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Team Defense Fantasy Review & Ratings
Steve Gallo
August 6, 2013
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Team 2013 Rating
ARI C
ATL C-
BAL A
BUF C+
CAR C-
CHI A
CIN A
CLE B+
DAL B+
DEN C
DET F
GBP B+
HOU A
IND D
JAC D
KCC C+
MIA C
MIN D+
NEP B
NOS C-
NYG B
NYJ D
OAK F
PHI D+
PIT C
SDC D
SFO A
SEA A
STL B+
TBB C+
TEN D-
WAS C+

Arizona Cardinals

Key Additions: Karlos Dansby (LB), John Abraham (LB), Matt Shaughnessy (DE), Kevin Minter (LB), Tyrann Mathieu (DB)
Key Losses: Daryl Washington* (LB), Adrian Wilson (DB), Kerry Rhodes (DB), Paris Lenon (LB), and Ray Horton (Defensive Coordinator)
Grade: C

Arizona was a top-10 defense last year (9th), but they were anything but consistent. With Patrick Peterson always a threat to take an interception or punt return to the house the Cardinals are always going to be just a play or two away from big fantasy points. However, the loss of defensive coordinator, Ray Horton does have me a bit concerned. Horton’s loss won’t negate all the team’s upside but his loss will be felt. Just like the loss of Daryl Washington will be felt as he serves a league imposed suspension for the first four games of the season. Look at Washington’s stats and you’ll see that he had 10 sacks last year. If you aren’t a student of the game or should I say the defensive side of the ball let me point out that Washington doesn’t play a rush OLB position, no he plays ILB. Karlos Dansby will be the man inside until Washington returns, and then at that point he’ll most likely slide over into the departed Paris Lenon’s LB spot. That is unless rookie Kevin Minter has shown he is ready for primetime. The additions of John Abraham and Matt Shaughnessy are attempts to help the pass rush, but I don’t know if that is enough to compensate for the loss of Horton and his aggressive approach. Especially, when Horton’s replacement is Todd Bowles – formerly the Eagles mid-season replacement at defensive coordinator – who wasn’t very successful in his short stint as the Eagles defensive coordinator.

*Suspended for 1st four games of 2013 season.

Atlanta Falcons

Key Additions: Osi Umenyiora (DL), and Desmond Trufant (DB)
Key Losses: John Abraham (DL), Dunta Robinson (DB), and Brent Grimes (DB)
Grade: C-

The Falcons lost some veteran leadership, especially with the loss of John Abraham, however, with veteran Osi Umenyiora – formerly of the Giants – now in the fold the Falcons pass rush could actually see some improvement. Two things that Umenyiora is good at is getting to the QB and forcing fumbles when he gets there. From an NFL standpoint losing Grimes and Robinson will hurt but the addition of Desmond Trufant – a 1st round selection in the 2013 NFL Draft – should help to ease those losses. Fantasy wise the best way to use the Falcons will be to nab them off the waiver wire when it looks like they are going up against an offensive line that will have trouble with Umenyiora, because those will most likely be the only weeks they are worth starting.

Baltimore Ravens

Key Additions: Elvis Dumervil (LB), Arthur Brown (LB), Daryl Smith (LB), Chris Canty (DL), Matt Elam (DB), Michael Huff (DB), and Lardarius Webb* (DB)
Key Losses: Ray Lewis (LB), Ed Reed (DB), Bernard Pollard (DB), Dannell Ellerbe (LB), and Paul Kruger (LB)
Grade: A

Losing two future Hall of Fame players like Ray Lewis (retirement) and Ed Reed (signed with Houston) isn’t exactly an easy thing to overcome – especially when you are defending Super Bowl champions. However, Ozzie Newsome always seems to make all the right moves and this year is no different. Lewis and Reed will both me missed, but their production on the field can be replaced. Especially Reed’s who gets by more on name than actual performance of late. Ellerbe played well in place of an injured Lewis last year, but the Dolphins signed him to a big money contract. But believe it or not, this year I see the Ravens having a much improved defense over 2012. A 100% healthy Terrell Suggs is a big cog for 2013, but the addition of Elvis Dumervil to bolster the pass rush is just as important. Not to mention that it takes the sting out of losing Paul Kruger to the Browns. The secondary also gets a boost from the return of Lardarius Webb who’s coming back from injury and the addition of Matt Elam in the draft. The signing of Daryl Smith may not make many headlines but he is a solid veteran presence that will be a solid player for the Ravens, and let’s not forget that they also had Arthur Brown fall into their lap in the 2nd round of the draft this year.

