The typical fantasy football league usually requires you to start a team defense and kicker every week. Projecting what teams will have good fantasy defenses can even give the experts a migraine. Injuries usually play a large role in a vastly underperforming defense; take the 2008 Chargers for example after losing star defender Shawn Merriman. They were the consensus #1 team defense going into last year, and they finished outside the top 10 in many scoring formats. Not exactly worth the high price it took to land them in your fantasy football draft.
Listed below are 3 defenses with an average draft position outside the top 15 that could end up as viable starting units down the stretch this season.
St. Louis Rams
Bye Week 9 – Def Coordinator/Head Coach: Ken Flajole/Steve Spagnuolo
Rookie Additions: LB James Laurinaitis, CB Bradley Fletcher, DT Dorell Scott
Shocked to see the lowly Rams atop this list of sleeper defenses? The Rams are primed to be the next Cinderella NFL team. You may have already stopped reading or skipped ahead to the next team defense listed, but hear me out first. The Rams have a last place schedule in the very average NFC West and have the easiest fantasy schedule by far in 2009. A new motivated head coach and a last place schedule usually leads to a return to the league average or to the playoffs (Miami, Atlanta, and Baltimore in 2008). Steve Spagnuolo probably won’t be leading this team to the playoffs, but he will coach up his defense into becoming a viable starting fantasy option.
Spagnuolo’s defense requires putting constant pressure from a variety of different blitz schemes, a large stable to defensive lineman to constantly rotate in fresh bodies, and physical cornerbacks. It will take time to bring in more linemen to rival the depth chart he enjoyed with the Giants, but you can bet DE Chris Long will continue to wreck havoc. Bradley Fletcher was an unknown leading up to the draft, but he is a physical cornerback who could develop into the next Corey Webster for Spagnuolo. The addition of Middle Linebacker James Laurinaitis will help out at two positions; Will Witherspoon shifts over to his more natural spot on the weakside.
A new aggressive defensive minded head coach and a last place schedule make the Rams a great draft day value and should become a viable starting defense or at the very least a bye week replacement.
Bye Week 7 – Def Coordinator/Head Coach: Gus Bradley/Jim Mora
Rookie Additions: LB Aaron Curry
The Seahawks were finally dethroned by the Cardinals atop the NFC West in 2008. The Seahawks were always considered to be one of the NFL’s better teams, but not quite elite. Typically Seattle is very strong at home with their home field advantage and dreadful on the road when they travel to the East Coast.
Injuries to Matt Hasselbeck and the entire wide receiver depth chart led to the defense being on the field too much. Outside linebacker Julian Peterson was traded to Detroit, and the team selected Aaron Curry to replace him. Curry is arguably the most talented defender in the draft class. He’ll have a much greater impact on the overall Seahawks defense than he will as an IDP.
Like the Rams, the Seahawks also have a weak fantasy schedule and did not forget how to play solid football after one injury riddled season. Look for Seattle to also be a top 12 defense in 2009.
Bye Week 9 – Def Coordinator/Head Coach: Greg Blache/Jim Zorn
Rookie Additions: DE/OLB Brian Orakpo, DE Jeremy Jarmon
Washington landed the biggest offseason prize with the addition of Albert Haynesworth to a record free agent contract. Haynesworth will demand double teams, and he’ll instantly make the already stout Washington defense even better. The Redskins play in the brutal NFC East, but their matchups tend to be low scoring slugfests which bode well for their fantasy prospects with the addition of Haynesworth.
The Redskins did not trade away their draft picks like in past years, and added hybrid defender Brian Orakpo out of Texas in the first round. They envision lining him up all over the field in an effort to get more pressure on the quarterback. Jarmon was the team’s recent selection in the 3rd round of the Supplemental Draft and will provide depth to their defensive line rotation.
The Redskins also present draft day value as a backup defense you will be able to select in the late round and have the potential to outscore many of the defenses selected before them.