Daily Fantasy Football: Power Ranking NFL’s Best DST – RB/WR Combos
When making your daily fantasy GPP lineups, most of the combinations you’re thinking about are QB-WR. However, even though there is a lot of luck that goes into this, one of the better combinations you can use is DST-RB/WR. This involves picking a guy who does kickoff or punt returns (or both) and also playing the defense of the same team. Should you be fortunate enough to land the exclusive special teams TD, that’s 12 points in one play. Combine that with the fact that very few people will likely have that combination since so few people do this, your chances at winning big money go through the roof. And even though there is quite a bit of luck involved, there are certainly statistics to figure out great matchups both defensively and in special teams. A lot of people just don’t pay attention to it.
Before we dive into the rankings, there’s one trend people should be aware of – kickoff returns for TDs are significantly less frequent than they used to be. While many people did not like the NFL moving the kickoff to the 35-yard-line, which started in 2011, the NFL is getting what it wanted – fewer kickoff returns to eliminate the possibility of big and nasty collisions. Here’s a list of the number of TDs scored on kickoff returns by year:
2014 – 2 (on pace for 6 or 7)
2013 – 7
2012 – 13
2011 – 9
2010 – 23
2009 – 18
2008 – 13
2007 – 25
More teams are electing to just kick the ball through the back of the end zone and not flirt with the possibility of a big return. Therefore, punt returns are a much bigger indicator of what combos are best.
Here is the criteria for the rankings:
1. How great the defense is
2. How great is the RB or WR
3. Does the RB or WR do punt and kickoff returns.
4. How fast is the tempo of the offense to give more opportunities.
Note that there are a few players who do kickoff and punt returns, but get little-to-no playing time on offense, so they won’t make this list. Jacoby Jones is a great example of this.
Let’s dive in.
1. Eagles/Darren Sproles – Has 14 punt returns (2nd) for 223 yards (easily 1st) and a TD. Sproles is as dynamic of a returner with his speed and agility in the game. The Eagles run the fifth most plays per game this year, and they would be closer to the top had they not had all those DST TDs against the 49ers.
2. Steelers/Antonio Brown – Arguably the greatest WR in the game today. Brown is only averaging 8.7 yards per return in his 11 attempts (T5), but he almost took one back to the house against the Browns in Week 1 where he stomped the punter at the end of his run. He obviously has the athletic ability to take one to the house. The Steelers DST is weaker this season and banged up, but they do have two DST TDs already. Plus, they have some favorable matchups on their schedule.
3. Patriots/Julian Edelman – Edelman is in a similar situation to Brown. His 12 attempts (4th) have led to only a 9.2-yard return average, but Edelman is clearly one of the better WRs in the league, and the Patriots defense always has great upside in an ideal matchup. They just haven’t had one all season. It could happen against Buffalo this week.
4. Lions/Jeremy Ross – There are a lot of exciting factors about Jeremy Ross. He does kickoff and punt returns. He averages 24.8 yards per kickoff return (8th) and 12.8 yards per punt return (T5) to go with 11 punt-return attempts (T5). Furthermore, his 141 return yards overall rank 3rd, and he has 14 fair catches (no other player in the NFL has more than nine). The Lions DST, which has played very well this season in pretty much all defense categories, has given Detroit the No. 1 ranking in gross punting yards. Plus, with Calvin Johnson banged up, Ross could get more opportunities as a WR. He already caught a long TD against the Jets.
5. Packers/Randall Cobb – Wait, how could I have this combo ranked so low? The bottom line is the Packers defense in their game game last week against the Vikings was a complete fluke. Think about it: Christian Ponder + road game + no Adrian Peterson + 9.5 underdogs + torrential down pour = disaster. Obviously Randall Cobb is a tremendous WR and is targeted frequently in the red zone when he lines up in the slot next to Jordy Nelson and they run that pick play. But get this – the Packers run only 55 plays per game, which is ranked last in the NFL. Seriously. To put it in perspective, they run 20 fewer plays than the Colts per game. A little part of that is strength of schedule, but the Packers defense is atrocious. They didn’t force one punt against the Bears and only forced four punts combined against the Seahawks and Lions.
6. Redskins/Andre Roberts – This is certainly the ultimate GPP play, but there are surprisingly a lot of indicators in Roberts’ favor. He has 10 punt returns for 101 yards (T8 in both) and has a 20.8-yard kickoff-return average. Roberts also only has 164 receiving yards (5th on team), but he does have two receiving TDs (tied for most on team). More importantly, Roberts has a 3.55% involvement in the red zone, which is easily best on the team and ranks 16th in the NFL. Granted it’s tough to use Washington’s defense, but if you can find the right matchup where they can get a fair number of sacks (like against Jacksonville), this is a sneaky combo.
7. Falcons/Devin Hester – I know, how could I rank Devin Hester this low as well? I get that he had that monstrous game against the Buccaneers. He has 12 kickoff attempts (fourth) for an average of 24.2 yards (9th) to go with eight punt returns (T16) for 14.4 punt-return yards (4th). The problem is when Harry Douglas comes back, which will probably be next week, Hester’s time will be much reduced as a WR. Plus, the Falcons defense is one of the worst units in the league. The Buccaneers outcome won’t happen again. Even with Douglas probably sitting out this week and Hester getting some offensive snaps with his former team in the Chicago Bears coming to down, it’s an atrocious matchup for the Atlanta defense. So, even if Hester has some Steve Smith in him and scores a TD on a punt return and on offense, you can’t play the defense under any circumstance. Wait for a better matchup.View all posts by Nick Juskewycz