Defenses. Historically the defense / special team has been the next
to last draft selection, save a few standouts, getting less respect
than any other fantasy position except kicker. But whether you take
a defense with your last pick, next to last pick, or in round 10
for some reason, the points the defense position contributes to
your final score is usually taken for granted. But should it be?
Do you know how many fantasy points the top team scored in a
basic scoring league in 2009? 239. What about the difference between
the top fantasy defense and the worst, or #12 fantasy defense
(assuming a 12-team league)? 198. That's a 41-point difference,
or 2.7 points per game in a 15 game fantasy season or 2.9 points
per game in a 14 game fantasy season. Is that three points per
game worth the expense of a needed backup, a potential WR starter,
a rookie gamble or that RB sleeper you were eying?
My answer has been, is, and likely will always be no. My advice
is to take your defense in the last couple of rounds and then
be willing to swap defenses weekly based on match-ups. The Detroit
Lions may be the worst defense in the league but if they play
the St. Louis Rams this week they are a good option to start.
Match-ups like this occur all year long, you just need to pay
attention and plan ahead to make sure you get them.
Of course there is a chance you could get burned, and burned
more than once. But the odds are that your defense's score will
not cost you a win, a playoff berth or a championship, and the
upside to the player or players you take before finally getting
your defense is much higher than gambling on the #1 ranked defensive
unit for a measly three points a game.
Regardless of where you decide to draft your defense you obviously
want to take the best team available. With that in mind here are
the top five defenses you should be looking at for re-draft leagues:
The only team to be in the top five in pass defense (#5), run
defense (#1) and overall defense (#2) in yards allowed last year.
They led the league in INTs and total takeaways, and were tied
for second in defensive TDs. They were 11th in sacks but that
ranking should improve with OLB Brad Jones (4 sacks in 7 starts
last year) getting more playing time. With a beefed-up DL thanks
to some positional changes, some added depth with rookies Morgan
Burnett (DB) and Mike Neal (DL) and a season under their belt
in Dom Capers' 3-4 system, the Packers should be even better this
Last year's #1 pass defense and #1 overall defense in yards allowed
per game and the #1 scoring defense giving up just under 15 points
per game – the only NFL team that can make that claim. They
were also fourth in fumble recoveries. They should pick up right
where they left off and provide a solid play for you week in and
week out especially with an expected increase in INTs with the
addition of DBs Antonio Cromartie and rookie Kyle Wilson, and
sacks thanks to the signing of veteran Jason Taylor and the return
of DL Kris Jenkins who missed most of last year with a knee injury.
The Ravens have perennially been a top fantasy defense but their
sack totals slipped in 2009 causing them to finish in the bottom
half of the top ten in most leagues (depending on your scoring
system). Though not in the top five in pass defense last year,
they were #5 in run defense and #3 overall in yards allowed per
game, as well as #3 in points allowed. Rookie Terrence Cody should
give this old group a burst of energy and if Terrell Suggs can
return to form, terrorizing the quarterback like we know he can,
the Ravens will increase their sacks and turnover totals and could
easily be the #1 fantasy defense this year.
The Steelers finished last year second in sacks, #3 in run defense
and #5 overall in yards allowed and that was with injury problems
in the secondary that if resolved should result in an even better
showing this year. A lack of turnovers (22) plagued their fantasy
rank in 2009 and you can’t dismiss the loss of Troy Polamalu
who is responsible for numerous big plays in the secondary. Having
him back on the field should vault the Steelers back into the
top five where they belong.
They were #2 in scoring defense giving up just 15.6 points per
game to go along with the #4 run defense in yards allowed last
year as well as finishing seventh in sacks. Look for third-year
DB Mike Jenkins to have a big year and for departed DB Ken Hamlin's
replacement (Alan Ball, Michael Hamlin and/or rookie Akwasi Owusu-Ansah)
to help the Dallas secondary generate more than the 11 INTs they
had last year (26th in the league), which keeps them ranked ahead
of the Vikings and Bengals.