Defensive Team by Committee - Footballguys

Finding a Defensive Team by Committee for 2018

Over the past few years, there have been two very popular articles written by our very own Chase Stuart that look at an interesting approach to building a fantasy team with late value picks. Based on the theory of using both Strength of Schedule ("SOS") and taking two players as a combination to build one very good player, he has discussed both Team Defense by Committee ("TDBC") and Quarterback by Committee ("QBBC") as a general fantasy league strategy. In general, I think that this is a wise move because very early on in fantasy drafts there are a ton of running back and wide receiver prospects to go after to build a great team. While there are a few studs at quarterback and also a few choice defenses, I do not see a huge need in leagues to pursue either too hard in the beginning stages of a fantasy draft.

Well, this year Chase asked me to help him out with the Defensive Team by Committee Article, since I am so familiar with the concept. Our methods sometimes differ, but the end result is usually close to the same. So with this in mind, I decided to apply my normal method for the other positions (running back, wide receiver, and tight end) to the defensive team position. Let's take a look at how I went about building this committee and then we can digest and discuss the results.

HUDDLE UP

So how to begin? Defenses and quarterbacks are relatively easy to committee together. There's usually only one quarterback and certainly only one team defense per NFL club, so the approach is pretty simple as far as picking out which players / teams to try and pair up. However, I cannot expect to have every defensive team available to me for this process. After all, the goal here is to wait at the position and pick up two value picks later in the draft to form our combo and serve as a solid committee. I decided that I would use the following criteria to decide which players to start with for evaluating:

CRITERIA #1 - D/ST11 AND BEYOND

This seems pretty simple. If we want to have a duo that puts up D/ST1 numbers, that means we want D/ST12 or better production - else we would just draft D/ST12 or higher and forget the whole idea. This year I am cheating a little bit as I took a harder look at both schedules and, more importantly, ADP information. I decided that, this season, both Pittsburgh (D/ST11, ADP of 218) and New England (D/ST12, ADP of 227) needed to be in the mix. Picking an arbitrary line of D/ST13 does not make sense if including D/ST11 or D/ST12 makes the result so much better. Both Pittsburgh and New England have very favorable schedules this year, and their respective ADPs are still quite low (after Round 18), so drafting either of these teams (or both) late is not that much of a reach at all. After all, ADP values tend to go out the window in the back half of most drafts anyway, so it makes a ton of sense to include but the Steelers and the Patriots in possible teams for 2018. So here is the list of team which I am considering for DTBC, listed by their Average Draft Position (ADP):

ADP
Team Defense
ADP
Team Defense
D/ST11
Pittsburgh
D/ST19+
Cleveland
D/ST12
New England
D/ST19+
Dallas
D/ST13
Chicago
D/ST19+
Green Bay
D/ST14
Kansas City
D/ST19+
Indianapolis
D/ST15
San Francisco
D/ST19+
Miami
D/ST16
Seattle
D/ST19+
NY Giants
D/ST17
Atlanta
D/ST19+
NY Jets
D/ST18
Detroit
D/ST19+
Oakland
D/ST19
Arizona
D/ST19+
Tampa Bay
D/ST19+
Buffalo
D/ST19+
Tennessee
D/ST19+
Cincinnati
D/ST19+
Washington

Table 1: Defensive Teams 10-32 Based on ADP

I went all the way to D/ST32 just to be thorough, but my gut tells me that the middle tier of teams are the most likely to comprise the defensive committee for this year. Regardless, I will go through the math and consider each and every option. With 22 teams under consideration for DTBC, we have a very large pool of options (231 in all), so there had better be a decent pair (or several, we hope) out of all of those couplets. Now, before I go over the method of how to match them up and the results, we need one more rule:

CRITERIA #2 - NO MORE THAN ONE DEFENSE FROM ROUND 15+ AND ONE FROM ROUND 16+

This could get tricky here, but understand the overall goal. The point of DTBC is to free up the first 13-14 rounds of your fantasy draft to pursue all of the other positions for your team. Grabbing 3-4 running backs and 4-5 receivers after grabbing a stud running back or wide receiver in Round 1 sounds like a good idea to me, followed by adding strong depth. This also gives you the flexibility of grabbing a stud tight end, depending on your personal preference, or even to get QB1 if there's a huge value play available before even considering looking towards a defense.

Here is the good news - all of the defensive teams on the list above have ADPs that are Round 18 or higher (later). The interesting part of the defensive team ADP is that no defense goes before Round 11 (on average), and just the Top 8 go in by the end of Round 15. Rounds 16 and 17 see some teams picking up the 9th and 10th team off of the ADP list, leaving just a few teams in need of a defense. Determining when to pull the trigger on your committee options will be key, so monitor everyone's draft (ideally with the Draft Dominator) to see when 8-10 team defenses have gone off the board - then get moving on your committee.