*Returning from injury.

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Buffalo Bills

Key Additions: Mike Pettine (defensive coordinator), Kiko Alonso (LB), and Manny Lawson (LB)
Key Losses: Mark Anderson (LB), Kelvin Sheppard (LB), Nick Barnett (LB), and George Wilson (DB)
Grade: C+

It might seem like the Bills took a hard hit with losing players like Nick Barnett and George Wilson, but they really didn’t. Mark Anderson is a player I was high on last year but the injury bug kept him from doing much of anything for the Bills – earlier this summer they cut their losses. The move that I like the best is that they brought in Mike Pettine to replace Dave Wannstedt as their defensive coordinator. As an IDP guy I don’t like that they are staying with the 3-4 but they do have the personnel to play that front well. Mario Williams needs to build on what he did at the end of 2012 and by all accounts he is healthy and I expect him to be a very big factor in 2013. Another thing to like about Pettine is his aggressiveness, and with second round draft pick Kiko Alonso flying all over the field we should see some turnovers as the byproduct. As for the loss of Wilson, I wouldn’t get all broken up over it. Last year there were times when he was splitting reps with Da’Norris Searcy and now he is with the Titans and is currently listed behind Bernard Pollard on their depth chart. The Bills defense won’t be plug-and-play but they will have their moments and should be a team you look at streaming when the matchup is ripe.

Carolina Panthers

Key Additions: Star Lotulelei (DL), and Jon Beason* (LB)
Key Losses: James Anderson (LB)
Grade: C-

Both Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy can get after the QB with the best of them, but as long as the secondary is suspect, starting the Panthers for fantasy purposes will be a suspect thing to do too.

*Note I have Beason as an addition because he was injured last year and adding him at WLB, along with fellow starters Luke Kuechly (MLB), and Thomas Davis (SLB) is a good thing. But like I said, the front seven isn’t my concern.

Chicago Bears

Key Additions: DJ Williams (LB), James Anderson (LB), and Jon Bostic (LB), and Mel Tucker (Defensive Coordinator)
Key Losses: Brian Urlacher (LB), and Nick Roach (LB)
Grade: A

Urlacher – a future Hall of Famer – is a big loss for the Bears, but not a loss that they can’t overcome. After all, Urlacher has missed 19 games over the past four seasons – 4 of those games being in 2012. The addition of DJ Williams, rookie draft pick Jon Bostic, and former Panther’s LB, James Anderson will help to take the sting out of losing such an all-time great LB. The biggest concern right now is that Williams is dealing with a calf injury, but as long as he is ready to start the season the added reps in training camp for the rookie should be a very good thing. The Bears, year in and year out tend to be a very consistent fantasy defense – something most fantasy defenses aren’t – and since 2007 have only once ranked outside the top 7 of fantasy defenses. However, the one thing to keep an eye on early will be to see how the team responds to new defensive coordinator, Mel Tucker.

Cincinnati Bengals

Key Additions: James Harrison (LB)
Key Losses: Manny Lawson (LB)
Grade: A

When you have a dominant front four like the Bengals do, and you swap a loss of Manny Lawson for a gain of James Harrison – even if he is aging – you have to call that a win for the added pass rush you’ll get from the LB position. The Bengals were a top-10 defense last year (8th) and I don’t see that changing for the worse this year.

