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Top Level Sports

The Most Valuable Fantasy Football Player in 2019 Isn’t a Player — It’s a Defense

New England’s D has been unstoppable this season.

Original image from AP Photo/Adam Hunger

Selections made in the first few rounds of fantasy football drafts are typically comprised almost entirely of running backs and wide receivers. Having top talent at these positions is so valuable because of the drop-off from the best in the league to even average starters.

Especially when week-to-week success can be so volatile, having a Christian McCaffrey or a DeAndre Hopkins on your team is almost a guaranteed home run. It’s not a surprise that these players fly off draft boards early.

Once the top tiers of running backs and wide receivers have been allocated, quarterbacks and tight ends start finding their way into the mix. The top few talents at each position might go early, but the bulk of those that get drafted will be projected to perform relatively similarly over the course of the season, meaning they usually aren’t a top priority.

Lastly, in the draft’s twilight hours when rosters have been just about filled out, defenses and kickers come off the board. These positions are generally seen as crapshoots. It’s difficult to predict who the best will be, and even if you end up with a good one, the points they score usually aren’t enough to matter that much.

Defenses and kickers usually average in the high single-digits and might hit 15 points on a good week. They feel capped, unlike even the last wide receiver on your roster, who could still conceivably explode for three or four touchdowns.

In fantasy football, defenses are usually an afterthought. Some owners don’t even draft one, instead choosing to just “stream” a team with a good matchup on a weekly basis.

However, this season, one defense, in particular, is forcing us to reevaluate the way we see the position as a whole by being so dominant that I’m willing to call them the MVP of this fantasy season.

That defense belongs to the New England Patriots. I have them, and it is awesome.

In my 10-team league, I drafted the Patriots’ defense in the 14th round with the #134 overall pick. They were the seventh defense to come off the board.

When it was my turn to pick, there were a few defenses I was considering. I ultimately chose the Patriots based on a combination of recency bias from their incredible performance in the Super Bowl and how poor the other teams in the AFC East, whom the Patriots would each play twice, looked heading into the season.

But really, it wasn’t a decision that I put too much effort into. I could just as easily have drafted the Houston Texans’ defense, which was selected later in the 14th round and currently ranks just 21st in the league. Drafting defenses is not supposed to be something you put tons of effort into.

So, exactly how crazy have the numbers looked like for the Patriots’ defense this season? I’m glad you asked.

After scoring a modest 11 fantasy points in their season opener against the Steelers (their lowest total of the season despite allowing just three points in that game), the Patriots bounced back against the Dolphins with a whopping 41 points.

(It should be noted — this is Yahoo! standard scoring.)

They shut out Miami, registered seven sacks, and picked off four passes, returning two of them for touchdowns. Oh man.

Two weeks later, they had another four-interception performance against the Bills, leading to a 29-point performance. Over their last two games, in which the Patriots trounced the Giants and Jets by a combined 68–14, the Pats’ D has gone for 30 and 29 points. I needed 20 points from the Patriots in order to win my matchup this week — I wasn’t even worried.

Fantasy defenses have crazy games every now and again, but this level of production is simply unheard of.

Through seven games, the Patriots’ defense has accumulated 172 fantasy points, good for more than 24 points per game. With 92 points, the undefeated San Francisco 49ers are the only team whose defense has scored even half the points of New England.

The average fantasy defense has scored 55 points this season. New England has more than tripled that figure. Looking at their numbers, it’s not hard to see why.

Patriots defenders have intercepted 18 passes, twice that of the Panthers, who are second in the league in picks. The Patriots’ defense (including special teams) has scored five touchdowns this season while allowing just three.

Those five defensive touchdowns, plus a Week 7 safety are worth 32 points. The Patriots’ defense, in seven games, has allowed a grand total of…30 points. The Patriots defense has outscored opposing offenses this season.

Overall, the Patriots’ defense is the #3 player in fantasy this season by points scored, trailing only quarterbacks Lamar Jackson and Deshaun Watson by a margin of fewer than 10 points.

That’s right — the Patriots have more fantasy points than Russell Wilson, Christian McCaffrey, Patrick Mahomes, and every other player in football outside of Jackson and Watson. When you take into account the average fantasy scored by a player of each position, there’s simply no doubt — the Patriots’ defense is the most valuable player of all.

So, yes, maybe the Patriots’ schedule will get more difficult down the road, but it hardly matters. They’ve already exceeded their point projection for the entire season, and we’ve only just finished Week 7.

Connor Groel is a writer who studies sport management at the University of Texas at Austin. He also serves as editor of the Top Level Sports publication on Medium, and the host of the Connor Groel Sports podcast. You can follow Connor on Medium, Facebook, and Twitter, and view his archives at toplevelsports.net.

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