Defensive Team by Committee
By Chase Stuart
July 17th, 2012

Welcome back to Footballguys.com's annual installment of the Defensive Team By Committee article. Believe it or not, this is the 10th straight year I've been lucky enough to publish this column. I've received a lot of great feedback over the years which has helped make this such a successful series.

We all know that fantasy defenses are inconsistent from year to year, so predicting which defenses and special teams (D/STs) will do well is difficult. The San Francisco 49ers ended up with the #1 defense last season despite going undrafted in many leagues. When you get to the end of your fantasy drafts, most of us have to choose among a large group of defenses based on little more than gut. The goal of this article is to give you great production out of one of the spots in your lineup while saving your most important draft picks for the rest of your fantasy roster.

We spend countless hours analyzing team offenses, and relatively few thinking about team defenses. But an average defense against a bad offense will do just as well as a great defense against an average offense. The key to the DTBC system is to find two teams available late in your draft, whose combined schedule features predominantly weak offenses. Since you start your defense based on matchups, and your D/ST will usually oppose a weak offense, your D/ST position will score lots of fantasy points. At least, that's the plan.

When picking a D/ST committee, you should look for four factors:

  • A very easy combined schedule
  • Two teams with late average draft positions (ADPs)
  • Big play ability - think pass rushers and defensive backs with good hands
  • Reason to expect improvement in 2012
  • Last year, Jeff Pasquino and I advocated selecting the Detroit Lions and the Tennessee Titans as your fantasy defenses. We suggested alternating them in certain weeks, focusing on which offenses Footballguys figured (at the time) would present the best matchups. As it turned out, had you followed that exact advice given in August, you would have had the #2 ranked fantasy defense in terms of fantasy points production. That result is not achieved thanks to 20/20 vision, i.e., selecting the defense that scored the most points each week; it's calculated by adding up the numbers recorded each week based on the August projection. And getting that #2 defense was accomplished by selecting two defenses that, on average, were not drafted among the top ten defenses in fantasy leagues. As you can imagine, a lot of people who followed the DTBC advice last year were happy fantasy footballers. I'm going to do my best to accomplish the same results this year.

    The first step in creating the DTBC system is to grade the offenses. I've used the Footballguys.com projections to rank the offenses, scoring them the following way: (0.3 x Points scored) + (0.03 x Total Yards) - (2 x Turnovers). Each team's projection is shown in the first column in the table, along with their projected rank, and how they ranked under the scoring system in 2011. Don't think I've forgotten about those leagues with heavy sack bonuses: we'll absolutely keep pass rushers in mind when we select our DTBC.

    2012 Proj
    Team
    2012 Rank
    2011 Rank
    383
    New England Patriots
    1
    3
    373
    Green Bay Packers
    2
    2
    367
    New Orleans Saints
    3
    1
    327
    Philadelphia Eagles
    4
    12
    322
    San Diego Chargers
    5
    8
    318
    Dallas Cowboys
    6
    10
    315
    Detroit Lions
    7
    4
    313
    Carolina Panthers
    8
    6
    311
    Houston Texans
    9
    9
    307
    Atlanta Falcons
    10
    5
    299
    Oakland Raiders
    11
    11
    298
    New York Giants
    12
    7
    297
    Pittsburgh Steelers
    13
    18
    296
    Denver Broncos
    14
    24
    286
    Baltimore Ravens
    15
    15
    283
    San Francisco 49ers
    16
    13
    282
    New York Jets
    17
    20
    269
    Washington Redskins
    18
    25
    267
    Buffalo Bills
    19
    14
    265
    Seattle Seahawks
    20
    23
    261
    Cincinnati Bengals
    22
    17
    261
    Tennessee Titans
    21
    16
    258
    Chicago Bears
    23
    21
    256
    Arizona Cardinals
    24
    26
    256
    Kansas City Chiefs
    25
    29
    256
    Tampa Bay Buccaneers
    26
    27
    253
    Minnesota Vikings
    27
    19
    251
    Indianapolis Colts
    28
    30
    235
    Miami Dolphins
    29
    22
    233
    St. Louis Rams
    30
    32
    228
    Jacksonville Jaguars
    31
    31
    217
    Cleveland Browns
    32
    28

    The Dolphins, without Brandon Marshall and with perhaps a rookie at quarterback, become one of the more attractive fantasy options for your fantasy defense to face. The Rams, Jaguars and Browns, bottom five offenses last year, still project as among the worst offenses in the league. You may have slightly different views on the ordering of the teams above, but for the most part, I think we would agree that the teams at the bottom of the chart are the ones you want your fantasy defense facing.

