It’s your brain, polluted with so much fear and anxiety on fantasy football draft day, that twists itself into pretzels of illogic and forces you to take a defense in the eighth or tenth or twelfth round, effectively undermining your squad before it’s even assembled.
You fall into the trap of what’s known as lineup filling – that insidious phenomenon. The reasoning goes a little something like this: You’ve already picked up a couple running backs, a nice wide receiver duo, a serviceable tight end and a quarterback, so, naturally, it’s time to fill that D/ST spot in your lineup.
Oh, and the Seattle Seahawks defense is available, so why not take the plunge and get a weekly advantage on your hated fantasy nemeses?
All you’ve done is drain your fantasy team of depth while sacrificing a very valuable pick. There is no year-to-year correlation as to which fantasy defenses will put up the most points.
The annual turnover of elite fantasy defenses isn’t predictable, in other words, so merely by guessing, you’re either foolish or overconfident. Maybe both.
The best approach to fantasy defenses, as you know if you read my “Dreaming of Streaming” columns last season, is to play the waiver wire, sometimes weeks in advance. This is hardly groundbreaking, though it’s critical to long-term success.
I’ll write more about year-to-year fantasy defense performance later this month. Today I’ll share three defenses I’m targeting in every draft, with the lone criteria being this: Who are they playing Week 1?
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New York Jets
Fantasy football’s most generous secondary in 2012 saw giant upgrades in the acquisitions of all-world cornerback Darrelle Revis and former 49ers’ safety Dashon Goldson. The team’s run defense was suffocating in 2012 (allowing 3.6 yards per carry), and there’s no reason to believe things will be much different in 2013. Tampa defense end Adrian Clayborn, whose season ended abruptly with a Week 3 ACL tear, is expected back for Week 1.
We like our defensive streamers to have home matchups, but I’m downright giddy to deploy Tampa against a Jets’ offense that will be somewhere between woeful and hapless.
Kansas City Chiefs at Jacksonville Jaguars
Again, we’re targeting one of the worst – the worst, in fact – fantasy defense from last season. Like the Bucs, Kansas City has added to their defense and will likely have a vastly improved offense that won’t put constant, back-breaking stress on the defense. When Brady Quinn and Matt Cassel are your signal callers, your defense will see quite a few tough situations against opponents with a pulse.
The Jaguars will once again have Chad Henne or Blaine Gabbert behind center on opening day, and unless you believe the Jaguars’ offensive additions of rookies Denard Robinson and Ace Sanders will make the team a sudden point-scoring juggernaut, you should feel fairly confident in rolling with the Chiefs. The Jags, who will be without Justin Blackmon on Opening Day, gave up 11.4 fantasy points per game to defenses in 2012 – the fourth worst in the NFL.
Indianapolis Colts vs. Oakland Raiders
The Raiders, as you may know by now, are perhaps the league’s most talent deficient team, with professional clipboard holder Matt Flynn at quarterback and a new running game approach installed for the third time in three years.
The Colts’ defense, while useful in a few games last season, was pretty dismal, ranking as the NFL’s 21st-ranked pass defense and 29th-ranked run defense. Reports out of Colts’ training camp say the defense has had its way with Andrew Luck’s offense, and the defense is now a year removed from an incredibly awkward transition from the 4-3 to the 3-4. Their personnel never fit the desired scheme, and it certainly showed on the field, as confusion reigned, especially early in the year.
“We’re definitely closer to a true 3-4 now. From the standpoint of knowledge of all the calls we had defensively and players and their physical ability, we’re way ahead of where we were last year,” Indianapolis defensive coordinator Greg Manusky said in a recent interview. “It was frustrating at times last year (not being able to implement the full scope of the 3-4). You want to expand the system and keep growing it, but they didn’t know it from the knowledge standpoint, so you’re limited in the calls you can make.”
Oakland’s offense allowed double-digit fantasy points to five of their last eight 2012 opponents, at a clip of 8.4 points per contest.