Primer on Choosing Defenses in MFL10’s

By Tod Burros
Tod Burros Primer on Choosing Defenses in MFL10’s A couple of years ago there was a TV show called Everybody Hates Chris. Growing up it is so easy to feel out of the loop, and that everyone hates you. In picking Defenses MFL10 leagues this is not an illusion. Most I have spoken with hate Defenses and I think if you did a poll more than half of the players would vote to have them removed from the format. I on the other hand enjoy Defenses for MFL10’s and in my two years playing have been have come up with some really good choices that have given me great performances. Defenses are like vegetables they might not be my favorite thing but I know I need them so why not put some thought into which ones I choose. So I think it is worthwhile to examine the position and make the most of it.

Rule #1 of picking Defenses in ANY Fantasy Football Format

I think most who take time to read articles on this online already get this but for those who don’t I will mention that the most important thing to know about defenses is that rarely do the best Defenses repeat and in most experts opinions and I agree completely taking a Defense early is a big mistake because of year to year volatility and the opportunity cost you lose by not drafting positional players in rounds 12-15.

To that point take a look at the chart of the top 16 Defenses in 2016 and how they did the year before in 2015

Team 2016 rank 2015 rank 2016 PPG
Chiefs 1 4 11.9
Vikings 2 8 10.5
Broncos 3 2 9.9
Eagles 4 11 9.5
Giants 5 15 9.2
Panthers 6 3 9.2
Ravens 7 21 9.1
Patriots 8 10 9.0
Cardinals 9 1 8.9
Chargers 10 29 8.7
Bucs 11 20 8.2
Dolphins 12 27 8.1
Falcons 13 18 8.1
Seahawks 14 5 7.9
Cowboys 15 25 7.7
Bills 16 19 7.6

While there are some top D’s that repeated there were plenty that did not. If you drafted the #1 Defense from the year before the Cardinals you would have gotten the 9th best Defense. More importantly however if you had drafted the 21rst Defense in the Ravens 4-6 rounds later you would have had the 7th best Defense. So picking Defenses early is in most cases a big mistake.

Why so much volatility and is there anything we can do about it.

So what drives this volatility? I think most savvy fantasy football drafters understand the how but maybe not the why.

While some defenses score consistently week to week it is big weeks that drive top 6 finishes in fantasy scoring.

In looking at the number of 20 point defensive weeks in MFL10’s in 2016 and 2015 I found the following

Top 6 20 pt. gm Total 20 pt. gm Percent 
2016 10 18 56%
2015 14 26 54%

As you can see the top 6 scoring Defenses scored 20 points in both years an almost identical percentage at 55%. So while 55% of 20 point games are found in top 6 teams top 6 teams make up only 18.75% of all teams.

It is these big weeks that both drive the rise to the top and help us achieve success in fantasy football bestball leagues where the goal is to put up big weeks at all positions each week.

While we have already spoken about how hard it is to predict top Defenses and all the more hard to pick big weeks there are a couple things we can look at to help us to find big weeks which are driven by TD’s.

1-Winning Teams: Over the last two seasons the top 6 teams averaged over 10 wins a season. Winning teams are in much better position late in games to get Interceptions as the losing teams pass frantically to try and catch up.
2-Defensive players known for Interceptions that might be returned for TD. This is a little harder to guess but we can look at players who have a history of Interceptions especially if they move to new teams.
3-Return men who are more likely to get multiple return TD’s. Tyreek Hill is a perfect example as his 3 return TD’s made up 10 percent of ALL of the Chiefs Defensive points in 2016 driving them to the #1 spot
So looking at these factors can help us to narrow our choices of what teams might end up on the right side of volatility when drafting in MFL10’s

Two Defenses or Three in MFL10’s

Over the last few years on average 3 Defenses have been on the most winning fantasy football MFL teams but by an average of less than 1%. So there is an advantage of 3 Defenses albeit slight. But I believe in using the rules above having that extra D that can give us a 20 point week is strategically sounder than taking a dart throw at another position in the 19th or 20th round of MFL10’s. However numbers don’t lie so if you take only two defenses I don’t think that is wrong especially if you feel you have weakness at a position where you would take your third defense

One other thought to consider. If you are doing MFL10’s before the NFL draft I advise 2 Defenses more often because of how much uncertainty there at the other key positions.
>Other key identifiers when looking to choose a Defense Besides what I have already mentioned there are a couple other key things I look at when trying to find Defenses that might be better this year than the year before. I think rightly identifying these opportunities is very important in finding the right defenses cheaply allowing us to draft Defenses late.
1-Key Player movement: Whether it is through the draft or free agency we should be up to date on moves in talent. Joey Bosa really helped turn around the Chargers pass rush. So rookies can make a difference. The Giants move to the top of the defensive scoring coincided with them signing 3 big defensive players in free agency
2-Coordinator or HC change the first two year: If Bill Belichick went to a team wouldn’t you expect that team to improve? While no one is Bill Belichick there are some other very talented people who do to the nature of the NFL are moving into new situations but have a history of success wherever they go. Two years ago I was drafting Broncos because of Wade Phillips in Denver. This year he has moved to a team that has talent but underperformed last year in the Rams. Wade Phillips D’s don’t under perform. This is a great opportunity this year and if it doesn’t work out this year for certain I think in year 2 we will see a big jump. Last year my #1 exposure to Defense was the Falcons. They were cheap and I felt year #2 with some more weapons and with HC Dan Quinn bringing over the Seattle scheme the Falcons were a no brainer 20th rd D in MFL10’s. Mike Zimmer is another recent example of. Besides Wade Phillips in Los Angeles I will mention Jim Schwartz in Philadelphia yr. 2 and Gus Bradley and Greg Williams going to the Chargers and Browns as interesting opportunities as well. Remember it might take 2 years but these folks have some proven successes as coordinators
3-Young teams with talent ready to improve: The Jaguars were the trendy team to look for last year but it didn’t materialize. The Raiders as well. Both disappointed but both teams have loads of top young talent and should be on our radars. Don’t be discouraged that it didn’t happen the first year. The players that led us to be high on improvement are still there and it can take 2 years sometimes for the move to materialize.

When to take Defenses in MFL10’s

So we have established that you don’t need to take a Defense in rounds 12-15. In the last two years I have had no issue taking D’s I had identified as possible movers in the 16th round. But a great thing has happened. The market has gotten the memo on taking late defenses. I can now get my top identified Defenses who can be top 6 D’s starting in late round 17 through round 18. Be aware that while we have volatility you don’t want to have 2-3 D’s on your team where you don’t see upside. Just because we don’t want to draft D’s early doesn’t mean we absolutely have to wait for the last 2-3 rounds to take them. Take a look at your fantasy football roster and your needs and the positional players left. Is there someone who stands out so much that you want to add him? Then do so. But if you think you can get someone similar 2-3 rounds later then don’t pass on taking a Defense just because of volatility. As we have mentioned we can narrow down our defensive selections and I don’t want to be stuck with all low upside Defenses.

So in summation while everyone hates taking Defenses there is a lot of meat on the bone and opportunities to consider when drafting them. But if you don’t that is ok. Because while I love writing articles and sharing thoughts I like winning a lot more.

Come find me on Twitter @TodfromPa and say hello. If you follow me and mention you read my article I will be glad to follow back. And check out if you would my Run to Daylight podcast on both and ITunes. And good luck with your games!