Fantasy Football

2019 Fantasy Football DST Preview: Follow The Leader


Welcome to the 2019 Fantasy Football DST Preview. Our fifth installment of 2019 Fantasy Football Position Previews.

Let that tweet simmer for a minute. For our purposes, zero in on the man-beast pictured.

That man-beast was not on the roster of the eventual number one fantasy defense two weeks before their 2018 opener.

On September 1st, Khalil Mack was finally with the Bears. Eight days later Mack was doing Mack things in week one’s SNF.

The number one defense in fantasy football didn’t acquire their most impactful player until September 2nd. Sure, the Bears were already heading in a great direction defensively, but not drafted as a top-8 unit.

Draft capital and roster capital. For fantasy players new and experienced, consider how many teams hold onto the DST (and kickers) that they originally draft. In-season roster management such as grabbing emerging skill players who luck into opportunity mid-season take precedent.

Running backs, tight ends, wide receivers with potential emerge from the abyss of the waiver wires at random. DSTs through bye weeks often become necessary casualties.

Today we consider some fundamental strategies for approaching one the most variable starting position in fantasy football: Defense and Special Teams.

2019 Fantasy Football DST Preview

Free five-minute mock drafts against industry experts and custom analysis for your team with the FantasyPros Draft Wizard.

What DSTs made moves to improve in 2019?

Cleveland Browns

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Sheldon Richardson and Olivier Vernon join Myles Garrett and Larry Ogjunjobi on what should be one of the most improved and dangerous defensive lines in football. Joe Schobert and Christian Kirksey will continue to be health questions, but when healthy, are strong forces up the middle.

Denzel Ward, off an impressive rookie season, is joined by draft day faller Greedy Williams with T.J. Carrie and Terrance Mitchell providing solid depth. The addition of veteran Morgan Burnett to another former Packer in Damarious Randall rounds out one of the most complete defenses in the AFC.

San Francisco 49ers

Embattled DC Robert Saleh returns for his third season. With the acquisitions made in the offseason, he’s on arguably the hottest DC seat in football.

Adding Dee Ford (13 Sacks, 7 FFs!) and rookie Nick Bosa to a solid young defensive line was a clear win. Richard Sherman is one more year removed from his achilles tear. Playmaking linebacker Kwon Alexander was signed to a potentially large deal but is coming of an ACL tear. Corner Jason Verette, he of what-could-be potential, is coming of another injury plagued season. Signed to a one year prove it deal, his health could lead this DST to elite status.

Stunning is John Lynch’s decision not to address the secondary, especially the safety position, in the offseason. But the Niners have to be thinking the pass rush emphasis will be enough to help them finally close games out. Things can not be any worse than their shocking league low seven total takeaways in 2018.

Green Bay Packers

Subjected to but flourishing in a situational role once again in 2018, former Redskin Preston Smith is a IDP sleeper worth buying. Along with former Raven Za-Darius Smith, the Packers suddenly have high quarterback assassination aspirations. Moving on from Clay Mathews was no doubt a tough emotional decision, but second year DC Mike Pettine has the guys he needs to compete at a high level in 2019. With studs Blake Martinez and Mike Daniels up the middle, the Packers are equipped to stop opposing run games.

Adding former foe Adrian Amos and trading up to grab Maryland safety Darnel Savage were calculated moves to address the team biggest 2018 weakness. A young cornerback group led by 2018 standout Zaire Alexander looks to benefit with a return to health from Kevin King and 2018 second rounder Josh Jackson taking a step forward in year two.

New York Jets

Two Williams. One Cup O-Line. Rookie Quinnen Williams was every draft analysts certainty. Henry Anderson is no slouch and rounds out what should be a group new DC Gregg Williams will cultivate and get the most out of. With Jachai Polite being a potential third round steal, this group should push for pass rush pressure supremacy in the AFC East.

Last season’s addition of Avery Williamson was a solid move. With former Ravens stud CJ Mosely now calling the shots for Gang Green’s D, the inconsistent but serviceable Jordan Jenkins will be pressure free in year 4. Absolute stud and former 6th overall pick Jamal Adams is set to lead the secondary. This unit has what it needs to be top DST performers in 2019.

What About Those Opposed To DST in League Play?

The catchall nature of defense and the erratic fantasy scoring on a week-to-week basis is causing a growing number of commissioners to realign their leagues without the DST.

Fellow F6P writer Kevin Huo presents a very fair argument, and it’s steeped in quality research.

You can read his case against DST by clicking here.

For all my commissioner brethren, we are entering July. F6P rankers go in deep on DST, Kickers, and IDP. But I challenge good commissioners to go to their leagues and pose the question: Do we still want to play with Kickers and DSTs?

Draft Strategies

Wait… then Wait Some More

With respect to strategy, this is option 1 and 2.

I can’t tell you how many times I read the words “don’t take Jacksonville at their current ADP” last draft season. All those analysts and fantasy managers were spot on. Fantasy Football Calculator shows JAX Def had a final 2018 ADP of 91.7 in 12 team standard leagues. A list of players who went after them on average: Tarik Cohen (95.6), Robert Woods (107), Nick Chubb (111.3), Patrick Mahomes (115.8), and James White (121.1), Kenny Golladay (124.5).

