Defensive production can be highly volatile. Heck, let’s call it what it is: random. I’m going to lay out the argument for a few units that I think carry unique upside, but make no mistake about it, drafting a DST before the final three rounds of your fantasy football draft is a flat-out mistake.
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Top DSTs To Draft in Fantasy Football in 2023
If your league requires you to start a DST, the best advice I can give is to be ready to be uncomfortable. You’re going to have to be flexible and willing to take chances.
Production one week means nothing for the next week, so don’t get too attached to any single unit. In short, treat this in a similar fashion as the kicker slot.
One time over the past decade has a defensive unit recorded a sack on 10% of opponent dropbacks in which they did not blitz — the 2022 Philadelphia Eagles. And you know what? They blew by that number and posted a bananas 11.4% rate!
And to think Jalen Carter and Nolan Smith aren’t even starters, yet…
The Eagles defense might break records this season. pic.twitter.com/zFdhyrZoHB
— Kendall Beck (@KBeckEagles) August 14, 2023
When possible, I lean the way of DSTs that benefit from having an elite offense on the other end, and the Eagles certainly check that box. Jalen Hurts and the boys will put up points in bunches, something that creates pressure on the opponent to keep up and thus take chances that they may otherwise not take.
Also … closing the fantasy season by hosting the New York Giants and Arizona Cardinals is not a bad thing.
My working theory is that the blitz-heavy defense from a season ago will return, even with Vic Fangio replacing Josh Boyer as the defensive coordinator. Why? Mike McDaniel.
He’s an offensive mind that loves scheming, and what is one thing that can wreck a good game plan? Exotic and creative blitzes.
Let’s assume I’m right, and Miami continues to bring the heat. There were 24 qualified quarterbacks last season that project as Day 1 starters in 2023. The bottom five in terms of passer rating vs. the blitz include Russell Wilson, Justin Herbert, Geno Smith, Josh Allen, and Mac Jones.
As is the case with most, I view the DST portion of fantasy as highly volatile, so I tend to take it a month (or less) at a time, seeking those with favorable schedules. Well, here’s Miami’s start to the season:
- Week 1 at LAC (Herbert)
- Week 2 at NE (Jones)
- Week 3 vs. DEN (Wilson)
- Week 4 at BUF (Allen)
How ‘bout them apples? Isn’t investing a late pick worth it to see if they continue to be Blitz Beach (I’m workshopping nicknames, and Blitz-ami didn’t really work, open to ideas!) against a string of QBs who struggled in such spots last season? After this run, the Dolphins host the Giants and Panthers, two spots that project to be turnover friendly.
New Orleans Saints
The initial selling point on the Saints is the opening stretch of games:
- Week 1 vs. TEN (new offensive structure with DeAndre Hopkins)
- Week 2 at CAR (rookie QB)
- Week 3 at GB (new QB)
- Week 4 vs. TB (new QB)
- Week 5 at NE (underwhelming offense)
- Week 6 at HOU (rookie QB)
Two of those opponents (Carolina and Tampa Bay ) reappear on the Saints’ schedule over the final month of the regular season, so that doesn’t hurt. They were a top-six unit last season in completion percentage, sack rate, and red-zone defense, all of which gives them a level of fantasy upside that few units can claim.