    After grading the offenses, I went through the NFL schedule and assigned the corresponding projection for each opponent that every team played. When a team's D/ST is on the road, an additional three points are added to the opposing team's offensive grade; when the D/ST is at home, three points are subtracted from the opposition. For example, when the Cardinals host the Seahawks in Week 1, Arizona's D/ST receives 262 points; when the Cardinals travel to Seattle in Week 14, the Cardinals' D/ST matchup is worth 268 points, since playing on the road is worse for fantasy defenses. Obviously, you want your committee to have the lowest possible number of combined points. Bye weeks are valued at 500 points to avoid combining D/STs that share the same bye week. After doing this for every game in every week, we can now rank each team's schedule and pair up the defenses to form the best possible committee. One note: I'm ranking the committees through sixteen weeks, as most fantasy leagues don't play in Week 17. However, things lined up slightly differently this year...

    2012 Defensive Team by Committee

    Buffalo Bills (ADP: D/ST 12)

  • DE Mario Williams, DE Mark Anderson/Chris Kelsay, DT Marcell Dareus, DT Kyle Williams
  • SLB Kirk Morrison, WLB Nick Barnett, MLB Kelvin Sheppard/Bryan Scott
  • CB Terrence McGee, Stephon Gilmore, Aaron Williams
  • S: Jarius Byrd (FS), George Wilson (SS)
  • Buffalo is moving to a 4-3 scheme under new defensive coordinator Dave Wannstedt. The Bills are building a formidable defense similar to what the Lions have done on the other side of Lake Erie. Two years ago, Kyle Williams was one of the most dominant defensive players in the league, a devastating interior lineman who lacked a competent supporting cast. Last year, Buffalo spent the third pick in the draft on Marcell Dareus, who proved immediately that he could be an impact player at the next level. This off-season, Buffalo addressed the outside of the line, adding megastar Mario Williams and veteran Mark Anderson, who had 10 sacks in New England a year ago. Along with the Giants and Lions, Buffalo will field arguably the most talented and devastating front four in the league in 2012. Chris Kelsay is moving back to defensive end this season, and should team with Anderson to provide a strong presence opposite Mario Williams. And while Shawne Merriman can't be counted on for much, if he makes it to the opening day roster, he presents excellent upside as a situational pass rusher as part of a potentially dominant Buffalo line.

    The linebacker corps may be the defense's Achilles heel, although Nick Barnett is still an above-average player. Kelvin Sheppard had an impressive rookie season, as the third rounder out of LSU had an immediate impact in Buffalo in 2011; Bryan Scott will likely be the inside linebacker in nickel packages. Kirk Morrison and Arthur Moats will battle for the other outside linebacker spot.

    The secondary got a boost when the Bills drafted South Carolina's Stephon Gilmore with the tenth pick in the draft. Playing opposite Terrence McGee, Gilmore is an exciting prospect who will likely start as a rookie. Along with Aaron Williams, Buffalo is as deep at cornerback as they've been in years. Jairus Byrd and George Wilson form one of the game's best safety tandems; Byrd in particular should flourish with the improvements at cornerback and on the defensive line, and may again challenge for the league lead in interceptions as he did as a rookie in 2009. Justin Rogers and C.J. Spiller provide a spark in the return game, and only increase the value of the Bills defense if your league awards special teams touchdowns to your fantasy defense.

