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Early Season Defense Talk

We continue our early season discussion, talking about rankings, sleepers, and busts.  To review, I have been in quite a few drafts already, and I also had the opportunity to participate in a video draft guide talking about the current state of things.  In order to expand a bit upon the short sound bites I provided, I thought it’d be a good idea to share and expand upon some of my thoughts here.  Since it is a little early, we’ll only go thru my top five at each position (I know, I know, probably not revealing much!), but I’ll also throw in some players that I think could surprise from lower down on your cheatsheet.  We’ll crank these articles out one at a time by position, then we’ll talk about some sleepers, as well as some players that I’m already seeing being drafted too high.  As always, your thoughts, comments, and reaction is welcome!

Before we begin, let me just say that I hated the idea of talking about defenses.  Not because it is early, but just talking about defense in general.  Even on draft day, I’m the guy that waits until the last two rounds of the draft to grab a couple of the remaining defenses.  I just hate to use picks in the middle and even late rounds to pick that position.  The reason for this is two fold.  The first reason is that in most of the leagues that I participate in, the difference between the top scoring defense and the worst scoring defense is very small.  In other words, there is almost no difference between having the top defense, and having the #10 defense.  Secondly, like projecting kickers, projecting defenses has been proven to be an inexact science.  While that can certainly be said for all positions, rarely do the top 5 defenses on draft day end up being the top 5 defenses by the time the season is finished.  In fact, you’re lucky if two or even just one of the top 5 on draft day end up being top 5 performers. 

With that said and out of the way, let’s get into talking about…defense (sigh)!

Chicago

The Bears were the concensus overall top pick at defense last season, and though they were a bit of a disappointment, it’s tough to take them out of the top spot at this moment in time.  Any team that has Brian Urlacher has the potential to cause many a turnover, not to mention that the Bears will once again have a potent return game capable of scoring from any kick. 

New England

The Patriots defense is another year older, but when your offense scores so many points, that forces opponents to take chances, thereby increasing turnover opportunities.  New England deserves this ranking based on that, not to mention being in the AFC East allows them to feast on the other teams in their division twice during the season. 

San Diego

Like the Patriots, the Chargers are near the top of the list because they have a good offense and because their schedule is littered with poor offensive opponents. 

Minnesota

The Vikings were the surprise fantasy unit of 2007, as it seemed like they were scoring multiple touchdowns every week.  I don’t like to base a ranking on that kind of scoring, but that is part of it, plus Minnesota has gone out and strengthened their offensive line which should create more opportunity for sacks. 

Pittsburgh

What would a top 5 list be without the Steelers.  Pittsburgh continues to have an all around good defense, and that should translate into some above average fantasy performances during the 2008 season. 

Ok, if you’re like me and you don’t mind sifting thru the “what is left” pile at the end of the draft, don’t be afraid to pick up either of these two units…

Green Bay

Call me crazy (many have, and many more will), but I’ve got the Packers as one of my “late late” fantasy defense selections.  They always seem to improve, and last season they were one of the surprises that performed very well for those that got them late in the draft.  This year should be no different, they don’t do any one thing well (ie. sack the quarterback and/or score TDs), but they do a good job of limiting opposing offenses in both yardage in scoring, making them an above average yet under the radar fantasy defense. 

Buffalo

The Bills are my ultimate sleeper defense.  Before you fall over in laughter, consider this:  like New England, Buffalo gets to feast on the Dolphins and Jets twice, plus they’ve got the 49ers, Chiefs, and Raiders on their schedule.  The Bills have done some did some nice work on defense in the off season, selecting the top cover corner in the NFL rookie draft (Leodis McKelvin), adding a pro bowl tackle (Marcus Stroud), and adding a strong veteran linebacker (Kawika Mitchell).  And don’t forget that it gets cold and snowy in Buffalo in December, further slowing opposing offenses to a crawl.  Don’t be afraid to wait until very last to get the Bills as your starting fantasy defense. 

The Bills are my ultimate sleeper defense.  Before you fall over in laughter, consider this:  like New England, Buffalo gets to feast on the Dolphins and Jets twice, plus they’ve got the 49ers, Chiefs, and Raiders on their schedule.  The Bills have done some did some nice work on defense in the off season, selecting the top cover corner in the NFL rookie draft (Leodis McKelvin), adding a pro bowl tackle (Marcus Stroud), and adding a strong veteran linebacker (Kawika Mitchell).  And don’t forget that it gets cold and snowy in Buffalo in December, further slowing opposing offenses to a crawl.  Don’t be afraid to wait until very last to get the Bills as your starting fantasy defense. 

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