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|
|Green Bay Packers||10.01||126/17th|
|New York Giants||11.06||141/11th|
|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|
|New York Jets||5th||8.02|
|Green Bay Packers||6th||7.01|
|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|
|San Francisco 49ers||9.08|
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.