    Which defense should you pair with the Bills? Because of how excited I am about the prospect of Buffalo's defense, along with their relatively low draft position and easy schedule, this year's DTBC is more like “Buffalo and the most compatible D/ST that falls to your slot.” Buffalo has only four weeks where you would be concerned and conceivably want to start another defense: the two matchups against the Patriots, the bye week, and when the Bills travel to Houston. The rest of their games are against the Dolphins and Jets, the Browns and Chiefs, the NFC West, and the remainder of the AFC South.

    Miami, for example, lines up nicely with Buffalo, and you likely claim them off of waivers in most leagues. The Dolphins play Arizona and Tennessee the weeks the Bills face New England, and the Jets and Colts when Buffalo has a bye and travels to Houston.

    If they're still around by your last or second to last pick, the Chargers are an even better option. San Diego faces the Chiefs, Browns, Chiefs and Bucs during those weeks. That's the most attractive schedule during Weeks 4, 8, 9 and 10, the only weeks of the season where Buffalo's D/ST has an opponent rating of over 290 points. Detroit, Tennessee, Miami, Seattle and Oakland had the five easiest schedules after the Chargers.

    In any event, pair up the Bills with one of those teams, and you should be in good shape. Here's the combined schedule if you go with Buffalo and San Diego (currently an ADP of D/ST 18):

  • Week 1: @New York Jets (285)
  • Week 2: vs. Kansas City Chiefs (253)
  • Week 3: @Cleveland Browns (220)
  • Week 4: @Kansas City Chiefs (259) --- [San Diego]
  • Week 5: @San Francisco 49ers (286)
  • Week 6: @Arizona Cardinals (259)
  • Week 7: vs. Tennessee Titans (258)
  • Week 8: @Cleveland Browns (220) --- [San Diego]
  • Week 9: vs. Kansas City Chiefs (253) --- [San Diego]
  • Week 10: @Tampa Bay Buccaneers (259) --- [San Diego]
  • Week 11: vs. Miami Dolphins (232)
  • Week 12: @Indianapolis Colts (254)
  • Week 13: vs. Jacksonville Jaguars (225)
  • Week 14: vs. St. Louis Rams (230)
  • Week 15: vs. Seattle Seahawks (262)
  • Week 16: @Miami Dolphins (238)
  • If your league plays its championship game in week 17, the Bills host the Jets that week, which could be another nice matchup for Buffalo. In any event, this combined schedule gives you three games against the Chiefs, two games against the Dolphins and two games against the Browns, along with four games against the quarterback-challenged NFC West. Along with matchups against Jacksonville, Indianapolis and Tampa Bay, there are many attractive weeks for your fantasy defense.

    Grabbing Just One?

    In some leagues, it's just too costly to spend two rosters spots on defenses. In larger leagues, it may not be feasible to grab two defenses that you like. If you're only drafting one defense, it still pays to know the ability level of its opponents. The full list is presented below: Note that both the bye week (which was considered a 500 point week earlier in the article) and Week 17 have been removed. The Bills remain an excellent option for you to grab, but any AFC East team could be valuable in most leagues.

    Rank
    Team
    SOS
    1
    New England Patriots
    4006
    2
    Buffalo Bills
    4082
    3
    Miami Dolphins
    4126
    4
    Indianapolis Colts
    4131
    5
    Minnesota Vikings
    4135
    6
    Green Bay Packers
    4149
    7
    Cincinnati Bengals
    4165
    8
    Houston Texans
    4174
    9
    Oakland Raiders
    4190
    10
    New York Jets
    4207
    11
    St. Louis Rams
    4231
    12
    Detroit Lions
    4235
    13
    Pittsburgh Steelers
    4242
    14
    San Diego Chargers
    4253
    15
    Arizona Cardinals
    4276
    16
    Chicago Bears
    4283
    17
    San Francisco 49ers
    4286
    18
    Cleveland Browns
    4291
    19
    Jacksonville Jaguars
    4308
    20
    Seattle Seahawks
    4311
    21
    Tennessee Titans
    4340
    22
    Dallas Cowboys
    4343
    23
    Philadelphia Eagles
    4344
    24
    Kansas City Chiefs
    4357
    25
    Washington Redskins
    4361
    26
    Baltimore Ravens
    4365
    27
    Carolina Panthers
    4398
    28
    New York Giants
    4464
    29
    New Orleans Saints
    4483
    30
    Denver Broncos
    4499
    31
    Tampa Bay Buccaneers
    4535
    32
    Atlanta Falcons
    4575

    All of the Combos

    Finally, here are all 496 combinations, presented in the table below.

