pick.

  2. Eric Belair says:

    COLTS COLTS and more COLTS week one vs Oakland, please!

  3. Graham says:

    Haha, I took Seattle in 9th rd of last nights readers league draft. And I posted ‘homer pick’ when i did it too.

  4. Norman says:

    I had a 12 Team PPR draft last night, I drafted 3rd in a snake draft. We start QB, 2 WR, 2 RB, 2 Flex, 1 TE,1 D, 1 K. Here’s my team:
    QB: Russel Wilson
    WR: AJ Green, Antonio Brown, Torrey Smith, Rueben Randle, Cordarrelle Patterson, DHB
    RB: CJ Spiller, Reggie Bush, Mark Ingram, Bernard Pierce, Roy Helu
    TE: Greg Olsen, Tyler Eifert
    D: NE
    K: Blair Walsh

  5. John says:

    15 DEF were already taken or kept before my 2.16 (last pick of Rd 2)

  6. John says:

    Every situation is different,…. my draft is over.

    Tel me if I did the right thing at 2.16 selecting a DEF?

    16 man PPR dynasty league (we keep 12 players) 18 roster spots + 1-IR
    1-QB, 2-RB, 1-RB/WR, 2-WR, 1-WR/TE, 1-TE, 1-DEF, 1-K
    13 Def were kept on rosters
    1 was drafted at 2.15 (SF)

    I didn’t keep a Def but drafted CIN D with 2.16
    (I drafted 2.16 just before Harvin & Maclin went down).

    This is my roster:
    Ryan Tannehill MIA QB (traded for)
    Jake Locker, Ten QB (kepper)

    Jamaal Charles, KC RB (kepper)
    Darren Sproles, NO RB (kepper)
    Shane Vereen, NE RB (kepper)
    Isaiah Pead, STL RB (kepper)
    Christine Michael, Sea RB (drafted 2.2)

    Calvin Johnson, Det WR (kepper)
    Percy Harvin, SEA WR (kepper)
    Jeremy Maclin, Phi WR – IR (kepper)
    Josh Gordon, CLE WR (kepper)
    Rod Streater, Oak WR (drafted)
    Brian Quick, STL WR (kepper)
    Jon Baldwin, KC WR (drafted)

    Jimmy Graham, NO TE (kepper)
    Ladarius Green, SD TE Just dropped Keller (kepper)
    David Ausberry, Oak TE (FA)

    Bengals D/ST D/ST (drafted)

    David Akers, Det K (drafted)

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