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2020 Team Defense (DST) Draft Sleepers


If last year proved anything, it's that a top-flight DST can be a league winner. According to ESPN, the Steelers were on 18.4% of league-winning teams, the Ravens on 18.1%, and the juggernaut Patriots DST was on 14.2% of teams.

However, as we've seen in seasons past, drafters can oftentimes overreact to a great season from a DST--which is what we saw last year with the Bears DST. Khalil Mack helped transform them into a juggernaut, and that turned them into a top-100 pick in some cases. Of course, DST success is fleeting and inconsistent from season-to-season. The Patriots benefited from a defensive touchdown rate that is almost certainly unsustainable, especially when you consider how much more difficult their schedule is this year.

That begs the question--how do we identify this year's DST sleepers before the season begins? We're going to examine a few factors that will influence how we determine a true sleeper from a hopeful guess.

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Finding Team Defense (DST) Sleepers

Strength of Schedule (SOS): With 1 being the hardest, 32 being the easiest, we'll look at which teams' schedules contain opponents with the highest 2019 win percentages.

Pressure Rate: The percentage of QB pressures (hurries, knockdowns and sack plays) per dropback, as QB pressure has a direct influence on turnovers and obviously overall interference of an offense.

Average Points Allowed Per Game (PPG): While sacks and takeaways are the most important stats for fantasy scoring, keeping points off the board can also lead to high fantasy DST scores

Average 2019 Fantasy Ranking: While every league's scoring system can be different, these rankings come from FantasyPros' average ranking for Weeks 1-17.

 

1. Cincinnati Bengals Defense (D/ST)

2019 Avg. Fantasy Ranking 2020 ADP Ranking 2020 S.O.S. Pressure Rates (%) 2019 Sacks 2019 Takeaways Avg. PPG
31 31 27th 22.9 31 14 26.3

Key Additions: DT D.J. Reader, CB Trae Waynes, CB Mackensie Alexander, LB Logan Allen (drafted), LB Akeem Davis-Gaither (drafted)

Key Losses: CB Dre Kirkpatrick, CB Darqueze Dennard

The Bengals immediately addressed the loss of Kirkpatrick and Dennard by adding two intriguing options at cornerback in the offseason in Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander. These are cheaper options to be sure, and they may not represent a huge downgrade in talent. William Jackson III could return to superstar status if he can regain some of the promise he showed in 2017, and together with the two new imports he'll lead a secondary that has a pretty high ceiling heading into the season.

The Bengals are in the process of transforming their linebacking corps as evidenced by their 2020 draft, and they'll still have veteran stalwarts Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap holding things down up front. Defensive ends Sam Hubbard and Carlos Dunlap are the potential X-factors for this defense, although they totaled just 84 combined total pressures last season. Their development in 2020 is going to play a huge role in how effective this unit can be in the pass rush.

With one of the easier schedules in the NFL and very little to lose in the way of playoff aspirations, this unit might be able to surprise some folks. Their fate is going to be influenced by the offense's ability to keep them off the field, and some of their young talent taking a step forward.

Streaming Highlights: Week 4 vs. JAC, Week 7 vs. CLE, Week 11 @ WAS, Week 12 vs. NYG, Week 13 @ MIA

 

2. Washington Football Team Defense (D/ST)

2019 Avg. Fantasy Ranking 2020 ADP Ranking 2020 S.O.S. Pressure Rates (%) 2019 Sacks 2019 Takeaways Avg. PPG
25 23 28th 28.5 46 22 27.2

Key Additions: DE Chase Young (drafted), CB Kendall Fuller, CB Ronald Darby

Key Losses: CB Quinton Dunbar

The Washington defense is littered with former first-round picks, but easily the most exciting player here is defensive end Chase Young, who they drafted with the second overall pick this year. Young is widely regarded as one of the more transcendent talents in recent memory, and he'll step in to make an immediate impact in the pass rush. Washington actually ranked third in the NFL in pressure rate last year, and with Young now wreaking havoc this could be a truly elite unit in 2020.

The question marks lie in the secondary. Quinton Dunbar was far and away their best player in 2019, but was traded for a middling pick to Seattle. Filling the void will be Kendall Fuller, who is returning to his original team after a disappointing season in Kansas City, and former Bills/Eagles standout Ronal Darby, whose play fell off a cliff in 2019. Landon Collins is a well-paid anchor in the secondary as well, but overall this team is built on potential more than proven talent from last season.