    Team
    Ari
    Atl
    Bal
    Buf
    Car
    Chi
    Cin
    Cle
    Dal
    Den
    Det
    GB
    Hou
    Ind
    Jac
    KC
    Ari
    ---
    4415
    4309
    4115
    4309
    4290
    4164
    4432
    4233
    4292
    4087
    4305
    4040
    4059
    4217
    4287
    Atl
    4415
    ---
    4471
    4286
    4522
    4377
    4387
    4464
    4520
    4704
    4247
    4319
    4288
    4184
    4420
    4691
    Bal
    4309
    4471
    ---
    4178
    4456
    4312
    4428
    4308
    4292
    4445
    4249
    4182
    4391
    4088
    4381
    4362
    Buf
    4115
    4286
    4178
    ---
    4088
    4109
    4189
    4274
    4174
    4218
    3943
    4170
    4188
    4038
    4112
    4218
    Car
    4309
    4522
    4456
    4088
    ---
    4615
    4281
    4297
    4320
    4450
    4299
    4294
    4321
    4136
    4497
    4371
    Chi
    4290
    4377
    4312
    4109
    4615
    ---
    4153
    4232
    4235
    4382
    4125
    4182
    4161
    4128
    4450
    4269
    Cin
    4164
    4387
    4428
    4189
    4281
    4153
    ---
    4274
    4278
    4251
    4078
    4090
    4307
    3996
    4222
    4267
    Cle
    4432
    4464
    4308
    4274
    4297
    4232
    4274
    ---
    4394
    4387
    4244
    4448
    4160
    4190
    4281
    4382
    Dal
    4233
    4520
    4292
    4174
    4320
    4235
    4278
    4394
    ---
    4429
    4355
    4143
    4154
    4194
    4339
    4392
    Den
    4292
    4704
    4445
    4218
    4450
    4382
    4251
    4387
    4429
    ---
    4352
    4301
    4303
    4220
    4390
    4563
    Det
    4087
    4247
    4249
    3943
    4299
    4125
    4078
    4244
    4355
    4352
    ---
    4211
    4255
    4206
    4248
    4092
    GB
    4305
    4319
    4182
    4170
    4294
    4182
    4090
    4448
    4143
    4301
    4211
    ---
    4118
    4150
    4150
    4179
    Hou
    4040
    4288
    4391
    4188
    4321
    4161
    4307
    4160
    4154
    4303
    4255
    4118
    ---
    3966
    4285
    4164
    Ind
    4059
    4184
    4088
    4038
    4136
    4128
    3996
    4190
    4194
    4220
    4206
    4150
    3966
    ---
    4067
    4140
    Jac
    4217
    4420
    4381
    4112
    4497
    4450
    4222
    4281
    4339
    4390
    4248
    4150
    4285
    4067
    ---
    4202
    KC
    4287
    4691
    4362
    4218
    4371
    4269
    4267
    4382
    4392
    4563
    4092
    4179
    4164
    4140
    4202
    ---
    Mia
    4116
    4532
    4200
    3970
    4222
    4125
    4170
    4222
    4237
    4426
    4089
    4069
    4086
    4022
    4204
    4426
    Min
    4148
    4366
    4166
    4034
    4226
    4156
    4099
    4306
    4207
    4203
    4190
    4195
    4046
    4193
    4187
    4201
    NE
    4163
    4269
    4094
    4058
    4238
    4046
    4095
    4160
    4168
    4221
    4111
    4126
    4138
    3999
    4111
    4224
    NO
    4320
    4554
    4383
    4267
    4627
    4538
    4265
    4460
    4446
    4477
    4364
    4368
    4280
    4303
    4616
    4398
    NYG
    4280
    4467
    4363
    4139
    4425
    4279
    4325
    4408
    4280
    4402
    4345
    4309
    4301
    4255
    4298
    4378
    NYJ
    4117
    4352
    4155
    4064
    4284
    4106