Rounds 8-15 in most leagues should be reserved for drafting your guys. Your draft crushes. Potential league winners. Think drafting two quarterbacks is a waste of bench space in 1-QB leagues? Imagine the principle of having your starter and Patrick Mahomes. That is, at the very least, sold trade capital.

Is it difficult to make trades in your league? Go for a potential breakout WR that finally is headed to a starter role. Mike Williams, Keke Coutee, Courtland Sutton. Draft the change of pace running back that plays behind the fragile thumper. Draft a diamond in the rough tight end. Tight end is position that offers a new stud every season across these middling rounds. Think George Kittle or Eric Ebron in 2018.

To borrow from basketball, these rounds were made for the fantasy manager heat check. Take the deep three and use these rounds to take players you want and you believe could breakout. Baseball fans? Get ahead of the game, use your draft capital, swing for the fences to hit home runs. That’s what makes fantasy sports great. Go big or finish as the consolation bracket winner.

Streamers Target Matchups

You can anticipate good defenses by the personnel they field. And you can anticipate some success to carry over from season to season if key personnel return. Assuming we’ve waited till after round 13/14 to draft a DST, there may be 4-8 of the “top” DSTs off the board. In this scenario, you’re now possibly facing the eventual week to week stream approach.

Seek out plus matchups early in the season.Case Keenum and the Redskins open at the Eagles in week 1. The Cowboys, admittedly a potential season long top-10 unit, open at home against Eli and the Giants. The Bills and the Jets face each other.

The Bills are a a fantastic example, as they follow the Jets with the Giants then Bengals. But week 4, the Pats are on the ledger, and they may become droppable as byes start to enter the forum. As the season progresses, we’ll know what offenses to best target. And that allows streaming to take hold as a the best strategy for DST.

One eye on the present and one eye on future matchups allows for long term roster planning at a position with matchup based depth.

In Season Advice: Make Your Move As The Playoffs Approach

Around week 9, it’s time to make anticipatory moves. No joke, I once traded a 9th round pick for the Ravens defense and an 11th rounder at the trade deadline.

The rationale was I was loaded on offense and I loved my bench situation. The Ravens defense were a top five unit that season but they also headed into fantasy playoff matchups against bottom-10 offenses. They were also at home for two of the three fantasy playoff weeks.

If you have a clear and confident path to the fantasy playoffs, start shaping your roster in anticipation of winning your league. Don’t be afraid to part with potential late in the season for victory when it matters the most.

Don’t Be Afraid to Follow The Leader

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Vic Fangio. A DST architect. The Aaron Rodgers stopper and new head coach of the Denver Broncos. Fangio has often been at the helm of elite DST options, even with middling players at times. The architect of the early 2010 49ers defenses again found success with the Bears until taking the Denver head coaching job in 2019.

Fangio’s arrival goes hand in hand with improvement. The Bears defense ranked 30th in 2014. After his arrival, they finished 14th, 15th, 10th, and of course, there was last year’s total domination. Following a good defensive mind is a key to success when drafting and managing the DST position.

Following the leader is also intensely applicable to those who wait and stream the DST position. The Patriots are a no brainer with Bill Bellichik as are the Rams and always study leader Wade Phillips.

Too Obvious? The Jets under new DC Gregg Williams, the Browns under new DC Steve Wilks, and the Packers entering year two with the proven Mike Pettine come to mind.

Some other great leaders to follow include Bills HC Sean McDermott, the improving Lions defense under HC Matt Patricia, Bucs new DC Todd Bowles and Colts DC Josh Eberflus. Titans HC Mike Vrabel enters his second year in command and is someone worth monitoring for streaming purposes. Remember what he did when the Pats came to town last season?

Some Final Tips

It’s straightforward to target defenses with elite players. But often, we bias ourselves by locking into a pro bowl player on an incomplete defense. Look for defenses that have good players and depth across all units: secondary, pass rush and run stoppers on the line, and boxers like safeties and linebackers.

Consider defenses that compensate for a particular weakness with elite level units to offset these weaknesses. One of my favorite examples of this is Ron Rivera’s defenses, that focus on building talent and depth at defensive line and linebacker to take pressure off young or retread corners and safeties.

Sometimes we forget to consider the other side of the ball as well. Keep in mind that lesser offenses will put their defenses on the field for longer times. Time of possession is important to circling in on good DSTs. Look for defenses paired with offenses who are solid in the run game. And offenses who show commitment to the run game, period.

Good luck this mock draft season F6P mafia. We dare you to take a DST before round 13. You’ll find that with practice, you’ll move to the conventional thinking of waiting till the bitter end to draft the position. And you’ll be happy with the results.

Make sure to visit the F6P Fantasy Football Page for more advice to get you prepared for the 2019 season.

2019 Fantasy Football Quarterback Preview

2019 Fantasy Football Running Back Preview

2019 Fantasy Football Wide Receiver Preview

2019 Fantasy Football Tight End Preview

About Samir Qurashi

Samir Qurashi is from the Bay. He thinks football is a good time. You can get at him with any fantasy football questions on the tweeter: @FSPsamir and by electronica: He remains unspooked.

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