Cleveland Browns

Key Additions: Ray Horton (Defensive Coordinator), Desmond Bryant (DL), Paul Kruger (LB), Barkevious Mingo (LB), and Leon McFadden (DB)
Key Losses: Frostee Rucker (DL), and Josh Cribbs (Special Teams)
Grade: B+

As much as I hated the loss of Horton for the Cardinals, I love his addition as the Browns defensive coordinator. Far too often we see coaches and teams try to force fit a defensive scheme when they don’t have the personnel to run that scheme. That isn’t going to be a problem in Cleveland. The Browns not only  have the personnel to run Horton’s 3-4, but they made sound additions in Desmond Bryant, Paul Kruger and rookie Barkevious Mingo too. I’ll be shocked if the Browns don’t end up as a top-10 fantasy defense in 2013.

Dallas Cowboys

Key Additions: Monte Kiffin (Defensive Coordinator), Rod Marinelli (D-Line Coach), and Justin Durant (LB)
Key Losses: n/a
Grade: B+

As an IDP guy I absolutely love that the Cowboys are moving to a 4-3 and that DeMarcus Ware is being reclassified as a DE. Ware has been a pass rushing beast from his OLB position since coming into the league, now he’ll do it with his hand in the dirt. There are some concerns about him making the transition, but I don’t share in them. The addition of Rod Marinelli to coach the D-Line is a very big plus for the Cowboys. The other thing I love about the Cowboys is that their LBs seem built for new defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin’s Tampa-2 scheme. Sean Lee has the speed needed to cover the “pipe” (deep middle of the field), Bruce Carter will be able to seek and destroy much like Derrick Brooks used to do for Kiffin in Tampa Bay. Add in a year of seasoning for Morris Claiborne and Brandon Carr in Dallas and you have the makings of a defense that should rack up plenty of sacks and cause their fare share of turnovers.

Denver Broncos

Key Additions: Terrance Knighton (DL), Dominic Rodgers-Cromartie (DB), Shaun Phillips (LB/DE), and Quanterus Smith (DE)
Key Losses: Elvis Dumervil (DL), Von Miller* (LB), Joe Mays (LB), and Keith Brooking (LB)
Grade: C

Faxgate, yes, faxgate, in my opinion is the biggest hit against the Broncos defense this year. If you don’t know what I am talking about you can hit google for the complete story, but in short, the Broncos didn’t get Dumervil’s extension to the league office in time, and thus he was able to sign with whatever team he so desired. The last time the Broncos played without Dumervil (injury) they went from ranking 10th in the league in sacks in 2009 to dead last in 2010. Fantasy wise they ranked 7th in 2009 and 32nd in 2010. In 2010 they didn’t have Von Miller to step in and pick up the slack, but then again, they won’t have him for the 1st four games of the season either. The addition of Shaun Phillips was an under the radar type signing but it should help take some of the sting out but not enough for me to want to rely on the Broncos as an every week starter. Once Miller gets back from suspension they get back some of their upside so keep an eye out if they happen to be on the waiver wire in week 5.

Detroit Lions

Key Additions: Jason Jones (DL), Ziggy Ansah (DL), Glover Quin (DB), and Darius Slay (DB)
Key Losses: Cliff Avril (DL), Kyle Vanden Bosch (DL), and Justin Durant (LB)
Grade: F

In a league that is all about the QB, either having one that can put a team on his back and carry them to wins, or getting to the QB from the defensive side of the ball the Lions appear to be in a world of hurt. Matthew Stafford can chuck the ball with the best of them, but it hasn’t translated to wins for the Lions, and as for getting to the QB, the loss of Cliff Avril and replacing him with rookie Ziggy Ansah doesn’t make me feel all warm and fuzzy. I would have liked it much more had the Lions been able to keep Avril and added Ansah to the mix. I like the addition of Glover Quin, but beyond him there are plenty of question marks and I don’t see many big plays in their future. Do yourself a favor come draft day and let someone else deal with the headache that will be the Lions defense.

Green Bay Packers

Key Additions: Datone Jones (DL)
Key Losses: Desmond Bishop (LB), Erik Walden (LB), and Charles Woodson (DB)
Grade: B+

Losing Desmond Bishop doesn’t hurt the Packers much at all because they adjusted to life without him last year after he suffered a season ending injury in the preseason. The Colts signed Erik Walden for enough money to make many scratch their heads and wonder what they were thinking, but with Clay Matthews at one OLB spot and second year OLB Nick Perry at the other the Packers won’t miss Walden much if at all. The biggest loss is that of Charles Woodson, but even then, with Tramon Williams and Casey Hayward at cornerback, I feel safe saying the Packers will be just fine. And with playmaker Morgan Burnett signing a four-year contract extension the Packers secondary shouldn’t skip a beat in the post-Woodson era.