    4066
    4209
    4254
    4245
    4126
    4058
    4057
    3988
    4184
    4308
    Oak
    4082
    4272
    4164
    4034
    4261
    4100
    4067
    4299
    4387
    4396
    4455
    4241
    4102
    4226
    4175
    4160
    Phi
    4274
    4675
    4340
    4161
    4377
    4316
    4221
    4391
    4405
    4567
    4245
    4222
    4233
    4145
    4311
    4594
    Pit
    4274
    4401
    4194
    4168
    4334
    4220
    4196
    4300
    4286
    4367
    4205
    4236
    4142
    4387
    4193
    4353
    SD
    4164
    4527
    4289
    3993
    4362
    4182
    4179
    4272
    4355
    4624
    4307
    4228
    4177
    4195
    4214
    4466
    Sea
    4274
    4369
    4436
    4043
    4376
    4332
    4122
    4302
    4247
    4434
    4320
    4154
    4240
    4179
    4375
    4283
    SF
    4203
    4261
    4174
    4068
    4336
    4218
    4103
    4228
    4201
    4204
    4120
    4112
    4060
    4065
    4176
    4268
    StL
    4255
    4411
    4287
    4178
    4223
    4203
    4277
    4318
    4299
    4383
    4073
    4115
    4177
    4015
    4337
    4376
    TB
    4373
    4557
    4385
    4131
    4447
    4323
    4325
    4428
    4590
    4641
    4468
    4279
    4217
    4239
    4274
    4521
    Ten
    4241
    4378
    4288
    4004
    4322
    4224
    4100
    4322
    4283
    4319
    4224
    4189
    4053
    4233
    4319
    4270
    Was
    4388
    4443
    4294
    4189
    4283
    4160
    4279
    4647
    4424
    4330
    4225
    4381
    4182
    4096
    4339
    4331
    Team
    Mia
    Min
    NE
    NO
    NYG
    NYJ
    Oak
    Phi
    Pit
    SD
    Sea
    SF
    StL
    TB
    Ten
    Was
    Ari
    4116
    4148
    4163
    4320
    4280
    4117
    4082
    4274
    4274
    4164
    4274
    4203
    4255
    4373
    4241
    4388
    Atl
    4532
    4366
    4269
    4554
    4467
    4352
    4272
    4675
    4401
    4527
    4369
    4261
    4411
    4557
    4378
    4443
    Bal
    4200
    4166
    4094
    4383
    4363
    4155
    4164
    4340
    4194
    4289
    4436
    4174
    4287
    4385
    4288
    4294
    Buf
    3970
    4034
    4058
    4267
    4139
    4064
    4034
    4161
    4168
    3993
    4043
    4068
    4178
    4131
    4004
    4189
    Car
    4222
    4226
    4238
    4627
    4425
    4284
    4261
    4377
    4334
    4362
    4376
    4336
    4223
    4447
    4322
    4283
    Chi
    4125
    4156
    4046
    4538
    4279
    4106
    4100
    4316
    4220
    4182
    4332
    4218
    4203
    4323
    4224
    4160
    Cin
    4170
    4099
    4095
    4265
    4325
    4066
    4067
    4221
    4196
    4179
    4122
    4103
    4277
    4325
    4100
    4279
    Cle
    4222
    4306
    4160
    4460
    4408
    4209
    4299
    4391
    4300
    4272
    4302
    4228
    4318
    4428
    4322
    4647
    Dal
    4237
    4207
    4168
    4446
    4280
    4254
    4387
    4405
    4286
    4355
    4247
    4201
    4299
    4590
    4283
    4424
    Den
    4426
    4203
    4221
    4477
    4402
    4245
    4396
    4567
    4367
    4624
    4434
    4204
    4383
    4641
    4319
    4330
    Det
    4089
    4190
    4111
    4364
    4345
    4126
    4455
    4245
    4205
    4307
    4320
