The Case Against DST in Fantasy Football

by Kevin Huo
The Case Against DST in Fantasy Football

"Defense Wins Championships"

- Paul "Bear" Bryant

- Every Youth Football Coach Ever

In nearly every form of football from pee-wee to the NFL, defense does in fact usually win championships. However, that's not always necessarily the case in fantasy football. In fantasy football, DST scoring is considered an afterthought, to the point that some leagues are getting rid of it altogether.

Most people who are proponents of keeping DST scoring shrug and say things like: "Well it's how I've always played" or "It'd be weird not to have it." But if you really think about it, how much value does it add?

I'm going to provide the case against DST in fantasy football and help you finally take the plunge and pull the plug on DST scoring in your fantasy football league.

The Case Against DST in Fantasy Football

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It Gives Certain People an Advantage

I want to start by saying this: if you are in a highly-competitive league where every member pays strict attention at all times, makes moves every week, and you want every factor of the NFL game to come into play, by all means, keep playing with DST! That makes sense.

What wouldn't make sense is if you're in a semi-casual league with varying levels of players. If some people are waiting up at 2 AM for waivers to process on a Tuesday morning while others don't check their lineup until Thursday night, scrap DSTs. Those night trolls will have an inherent advantage with DSTs since streaming matchups is such an important part of playing DSTs.

DST Scoring is Not Based in Reality

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Terrible defenses can put up good numbers by making big plays. For example, the 2019 Seahawks finished 10th in DST scoring but was just 17th in defensive DVOA rankings respectively. On the flip side, the Bills and Cowboys finished 16th. and 23rd in DST scoring but were 6th and 8th in DVOA rankings respectively.

By running a R-test between the two factors, we find that there is a only a weak positive correlation (R=.4142) between the DST finish of a defense and its DVOA finish. Now DVOA may not be a perfect measurement of the quality of a defense, but it's not bad by any means. This means that there is only a weak relationship between the quality of a team's defense and the amount of fantasy points it generates.

In most other aspects of fantasy football, good players produce the most points (except you 2015-2016 Blake Bortles). There's something rewarding about having the best players on your team in your lineup, instead of whichever nameless defense is playing the Buffalo Bills.

Extreme Random Variance

At the end of the day, fantasy football is a game and most games depend on some measure of randomness or variance. However, the way DST scoring is set up is TOO random.

Below is a histogram that shows DST scoring in 2019 for the top 12 DSTs.

2020 The Case Against DSTs

 

Based on the data from 2018, the average score of a top 12 fantasy DST is 7.9. So based on the chart you are more likely to score below average than above. That's not abnormal.

Where it becomes a problem is that any score between 0-4 can kill your week - and that happens more than a third of the time! Those 10+ point booms are fantastic, but wouldn't it be better to not have to count on those to determine the outcome of your matchup?

Starting a DST is essentially equivalent to both you and your opponent starting Ted Ginn Jr. or John Ross every week - except they have Mitch Trubisky throwing them the ball. Might as well flip a coin.

Finally, It's Just Not that Fun

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Fantasy football is fantastic and has brought me so much joy. But that doesn't mean that every part of it is great.

What's the point in staying up late on a Saturday night trying to decide between starting the Bears against Aaron Rodgers or the Bills against the Colts in snowy weather?

In the last few years, how many times have you started a defense you knew was horrible but they were playing Jameis Winston so maybe he'd throw a few picks?

Or maybe you've had to drop a valuable speculation player from your bench so you could hold a DST through their bye week?

Or maybe you've played against someone whose DST gave up 35 points in a loss but returned a pick-6 and a kickoff for a touchdown and lit you up for 14 points?

Let's focus on the better, more fun, less random parts of fantasy football and remove DST scoring from our leagues. If there was a better way to reward good defenses and reduce extreme variance, I'd be all for it. Until then, it won't be featured in any of my leagues.


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4 comments

Wil Granger June 23, 2019 - 4:10 pm

Interesting take on DST scoring but would argue that kickers also have extreme weekly random variance. I know that some leagues have gotten rid of them.

Additionally, QB’s also have weekly variance but no seasonal variance anymore as generally QB#2 – QB#10 only have a 2 point per week difference (standard leagues)…so if there is no difference between qb’s anymore, instead of waiting to draft one…just eliminate them also…

TE’s suffer the same problem when looking outside the top 3…#4 through#10 are all the same (bad)… some leagues have just lumped them in with the “receivers group”…effectively getting rid of them.

Don’t get rid of these elements…embrace them.

When you look at fantasy football compared to fantasy baseball…fantasy baseball is boring because, for the most part, players perform to their averages and the variability isn’t really dramatic…Fantasy Football is one of the greatest games, because there are “jackpot” moments and that moments that strange things can happen. This is drama….drama is said to be anticipation mixed with uncertainty. Having a defense, kicker, etc all adds to uncertainty and that should be embraced. I have played this game for 31 years (first pick ever was Warren Moon) and have been on both sides of the “jackpot” moments…and strangely, it’s a lot of those moments that me and my friends all remember and still reminisce about to this day. And that’s what it’s all about…creating memories with friends and family.

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wi granger June 23, 2019 - 4:21 pm

Just some friendly advice…

Most people aren’t quants and aren’t familiar with DVOA… thus as proper contemporary writing rules dictate;The rule is to write out the full name when first mentioned (with the acronym in brackets).

like the articles…

kind regards,,

WIl

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