Every year, it seems, fantasy football owners can count on certain defenses in the league to provide elite fantasy production on a consistent basis.
You know … like Baltimore and New England and Pittsburgh and even Chicago. Defense/special teams that seemed to always be good for 12-20 fantasy points per week, with a few 30-point blowouts. In some cases, these defenses gave owners an advantage over opponents. At least a little peace of mind.
But like most things, change in inevitable. The Steelers and Bears and Patriots were all less than stellar at times during the 2009 campaign. Meanwhile, squads like the New York Jets and New Orleans Saints broke onto the scene like gangbusters, notching fantasy points in bunches for their visionary owners.
Want to be one of those visionaries in 2010? Want to know which defense to target via trade or draft in dynasty leagues this spring or summer? Just take a long, hard look at …
San Francisco. Yes, the 49ers.
Perhaps not a huge stretch up front considering how well they fared last season, the Niners are still greatly underappreciated in fantasy circles this year. What’s to like about the squad in 2010? Consider these:
1. The schedule. Let’s face it … as much as we’d like to ignore the fact, defenses fair much better against suspect passing attacks and unestablished run games. The Niners are blessed with being in the NFC-West, and subsequently get two games apiece against the Kurt Warner and Anquan Boldin-less Arizona Cardinals, a rookie QB in Sam Bradford with the Rams and an improving yet still not-so-intimidating Seattle Seahawks. The out-of-conference schedule is also appealing, especially the matchups with the Chiefs, Raiders and Buccanneers. That makes at least nine games out of their 2010 regular season slate as savory as a freshly grilled rack of babyback ribs.
2. The Ted Ginn effect. Interesting how much attention is given to the offseason movement of players like Santonio Holmes and Brandon Marshall and the subesquent fantasy ripple effects. Sure, Ted Ginn’s individual value isn’t something to get excited about, but his arrival in San Francisco has definite ramifications on the squad’s special teams. His return abilities were on display last year with Miami and he gives the Niners a home run threat on every kickoff return booted his way. San Fran fared well without him last year, so imagine how much better they could do this season with Ginn fielding kicks.
3. The rapidly improving offense. How does an offense help a defensive’s fantasy stats, you ask? By helping put pressure on opponents. The more points the Niners can score, the more opposing quarterbacks will feel pressured to force the ball into tight coverage. The more risks offensive coordinators will take to keep from falling behind. Meanwhile, as the Niners offense plays ball control, it keeps the defense off the field and more well-rested to make big plays when their time comes to take the field.
4. The 2010 draft. The Niners may not have drafted defense in the first round of the 2010 draft, but the two elite offensive linemen they snagged will only help the offense become a more efficient machine, which in turns helps the defense through my comments in point 4 above. The Niners then got a relative steal in the second round with safety Taylor Mays … who was a projected first rounder on most every mock draft board. Penn State linebacker Navorro Bowman in the third round was another great value pick and will pay immediate dividends.
5. The coaching. This point probably doesn’t need to be made, but the head coach is Mike Singletary. Yes, that Mike Singletary. Considering the track record as a defensive juggernaut during his playing days, I’d say he may know a thing or two about building a solid defense at the NFL level. Just saying.
So, there you have it. The five reasons I love the San Francisco defense in fantasy circles for this fall. I would highly recommend making a move for them in your respective dynasty leagues during the offseason. I know I’ll be targeting them in drafts this summer in all redraft formats. I see the Niners producing top-five numbers, if not top-three. In fact, outside of the New York Jets, there are few team defenses I’d rather have for the 2010 season.
What is your opinion of the Niners and their potential to be an elite fantasy defense in 2010?