It’s easy to look over your defense and special teams position on your roster. Believe me, for years I played fantasy football and just rotated my defenses based on match-ups unless I had the rare opportunity to have a top-5 defense.
That entire mindset went out of the window last season in my dynasty league.
I have mentioned how last season, almost wire-to-wire, I had the best team, won my division, made it to the final, and was set to cap it with a league title. I had a critical decision to make: I picked up the St. Louis Rams defense that day for a reason, I started to see the trend (at the time they were wrapping up a season in which they were a top-10 DEF/ST in fantasy football) and I knew that they were trending well for me to plug them in against the Buccaneers and score big. But there I was falling in love with the names and history of the Giants. I told myself to take the emotion out of it, I told myself they weren’t what they were the year before. I didn’t listen to myself. The Giants scored negative points for me. The Rams? they put up over 30 points (five sacks, a TD, four interceptions).
I lost 89-116.
You don’t have to tell me that defense wins championships. I lived it, but I’m here to help you not make the same mistakes I did. In fact I’m going to give you the pointers when picking the defense, give you three I expect to take a step backwards, and three you are going to want to pick up that will make everyone laugh, but leave you vindicated in December.
Things to avoid when picking a DEF/ST:
- Forget the names!: Look at the performance, nothing more, nothing less
- Match-ups are overrated: The Cleveland Browns played Pittsburgh, Kansas City, Oakland and San Diego. Do you really want to put yourself through the headache of trying to guess who will shut down who?
- Remember its defense AND special teams: A lot of people forget that part. Remember it, and scout accordingly.
Three Teams bound for a fall:
- Atlanta Falcons (#9 overall fantasy defense 2012): This team finished in the top-10 thanks in large part to their takeaways (11 fumbles recovered, 20 Interceptions). Don’t expect a repeat performance. They’re depending heavily on two rookies in their secondary and hoping that the addition of Umenyiora can help a pass rush that ranked 28th in sacks.
- Philadelphia Eagles (#10 overall fantasy defense 2012): They don’t take anything away on defense, so you’re looking at a unit that depends exclusively on its special teams. Don’t lean on them, despite what the rankings say.
- San Francisco 49ers (#1 overall fantasy defense 2012): Before you scream and shout consider this: Chris Culliver is gone for the season, and Patrick Willis is already dealing with “fractures” in his hand. They will still be a considerable force to be reckoned with, but their secondary is cause for serious concern.
Three teams who will rise:
- St. Louis Rams (#9 overall fantasy defense 2013): I could go on and on about the job Jeff Fisher has done developing their defensive front and the pass rushers that amassed an NFL high 52 sacks in 2012. But remember that tidbit I gave you about remembering that its defense AND special teams? They added Tavon Austin in the draft.
- Arizona Cardinals (#15 overall defense in 2013): Patrick Peterson is as electric as any player in the NFL. Now he has a partner in crime in that secondary (which ranked second in interceptions in 2012 with 22) and the return game (ranked 7th and 13th in punt/kickoff returns respectively). Ladies and gentleman, believe in Tyrann Mathieu, and know this Cardinals unit is going to produce for you.
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers (#14 overall defense 2013): Some might believe I’ve lost it. This team was dead last in pass defense. Not 30th or 31st, 32nd. So why am I high on them? I believe in Darrelle Revis’ recovery, and the addition of Dashon Goldson makes going across the middle a second thought in a division that features some of the premiere talent at quarterback and wide receiver. Oh, and they ranked number one in the NFL in rushing defense.