    4120
    4073
    4468
    4224
    4225
    GB
    4069
    4195
    4126
    4368
    4309
    4058
    4241
    4222
    4236
    4228
    4154
    4112
    4115
    4279
    4189
    4381
    Hou
    4086
    4046
    4138
    4280
    4301
    4057
    4102
    4233
    4142
    4177
    4240
    4060
    4177
    4217
    4053
    4182
    Ind
    4022
    4193
    3999
    4303
    4255
    3988
    4226
    4145
    4387
    4195
    4179
    4065
    4015
    4239
    4233
    4096
    Jac
    4204
    4187
    4111
    4616
    4298
    4184
    4175
    4311
    4193
    4214
    4375
    4176
    4337
    4274
    4319
    4339
    KC
    4426
    4201
    4224
    4398
    4378
    4308
    4160
    4594
    4353
    4466
    4283
    4268
    4376
    4521
    4270
    4331
    Mia
    ---
    4174
    4066
    4241
    4191
    4152
    4100
    4413
    4195
    4388
    4154
    4098
    4313
    4342
    4196
    4253
    Min
    4174
    ---
    4044
    4336
    4413
    4055
    4236
    4255
    4167
    4127
    4328
    4042
    4121
    4219
    4438
    4241
    NE
    4066
    4044
    ---
    4235
    4208
    4326
    4103
    4231
    4212
    4217
    4105
    4315
    4306
    4288
    4080
    4154
    NO
    4241
    4336
    4235
    ---
    4415
    4293
    4353
    4489
    4440
    4314
    4433
    4271
    4303
    4444
    4368
    4441
    NYG
    4191
    4413
    4208
    4415
    ---
    4196
    4324
    4292
    4401
    4351
    4464
    4325
    4277
    4448
    4526
    4365
    NYJ
    4152
    4055
    4326
    4293
    4196
    ---
    4068
    4379
    4129
    4245
    4127
    4423
    4379
    4308
    4115
    4240
    Oak
    4100
    4236
    4103
    4353
    4324
    4068
    ---
    4176
    4229
    4321
    4268
    4110
    4124
    4454
    4296
    4273
    Phi
    4413
    4255
    4231
    4489
    4292
    4379
    4176
    ---
    4257
    4417
    4277
    4281
    4407
    4440
    4207
    4371
    Pit
    4195
    4167
    4212
    4440
    4401
    4129
    4229
    4257
    ---
    4325
    4234
    4221
    4220
    4459
    4302
    4243
    SD
    4388
    4127
    4217
    4314
    4351
    4245
    4321
    4417
    4325
    ---
    4279
    4181
    4248
    4522
    4259
    4270
    Sea
    4154
    4328
    4105
    4433
    4464
    4127
    4268
    4277
    4234
    4279
    ---
    4122
    4186
    4325
    4473
    4234
    SF
    4098
    4042
    4315
    4271
    4325
    4423
    4110
    4281
    4221
    4181
    4122
    ---
    4335
    4327
    4275
    4228
    StL
    4313
    4121
    4306
    4303
    4277
    4379
    4124
    4407
    4220
    4248
    4186
    4335
    ---
    4366
    4162
    4326
    TB
    4342
    4219
    4288
    4444
    4448
    4308
    4454
    4440
    4459
    4522
    4325
    4327
    4366
    ---
    4318
    4443
    Ten
    4196
    4438
    4080
    4368
    4526
    4115
    4296
    4207
    4302
    4259
    4473
    4275
    4162
    4318
    ---
    4294
    Was
    4253
    4241
    4154
    4441
    4365
    4240
    4273
    4371
    4243
    4270
    4234
    4228
    4326
    4443
    4294
    ---

    If you've still got any questions after all that, please e-mail me at stuart@footballguys.com.

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