The strength of schedule is a big factor here. The NFC East is benefiting from a middling inter-conference schedule, and the Washington pass rush should have plenty of opportunities to show out and shut down over the course of the season.

Streaming Highlights: Week 3 at CLE, Week 5 vs. LAR, Week 6 @ NYG, Week 9 vs. NYG, Week 11 vs. CIN, Week 16 vs. CAR

 

3. Jacksonville Jaguars Defense (D/ST)

2019 Avg. Fantasy Ranking 2020 ADP Ranking 2020 S.O.S. Pressure Rates (%) 2019 Sacks 2019 Takeaways Avg. PPG
19 24 22nd 25.8 47 19 24.8

Key Additions: LB K'lavon Chaisson (drafted), LB Joe Schobert, DE Cassius March

Key Losses: DE Calais Campbell, DT Marcell Dareus, CB A.J. Bouye

Losing Calais Campbell is obviously significant, but the Jaguars have a ton of young talent up front that can make the Jaguars reminisce about the unbelievable 2017 season. It'd be nice if they could figure out Yannick Ngakoue's contract situation, but even if they head into the 2020 season without him they can succeed with improvement from their younger players. Taven Bryan and Josh Allen are first-round talents who have yet to truly play like it, and this year's first-rounder K'Lavon Chaisson is a highlight reel waiting to happen. There is upside aplenty, but question marks define the front seven for Jacksonville.

Trading away A.J. Bouye was a relief from a contract perspective, and it allows the Jaguars to test first-round stud C.J. Henderson right away. The physical freak should make an immediate impact as a true shadow DB, and will likely track opposing teams' top wideouts given how fast, strong and physical he is.

A weaker schedule combined with some exciting young talent has my expectations up for this season in Jacksonville. If the offense can keep them off the field enough, this could be a unit that ends up being a top-10 DST option in some weeks.

Streaming Highlights: Week 3 vs. MIA, Week 4 at CIN, Week 5 @ HOU, Week 9 vs. HOU, Week 16 vs. CHI

 

4. Dallas Cowboys Defense (D/ST)

2019 Avg. Fantasy Ranking 2020 ADP Ranking 2020 S.O.S. Pressure Rates (%) 2019 Sacks 2019 Takeaways Avg. PPG
17 19 30th 23.4 39 17 20.1

Key Additions: DT Gerald McCoy, S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, NT Dontari Poe, LB Aldon Smith, DE Everson Griffen, CB Trevon Diggs (drafted), DL Neville Gallimore (drafted)

Key Losses: DE Robert Quinn, CB Byron Jones, DT Maliek Collins, S Jeff Heath

The Cowboys suffered some major losses in free agency, but it's possible that they recovered so well they're in a better position. Losing Robert Quinn and Maliek Collins up front stings, but replacing them with upside veterans like Gerald McCoy, Dontari Poe and Everson Griffen ensures that this pass rush will lose none of its edge. The return of Aldon Smith, who has been out of the NFL since 2017 for a bevy of legal troubles, could be a game-changing factor if he shows any of the elite talent that he displayed in San Francisco.

In the secondary, it all comes down to whether or not Trevon Diggs can step in as a suitable replacement for Byron Jones. Diggs came into the draft as one of the best coverage DBs in the entire draft, and if he can use his size to break up passes the Cowboys will be in great shape. Chidobe Awuzie had 11 pass breakups last year, and is quietly a star in his own right

The middling pressure rate has a very good chance of increasing this year, especially given that the Cowboys have one of the easiest schedules in the league. There is as good a chance of the Cowboys finishing in the top seven of the league as any defense currently being drafted in the double-digit rounds.

