Thursday, September 01, 2016

Drafting your Defense

Two posts in two days; whaaaat?! Yeah, that's the magic of Bob, my defense guru who is back this season with his musings on defenses on a weekly basis. For today though, Bob takes a look at the best defenses when it comes to drafting in 2016. Read on and enjoy.


Two weeks ago I gave you my take on how to draft Kickers. I’ve read a few more articles since and they have confirmed my assumptions. So this week I’m going to give you my take on Defenses. I know some of 
you have already drafted or are presently drafting. Here’s hoping I’m not too late for your season’s drafts.

Let’s start with some myths and tribal knowledge on Drafting Defenses. 

1.       Last year’s performance can give insight as to how they will perform this year. Yeah, most of you use this one. Why? Because there really aren’t many stats that help you to predict otherwise. Short of predicting differences in defense personnel or coaching changes, which gets really complicated, what else is there? Well I’m going to give you another one below.
2.       You should wait until your next to last pick to take a defense. Similar and related to drafting kickers which would rank as the last pick to those that hold to this strategy. One reason this is popular is the same reason you wait on a kicker. There’s just not a lot of difference is points between the 1st and 12th ranked performance from the previous year. And you would be right but it’s bigger than the difference between kickers. And since there are exceptions for kickers to draft earlier, so too are there exceptions for defenses. The second reason, however, is much better, and that is because a person plans to use the ‘streaming defense’ strategy. More on that in a later article.
3.       Pick a defense based on ‘experts’ projections. This one is really a crap shoot. Most of these experts make the same mistakes as everyone else. There are some out there that are pretty good. I haven’t researched them yet, but the former is usually the case. See the chart below.
4.       Pick a defense that has been ‘consistent’ over a period of time. This one gets closer to a better pick, but doesn’t guarantee a winner either. And where the hell do you find that data without generating it yourself. Some will go with teams that are known to be good defenses. But that changes so quickly in our free agent world that it becomes a tough sell year to year. Well, I’m here to help, and we’ll cover consistency below.
So those are the big 4 considerations for drafting defenses, #1 being the most used, followed by perennial defenses as mentioned in #3 above. Sadly, many use the idea in #2 that states there’s not much of a difference so why bother. But many of the better players are using ‘streaming defenses’ and I’ll be here with weekly offerings on who those are each week.

So let’s look at some data pertaining to #1. Here are 3 years of the top 12 drafted defenses.
2015

2014

2013
EOY Rank
Drafted
Team
ADP

EOY Rank
Drafted
Team
ADP

EOY Rank
Drafted
Team
ADP
5
1
Seahawks
7.5

4
1
Seahawks
6.4

1
1
Seahawks
7.2
19
2
Bills
8.9

10
2
49ers
8.8

6
2
49ers
7.11
6
3
Texans
8.12

14
3
Panthers
9.2

17
3
Bears
8.10
9
4
Rams
9.11

12
4
Rams
10.2

32
4
Texans
9.2
14
5
Eagles
11.3

11
5
Broncos
10.3

10
5
Broncos
9.9
26
6
Dolphins
11.6

19
6
Chiefs
10.8

4
6
Bengals
10.2
1
7
Broncos
11.9

23
7
Bengals
10.11

9
7
Patriots
10.10
11
8
Jets
11.11

7
8
Patriots
11.5

26
8
Packers
12.1
2
9
Cardinals
12.0

8
9
Cardinals
11.8

11
9
Ravens
12.2
15
10
Packers
12.11

3
10
Texans
12.10

7
10
Rams
12.5
4
11
Panthers
13.3

26
11
Bears
13.5

18
11
Steelers
12.8
13
12
Patriots
13.4

31
12
Saints
13.10

5
12
Cardinals
13.5

First thing that jumps out at you is Seattle. That’s an example of consistency. Rams and Texans are in that category as well. But look at some of the fails: Texans in 2013 drafted 4th and finished dead last in points that year, Bears had a good 2012 drafted 3rd and ended up 26th.  49ers had a good 2013, drafted 2nd in 2014 and finished 10th, not bad, but not what you were looking for.

Then there’s the pre-season hype from experts that can get you in trouble. Last year everyone was talking about the Bills and the Dolphins, who finished 19th and 26th respectively.

We also have to look at the wisdom of holding out before picking a defense. Here are the differences between the best defense at the end of the year and the #12 defense for that year by average points per week:
2013 Best Def was SEA drafted first with ADP of 7.2 averaged 15.2 pts/game. #12 was the Colts, undrafted averaged 10.2 pts/game. So the difference was 5 points per game, I would call that significant.

2014 Best Def was BUF drafted 14th averaged 13.2 pts/game. #12 was the Rams, drafted 4th averaged 10.6 pts/game. So the difference was 2.6 points per game, not nearly as significant as 2013.

2015 Best Def was DEN drafted 7th with ADP of 11.2 averaged 14.1 pts/game. #12 was the Redskins, undrafted averaged 10.4 pts/game. Difference of 3.7 points per game. Again, pretty significant.

Drafting a defense in the 7th round means you probably drafted 2 RBs, 2 WRs, 1 QB and 1 TE prior, which means you gave up potentially a RB3, WR3 or QB2. And you have to ask yourself was that worth it. And you’ve got to remember, only one year provided you the number one defense with that pick.

So let’s talk about how this all helps us for this year. Here are the ADPs so far this year compared with team consistency.
Def Picked
Team
ADP

EOY Rank
2015
2014
2013
Avg
1
Broncos
9.1

Seahawks
5
4
1
3.3
2
Cardinals
9.8

Cardinals
2
8
5
5.0
3
Seahawks
9.11

Panthers
4
14
3
7.0
4
Panthers
10.7

Broncos
1
11
10
7.3
5
Chiefs
11.10

Chiefs
3
19
2
8.0
6
Texans
11.10

Rams
9
12
7
9.3
7
Vikings
13.0

Bills
19
1
8
9.3
8
Rams
13.6

Patriots
13
7
9
9.7
9
Patriots
13.10

Eagles
14
2
20
12.0
10
Bengals
14.0

Bengals
10
23
4
12.3
11
Packers
14.11

Texans
6
3
32
13.7
12
Steelers
14.12

Colts
16
13
12
13.7

Here we can get some clues as to which team you might draft this year and how early. There is a correlation between this year’s ADP and the last three year’s consistency rating with the top 5 teams: Broncos, Cardinals, Seahawks, Panthers and Chiefs. But below those five teams the correlation falls off dramatically. So given that information, here are my projections as to when you should be drafting defenses.

Broncos 9th round, if you’re lucky enough to be able to wait that long. That way you have a good start on your backup RBs and WRS and a potential top DEF.

Cardinals middle to late 9th round, again you have some good backups to your WRs and RBs where you can sacrifice to get a top Def.

Seahawks middle to late 9th round, same effect as the Cardinals.

Panthers 10th round, and you’ve got 3 WRs. 3 RBs, 1 TE, 1QB and a backup QB or TE.

Chiefs 11th round, and you have a solid team started without sacrificing key backups.

After the chiefs WAIT! There may be some that are tempted to take the Texans with a healthy Clowney, or the Rams, but I can guarantee you that you will be better off waiting and streaming defenses for the year. And I will be here each week projecting the best streams for you to select from. What is ‘streaming’? Well you’ll have to trust me and wait for the next article. But take advantage of those picks from 11th to 13th round for those sleepers and flyers. You’ll get better returns in the long run.

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