Within the lexicon of fantasy football, you’ll run across some interesting and crucial terminology. Phrases like superflex and auction draft are integral parts of the entire system, as are acronyms such as IDP (individual defensive player) or ADP (average draft position).
However, one of the most overlooked parts of your fantasy team is the D/ST, also written as DST. In this article, we’ll discuss what the D/ST is, its importance in fantasy points and scoring, and how to use this position to set up your team for success.
D/ST in fantasy football stands for 'defense and special teams'. Along with the kicker, it’s an auxiliary piece that doesn’t get a ton of notice when you’re doing your draft research. It's important to note that the kicker position is separate from the D/ST, so don't think of it in the same manner. It can still be a difference maker in close matchups, contribute valuable points, and push your fantasy football league team into the playoffs, but maybe not so much as a solid kicker.
Unlike other positions in your fantasy league, the D/ST is an entire team. You don’t select individual players like you would with the quarterback, running back, tight end, wide receiver, or kicker position.
Instead, you draft the entire defense and special teams of the Buffalo Bills, New England Patriots, or whatever team is still on the NFL draft fantasy board when your selection comes around.
Just as you would when you’re determining which players to draft, fantasy football rankings are essential to help you compare the D/ST of each team for the upcoming year. These rankings use a mix of last year’s performance and the addition or subtraction of key players — including defensive stars and kick returners that can rack up points on the score sheet.
Every league has different rules with regard to scoring points in the D/ST position. But at its core, the answer to the question “What is D/ST in fantasy football?” is just another way to score points. However, the league you play in — be it Yahoo, ESPN, CBS, or a different site — as well as the preferred scoring your league commissioner chooses will determine how valuable the spot is.
Generally speaking, you earn points for defensive touchdowns, sacks, interceptions, and fumble recoveries on the defensive side. Special teams can also add to your point total through punt TDs, kickoff return TDs, and special teams fumble recoveries and defensive TDs. Conversely, your defense or special teams can lose points by giving up touchdowns and kicks or in some formats even yardage.
This scoring remains the same in most cases, regardless of whether you’re playing PPR or standard scoring.
For the sake of ease, let’s take a look at how the D/ST position gets points in the most popular leagues.
CBS uses a points system that ranges from 0 to 12 points per achievement — or lack thereof. The current scoring looks like this:
Yahoo uses both negative and positive scoring that depends on what occurs in your game:
Picking the best performing defense is often a crapshoot. But that doesn't mean the answer to “what is D/ST in fantasy football” is entirely irrelevant. You just shouldn’t put too much effort into selecting a DST when other positions are far more important — especially because your DST may change week to week based on their matchup.
But if you want to steal a few points here and there that may give you the edge in a matchup, keep an eye on the options that have a great early schedule in the first 3-5 weeks. A mock draft is also a great method to determine where your D/ST pick might occur or where you can plan to make it while in auction drafts it might make sense to take a defense early when no one is thinking about them.
In auction / salary cap drafts it's recommended to take the best defense possible in the draft for no more than $1 because defensive performances vary so much. Factors at play include; the matchup, week to week injuries, and even the quality of the same team's offense can have an impact on a defensive performance. There are just too many factors at play that can affect a defense week to week.
Building upon the iffy success proposition of the D/ST spot, let’s take a look at the numbers. According to statistics over the past 20 years, the four top-ranked D/ST options before the season starts finished as the 10th-best by season’s end on average. Interestingly, the 5th-best through the 16th-best D/ST teams by ranking finished at an average of 13th place during the same time span.
These stats confirm that you shouldn’t put a premium on the position. Looking at the options for the upcoming 2023 draft, the San Francisco 49ers, Buffalo Bills, Dallas Cowboys, and Philadelphia Eagles are the four best options available.
But assuming that recent trends hold true, you’re just as likely to get value by holding out until the later rounds and seeing who’s available without wasting a pick. Sleepers and deep value picks for D/ST run within the five to 10 spots — so waiting for the New York Jets, New England Patriots, Denver Broncos, Baltimore Ravens, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, or Kansas City Chiefs might be worth it.
Streaming a defense just means picking up a different DST to start from week to week. Many fantasy football analysts will post blog posts each week recommending their rankings for a given week; just Google "fantasy defense rankings week x". We recommend trying to look out 1-2 weeks in advance for any juicy matchups so you can pick them up before they go on waivers. Be especially on the lookout for games with extreme weather like snow games or games with severe rain and wind which favour defenses.
Another way to find solid defensive streaming options is to look at Vegas odds. Many sportsbooks will show expected points against and player props for how many expected interceptions the opposing QB will throw; save time with Wise Guys Edge odds comparison tool to see these. Sportsbooks spend more time and money than all of the fantasy analysts combined to be more correct with their predictions.
There’s no specific round that’s the best for your D/ST spot, but don’t waste an early-round or mid-round pick. Once you get to the later rounds, you’ll have to play it by ear. Waiting until the final round or penultimate round is a strategy often employed by veteran players, so that’s worth noting.
Again, you’ll have to see how the rest of your roster pans out before you make the selection. If you’ve already selected the players you wanted and filled out the starting lineup and key bench players, then the D/ST spot might be a better option to fill than another bench player.
Understanding what is D/ST in fantasy football is only half the battle. You still need to be able to find value when you’re putting together a cheat sheet for your draft. Some of the things to look for when drafting or selecting a D/ST spot each week include:
One of the most popular strategies for the D/ST in fantasy football is called streaming. Instead of going with your original draft, you pick up a D/ST from the waiver wire each week depending on what’s available and the actual matchups in the league.
By streaming, you can select a defense based solely on whether they’re playing a mid-tier or terrible offense. For example, the Colts, Bears, and Saints had some of the highest turnover rates last year, coupled with poor offensive outputs. So if you can even land a mid-grade defense like the Steelers and Jaguars, it makes sense to stream — especially if you purposely overlooked a D/ST during the draft to nab other players.
Now that you know “what is D/ST in fantasy football?” you can make an educated selection when your name comes up in the draft. But don’t put too much emphasis on it. Unless you have tons of extra time to go through the numbers, your time is much better spent setting up for the draft, preparing for your bye week, or comparing players to start or sit through Wise Guys Edge.
Using numbers and predictions straight from Vegas sportsbooks, Wise Guys Edge allows you to compare up to five players at once to come to the best starting lineup decision each week. It’s fast, easy, and can make a definite edge in your fantasy football league standings.