Putting the “D” in DFS

I have a confession to make. I save defense until the very end when building my lineup. 100% of the time. I know…defenses score points too, but I’m pretty neglectful of that roster spot as a whole whether it’s cash or GPPs. I’ve always felt that there was just too much variance to worry about it. But, I thought I’d dive in a bit further and see if there are some trends we can take advantage of when selecting that final spot on our rosters every week.

Pricing Tiers

After splitting performance based on salary tiers for defenses, a couple of things become pretty apparent. It’s very difficult for the most expensive defenses each week to hit salary expectation. Highest owned and least successful? Count me out. There seems to be a sweet spot for defenses in the $3,000 range where you get an ownership discount, a cheaper salary, and about the same average points scored. Punting with some of the cheapest options of the week makes some sense in certain situations, as well, considering they’re almost as likely to hit their salary expectation. Looking at price alone isn’t enough information to make a solid decision about defenses though. Let’s take a look at some other trends that give us cause for optimism.

Vegas, Baby

Like most other positions in DFS, we want favorites at defense. The bigger favorites, the better. As a team becomes a smaller favorite or a larger underdog, the salary expectation and actual DK scoring both go way down. Ownership also goes down as we see worse outcomes, but more on that later.

Another number we tend to look at when picking defenses is their opponent’s implied team total. This goes hand in hand but it illustrates the point above even further. We want to roster defenses going up against teams that are more likely to fall behind. When teams fall behind, they need to throw more often which leads to more turnovers.

Stacking DSTs

As I was looking through some of these numbers, I started noticing that many of the scenarios that point to success seem to be ideal for other positions as well. It’s well documented that stacking defenses and RB1s work as a correlation play. When looking at all games, RB1 and DST have a .2 r-squared, meaning 20% of the variation in RB1 scoring is explained by DST scoring. As we examine games with better Vegas conditions one might assume the correlation grows even stronger.

There are 2,095 instances of team defenses playing in a game of any total within the FantasyLabs database. If we filter that database to at least a Vegas total of 40 points, we’re still left with 1,961 (about 94% of instances). Games with totals less than 40 are few and far between, so we’ll get rid of those to see what we’re left with as we manipulate the spread.

When you just look across all games, the correlation between DST and RB1 is the strongest of the “ones” across all positions. When we filter and make it into a presumably more positive game script, that isn’t the case anymore. In fact, if you’re playing a defense of a team that is favored by 5 or more, the QB1s performance is more heavily correlated to the DST. When you’re a touchdown favorite or more, the TE1 and QB1 are more correlated to DST than the RB1.

You’re probably wondering how that actually bears out in real life. There were enough positive results last year for me to believe that it’s a viable strategy if you pick your spots correctly. Last year, about 50% of QB-DST stacks hit at least 3x. The most important part about this strategy in GPPs, though, is that it’s a huge differentiator. Over 75% of the QB-DST stacks in favorable situations saw less than 1% ownership in the Millionaire Maker on DK last year.


  • The sweet spot for DSTs appears to be $3,000 – $4,000. Not only does it hit value more often, but you also get an ownership discount.
  • As a team becomes a bigger favorite, their salary expectation, and consistency in hitting value go up. With that, though, comes an ownership spike.
  • When possible, target DSTs where their opponent is projected for 23 or fewer points.
  • In favorable matchups, using a DST with a QB or TE is actually a higher correlation than stacking with RB.
  • Going with an unconventional stack like QB-DST makes your probability of a duplicated lineup go way down.

Note: Unless otherwise specified, all of the stats cited in this article are courtesy of FantasyLabs Trends Tool.

Thanks for reading. You can find me on Twitter @MattJonesTFR.


I host a podcast called Bogey Free which can be found on iTunes or YouTube. I'm one of the PGA Analysts at DraftKings. On this site, you can find me talking Football Redraft or PGA DFS. Follow along on Twitter @MattJonesTFR to stay up to date.

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