I felt a little misdirected.
And I realized that many people misdirect their attentions when it comes to fantasy defenses on draft day. They overcomplicate things and lose site of what it takes to successfully draft a fantasy defense. Here is my personal strategy for the position.
Ed Reed of the Ravens is like that. So is Troy Polamalu of the Steelers. Darrelle Revis headlines a star-studded Jets defense (and yes, he’ll play this year. One of the sides will crumble).
The problem is that these name-brand players elevate their respective teams to near un-draftable status in fantasy leagues.
And by undraftable, I’m suggesting they’ll be chosen before the next-to-last round of your respective drafts. Notice I didn’t suggest the last round … that is reserved for your fantasy kicker.
But how can one so confidently wait on a defense while squads such as the Jets, Packers, Ravens and Steelers are swiped off the board?
Because the key to success with a fantasy defensive unit is not necessarily the star players or lack thereof. Check out a slew of various fantasy football rankings for team defenses. You’ll be amazed at how much difference you’ll find from list to list.
Every year, I stick to my guns on fantasy defenses, waiting until the waning rounds to pick a solid value squad and reaping the benefits of a more quality bench at RB and WR.
So which defensive units am I targeting this year? There are several that will pay great dividends out of a late draft slot. They include:
San Francisco. The Niners showed great improvements last season defensively under defensive-minded head coach Mike Singletary. They continued to tweak their defenses this offseason. Most importantly, they have a pretty easy schedule throughout most of the regular season, playing Seattle the opening weekend and having savory matchups against Kansas City in Week 3, Oakland Week 6, Denver Week 8, Rams Week 10, Buccanneers Week 11, Arizona Week 12, Seattle Week 14 and a very juicy fantasy championship matchup against the Rams. Problem is that the Niners could be taken before the next-to-last round in some drafts based on their performance last year.
San Diego. Here is the team defense that has me most excited this summer. Sure the Chargers lost Cromartie to the Jets. They weren’t as impressive last year as one would like. Both factors will ensure that the Chargers fall to the next-to-last round in most fantasy drafts. But the Chargers still have plenty of playmakers and have, as far as I’m concerned, the best schedule possible this season for a fantasy defense. They play the Broncos, Raiders and Chiefs each twice. San Diego will also fare well against the Jaguars’ one-trick pony, a Seattle program in flux, a Cardinals offense piloted by Leinart, the Rams and their rookie QB, among others. There are only a handful of games during the regular season that could cause the Chargers fits on defense.
Cincinnati. Another team a la the Niners that showed marked improvement last season on the defensive side was the Bengals. In fact, they were under-the-radar most of the season despite shutting down some high-powered offenses. This year, they don’t have the cakewalk schedule that either the Niners or Chargers do, but the Bengals do have a few juicy matchups that make them worth a late-round flier when all of the namebrand defensive units are off the board.
Chicago. If the Bears weren’t so successful in previous seasons, I’d have them higher on this list. However, they’ll likely be picked earlier than I am willing to pull the trigger. They open against Detroit and the defense should see benefits from a higher-octane Bears offense this season. More exciting for me, though, is that Brian Urlacher should be healthy and the squad brought in aging, yet fiercly passionate Julius Peppers.
Miami. My best attempt at a sleeper defense, the Dolphins will also benefit from an improved and more balanced offense, keeping the defense fresher and more keen to make big plays. The Dolphins also open against the Bills, meaning they should jump up the fantasy football spectrum of consciousness really quickly. The best part about the Dolphins, in my opinion, is the matchups they’ll have during most league’s fantasy playoffs … the Bills and Lions. For that reason alone, they should probably be rostered in all formats if you have room to spare.
Check back as I continue to post position-by-position strategies for draft day success. Completed so far: kickers.
How do you attack team defenses on draft day?