Fantasy football: Don’t waste your early picks on defense, special teams

Fantasy football: Don’t waste your early picks on defense, special teams

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Anyone who still lives by the saying “defense wins championships” has never played fantasy football.

From a strategic perspective, the position of defense/special teams is only marginally more important than kickers in most fantasy formats. The predictability from season to season is sketchy — the 49ers were supposed to have one of the best defenses last season but suffered a rash of injuries, the Dolphins came out of nowhere to score the fourth-most points at DST, the Patriots a couple of seasons back had an incredible early run when they seemed to score defensive or special teams touchdowns every week.

The point being, it is hard to both pick the best or top sleeper units. This is part of the reason the Madman often streams DSTs from week to week — picking, among those available on the waiver wire, the best defense that is playing against the worst offense each week.

We prefer to land a DST in the draft that doesn’t force us to automatically depend on a streaming strategy, but if we miss on one we like or end up with a dud unit or hit an inconvenient bye-week dilemma, we have no reservations about audibling to the stream approach.

This means we are not going to spend a draft pick on a DST if there is any position player we want still available — we almost always are going to have something close to 3-4 running backs, 3-4 wide receivers, and at least one quarterback and tight end before we even glance at available DSTs.

Because we wait until so late to address DST, that often means top units have been snatched up. But that hardly matters because we don’t particularly care for some of the top-rated units as it is.

When we do get to the point in the draft when we are going to look at defenses, we ideally would want the Rams, Buccaneers and 49ers, but those are rarely available.

So instead, we home in on the Colts (a strong unit in a division with mostly weak or inexperienced offenses), but our favorite target is Washington (which has the benefit of excellent talent and playing in a weak division).

If none of these units are available, we go ahead and pull the ripcord and look for Week 1 matchups in anticipation of streaming throughout the season. For this, we’re looking for teams that have good defensive matchups to start the season. The Chargers, Panthers and Dolphins lead this list.

And if all of those are gone, we look for units that could exceed expectations — like the Giants (because they have young talent) and Cowboys (because an improved offense with a healthy Dak Prescott should help create turnover opportunities on defense — but are ready to dump and start streaming when a better one becomes available or we encounter a matchup we don’t like.

So when your draft kicks off, put your DST cheat sheet on the bench for a while and don’t bring it in until the game is almost over. Offense wins fantasy championships.

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