In traditional redraft leagues, fantasy analysts will tell you not to even draft a defense unless the rules require it. In best ball leagues, not only do you need to draft a defense, research has shown that you probably want at least three even in shallower best ball leagues. So what about the 28-round FFPC drafts? What’s the optimal number of defenses, and when should you be drafting them?
Mike Beers has brought us his suite of best ball tools where you can now use the Roster Construction Explorer to optimize your roster builds and the ADP and Exposure tool to track your player equity. We can use the RCE to figure out how many defenses we need to take and when we should be drafting them.
Total Number of Defenses
You want a minimum of three DEF, yet nearly half of teams will leave their draft without that many. While there aren’t enough DEFs to go around for every team to get three in every draft, there are some drafts where not even all 32 DEFs are selected.
The splits here are far more drastic than in BB10s where two DEFs, while not as good as three, can still be a winning construction. With deeper rosters and a much lower scoring average for DEFs,1 leaving your draft with just two DEFs is a serious handicap.
There are no 2-DEF constructions that yield a positive win rate. Think you can get away with just drafting two elite DEF early? Think again; it’s actually worse than just drafting two DEF near the end of the draft where you’re only passing up marginal players.
The final DEFs have an ADP in the 26th round, so typically there’s no excuse for leaving your draft without three DEF if you’re paying attention. On a rare occasion though, if you’re drafting at the turn you might get caught by an unexpected run at the position, particularly in drafts with savvy drafters, so be aware of how many DEFs are left if you have a large gap coming up between picks in the late rounds.
The first charts here show us that we generally should not be taking our first DEF before the 17th round or after the 23rd round. These charts are a bit deceiving about where in that range between 17 and 23 we should be selecting our first DEF though, so let’s look at another chart focusing just on the points scored.
There’s a steady upward trend for selecting your DEF later, right up until Round 23. Defensive scoring is notoriously hard to predict, so it makes sense that avoiding spending high draft capital at the position is a smart play.
The optimal time to select your DEF2 starts in Round 19 and runs through Round 24. You may be noticing a trend here, as once again the later you select the defense within that range, the higher the average score and win rate.
The optimal range for selecting your DEF3 starts in Round 21 and runs through Round 25. While selecting DEF3 in Rounds 26 and 27 has a slight uptick in win rate, the actual scoring decreases slightly. However, it’s still a winning construction. There is a drop off in Round 28 though, suggesting that perhaps, on average, the very worst defenses by ADP do end up underperforming somewhat.
It’s also important to remember that in many drafts there won’t be defenses available past the 26th round. While everything so far has indicated we should try to wait as long as we can within our specific range to draft a DEF, it’s very important to be cognizant of how each individual draft is approaching the position. There are no situations where we should need to reach above the start of our ranges. However, there are definitely times where it may make sense to avoid waiting until the end of the range.
Do we ever even need a DEF4? It turns out it’s actually the highest-scoring roster construction, even though it was used only 10% as often as the 3-DEF construction. With so little data and the DEF4 almost always being selected in the final few rounds of the draft, there’s not much information to be gleaned from a closer look, other than to say it has performed well.
If we take a bird’s eye view of optimal roster construction, not accounting for where players are selected at all, the optimal construction for the other positions comes out to 3-QB, 4-TE, 7-RB, 8-WR, 3-PK. For those of you who aren’t so good at math, that’s 25 roster spots, leaving just three for defense in an optimal roster. There’s some wiggle room at the other positions though, so if you grab three early TEs for example,2 you may want to grab a fourth DEF if all your late-round TE targets are gone.
- Draft three DEFs
- Draft your DEF1 between Rounds 17 and 23
- Draft your DEF2 between Rounds 19 and 24
- Draft your DEF3 between Rounds 21 and 25
- Drafting later within the above ranges is better when possible
- Only Draft a DEF4 if you’re not sacrificing an optimal construction at other positions