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How 3 New-Look Defenses Will Change DFS, Fantasy Football Lineups

Next season, three defenses will look drastically different: the Cleveland Browns, the Miami Dolphins and the Minnesota Vikings. This article will review the scheme tendencies of each of those teams' new defensive coordinators and how it will affect fantasy football and DFS lineups. If you are unfamiliar with coverages, check out this piece below.

All of the data provided below comes from Sports Info Solutions.

>> READ: Breaking Down Coverage Schemes


Cleveland Browns

Timeframe Man Zone 4 or fewer 5 even 6+
2018-20 Eagles 42.06% 57.94% 82.42% 9.86% 7.72%
2020-22 Browns 29.34% 70.66% 80.60% 16.33% 3.06%


Timeframe Cover 0 Cover 1 Cover 2 Man Cover 2 Cover 3 Cover 4 Cover 6
2018-20 Eagles 5.08% 35.20% 1.78% 11.88% 35.70% 7.73% 2.63%
2020-22 Browns 2.01% 22.53% 4.79% 9.31% 28.64% 28.11% 4.61%


The Browns are one of the most talented defenses in the NFL, but health and scheme have been an issue. New defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz coached the Eagles’ defense from 2018-20 and will bring a fresh look to the Browns centered around playing more man coverage. When he calls a blitz, lots of rushers are coming. Schwartz's defenses have been great at defending the run but not so much defending the pass.

He inherits a defense with a lot of talent at defensive back with Denzel Ward, Greg Newsome, Martin Emerson, Grant Delpit and the recently added Juan Thornhill. The defensive line needs help, but Myles Garrett can still carry that unit to some extent. Overall, the new look should help Cleveland, but I’m not sure it puts them into the tier of being a great defense.

I expect the Browns to be one of the more difficult matchups for running backs because they will load the box and trust their talented secondary. A team like the Cincinnati Bengals will have their pass catchers thrive in this matchup, but I anticipate Joe Mixon having a floor-level game.

Schwartz’s last three defenses could not force takeaways, and the defensive line doesn’t have a player to help out Garrett. So for fantasy, I will not be intrigued because I want my defense to force turnovers and get sacks. 


Miami Dolphins

Timeframe Man Zone 4 or fewer 5 even 6+
2019-21 Broncos 40.66% 59.34% 74.73% 21.10% 4.17%
2019-22 Dolphins 43.76% 56.24% 65.80% 25.21% 8.99%


Timeframe Cover 0 Cover 1 Cover 2 Man Cover 2 Cover 3 Cover 4 Cover 6
2019-21 Broncos 3.61% 31.08% 5.97% 6.74% 25.32% 20.04% 7.24%
2019-22 Dolphins 5.64% 32.51% 5.61% 9.66% 36.99% 9.00% 0.60%


The easiest way to explain the difference between Vic Fangio and the previous defensive coordinators is a poker analogy. The previous scheme wants to go all in every hand they play, whether they have nothing or pocket aces. The new scheme re-raises you on the river and have you lost on what they have.

In poker, you would want to be playing the guy risking it all every hand over the strategist that has you questioning every decision. Fangio mixes up his coverages exceptionally well and will not put his secondary in a spot to get beat deep. The significant change is Miami will rush four and have seven defensive backs roaming the field.

Add the fact that the Dolphins have Xavien Howard, Jalen Ramsey and Jevon Holland; it will take a lot of work to beat this secondary. If their defensive line plays to its potential, this will be the best defense in football. Since 2018, only seven players have generated more than 30 pressures and had more than a 19 percent pressure rate when rushing four. In 2022, Jaelan Phillips was one of these players. Overall, this was the best off-season hire, but what is the fantasy impact?

Playing pass catchers against this defense is a bad idea, so the way to beat Fangio has been on the ground. Fangio has been top three in light-box usage the last three seasons he was calling a defense. A light box makes it difficult to have numbers against the run. The Dolphins loaded the box last season and stopped the run. They did add a good tackler in David Long, but that unit still isn't strong. This defense will force many teams to have floor-level games in 2023, especially ones that rely on the passing game.

Minnesota Vikings

Timeframe Man Zone 4 or fewer 5 even 6 or more
2019-21 Dolphins 45.37% 54.63% 66.15% 24.48% 9.37%
2022 Vikings 27.84% 72.16% 78.05% 20.81% 1.14%


Timeframe Cover 0 Cover 1 Cover 2 Man Cover 2 Cover 3 Cover 4 Cover 6
2019-21 Dolphins 5.56% 33.98% 5.84% 8.07% 36.54% 9.47% 0.54%
2022 Vikings 0.20% 22.75% 4.90% 13.33% 28.82% 20.59% 9.41%


The Vikings are going from the person that lives life in a safety bubble to an adrenaline junkie. Brian Flores' defense includes a heavy dose of man coverage and blitzing. The 2022 Vikings used a lot of soft coverage and didn't blitz much. The problem with Flores’ style is it makes the splash play or gives up a big one.

The Dolphins ranked in the bottom 10 against 20-air-yard passes during his three years as the head coach. Minnesota's roster has an interesting makeup to run this scheme with defensive backs Harrison Smith, Byron Murphy, Andrew Booth Jr. and Lewis Cine. The health and skill of Booth and Cine will be a significant factor in the success this team will have in its first season under Flores.

The front seven is a mystery with the trade request of Za’Darius Smith and the loss of Eric Kendricks. Another big difference is Flores has an offense that will put up points, unlike Miami, and that pairs well with any defense. Overall, I like the move to Flores for the long run, but year one could be a mess.

For fantasy, this style of coverage leads to big plays in the passing game. The deep-threat wide receivers the Vikings are slated to play this season could have boom weeks in that matchup. The Vikings' cornerbacks likely won't help over the top, and the quarterback play of some of their opponents will be solid (Chiefs, Bengals, Eagles).

However, if the quarterback or offensive line play is bad, this defense will be a great DFS play or spot start. The Dolphins were top 10 in turnovers in two of the three years Flores was with the team.