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Defensive Team By Committee

The Defensive Team By Committee (DTBC) theory has gain prominence in recent seasons. I've detailed its usage each of the past two seasons. Utilizing this strategy involves the selection of two defenses that are available late in drafts whose schedules combine in such a way as to create ideal matchups against weak offenses. With an efficient platoon system, your defenses will sum to greater than their parts. The idea being that an average defense playing a very bad offense is just as productive as a very good defense playing an average offense.

By using this plan, it's unnecessary to waste a high draft pick to receive strong production out of your Team Defense/Special Teams (D/ST) position. Instead of spending an eighth rounder on last year's top (D/ST) you can get that valuable depth needed at WR or QB. For this to work, you must be confident that you can draft your two Team Ds fairly late. In fact, the two teams I chose (you'll have to wait just a few more minutes for that) aren't ranked in the top twelve in either the FBG expert rankings or Antsports average draft position lists.

So qualities are desirable for our defensive committee?

  • An excellent combination schedule, featuring many weak offenses

  • Unlikely to be among the first twelve D/STs drafted

  • Reasons for optimism via offseason transactions

  • A high scoring offense

Those first two points form the basis of the DTBC theory. Usually the teams that are selected last in drafts didn't play very well last year, so you're looking for some type of improvement in either coaching or personnel. The last one's a bit tricky, but consider: The better a team's offense, the more likely they're going to be putting pressure on their opponent's offense to score. And when your defense is going up against an offense that is pressured to score points, they're going to take more risks. And those risks turn into sacks, turnovers and touchdowns for your defense. Consider that last year:

  • Indianapolis, Kansas City and Green Bay - three teams with high scoring offenses and bad defenses - ranked in the top ten in sacks.


  • Cincinnati, Indianapolis and Seattle were three of the six teams to force 35 or more turnovers last season.


  • The correlation coefficient between points scored and turnovers forced last year was 0.20; the correlation coefficient between points scored and sacks was 0.39. For those non-stat geeks out there, a correlation coefficient of 0 implies no relation between two groups, while a correlation coefficient of 1 (or -1) implies a direct correlation (or indirect correlation). While neither 0.20 nor 0.39 is very strong, and correlation does not equal causation, it certainly appears better for your defense to be coupled with a good offense.


The first step in finding our DTBC is to rank the offenses. As usual, I used Footballguys.com projections to rank the offenses. I scored them the following way: (0.3 x Points scored) + (0.03 x Total Yards) - (2 x Interceptions thrown). While most leagues count sacks and fumbles as well, I didn't for two reasons. Both are extremely unpredictable, and I didn't have good sack or fumble projections for team offenses handy. After calculating the numbers for each team, I then sorted all the offenses, and ranked them from one to thirty two. Here's the list, which shows both how they are projected for 2005 and their 2004 end of year rankings. (Note: When picking the worst offenses, I only used the 2005 projected rankings. The 2004 ranks are just there for reference).

Team
'05 Proj Rk
'04 Rank
Indianapolis
1
1
Kansas City
2
2
Philadelphia
3
7
Denver
4
8
St. Louis
5
14
New England
6
6
Minnesota
7
3
San Diego
8
4
Oakland
9
23
Green Bay
10
5
Seattle
11
9
New Orleans
12
15
NY Jets
13
11
Cincinnati
14
18
Pittsburgh
15
10
Atlanta
16
17
Jacksonville
17
24
Tennessee
18
13
Detroit
19
25
Baltimore
20
22
Houston
21
19
Carolina
22
12
Tampa Bay
23
21
NY Giants
24
20
Dallas
25
26
Buffalo
26
16
Washington
27
30
Arizona
28
27
San Francisco
29
28
Chicago
30
32
Cleveland
31
29
Miami
32
31

There's a good amount of movement from the 2004 results to the 2005 projections, none of which should come as a surprise. Certainly the Raiders had a great offseason on offense, moving from the bottom ten to the top ten. After ranking the offenses, I went through every team's schedule, and ranked each game they played. When New England played the Dolphins, the Patriots D was awarded thirty-two 'points'; for their game against the Colts, they got just one 'point'. A bye was worth zero 'points'. To figure out which two-team combination was best, I went through all 496 pairings of schedules. I only did this for weeks one through sixteen, as most leagues have their championship game in week sixteen.

2005 Defensive Team By Committee

Last year, the Redskins and Vikings were my top combo, and they had 399 'points'. This year, it's the Cincinnati Bengals and Detroit Lions. The Bengals are currently 18th on FBG's expert rankings, while the Lions D/ST rank 23rd. Neither team is among the first sixteen D/STs drafted in recent mock drafts on Antsports.com.

