By Tony Meale
In case you missed my kicker rankings, I basically railed against anyone who selects a kicker before the final round or the second-to-last round (assuming the last two roster spots you need to fill are kicker and defense).
The same logic applies to defense, more or less. I readily admit in my early fantasy football days – so, when I was in high school – I was prone to drafting a “stud defense” in the middle rounds. I thought doing so actually gave me a leg up on the competition. But, I got a little older and a little wiser (funny how that works) and realized that drafting a defense early (and by “early,” I mean, “anywhere in the first 10 rounds”) is simply not a wise thing to do. At best, you’re gaining a point or two a week over a defense you could have five rounds later, and, at worst, you’re shunning a backup running back or wide receiver who is one injury or one good game away from a starring role.
So yeah, good rule of thumb: Wait on defenses.
The Seahawks allowed the fewest points in football last year, and don’t be surprised if they do it again. They also finished in the top eight in interceptions (18) and fumble recoveries (13). In other news, Richard Sherman is good.
Several key Niners are banged up – including Chris Culliver, who is out for the season – but this unit allowed the third-fewest points in the league last year. It’ll be elite once more.
The Bears led the league in interceptions (24) and were second in fumble recoveries (20) last season – which explains, in part, why the defense finished with a whopping 10 touchdowns. Only two other defenses (San Diego and Denver) had more than five. Defensive scores are virtually impossible to predict, but here’s some advice: Don’t expect 10 again.
Houston, which finished in the top five in sacks (44.0), excels at getting to the quarterback. J.J. Watt helps with that.
Top five in points allowed, top three in defensive touchdowns (six) and No. 1 in sacks (52.0). There’s a lot to like here.
6) Cincinnati Bengals
The Bengals finished outside the top 15 in interceptions, but they did recover 16 fumbles – third-most in football. They were also seventh in points allowed. Cincy doesn’t have a lot of names that wow you, but it gets the job done on that side of the ball.
Jerod Mayo and Co. recovered a league-leading 21 fumbles last season.
James Laurinaitis played every snap last season for a defense that showed great improvement under Jeff Fisher. In fact, St. Louis’ 52.0 sacks were tied with Houston for the league lead.
9) Arizona Cardinals
The Cardinals recorded 22 picks last season – second-most in football – which is amazing given how often they were playing from behind.
10) Green Bay Packers
Speaking of playing from behind, Green Bay opponents will be doing that a lot this season. It’s not too surprising that the Packers finished with the fourth-most sacks (47.0) in the league last year.
The Steelers showed their age a bit last season. Here’s betting on a slight bounce-back.
12) Baltimore Ravens
Yes, they lost Ed Reed, and yes, Ray Lewis retired. But the defense will still be decent, right?
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