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If you’re like me, you don’t draft a defense before the penultimate round of fantasy football drafts. Personally, I’m not a fan of taking a defense or a kicker prior to the final two rounds. Let other players do it and give you more chances to hit on sleeper running backs and wide receivers. And the key is simple: look at the NFL Week 1 schedule.
Based on fantasy football draft trends at the major sites, teams like San Francisco, Dallas, Philadelphia, Buffalo and others are all going in earlier rounds. Those aren’t the teams to target. But there are a few that are going 10th (or later) among defenses. Those are the targets for late in the draft.
Washington Commanders are my #1 target for defense in fantasy football drafts
A common misconception among fantasy football managers is that defensive scoring is consistent among the top defenses. It really isn’t. Sure, San Francisco might have a great year. But defensive touchdowns are fluky. So are turnovers. Yes, some teams create more turnovers and sacks, which is who you want to target.
However, the most important aspect for picking a defense on a weekly basis is simple: opponent. There is more consistency among offenses providing fantasy points for the opposing defense than defenses providing consistent points against any offense.
As good as San Francisco or Dallas might be, matchups against tough offenses are going to present problems for them. That’s why I typically employ the “streaming” option for defenses. Simply put, use a new defense every week, unless you find a team with two or three good matchups in a row.
That all being said, the Washington Commanders are the top target. They face the Arizona Cardinals in Week 1. The Cardinals are expected to start journeyman Josh Dobbs at quarterback. Dobbs started two games last season for the Tennessee Titans and threw two interceptions, got sacked six times and fumbled four times.
That’s fantasy football gold. Plus, the Cardinals are going to be terrible. In fact, a reasonable strategy is to just play the defense that faces the Cardinals every week — at least until Kyler Murray returns. But even possibly when he does. For Week 1, based on point spread, the Cardinals implied team total is just 16 points.
The Commanders should score points in Week 1 and they face the Denver Broncos in Week 2. That’s not a terrible matchup, either. So, you could conceivably use Washington for the first two weeks before they host the Bills in Week 3.
Other options for Week 1 defenses in fantasy football
If you play in a league with savvy managers, it’s possible Washington comes off the board before you pick. Don’t panic. There are still other options available. My second target is the Jacksonville Jaguars. Based on fantasy football draft trends, fantasy managers are virtually ignoring Jacksonville. That’s a mistake.
Jacksonville faces Indianapolis in Week 1. The Colts are starting a very raw rookie quarterback in Anthony Richardson and have a first-time NFL head coach in Shane Steichen. Plus, Jonathan Taylor is out and the Colts just don’t have many great options on offense. Jacksonville is a perfect backup plan if the Commanders are not available.
Speaking of rookie quarterbacks, the Atlanta Falcons are a possibility as well. They face Bryce Young and the Carolina Panthers. Based on the current point spread, the Panthers implied total is just 18 points in Week 1. Actually, the Panthers make a good option facing the Falcons, as well.
So there you go. Now you’re ready to pick a solid fantasy football defense in the penultimate round of your fantasy football draft.
Follow Dan Zaksheske on X – formerly known as Twitter: @RealDanZak