Streaming Highlights: Week 1 @ LAR, Week 4 vs. CLE, Week 5 vs. NYG, Week 7 @ WAS, Week 12 vs. WAS, Week 14 @ CIN, Week 17 @ NYG

 

5. Cleveland Browns Defense (D/ST)

2019 Avg. Fantasy Ranking 2020 ADP Ranking 2020 S.O.S. Pressure Rates (%) 2019 Sacks 2019 Takeaways Avg. PPG
24 20 29th 23.8 38 20 24.6

Key Additions: DE Adrian Clayborn, DT Andrew Billings, S Andrew Sendejo, S Karl Joseph, S Grant Delpit (drafted), DT Jordan Elliott (drafted), LB Jacob Phillips (drafted)

Key Losses: LB Joe Schobert, S Damarious Randall, LB Christian Kirksey, S Eric Murray 

The story in Cleveland is a combination of veterans stepping up and rookies showing out. Myles Garrett may be the best pass rusher on the planet (the Bosa brothers may certainly quibble about that point), and both Sheldon Richardson and Oliver Vernon will anchor the middle once again. Rookie Jacob Phillips will likely be asked to step in immediately as the strong side linebacker, and he and Mack Wilson should provide stability over the middle.

As of this writing, the fear is that rookie Grant Delpit tore his Achilles tendon during practice today (August 24th). That will certainly impact how the Browns' secondary shapes up, and places even more pressure on cornerback combo Denzel Ward and Greedy Williams to take it to the next level and for safeties Andrew Sendejo and Karl Joseph to play at a higher level.

Once again the strength of schedule plays a role here. The range of outcomes is extremely high on both sides of the ball in Cleveland, but in my eyes, on defense it comes down to whether or not their group of talented veterans can play to the top of their potential for a full 16 games.

Streaming Highlights: Week 2 vs. CIN, Week 3 vs. WAS, Week 7 @ CIN, Week 8 vs. LV, Week 12 @ JAC, Week 15  @ NYG, Week 16 @ NYJ



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Dissecting Contact Quality In Search Of Fantasy Bargains

Of the 1,015 hitters sampled(1) between 2015 and 2019, there were only 14 instances of hitters making more productive contact against pitches outside of the strike zone than against pitches inside of the strike zone based on xwOBAcon. Based on the same sample, the average hitter was a whopping .116 points better against pitches inside... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 23rd, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 23rd, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Lineup Order Risers and Fallers: AL West 2020 Review

It’s the offseason and there are about to be a bunch of moving parts. This allows for speculation in terms of players gaining or losing playing time, moving up or down a batting order and much more. The idea here is to highlight some lineup situations for each team and some potential winners or losers... Read More


2021 1st & 2nd Year Players with James Anderson - Benched with Bubba (Episode 317)

Bubba (@bdentrek) is joined by James Anderson (@RealJRAnderson) on episode 317. The guys will go over 30+ first and second-year players. They will discuss their current ADP's in the 2 Early Mocks, what to expect of the players in 2021, and much more. They also go over some listener questions, compare Juan Soto to Mike... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 21st, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 21st, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 20th, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 20th, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Bubba and Bat Flip 54: 2 Early Mocks APD Player Debates - Benched with Bubba (Episode 316)

Bubba (@bdentrek) is joined by Bat Flip Crazy (@BatFlipCrazy) to take a deeper look at the 2 Early Mocks ADP. They go over some of the positions and look at players with similar ADPs and debate. Going around the diamond discussing some players people are high on and some they are down on with a... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 18th, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 18th, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 17th, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 17th, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


2021 Early Mock ADP Values & Reaches: WPC+ Videocast

Pierre Camus and Nicklaus Gaut prepare for the 2021 fantasy baseball season with a look at early mock draft results from the RotoBaller Expert mock. Like and subscribe to the RotoBaller channel on Youtube to get all our latest podcasts and catch us on iTunes and BlogTalkRadio as well! Be sure to also tune into RotoBaller... Read More


Statcast Season Review: 2020 Barrel Leaders (Hitters)

The 2020 MLB season will always be one for the record books, even if everything that took place will have multiple asterisks attached to it. Evaluating Statcast numbers is a nice way to find hot and cold hitters, as well as underachievers and overachievers. Now that the regular season is over, let's reflect on the... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 16th, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 16th, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 15th, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 15th, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 14th, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 14th, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Bubba and Bat Flip 53: 2 Early Mocks APD Trends & More - Benched with Bubba (Episode 315)

Bubba (@bdentrek) is joined by Bat Flip Crazy (@BatFlipCrazy) to take a deeper look at the 2 Early Mocks ADP. They dig into trends, some interesting risers/fallers, and much more. They also go over some listener questions at the end to keep the Fantasy Baseball information coming even in the offseason. Be sure to subscribe... Read More