DST/ST Strategy: Stream against the young QB

It seems so obvious: Start a fantasy Defense (Def/ST) that is playing a bad NFL offensive team.
Yet it’s a strategy that is repeatedly forgotten or dismissed (even by us). We all generally draft some defensive team, usually based on our NFL favorite, and then start them every week. Maybe if they are going against one of the two offensive powerhouses (eg KC or LAR in 2018) we switch it out, but generally the defense position is an afterthought.

Another issue is that guessing who the bad offensive teams are on a weekly basis can feel like a total crap shoot. After all, assuming a specific quarterback is going to throw a pick-6 in any given week is a real stretch. Or is it?

There is a very good way of maximizing your odds, and that is by starting a defense going against a rookie quarterback. They are the most frequent to make mistakes, and their inconsistent play can have the biggest impact on their team’s overall offense. Our recommended strategy: As frequently as possible, stream/start a defense playing against a rookie (or the very inexperienced) quarterback.

If you look at our spreadsheet below, you can see that defenses against the rookie and inexperienced quarterbacks faired quite well in 2018. Teams highlighted in yellow mean that they were playing the optimal QB situation. You can click the tabs at the bottom to view each week:

Outlook for 2019 Season Inexperienced Quarterbacks

There are 4-5 teams this year that at some point will be starting rookie or VERY inexperienced quarterbacks, and thus setting up an ideal situation for a fantasy defensive play.

Arizona Cardinals (Kyler Murray): Murray is slated to be a starter in week 1. His style of play is ripe for making mistakes. Expect lots of scrambling and high risk throws that can lead to fumbles, sacks, and interceptions.

New York Giants (Daniel Jones): At some point this season the the Giants will have to move on from Eli Manning, and we expect it to be sooner rather than later. They will do what they can to minimize his mistakes, by playing a run heavy and short passing game, however too much of that focus will just lead to a very predictable and unproductive offense.

Miami Dolphins (Josh Rosen): If you look at how terrible Rosen was last year (and how great fantasy defenses performed last year against him), it’d probably be wise to continue riding that wave once he wins the starting job.

Washington Redskins (Dwayne Haskins): Even if Haskins doesn’t win the starting job, the QBs in front of him are equally inexperienced.

Denver Broncos (Drew Lock): The Broncos are stating that they plan to have Lock ride the bench this year, so this one may never pan out. However, keep your eye on Denver late in the season to see if they stick by their word.

Approaching Your 2019 Fantasy Draft: Defense Drafting Strategy

You aren’t always going to be able to pick up and stream any defense on any given week, as someone in your league may already own them. However, using the given knowledge of which defenses will be playing against rookie/inexperienced quarterbacks the most based on NFL scheduling can help during your draft. For instance, teams in the NFC West will all play each other twice this season. This means that the Rams, 49ers, and Seahawks, who all already have solid defenses, will get to beat up on Kyler Murray twice this year. With that knowledge, here are some teams to keep an eye on in your fantasy football draft:

  • LA Rams: Arizona x2, Baltimore x1 (Lamar Jackson is still very raw).

  • SF 49ers: Arizona x2, Baltimore x1, Washington x1

  • Seattle Seahawks: Arizona x2, Baltimore x1

  • Philadelphia Eagles: NY Giants x2, Washington x2, Miami x1

  • New England Patriots: Miami x1(week 2), Washington x1, NY Giants x1. They also play Buffalo and NY Jets x2, both with QBs only in their second season.

  • Cleveland Browns: Baltimore x2, Denver x1, Miami x1, Arizona x1

  • Chicago Bears: Denver x1(week 2), Washington x1(week 3), NY Giants

While Dallas is in the NFC East, we wouldn’t recommend them as high as the Eagles, because they play the Giants and Miami very early in the season, and those teams may not yet be starting their rookies.
The Bears also play their young QBs at a time too early to tell if they indeed will be starting, however, Chicago has such a stellar ability to score and dominate on defense that they are still a solid pick.

This strategy isn’t going to guarantee big points or a weekly #1 defense, but the more you can take advantage of this situation, the better you improve your odds. Most importantly, it adds a little more strategy and consideration into a portion of your team that you likely use to approach as an afterthought.