You think it’s hard to find a good tight end? Try landing a reliable defense.
They change almost on a weekly basis, unless you can find the right one early.
Most of the time, owners will overdraft one because of the hype, but you’re smarter than that.
We see it every year.
You have that one guy in your league that’ll reach for the Bears defense or someone flashy, opening the flood gates for the other owners to start reaching in the mid-rounds.
Believe it or not, the best fantasy defenses end up going undrafted every year.
So how do you identify the best defense to draft?
You can start by following some of these standards:
-How strong is their division?
-Are they a young group vs veteran group?
-Do they have a decent offense (meaning are they going to be on the field a lot) ?
-Do they have a complimentary special teams unit (is someone going to score a lot of KR and PR)?
-Are they a scoring defense? (will they create a lot of turnovers)
I know. That’s quite a number of factors to consider in the draft room, but that’s why you do the research now.
Another issue is the fact that it’s hard to find a unit that’s going to be the best fantasy defense on an annual basis.
You have to consider the changes in free agency, trades, the draft, and just how old they’re getting.
The Steelers are made for defense, but they don’t exactly translate to the ideal fantasy goldmine.
What you can look for is the units that always seem to be around the top 5 or so.
You got all of that?
Alright, let’s take a look at which defenses need to be on your radar, come draft night…
Let’s just go through the checklist before you raise an eyebrow. This is a very balanced unit, age wise, so don’t think that it’s going to be a factor against them. If you look throughout the starters, they are a good mix of playmakers. They added James Harrison, from the Steelers, who will continue to add some attitude to their attack. Another key factor to this season is how Dre’ Kirkpatrick is finally healthy enough to contribute. He was their first round draft pick the season before, but suffered a season-ending injury. This was a top 5 fantasy defense a year ago, without those pieces, and they’ll only get better. Every team in their division is weakening, they have a strong offense, decent special teams, and they generate turnovers. They may not be the flashiest name, but they’re one of the most reliable units to own.
Hold up, what? Think about it. They have a balance group of players, with their strength being at linebacker. They added safety Adrian Wilson to stabilize the secondary, Tommy Kelly to add depth at the defensive line, and drafted Jamie Collins for depth at linebacker. By the way, have you looked at their division rivals? The AFC East isn’t exactly turning heads. Believe it or not, this was a top 3 fantasy defense last year. Once again, they’re not a no-brainer on first sight to draft, but you’re worried about consistency and reliability right? Remember, this isn’t the order that these defenses will be pre-ranked, but this is the value that you need to focus on.
They allowed the fewest points per game a year ago, they have one of the best mix of veterans, but they play in an improving division. I’m not saying that it’s going to be a foot race on offense every week, but the NFC West is better than you think. They’re always going to battle the 49ers for the division title, with the Rams and Cardinals flashing potential. Seattle has a strong secondary, they’ve added pass rushers in Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril this offseason, and they generate turnovers. If Percy Harvin was healthy, you could be excited about their special teams being an asset as well. The only thing that’ll make you cringe is the weeks that they’ll have to play against the high-powered 49ers offense.
Speaking of San Fran, here they are. Now why would you take them 4th? Well, remember how last year you were really eager to draft them first? They finished 8th in the rankings. Not bad, but not stellar either. They improved their secondary, after drafting Eric Reid, but he’s not going to be an instant “Reed-like” player. They have a strong linebacker core, but their defensive line is of concern. San Fran is going to generate a pass rush and hopefully be more consistent with some depth this year. Not sure if Nnamdi Asomugha is going to be the Raiders version or the Eagles, but he’ll actually have talent around him to help him. Their special teams isn’t as strong as you’d like them to be either. They don’t exactly have a Devin Hester type of player. Call me crazy, but remember: “Paper teams never win”. Meaning, if they look too good on paper, they’re probably not going to be as great as you want them to be. Just refer to those “Dream Team” Eagles from a couple of years ago. Dont’ get me wrong, the 49ers are a top 5 unit, but the ones ranked above them are well worth their value.