Cincinnati Bengals

Defensive Coordinator: Chuck Bresnahan
DL: Duane Clemons, Bryan Robinson, John Thornton, Justin Smith
LB: David Pollack ®, Odell Thurman ®, Brian Simmons
DB: Tory James, Deltha O'Neal, Kim Herring, Madieu Williams

The addition of two Georgia Bulldogs - David Pollack and Odell Thurman - will go a long ways towards improving the Bengals weak front seven. Pollack has excellent football instincts, and the former DE excels at rushing the passer. He was a dominant college player and was a big time playmaker. Thurman has been lauded for his great tackling ability, the Achilles heel for the Bengals the past two seasons. Lewis has named Thurman the starter and appears very high on the second round pick, who may have been the best MLB in the draft. Brian Simmons is a dependable run stopper and has recorded 210 tackles, four interceptions, forced five fumbles and recovered another five the past two years.

From 1978 to 2003, the Bengals sent just two CBs to the Pro Bowl - Eric Thomas in 1988 and Ashley Ambrose in 1996. But Tory James' earned a trip to Hawaii last season with eight interceptions, and both he and CB Deltha O'Neal (who led the NFL with 9 interceptions as a second year player in 2001) have big play ability. With a strong Bengals offense putting points on the board, teams will be forced to challenge James and O'Neal. Madieu Williams made highlight reels as a rookie, and is intelligent enough to play anywhere in the secondary. Kim Herring has the experience Williams lacks, and he was the starting SS when Marvin Lewis and the Ravens won the Super Bowl in 2000.

Bryan Robinson was brought over from the Miami this offseason, and he should team with John Thornton to improve the Bengals' inside rush defense. Justin Smith has great quickness and can get to the quarterback, which he should do more of this year. While defenses could focus on him in the past, Pollack should draw some of that attention this year. Duane Clemons (12.5 sacks the past two seasons) and second year man Robert Geathers - who had 3.5 sacks in November - should provide strong pass rush from the other side as well.

Chuck Bresnahan was an assistant with the Bengals last year, and will bring an aggressive scheme as defensive coordinator. While the Bengals may not be a shutdown defense, they've got several guys that can attack the quarterback and cornerbacks with good hands. When they go up against bad offenses, you can expect them to do well.

Detroit Lions

Defensive Coordinator: Dick Jauron
DL: Cory Redding, Dan Wilkinson, Shaun Rogers, James Hall
LB: Boss Bailey, Earl Holmes, Teddy Lehman
DB: Dre' Bly, Fernando Bryant, Kennoy Kennedy, Terrence Holt

Eight members of the Lions defense were drafted in the first 45 picks, and that doesn't include Shaun Rogers - who many feel is the best DT in the NFL. Dick Jauron enters his second year as DC, and won Coach of the Year Honors for his work with the Chicago Bears in 2001. Here's another reason the Lions make for an ideal DTBC team:

Detroit played very well in 2004 against weaker offenses, but really struggled against the top scoring teams. Against teams in the top half of the league in scoring, the Lions allowed a whopping 28.4 points per game, and scored just 4.0 Fantasy Points/Game (FP/G). Against teams ranking in the bottom half of the league in points scored, the Detroit D/ST allowed 16.8 NFL points per game and scored 16.6 FP/G.

The strength of their defense is on the line, where they have six quality players. James Hall is in his prime at 28 years old, and had 11.5 sacks last year. While Dan Wilkinson never lived up to the hype of being the number one draft pick, he's a quality interior lineman and his 335 lb frame takes up a lot of space. He'll likely be replaced by rookie Shaun Cody from USC on passing downs, as Cody was an excellent interior pass rusher in college. Cody has a great motor and his combination of strength, speed and hand leverage should cause lots of problems for opposing offensive lineman. Cory Redding is a DE/DT tweener and is tough against the run, while Kalimba Edwards is a third down pass rushing specialist.

At LB, the Lions have drafted a couple of top notch athletes, Boss Bailey and Teddy Lehman. In last year's draft the Lions traded the rights to Kellen Winslow for Roy Williams and Teddy Lehman, one of the most lopsided trades in recent history. Lehman's a physical LB that covers well and is a sure tackler, although he's not much of a pass rusher. Bailey is one of the fastest LBs in the league, but missed the entire 2004 season with a knee injury. Earl "Hitman" Holmes lives up to his nickname, as the ex-Steeler has led his team in tackles each of the last six years averaging 116 per season. James Davis can play any of the LB positions, and should replace Holmes in passing situations.