Houston Texans

Key Additions: Joe Mays (LB), DJ Swearinger (DB), and Ed Reed (DB)
Key Losses: Shaun Cody (DL), Connor Barwin (LB), and Glover Quin (DB)
Grade: A

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, Wade Phillips is one heck of a defensive coordinator – as a head coach he’s not so good. Pure and simple, as long as Phillips is calling the defensive plays and JJ Watt is on the field the Texans defense is going to be formidable – both NFL and fantasy wise.  Last year the Texans finished as the 3rd ranked fantasy defense, and of course much of that was due to the massive year that Watt had. While he most likely won’t repeat such a performance (20.5 sacks, 4 forced fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries, 81 total tackles and 16 passes defended), he and the Texans defense should still prove to be a top-5 fantasy defense. As for Watt not replicating those numbers, realize that no player in NFL history has ever had multiple 20 sack seasons, I’ll go on record right here and say that Watt will be the first to do just that. It may not happen this year, but it will happen. As for the addition of future Hall of Famer, Ed Reed, I wouldn’t expect much from him. He is currently still dealing with issues from offseason hip surgery that very well could keep him from being ready for week 1.

Indianapolis Colts

Key Additions: Ricky Jean-Francois (DL), Erik Walden (LB), Kelvin Sheppard (LB), Laron Landry (DB), Greg Toler (DB), and Bjoern Werner (LB)
Key Losses: Dwight Freeney (LB), and Tom Zbikowski (DB)
Grade: D

The Colts ranked 27th among fantasy defenses last year, and this year I don’t see where they’ve done enough to make me feel like they’ll be better this year. Even if Dwight Freeney wasn’t a great fit as a LB, when you lose him and replace him with Erik Walden I don’t see how you can feel good about a move like that. They did add Bjoern Werner in the draft, but unfortunately Werner looked to be a much better fit as a DE in a 4-3 instead of as a LB in a 3-4 like the Colts play. Laron Landry’s big hits may cause some turnovers but not near enough to make the Colts a fantasy defense you can rely on.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Key Additions: Johnathan Cyprien (DB), Dwayne Gratz (DB), Marcus Trufant (DB), Sen’Derrick Marks (DL), Geno Hayes (LB), and Bob Babich (Defensive Coordinator)
Key Losses: Terrance Knighton (DL), Derek Cox (DB), Daryl Smith (LB), and Mel Tucker (Defensive Coordinator)
Grade: D

The Jaguars ranked 32nd among fantasy defenses last year and a large reason was due to their inability to get to the QB. As evidenced by their league low 20 sacks. So what does Jacksonville due in an attempt to rectify their lack of a pass rush? One thing they are doing is moving former 1st round pick Tyson Alualu from his DT position to DE. Another thing they did that had me scratching their head was in the draft when at 1.2 they had their choice of every pass rusher in the draft and instead they opted for OL Luke Joeckle. Sure I know that there is merit in building your offensive line, but when you have a pass rush as anemic as the Jaguars did I think they would have been better served to have looked at adding someone like Dion Jordan, Ziggy Ansah, or Barkevious Mingo – of which were selected in the first six picks. If you are in an IDP league there is value to be had by Paul Posluszny because he will be on the field a ton, but for those in team D leagues…stay far, far, FAR away.

Kansas City Chiefs

Key Additions: Sean Smith (DB), Dunta Robinson (DB), Mike Devito (DL), and Akeem Jordan (LB)
Key Losses: Glenn Dorsey (DL), and Brandon Siler (LB)
Grade: C+

All the hubbub for the Chiefs has been surrounding their offense, and rightfully so. But that doesn’t mean the Chiefs defense is chopped liver. We already know that Tamba Hali is one of the better pass rushers in the league, and what we are going to find out this year is that Justin Houston is formidable at getting to the QB too. Another piece that I like in the Chiefs defensive puzzle is that Eric Berry is a year removed from injury. If you get caught at the end of the run on defenses the Chiefs are a team that should be available and should give you some solid production this year. At a minimum, they get four games against Raiders QBs and Phillip Rivers.