You knew they were going to show up sooner or later. Yet another unit that was somewhat under-achieving from the previous year’s pre-draft rankings. They made some key additions this offseason, in signing Ed Reed and getting back a healthy Brian Cushing, but there are still some questions about if they’ll be able to produce. They have a strong secondary, it’s just the pass rush that needs to improve. Ed Reed might not be a go at the beginning of the season either. I’m not saying that they’re not going to be a good unit, I’m just asking you to temper your expectations after the Reed signing.
St. Louis has quietly put together a solid defensive unit that just happened to tied the league lead for sacks last year. They’re young, but experienced. The emergence of Janoris Jenkins helped out a lot last year, in order to generate a consistent pass rush, which should continue into this year. Their offense and special teams got a boost with the drafting of Tavon Austin, helping keep this unit rested. Alec Ogletree will be a nice addition to the linebacker core, Michael Brockers and Robert Quinn will continue to improve on the defensive line, and the safety position is the only part that’s really in question. The NFC West is becoming a “anything can happen” kind of division, but take note that the Rams were one of the best fantasy defenses in the second half of the season last year.
Whoa, really? Careful before you pre-judge. There’s always one underrated unit and I think that this is the one for this season. We associate the Chargers with how horrible their offense is, but the AFC West isn’t exactly terrifying. San Diego was right outside the top 5 in fantasy defenses last year and I believe that they got better this offseason. I believe that Manti Te’O is the type of player that’ll be better at the pro level and the additions of Jarrett Johnson and Dwight Freeney will do a lot more for this unit that people realize. They don’t have the biggest names in the secondary, but they get the job done. San Diego also has a decent special teams unit. If you’re sitting around in the mid-late rounds looking for a defense, don’t forget about these guys.
This was actually the top fantasy defense in 2012. You can never really determine how big of an impact a new coaching staff is going to make with one side of the ball, but I’m pretty sure this one is going to be more focused on improving the offense. With that being said, just because the coaching has changed, doesn’t mean that the talent level is going to drop. They still have a strong secondary, they’ll have to change up the linebacker core with Urlacher’s departure, and they need some depth on the defensive line. Remember when I said that no unit stays consistent on an annual basis? This is the one that I was referring to. Once again, if they’re in the top 10, they can be pretty good. One thing to keep in mind is that everyone in the NFC North has a pretty explosive offense to worry about.
Remember, every defense doesn’t stay the same on an annual basis. In this case, that’ll actually work in favor of the Giants. They weren’t the team that we thought they were going to be last year, but most defending Super Bowl Champs aren’t. Now that they’ve had time to be embarrassed, regroup, and make some additions, they’re primed for a bounce back. Their special teams needs to improve, their secondary needs to start playing better, but at least they can create turnovers. The G-men just gave up too many easy scores last year. After a humbling offseason, expect the Giants to return to being a reliable fantasy defense.
They were one of the top units from a year ago, but they’ve brought in some new faces at key positions and I’m just not sure how effective they’re going to be with an aging core. We’re not sure if Von Miller is going to miss any time for violating the league’s policy, but he’s going about the appeal process as if he’s innocent. We know that John Fox defenses are always going to be up to par, but nothing about this unit screams dominance. The AFC West is a weak division, they’re going to have a better offense, but this is where you start to worry about the age. If Miller goes missing for the first four weeks or so, this might be a unit that you stash for later.
Carolina has not been a desirable fantasy defense since John Fox left. If you wanted to take a step further and say since Julius Peppers left, that would be spot on as well. They’ve needed some time to re-load and I think that this is the year that they’re going to be able to put it together. Carolina has a very strong linebacker core, they’ve got a better secondary than they get credit for, and their defensive line drastically improved with the addition of Star Lotulelei. So why didn’t they make the top 10? Because they play in the high-scoring NFC South, where everyone just tries to outscore each other. Undrafted free agent Robert Lester is going to play a key role in the secondary this season, Luke Kuechly is ready to become one of the best in the NFL at his position, and I believe that the Panthers are overall ready to turn the corner.