How to Select Defenders in Daily Fantasy Football

By devo1099 on November 25, 2014

Basic strategy in some of the early forms of fantasy football was to solely target defenders who kept clean sheets. If they attacked as well, it was a bonus. With the addition of points for more all around performance by sites such as Mondogoal, strategy now dictates to find defenders who attack, with clean sheets a bonus. The priority has flipped.

Remember, the only requirement for the various bonuses for preventing goals is that the player was listed on the corresponding site as a defender. They may get forward so often that they put their defence at risk of counter attacks, but if their team keeps a clean sheet they get one too, it doesn’t matter if they didn’t really help out much!

(Expert note: Sometimes you’ll find a player listed as a defender and actually playing midfield or better yet attacking mid. Putting those players in your lineup is the rough equivalent of stealing).

The most important start to evaluating your options and deciding which defenders to pick is to understand the site’s scoring that you are using. With Mondogoal, defenders can gain or lose points in the following ways:How to Select Defenders - Mondogoal Defender Scoring

Unique scoring plays which Mondogoal include are Tackles Won, Passes Intercepted, and Passes Completed. These scoring options allow a number of players who don’t normally get beyond the halfway line to become a serious fantasy option , and more closely reflects their real value to their teams. We still prefer defenders who get forward, however, as goals and assists are worth more points, also defenders who just like to defend are more likely to commit fouls, which cost points. We would rank the factors to consider in this order:

1) Defenders Attacking Skill – Crosses, Touches, Key Passes
2) Defenders Attacking Skill – Shots, Set Pieces, Penalties
3) Likelihood of Clean Sheet / 1 Goal Against
4) Defender Quality v. Site Value of the Defender
5) Opponent Quality – Projected Possession % for Team
6) Tackles Won, Passes Intercepted v. Fouls
7) Home or Away

Defenders Attacking Skill – Crosses, Touches, Key Passes

The further along football analytics get, the more data we have to establish all elements of a defenders game. From touches in the final third to passes completed, we are collecting as much information as we can on each player. What he has done in the past can be used to determine what he will do in the future e.g. key passes is the most accurate predictor of future assists. Defenders potentially involved in scoring plays are going to have a higher floor and should be pursued heavily.

Defenders Attacking Skill – Shots, Set Pieces, Penalties

On one hand you’ve got overlapping fullbacks who can create, cross and even dribble. On the other hand you have centerbacks who are a threat at set pieces. Both can take shots from long range. We’re less concerned with goals because those can be random but we do love shots on target as this is a predictor of future goals for a defender if they happen regularly. In games where a team will be in their opponents’ final third consistently, defenders that get shots on target from outside the box become more desirable.

Likelihood of Clean Sheet / 1 Goal Against

Goal prevention bonuses are awarded for keeping a clean sheet (CS) which is 6 points on Mondogoal, or only allowing one goal, which is 3 points. Again we will look at the quality of the defender’s team and the opponent’s quality on attack, while also factoring in the odds for goals in the game given by bookmakers.

Unlike keepers who are dependent on goal prevention and saves, defenders can contribute in other categories. While these bonuses can shift your contests dramatically, we will still be targeting defenders who can reach value without them, leaving them as just that: a bonus.

Defender Quality v. Site Value of the Defender

Defender quality, or class, can vary depending on their primary attributes. Some defenders are strong mainly in defence, like Vincent Kompany, while some are more valuable on attack, like Leighton Baines. Therefore, reputation does not always lead to fantasy points. In fact, lesser known players for lesser followed teams often have the same opportunity to excel in fantasy as those highly valued players.

These factors make price the key factor in deciding on your defence. Top tier defenders may require a clean sheet or some sort of goal contribution to reach value, while lower tier defenders may reach value more easily. Our goal will be to select defenders that can reach their value easily while also keeping the ability to outscore their projection as well.

Opponent Quality – Projected Possession % for Team

Similar to keepers, we want defenders that are in matches where they will dominate possession. This increases the chances for passes completed, crosses, shots and goals, as well as limiting the likelihood of allowing opponent goals. We already have a basic understanding just by looking at the league table about who is good and who is poor, but we’ll provide other, deeper statistics that will indicate the quality of each side in a particular match up.

Tackles Won, Passes Intercepted v. Fouls

These stats are presently specific to playing on Mondogoal as they use Opta which tracks tackles and passes intercepted (and completed). These options help more defensive minded players in accumulating points consistent with their impact on the match. In looking at how different defenders have accrued these statistics this season, you will see that aggressiveness in Tackles Won is often offset by Fouls Committed. This will be a relationship we explore in depth. Because we have limited familiarity with these statistics we value them lower for now, and once we have an idea of how important they are we can start to look for players that excel in them.

Home or Away

Where the game is being played will be considered by the bookmaker’s numbers as well, but in general we obviously like to lean towards home defender and avoid those from the away team. Home or away can serve as a tiebreaker if you are finding it hard to choose between two defenders.


Defenders are crucial components to real teams and just as important in daily fantasy football lineups. Defenders scoring a goal is difficult to predict so it doesn’t merit spending much time trying to factor this in, even though in multiteam contests, goals from defenders can often be the deciding factor. Instead we recommend looking for the more predictable stats like touches in the final third, shots on target, and crosses.

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