Miami Dolphins

Key Additions: Dion Jordan (DL), Dannell Ellerbe (LB), Philip Wheeler (LB), and Brent Grimes (DB).
Key Losses: Sean Smith (DB), Karlos Dansby (LB), and Kevin Barnett (LB)
Grade: C

The Dolphins finished as the 23rd ranked fantasy defense in 2012. That may not give fantasy owners much hope for 2013, but remember that defenses can show marked improvement from one year to the next. Dolphins GM, Jeff Ireland has had a pretty good offseason – or as many have said, he’s all in this year, and rightfully so. One thing that will help the Dolphins this year is the acquisition of Dion Jordan with the 3rd pick in the NFL Draft. The Dolphins plan to move Jordan around on defense, and when coupled with the dominant pass rush of Cameron Wake, that should mean good things for the Dolphins. Ellerbe and Wheeler replace the departed Dansby and Barnett…that’s pretty much a push, with the exception of the Dolphins getting younger. I also like Grimes, but the major question that needs to be answered in the preseason is if he is back to his pre-injury self. Just to be clear, I have the Dolphins rated as a C, but I toyed with giving them a C+ to B- grade.

Minnesota Vikings

Key Additions: Desmond Bishop (LB), Sharrif Floyd (DL), and Xavier Rhodes (DB)
Key Losses:
Grade: D+

I’m going to stand by my grade for the Vikings, but I will say that I don’t feel 100% sold on it. The Vikings ranked 16th in fantasy points scored among defenses last year, but from weeks 14-16 they ranked 3rd.  When you have a player the caliber of Jared Allen you know that the Vikings defense can explode any given week, and that is what I think we’ll see in 2013. Weeks where the defense puts up very good numbers, but consistency isn’t something I’m expecting. Speaking of Allen, he along with DeMarcus Ware, and JJ Watt all have the chance to be the 1st player in NFL history to record multiple 20+ sack seasons. The loss that I think hurts the Vikings the most is Antoine Winfield. They’ve had to play without him in the past (due to injuries) but I think their young secondary will really miss his veteran leadership.

New England Patriots

Key Additions: Tommy Kelly (DL), Jamie Collins (LB), and Aqib Talib (DB)
Key Losses: Patrick Chung (DB),
Grade: B

When your biggest offseason loss is a safety that only started an average of 8 games each of the past two years, it’s not something to be too concerned with. What I like most about the Patriots this year is that 2012 1st round draft pick Chandler Jones has some seasoning. That and the addition of 2013 draft pick Jamie Collins – his versatility is something that HC Bill Belichick will utilize to the Patriots benefit. But the biggest plus for the Patriots defense is probably that they were able to bring back Aqib Talib for 2013. It was easily apparent how much the Patriots missed him when he got hurt in their playoff game against the Ravens. The big worry is if Alfonzo Dennard ends up being suspended by the NFL or not.

New Orleans Saints

Key Additions: Rob Ryan (Defensive Coordinator), Keenan Lewis (DB), Kenyon Coleman (DL), Josh Jenkins (DL), and Kenny Vaccaro (DB)
Key Losses: Sedrick Ellis (DL), and Steve Spagnuolo (Defensive Coordinator)
Grade: C-

The Cowboys fired Ryan earlier this year, but quite honestly, that may not have been warranted as the Cowboys sustained a ton of injuries on the defensive side of the ball last year. One of those injured players was Kenyon Coleman who will now play DE in Ryan’s 3-4 defense for the Saints. The Saints defense needed some shaking up, but I’m not sure shaking it up into a 3-4 defense is what it needed. Kenyon and Cameron Jordan can fill the role of a 3-4 DE, but my concern is having Will Smith converted into a 3-4 OLB. That and the fact that Jonathan Vilma wasn’t a good fit in NY when the Jets switched to a 3-4. In the secondary, Kenny Vaccaro and Keenan Lewis should help a defense that finished 31st in passing yards allowed in 2012.

