He’s in your league, and he won’t shut up. He’s the guy who owns the Bears defense, a defense that’s now out-scoring all but eight players in the entire NFL in terms of its fantasy production (more on that in a minute).
That guy wants to trade you for someone of similar value. At first you probably scoffed at the idea, because who the hell trades for a defense?
Well, maybe you should reconsider that stubborn stance. Or maybe you shouldn’t. Quickly as we steam towards the fantasy playoffs, the trade value of the Bears defense is becoming one of the most difficult questions rooted in the most productive player(s) at any one position.
The Bears have returned seven interceptions for touchdowns through eight games, something no team has done. At the halfway mark of their season, the Bears defense is only one pick six away from tying the all-time single-season record for interception touchdowns that’s currently held by the 1998 Seahawks. That alone leads to 36 fantasy points, so you see where this is headed. At a fantasy position that’s often disregarded with the exception of the few elite defenses — a label that seems to apply to the Bears — the Chicago defense and special teams is vastly outproducing not only every other defense, but also a collection of position players who were valued significantly higher.
The Bears are at or near the top of the league in nearly every defensive metric, most of which reflect their ball-hawking tenacity. They’ve forced 21 fumbles, four of which came from Charles Tillman last week (he has six overall), and he also has two of those pick sixes. They’re sixth in total yards from scrimmage (318.5), and sixth in average rushing yards allowed (88.0). But they’ve been especially impressive in the metrics that matter for fantasy purposes, with only 15 points allowed per week (2nd), 25 sacks (tied for third), and 17 overall interceptions (tied for first).
The comedy comes when you keep scrolling through the boxscores and cumulative stats and realize that opposing quarterbacks have thrown more touchdowns to the Bears than they have to their own receivers. The math on the Bears fantasy-relevant stats leads to 141 fantasy points at an average of 17.6 points per week, which is on par with the average weekly production from your quarterback, typically the highest-scoring fantasy position. It gets better. So much better.
At the end of Week 9 and therefore midseason for every team, the Bears are now ranked ninth in fantasy points, and there’s a cavernous chasm between them and the second-best fantasy defense (the Texans, with 98 points). That 43-point gap is easily the most at any position, showing both the elevated performance and therefore the elevated trade value of the Bears defenders. The next highest gap is at tight end, where Rob Gronkowski leads with 95 points, and Heath Miller (seriously, Heath Miller) is second with 73.
Here’s a fun list of players behind the Bears in fantasy scoring, all of whom were drafted significantly higher, as the Chicago D was the fourth defense off the board on average in ESPN leagues, with an ADP of 98th overall:
- Adrian Peterson (139 fantasy points)
- Matthew Stafford (138)
- Eli Manning (123)
- A.J. Green (118)
- Ray Rice (115)
They’re also only three points behind Arian Foster — who was widely a first-overall pick — and four points behind running back points leader Doug Martin, despite the Muscle Hamster’s historic explosion this past Sunday. Need more? Welp, Tillman and Brian Urlacher et al are reasonably within reach of both Matt Ryan (154 points), and Peyton Manning (161).
This all leads to the question of trade value, and how much of it the Bears have. It’s a question that’s muddied by the long-held and easily justifiable approach to the position. Many managers — myself included — stream defenses, picking up a new one almost weekly, and scouting for the best matchup. For example: just a casual glance at the Week 10 schedule shows an ideal matchup for the Lions, who will face a Percy Harvin-less Vikings offense that’s led by the highly wayward Christian Ponder. The Lions D is available in 40 percent of ESPN leagues.
Some weeks have several potential streaming options, while others are scarce. But the streaming strategy is often pursued because production at the position doesn’t make buying high either on draft day or through a trade an appealing strategy. If we exclude both the elite defenses and the bottom feeders (teams at 80 fantasy points and above, and teams at 20 or below), then the median point total is currently 55, and 11 teams are within 10 points of that right now either on the high or low end.
Often defenses are owned widely due to name value purchases, and little else. For example, the Steelers are owned in 85 percent of ESPN leagues, yet they actually fall below that median point total with 49 points. Same with the Ravens and their 52 points and 86 percent ownership, although in fairness they’re fighting through some serious injuries.
Trading for the Bears defense then becomes a matter of gauging your desire to jump into that top tier, and that process entails measuring the likelihood of Chicago maintaining its current point pace. Despite their own dominance last year, the 49ers defense only totaled 186 points, a number the Bears are set to absolutely shatter (they’re on pace for 281 points). They have favorable matchups the rest of the way between two games against the Vikings, Arizona in Week 16, and the merely adequate offensively 49ers in Week 11.
But there’s just as many awful matchups for a defense that’s feasted off of woeful offenses during the first half, a list that includes the Jaguars, the Colts during Andrew Luck’s first career start, and the Rams and Panthers. On deck for Chicago is Houston this week, the Seahawks and Marshawn Lynch in Week 13, Green Bay and that Aaron Rodgers dude in Week 15, and the Lions to close out the season.
So use extreme caution and care, and only deal for the Bears defense if you’re making a playoff push, and you have an abundance of depth elsewhere.
Anyone who’s trading the Bears defense in a re-draft league has the right to ask for a top position player, since they’re collectively trading you 11 top position players. That could result in some trade offers that seem absurd at first, but they’re now within the realm of possibility.
Would you give up Calvin Johnson? You shouldn’t, but the Bears defense has reached that level, and that price tag.