What Can the Opponent Tell Us?
Scott Spratt investigates which defenses had the biggest impact on passing and rushing production in fantasy.
What Can the Opponent Tell Us?
This season, Mike Clay has asked me to submit weekly rankings for redraft formats. As someone who has spent the bulk of the last three years thinking about predominantly dynasty leagues, I feel I need to brush up on some specific concepts that impact redraft formats more than dynasty ones.
The one that really stands out to me is the schedule. It is difficult to stream players in dynasty because more of your bench is typically allocated to prospects. When the window of potential value is shrunk from a career to a season, the number of viable sleepers is greatly reduced. That means that there are frequently players available on the waiver wire who become contenders to start for you in a week with a favorable matchup, especially in shallow leagues. And it also means the risk of losing whichever player you choose to drop is much less because he only has the rest of that season to provide value.
I decided to start by calculating which defensive teams were the best in 2013 from a fantasy perspective. To do so, I first calculated the average number of passing yards, passing touchdowns, passing interceptions, rushing yards, and rushing touchdowns each offensive team had accumulated on a rolling annual basis for each week of the 2013 season. That means that the average number of yards the Panthers rushed for as of Week 12 was based on their games from Week 12 in 2012 to Week 11 in 2013.
Next, I compared a team’s offensive averages to their actual numbers in that week. So if the Panthers averaged 100 rushing yards per game from Week 12 in 2012 to Week 11 in 2013 and then the Saints held them to 80 rushing yards that week, I designated that difference of -20 yards to the Saints defense. Then, I calculated the averages of each statistic for every defense over all of 2013.
First, here are the 2013 pass defenses, sorted from best to worst by fantasy points allowed per game:
|Fantasy Passing Defenses|
The Seahawks really stand out. Teams passed for nearly 54 yards fewer against them than in an average start. The next closest pass defense, Houston, held teams to only 33 yards fewer than average. In addition, the Seahawks forced 0.77 interceptions over average, more than 50 percent more than the closest teams to them. Overall, teams passed for 5.26 fantasy points less than average when facing the Seahawks, which was 2.50 points less than the second best fantasy pass defense.
The rest of the best fantasy pass defenses match up with expectations. They include the Panthers, 49ers, Bengals, and Dolphins. However, they did not all follow the same path to get there. The Panthers and Dolphins had particular success at preventing passing touchdowns. It raises a question of whether randomness in terms of pass vs. rush in the red zone might make their success less sustainable than teams like the Bengals and 49ers who did it more with yards. A quick peek at the run defenses does not provide an inkling as the Panthers were similarly outstanding at preventing rushing touchdowns while the Dolphins were not.
Here is the full list of fantasy run defenses:
|Fantasy Run Defenses|
The Cardinals were the clear medalists, here, as the best defense at preventing rushing yards and third best at preventing rushing touchdowns. The loss of Daryl Washington will probably destroy that trend in 2014. The Seahawks, Panthers, Bengals, and 49ers are near the top of the run defenses leaderboard as well as the pass defense one. Meanwhile, the Jets are the opposite of the Dolphins, having a great run defense and bad pass defense.
Unsurprisingly, the Jaguars are the lone team in the bottom five in both pass and run defense for fantasy. That figures to continue in 2014 since the team addressed primarily offensive deficiencies at the top of the draft with the selections of Blake Bortles, Marqise Lee, and Allen Robinson.
Scott Spratt was named Newcomer of the Year by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. He also writes for RotoGraphs and contributes to ESPN Insider as a research analyst for Baseball Info Solutions. Feel free to ask him questions on Twitter – @PFF_ScottSpratt