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Advanced NFL DFS: Defense & special teams

We continue our breakdown of NFL DFS. In this section, we look at defense and special teams, with definitions and some advanced strategy.

Linebacker Chandler Jones #55 of the Arizona Cardinals during the NFL game against the Cleveland Browns at State Farm Stadium on December 15, 2019 in Glendale, Arizona. The Cardinals defeated the Browns 38-24. Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

In daily fantasy football, like in most things, getting the fundamentals down is integral toward laying a foundation of knowledge to build from as you progress as a player. For DFS, that means learning how to pick a defense & special team.

Defense & special teams strategy

Definition

Playing a defense and special teams is required in all classic games. Scoring is as follows:

Sack: +1 Pt
Interception: +2 Pts
Fumble Recovery: +2 Pts
Punt/Kickoff/FG Return for TD: +6 Pts
Interception Return TD: +6 Pts
Fumble Recovery TD: +6 Pts
Blocked Punt or FG Return TD: +6 Pts
Safety: +2 Pts
Blocked Kick: +2 Pts
2 Pt Conversion/Extra Point Return: +2 Pts
0 Points Allowed: 10 Pts
1 – 6 Points Allowed: +7 Pts
7 – 13 Points Allowed: +4 Pts
14 – 20 Points Allowed: +1 Pt
21 – 27 Points Allowed: +0 Pts
28 – 34 Points Allowed: -1 Pt
35+ Points Allowed:-4 Pts

Strategy

First off, there is no easy answer to how much you should spend on any position and that includes DST. But, randomness in scoring does push us to pay up at quarterback and running back more often while paying down for DSTs.

Turnovers, defensive touchdowns and kick return touchdowns are just too random to count on while sacks aren’t worth enough to be a huge part of strategy. That means we need to find value at the position more often than paying up for consistency, which isn’t usually consistent.

Value

Finding low scoring games is one way to project a useful floor for your DST, but I rather find games where teams will get a lead, forcing their opponent’s to throw the ball more than they’d like. That could come out of a game that is expected to put up a bunch of points, seemingly pointing to low DST scores. Finding big favorites with mismatches on the offensive and defensive line is a big part of finding value.

Paying up

I try not to pay up for DST that often, but I will give it a go in GPPs if the matchup and lineup construction works out. If a team is favored, especially at home, and has an elite pass rush and strong overall defense, they can be worth paying up. The longterm play is usually to find value at the position, even in GPPs, but trying to find that upside edge in tournaments is always worth trying.