So what is the answer for this year? There is one more thing to consider:

CRITERIA #3 - USE FOOTBALLGUYS' D/ST STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE

This sounds pretty simple, doesn't it? Just take the Team Defense Strength of Schedule to figure out when certain players are more likely to score well. What I did is similar to what the Projections Dominator and Draft Dominator do for you - take the projected fantasy points and slice them up over 17 weeks based on the strength of schedule. I call this result the distributed fantasy points for each defense.

After I had all 22 team defenses with distributed fantasy points on a weekly basis, I just compared all of the possible D/ST pairs to find the best duos for DTBC. So here we are - time for some results.

Rank
Team Defense 1
Team Defense 2
Value
1
Pittsburgh
Kansas City
157.1
2
Kansas City
Arizona
154.5
3
Seattle
Arizona
153.6
4
Pittsburgh
Chicago
153.5
5
Pittsburgh
Atlanta
152.5
6
Pittsburgh
Arizona
152.5
7
Pittsburgh
Dallas
151.4
8
Pittsburgh
Seattle
149.6
9
Pittsburgh
New England
149.6
10
Chicago
Arizona
149.1
11
Kansas City
Seattle
148.7
12
Pittsburgh
Detroit
148.2
13
Chicago
Seattle
148.1
14
Pittsburgh
Buffalo
147.5
15
Pittsburgh
Tampa Bay
147.4
16
Seattle
Atlanta
147.0
17
Pittsburgh
Tennessee
146.9
18
Atlanta
Arizona
146.9
19
Kansas City
Atlanta
145.9
20
New England
Seattle
145.4
21
Chicago
Kansas City
144.9
22
Seattle
Dallas
144.6
23
Kansas City
Detroit
144.2
24
Chicago
Atlanta
144.2
25
Pittsburgh
Cincinnati
143.7
26
Seattle
Detroit
143.6
27
New England
Arizona
143.3
28
Pittsburgh
Washington
143.3
29
Seattle
Tampa Bay
143.0
30
Pittsburgh
Miami
142.9
31
Kansas City
Cincinnati
142.4
32
Pittsburgh
Cleveland
142.4
33
Seattle
Tennessee
142.2
34
Kansas City
Dallas
142.1
35
Arizona
Dallas
142.1
36
Seattle
Cincinnati
142.0
37
Chicago
Detroit
141.9
38
Pittsburgh
NY Giants
141.8
39
Pittsburgh
San Francisco
141.6
40
Seattle
Buffalo
141.5
41
Kansas City
Tennessee
141.2
42
Pittsburgh
Indianapolis
140.9
43
Kansas City
Green Bay
140.8
44
New England
Kansas City
140.7
45
New England
Chicago
140.6
46
Pittsburgh
NY Jets
140.6
47
Arizona
Buffalo
140.4
48
Kansas City
Tampa Bay
139.9
49
Pittsburgh
Green Bay
139.7
50
Arizona
Tennessee
139.6
51
Chicago
Cincinnati
139.4
52
Chicago
Dallas
139.4
53
Seattle
Washington
139.2
54
Detroit
Arizona
138.9
55
Chicago
Green Bay
138.5
56
Chicago
Buffalo
138.4
57
Chicago
Tennessee
138.0
58
New England
Atlanta
137.9
59
Kansas City
Washington
137.8
60
Chicago
NY Giants
137.7
61
Arizona
Tampa Bay
137.4
62
Seattle
Miami
137.4
63
Kansas City
NY Giants
137.2
64
Chicago
San Francisco
137.0
65
Kansas City
Buffalo
136.9
66
Kansas City
San Francisco
136.6
67
Seattle
NY Giants
136.6
68
Pittsburgh
n/a
136.5

Table 2: Defensive Team Committee Pairs

As we can see from Table 2, we have some very good pairs to select from for DTBC. There are 67 pairs that are worth more than the Steelers defense by their lonesome, and Pittsburgh is projected to come in with 136.5 points. Let's also take a look at how often some of these teams show up on the table:

Team Defense
Frequency
Team Defense
Frequency
Pittsburgh
21
Cincinnati
4
Kansas City
16
NY Giants
4
Seattle
15
Tampa Bay
4
Chicago
14
Green Bay
3
Arizona
11
San Francisco
3
Atlanta
6
Washington
3
New England
6
Miami
2
Buffalo
5
Cleveland
1
Dallas
5
Indianapolis
1
Detroit
5
NY Jets
1

Table 3: Defensive Committee Pair Appearances by Team

As we can see from Table 3, the results are dominated by five teams - Pittsburgh, Kansas City, Seattle, Chicago and Arizona all appear 11+ times. That strongly implies that one or two of these teams will likely comprise our DTBC, but we need to do all the math to find out if that is the best option. Using this knowledge of defenses on the list with double-digit appearances, and that information along with Table 2 should make putting a combination of two of the top teams together pretty easy, or even using one of them with a key late pick for our committee. To find out the best strategy, we need to look closer at all of the results.

PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER

Now that we have 67 possible pairs that are better than Pittsburgh alone, what exactly does that mean? Should the Steelers be the basis of our comparison? Of course not. Remember our goal - find a pair of defenses that can combine for D/ST1-type fantasy production. To figure that out we need a better metric, so here are the projections for the Top 12 defenses in standard scoring:

ADP
D/ST Rank
Team
FPs
124
1
Jacksonville
168.4
146
3
Minnesota
160.4
147
4
Philadelphia
155.0
178
8
Baltimore
145.3
133
2
LA Rams
141.9
168
6
Houston
139.3
218
11
Pittsburgh
136.6
174
7
Denver
140.8
157
5
LA Chargers
140.6
212
10
Carolina
136.7
229
13
Chicago
128.7
230
14
Kansas City
128.4
268
16
Seattle
130.1
300+
19+
Arizona
127.0
203
9
New Orleans
122.7
227
12
New England
119.4
269
17
Atlanta
119.2
300+
19+
Dallas
112.6
287
18
Detroit
112.3

Table 4: Projected Fantasy Points for Top 12+ ADP Defenses

Based on Table 4, we see that the Top 7-9 defensive teams are reasonably well defined heading into 2018, but after that things get rather unclear for teams outside of those first group of defenses. That makes things interesting for the DTBC approach, as a strong pair of secondary defensive teams should compare favorably to one or more of the teams in the first group. To compare apples to apples, we need to adjust how we view Table 4 and the committee choices in Table 2. The committees represent 17 full weeks of play, while the individual players in Table 4 all have a bye week - so we have to add a correction to make the comparison more even. A reasonable number for a bye week fantasy starting quarterback would be 5-8 fantasy points, so if we take a baseline of the Los Angeles Chargers (forecasted as D/ST9, ADP of D/ST5, 140.6 projected points) from Table 4 and add 5-8 more points, we have 145.6-148.6 points. The Top 19 choices for DTBC from Table 2 are right in that range, which means that choosing the correct pair can give us the result we wanted - D/ST1 production on the cheap.

Considering all of the results in Table 2, the DTBC recipe for 2018 has a pretty straightforward plan - take Pittsburgh (ADP of 218) after 7-9 defenses are selected, likely around Round 15, and then take New England 1-2 (ADP of 227) one round later. But - there is a wrinkle here when you dig into the schedule. These two teams face each other in Week 15, and that game feels destined for a 34-31 type contest. Couple that with the the Steelers facing Drew Brees in Week 16 and the unlikely need for keeping the Patritsburgh for Week 17 suggests that - despite what the projections may say - you should drop the Steelers after Week 14 and then pick up a team with a good matchup for both Week 15 and 17 (either Kansas CIty or Tennessee are solid options). New England does have what looks to be a good Week 16 and 17 schedule, so holding on to the Patriots makes sense - at least for now. Things change rapidly in the NFL, so remain flexible as the season develops and plan accordingly for your fantasy playoffs.

An example schedule is provided in Tables 5 for the Steelers-Patriots DTBC option this season - just keep an open mind for December:

Week
Suggested Starter
Opponent
Alternate Starter
Opponent
1
Pittsburgh
at Cleveland
2
Pittsburgh
Kansas City
3
Pittsburgh
at Tampa Bay
4
New England
Miami
Pittsburgh
Baltimore
5
New England
Indianapolis
6
Pittsburgh
at Cincinnati
7
New England
at Chicago
8
Pittsburgh
Cleveland
9
New England
Green Bay
10
New England
at Tennessee
Pittsburgh
Carolina
11
Pittsburgh
at Jacksonville
12
Pittsburgh
at Denver
13
Pittsburgh
LA Chargers
14
Pittsburgh
at Oakland
15
Pittsburgh
New England
New England
at Pittsburgh
16
Pittsburgh
at New Orleans
17
Pittsburgh
Cincinnati

Table 5: Suggested DTBC Schedule Plan - Pittsburgh and New England

The committee approach is not a perfect one, but having this knowledge prior to your fantasy draft can prove to be invaluable if you decide to adopt this approach. If all the players on your starter list are gone, going with a committee can save your team and help you deal with the loss of bigger names. The method is also a big help in "Best Ball" leagues, where lineup decisions are not necessary every week. That's exactly where a committee can do the best, as either player can count for you each week.

Questions, suggestions, and comments are always welcome to pasquino@footballguys.com.