In the secondary, Dre' Bly has made the Pro Bowl in both his years in Detroit. He's recorded 10 interceptions and 2 TDs the last two seasons, and is just 28 years old. Fernando Bryant and R.W. McQuarters are above average corners, giving the Lions quality depth at the position. While neither are big playmakers, Bryant is experienced but still young (81 career starts, 28 years old) and has good speed. McQuarters joins the Lions after playing under HC Steve Mariucci in SF and DC Dick Jauron in Chicago. Kennoy Kennedy and Terrence Holt are a good mix; Kennedy is experienced, a sure tackler and is an intimidator. Holt is fast and a playmaker, but is still raw.

Additionally, Eddie Drummond is one of the top return men in the NFL, and scored four TDs last year.

The Combined Schedule

  • Week 1: @Cleveland (31)

  • Week 2: @Chicago (30)

  • Week 3: @Chicago (30)

  • Week 4: @Tampa Bay (23)

  • Week 5: Baltimore (20)

  • Week 6: Carolina (22)

  • Week 7: @Cleveland (31)

  • Week 8: Chicago (30)

  • Week 9: @Baltimore (20)

  • Week 10: Arizona (28)

  • Week 11: @Dallas (25)

  • Week 12: Baltimore (20)

  • Week 13: @Pittsburgh (15)

  • Week 14: Cleveland (31)

  • Week 15: @Detroit (19) or Cincinnati (14)

  • Fantasy Super Bowl Week 16: Buffalo (26)

  • Week 17: @Pittsburgh (15)

It's always nice to get six combined games against the Bears and the Browns, consistently two of the worst offenses in the NFL. There's not a single "down" week in this schedule, as even Pittsburgh doesn't possess a high scoring offense. Our attacking defenses should succeed against immobile QBs like Trent Dilfer, Kurt Warner, and Drew Bledsoe.

Alternates

Sure there aren't many people known as "Bengals fans" or "Lions homers", but what happens if one of these Ds is taken the pick before yours? Don't worry; there are still plenty of solid alternatives. (Note: These are simply the top mathematically alternatives, excluding the "stud" defenses. I don't necessarily view the complementary D's as sleepers. The numbers in parentheses represent the combined 'points'.)

Alternate combinations with Cincinnati

  • Chicago (374)

  • San Francisco (370)

  • St. Louis (366)

  • Washington (364)

  • Dallas (363)

  • Cleveland (362)

Alternate combinations with Detroit

  • Green Bay (382)

  • Seattle (380)

  • Jacksonville (373)

  • New Orleans (369)

  • New York Giants (369)

  • Arizona (369)

Stud Ds

Let's say you want to ignore everything I've written. The Patriots D/ST helped you win the Super Bowl, and you want to draft a stud D again this year. So who should you select as your backup D? Below are the best combinations with the seven stud Ds. (Note: Once again, this is an objective analysis and doesn't factor in my thoughts on the particular D/STs in question. 'Points' for the committee are in parenthesis.)

  • Baltimore - Cincinnati (364), Seattle (358)

  • Pittsburgh - Seattle (373), San Francisco (366)

  • New England - Seattle (373), Cincinnati (359),

  • Buffalo - Seattle (362), Detroit (357)

  • Philadelphia - San Francisco (369), Seattle (368), Cincinnati (368)

  • Carolina - Washington (394), Detroit (393), Arizona (381)

  • Tampa Bay - Cincinnati (387), Seattle (386)

Everyone take two already?

So you fell asleep in the middle of the draft, woke up and now it's the last two rounds - and you don't have any defenses. In fact, only the bottom ten defenses are left (excluding the Lions). What's the best way to salvage your D/ST position?

  • San Francisco - Tennessee (379)

  • Kansas City - St. Louis (375)

  • St. Louis - Tennessee (369)

  • Green Bay - Tennessee (368)

  • Green Bay - Oakland (368)

  • Kansas City - New Orleans (361)

  • San Francisco - St. Louis (360)

  • New Orleans - San Francisco (358)

  • Cleveland - Green Bay (357)

  • Green Bay - Kansas City (357)

  • For both the Texans (355) and the Giants (349), San Francisco matches up best.

I only want one D!

The top five D's based on easiest opposing schedule:

1. Tampa Bay
2. Detroit
3. Carolina
4. Cincinnati
5. Seattle

The worst five D's based on toughest opposing schedule (facing the best offenses):

28. Buffalo
29. Kansas City
30. New York Giants
31. Oakland
32. San Diego

I hope that covers most of your questions regarding DTBC for 2005; if not, shoot me an e-mail at stuart@footballguys.com. And have a great fantasy year!

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