When do I draft defenses in fantasy football?


Earlier this week I went over when you should draft a kicker in fantasy football. Now we’re going to pivot and talk about a position that is one step above the kicker: defense. I mentioned in the kicker article that you don’t exactly need to draft a kicker if you don’t have to. This is not really the case when it comes to defenses. Unlike kickers where outcomes can be unpredictable, we oftentimes have an idea how a defense is going to perform. 



When it comes to drafting defense in fantasy football, there are a couple ways you can go about it. As mentioned above, there are always elite options at the position that can be a staple in your lineup all season long. However, it does get a bit tricky drafting some of these top options once their bye week comes along. Depending on the status of your bench, and how many bench spots your league offers, there may be a situation in which you have to cut ties with a top-ranked defense. At that point, you just spent some type of draft capital on a defense that only spent limited time on your roster. 

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When I talk about spending draft capital on a top-ranked defense, I’m referring to the ones listed in the photo above. These are the top-five consensus ranked defenses currently on FTN Fantasy and all offer high-upside at the position. If you want one of these defenses on your fantasy football squad, they might not be available in the final two rounds of your draft. 

Let’s take the Pittsburgh Steelers for example. FTN’s second-ranked defense currently has an ADP of 158.26. In your typical 12-team, 16-round draft, this puts them off the board at the top of the 14th round (on average). The Steelers were fantasy football’s No. 2 defense in 2020 and aren’t expected to lose a beat. Assuming they live up to expectations as one of the top defenses in the NFL, you could be forced to make a decision in Week 7 when their bye week hits. 

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Now we circle back to what was said earlier about cutting ties with a defense you paid up for during your fantasy football draft. As you can see in the visual above, the Steelers have the earliest bye week of the top-five ranked defenses. This means, if you were to let them go in Week 7, that you only had them on your roster for a total of six weeks. Once the Steelers defense hits the waiver wire, you’re not getting them back. Now that 13th- or 14th-round pick you spent on a defense just went mostly to waste. Instead, you could have taken a stab at a position player with a similar ADP such as Rondale Moore (163.57), Jakobi Meyers (164.96) or Marquez Callaway (170.14). 

That said, draft your defense in the second-to-last round (assuming you have to select a kicker). Unless you get one of the elite options, chances are you’re going to be streaming from week to week anyways. Go into your draft with a plan when it comes to defense. If you do plan on streaming, scope out who has the best Week 1 matchup, and go from there. Drafting one of the top-five defenses prior to this time is fine as well, just be aware of their bye week and have a plan once that time comes. 

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