By Jacob Bourgeois; Twitter: @JacobBourgieFFB
What follows are team defensive statistics for the 2020 season for each team, along with their Fantasy Points per Game and average over the last three seasons. The goal is to facilitate an accurate ranking of the DST position for the 2021 season. After ranking the teams’ based on performance and make-up going into the 2021 season. I list out their opponents for the first 5 weeks of the regular season.
Points come from big plays, and big plays usually come from big time players. So finding the Aaron Donalds, Jamal Adams, and Fred Warners of the world is a great place to start. Some teams lost great players, others added them, while many will see their stars succumb to injury at some point or another. At the same time, defensive minded coaches like Brandon Staley, Bill Belichick, and Robert Selah can turn out great plays just by coaching up the correct approaches and having their guys in the right place at the right time.
One thing that’s not great for DSTs is offensive turn-overs. Turn-overs lead to short fields, and short fields lead to points against. Yards allowed is a stat that does not have a direct correlation in fantasy points except that it is likely predictive of points allowed. But not always, as turn-overs on offense wrench that stat, and there are teams that can thrive (or get by) on a “bend don’t break” strategy.
Another unsung hero of DST is the ground game; the more clock that’s run, the fewer plays to defend.
The Chicago Bears 2018 season and Patriots 2019 seasons appear as outliers on the above chart in points per game. For the Bears, they lost Vic Fangio to Denver after their first year with Khalil Mack and have been a little lackluster since then. For the Patriots a lot of credit was given to Stefon Gilmore’s DPOY season, and a soft schedule to start the year. The severe drop off post-Brady can also be attributed to a lot of Covid opt outs on that side of the ball, which is one of the reasons I expect a significant bounce back.
Tampa Bay and Washington both got stronger as the season progressed, which is expected given the number of young studs they have on the team. Pittsburgh, Minnesota, and San Francisco dealt with a ton of injury to either derail their entire season or a portion of it following big name losses. What follows is my rankings in tiers with my justifications. These can also be found on the rankings page: here, where they’ll be periodically updated.
The final piece to the puzzle once I’ve identified the best DSTs in a vacuum is to map out each teams’ matchups to determine if/when I am going to want to start these teams. Below is the first five weeks’ matchups as it’s really premature to guess at strength of schedule much beyond that.