The Wildly Underrated Defense You Should Target in Fantasy Football Drafts
Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Tre’Davious White
- Fantasy football owners should wait until the final rounds before drafting a defense/special teams (D/ST) unit.
- With this in mind, here's a D/ST going outside of the top 15 in fantasy football drafts that's poised to break out early.
Defense/special teams (D/ST) matters in fantasy football. Rightfully so, defenses get lumped in with kickers when talking about fantasy football draft strategy, but that doesn’t mean these two positions are exactly alike.
Yes, it’s optimal strategy to wait until the final two rounds of your draft to take a defense and kicker, if you draft them at all. But the reasoning behind this is that taking these two positions early gives you one fewer opportunity to take an upside skill position player who, if he pops, could change the landscape of your fantasy season.
However, the big difference between the two positions is that kicker scoring is exceptionally hard to project prior to the start of the season — unless you’re The Action Network’s Matthew Freedman — while defense is so matchup-dependent that it’s smarter to stream the position based on the opposing offense.
Similar to how I approach quarterbacks in fantasy football drafts, I look for defenses being ignored by most owners that also have really good early-season matchups.
And this year it didn’t take long to pinpoint one defense going outside of the top 15 that all fantasy football owners should target heading into draft day.
Take a quick look at Football Outsiders’ defensive efficiency. Which team sticks out from last season? Yup, the Buffalo Bills finished with the league’s second-best defense according to DVOA, trailing only the Chicago Bears.
The defense is young, talented and led by Tre’Davious White, who is emerging as one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL.
Not only is this defense poised to break out, but it also has a tremendous schedule to start the season:
- Week 1 at New York Jets (28th in offensive DVOA last season)
- Week 2 at New York Giants (15th)
- Week 3 vs. Cincinnati Bengals (24th)
The over/under for Buffalo’s game against the Jets currently sits at just 38.5, the second-lowest — trailing only Ravens-Dolphins (37) — of all Week 1 matchups.
And while the Giants’ offensive efficiency ranking from last season doesn’t look terrible, let’s not forget that Odell Beckham Jr. is gone, Corey Coleman is out for the season after suffering a torn ACL and Golden Tate is facing a four-game suspension for violating the league’s PED policy.
The Bengals, who were already bad enough offensively, will likely be without A.J. Green in Week 3.
No matter how you slice it’s, that’s one enticing early-season schedule.
Buffalo does have a date with New England in Week 4, but that provides fantasy owners with ample time to take advantage of those first three matchups, then decide whether the Bills are worth hanging onto or throwing back to the trash heap for a defense on the waiver wire.
But just so you’re aware, Buffalo gets Tennessee and Miami in Weeks 5 and 6, respectively.
So, we have last year’s second-ranked defense with a cupcake early schedule. It has to be going early in drafts, right?
According to FantasyFootballCalculator’s average draft position (ADP) data, Buffalo is being drafted as the 17th defense off the board with the 169th overall pick. That means the Bills are being drafted in the 15th round of 12-team leagues and not at all in 10-teamers. Wow.
Let everyone else in your league panic during the run on defenses, and use their FOMO to your advantage by hoarding skill position players, then scooping up a criminally-underrated Buffalo defense in the final rounds.