Fantasy Football 2014: Top-10 D/ST Units To Target For Fantasy Football

It was going to be hard enough for the 49ers D/ST to be a top-5 unit again in 2014 without Navarro Bowman. Now that Aldon Smith has been suspended for nine games they'll be hard-pressed to crack the top-10 (Brian Bahr/Getty Images North America)
It was going to be hard enough for the 49ers D/ST to be a top-5 unit again in 2014 without Navarro Bowman. Now that Aldon Smith has been suspended for the first nine games this season they’ll be hard-pressed to crack the top-10 (Photo Credit: Brian Bahr/Getty Images North America)

It isn’t enough to just collect all of the best offensive talent when constructing your fantasy rosters. A good Defense/Special Teams (D/ST) can go a long way towards getting you in the playoffs and even stealing sealing a victory when you need one the most.

For example: Last season I was in quite the matchup to make it to my Dynasty League’s championship game for the second consecutive season. My opponent had a team that featured Peyton Manning (and we all know what he did last year) and Marshawn Lynch. I had Drew Brees, but it took all 28 points the 49ers D/ST could give me to win the matchup 137.62-137.36.

Don’t mistake what I’m saying here, Demarco Murray’s performance was just as critical, but if you have a unit that can get you a per week average on par with your offense you’re going to have the upper hand most weeks.

A (more than a) few words before we get to who should be targeted if I may:

Beware The “Year Before” Philosophy

A lot of you (myself included) get caught up in what a player/unit did for us the year before. When choosing a D/ST you can’t do that for a lot of reasons; chief among them is most Fantasy Football owners don’t tend to look at a whole picture when they should.

Take last season for example: the Carolina Panthers, New Orleans Saints, and Kansas City Chiefs were three of the best defenses in football and ended the season on a very high percentage of Fantasy Football rosters. What you might not remember is those same three teams D/ST units were three of the worst in 2012 (the Saints being historically bad). So what did you miss? Well, the Chiefs had five players from their D/ST unit in the Pro Bowl despite going 2-14 in ’12-’13, the Saints hired Rob Ryan who consistently has teams in the top-10 in points allowed annually, and the Panthers’ defensive coordinator, Sean McDermott, and head coach Ron Rivera had been building this defense steadily since 2011 and saw improvement from 28th (2011) to 10th (2012) overall.

Moral of the story: mine the numbers and evaluate objectively. There is more than meets the eye, sometimes.

*Just want to toot my own horn and say I was one of the few on the Chiefs bandwagon heading into last season. Carolina I didn’t see coming, however. 

More On The “Year Before” Philosophy

On the flip side, I see a lot of Fantasy Owners reaching this year to select defenses that put up performances for the ages last year (read: Seattle Seahawks). Again be careful when you do this. I’m not saying that because I think the Seahawks will all of a sudden not be a premier defense, I say it because there are some team D/ST that will regress for one reason or another.

Do not expect the 49ers, Bills, Cardinals, and Panthers to replicate what they did in 2013. They’ll be strong units for sure, but to reach for them would be foolish.

Stop. Ignoring. Special. Teams.

The “ST” part of “D/ST” isn’t there for show, people. Seriously, did you know that while the Cowboys defense was one of the worst (ever) their Special Teams was among the best in the NFL? This isn’t me saying sign up for the unit as a whole, but how many of you won’t consider the Vikings when you miss out on Cordarrelle Patterson because you didn’t know your commissioner counts what he does on that side of the ball for that particular unit? Pay attention, folks.

Alright enough yammering, here’s the top-10 according to The Locker:

  1. Seattle Seahawks- Yeah well, what more can you say about them that hasn’t already, right? Still not sure how I feel about drafting them before round 8 but to each their own.
  2. St. Louis Rams- Their defensive front seven is nothing to mess with. If they can get their secondary on board and Tavon Austin possibly returning kicks I like the Rams an awful lot.
  3. Cincinnati Bengals- Talent+division+schedule= another solid season for them. defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer is in Minnesota now but with Geno Atkins returning they should be fine.
  4. Denver Broncos- Demarcus Ware, Aqib Talib, Shaun Phillips, and Von Miller should make things alright for you this season.
  5. Kansas City Chiefs- Lead the league in defensive touchdowns, should be strong but last season will be tough to replicate.
  6. New Orleans Saints- Addition of Jarius Byrd helps what was a still suspect secondary. Vaccaro will be better year two as well.
  7. Carolina Panthers- Phenomenal for owners last year who caught on quick, Carolina’s defense will be tested often with that schedule. Draft them knowing that.
  8. New England Patriots- New England as a sleeper for top-3 defense by years end? You bet. Darrelle Revis isn’t the only player who will make things difficult. They could be dominant so don’t miss out.
  9. Cleveland Browns- Buffalo’s defense was top-10 last season in large part because Mike Pettine knows what he’s doing on that side of the ball as a coach. He’s got better personnel in Cleveland and won’t be as sought after in drafts. Be patient and look like a genius.
  10. San Francisco 49ers- With the news that Aldon Smith will be suspended the first nine games this season and already dealing with Navarro Bowman’s ACL recovery they aren’t as strong as before. Still a top-10 to own, but won’t look anywhere near the same.

Also Keep Your Eyes On:

  • Arizona Cardinals- Losing Karlos Dansby (Free Agency), the recovery of Tyrann Mathieu (Knee), and losing Darnell Dockett for the year this year (ACL) hurts them. Patrick Peterson still makes them a viable option.
  • New York Giants- Ended the year strong on the defensive/special teams side of the ball and go into 2014 with all the pieces necessary to make for a very good option.
  • Houston Texans- This was a respectable defense last season. With some semblance of stability on offense and the addition of Clowney they will put up decent numbers for your squad.

DO NOT DRAFT: Atlanta Falcons, Jacksonville Jaguars, Anyone else from the NFC East, Oakland

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