New York Giants

Key Additions: Cullen Jenkins (DL)
Key Losses: Osi Umenyiora (DL), Chris Canty (DL), Kenny Phillips (DB)
Grade: B

Losing Umenyiora will be offset with a healthy Justin Tuck and the move of Mathias Kiwanuka to DE. But the big bonus comes in the form of Jason Pierre-Paul being more like the 2011 JPP than the 2012 version. At LB the Giants have a mish-mash of players that they’ll cobble together to get just enough out of them to keep the position from being a liability – or so they hope. Oft injured Kenny Phillips now plays down the road in Philadelphia for the Eagles, but Stevie Brown – while filling in for Phillips in the past – has shown he is more than an adequate replacement. I have no problem saying I see the Giants as a top-10 fantasy defense again this year.

New York Jets

Key Additions: Mike Pettine (Defensive Coordinator), Sheldon Richardson (DL), Dawan Landry (DB), and Dee Milliner (DB)
Key Losses: Darrelle Revis (DB), Laron Landry (DB), Bart Scott, and Yeremiah Bell (DB)
Grade: D

The Jets are a team that just seems to still be unraveling right before our eyes. One thing you can bet on is that the Jets offense isn’t going to do the defense any favors this year. Being on the field a ton should help the IDP prospects of Demario Davis, and David Harris but as a fantasy defense I’m not expecting much. I absolutely love Muhammad Wilkerson as a player, but he isn’t going to light up the scoreboard from a sack perspective – scheme wise that isn’t what’s asked of him. The other thing that doesn’t give me much confidence is Quinton Coples playing as a rush OLB. Revis is a loss for the franchise, but they already learned to play defense without him last year.

Oakland Raiders

Key Additions: Nick Roach (LB), Kevin Burnett (LB), DJ Hayden (DB), Charles Woodson (DB), and Josh Cribbs (Special Teams)
Key Losses: Tommy Kelly (DL), Matt Shaughnessy (DL), Philip Wheeler (LB), Michael Huff (DB), Rolando McClain (LB), and Desmond Bryant (DL)
Grade: F

Avoid. At. All. Costs. It really is that simple. But I’ll point out that the Raiders did have a couple of additions by subtractions with Rolando McClain and Michael Huff moving on. Charles Woodson isn’t Superman and even if he was he wouldn’t be able to make the Raiders defense a feared unit.

Philadelphia Eagles

Key Additions: Isaac Sopoaga (DL), Connor Barwin (LB), Cary Williams (DB), Bradley Fletcher (DB), Patrick Chung (DB), and Kenny Phillips (DB)
Key Losses: Cullen Jenkins (DL), Nnamdi Asomugha (DB), Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (DB), and Todd Bowles (Defensive Coordinator)
Grade: D+

The Eagles will have a completely new secondary this year, and that is a VERY good thing. Nnamdi Asomugha was an epic bust for the team, and when coupled with the abysmal safety play they got it was a recipe for utter disaster. Isaac Sopoaga and Connor Barwin both bring vital experience playing in a 3-4 – the new defensive scheme the Eagles will employ this year. My problem with the change in scheme is that for the most part I don’t see it as a great fit for their personnel. Brandon Graham was starting to come along as a DE, now he has to learn how to play OLB, as does one of the best pass rushing DEs in the game – Trent Cole. Fletcher Cox is more than capable to play DE in a 3-4, but he had huge upside as a 4-3 DT too. Overall, I see this as a square peg, round hole type deal. I recommend staying very far away from the Eagles for fantasy purposes.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Key Additions: Jarvis Jones (LB)
Key Losses: James Harrison (LB), Casey Hampton (DL), and Keenan Lewis (DB)
Grade: C

After back-to-back years in 2010 – 2011 as a top-12 fantasy defense the Steelers fell from grace last year – ranking 25th in 2012. James Harrison, as well as other key players missing time surely played a part. The Steelers currently have an ADP of 11, so people are buying them again as a top-12 defense…I am not. I just don’t see enough upside with them. For my money I’d rather draft a team like the Browns later at a much better value.

San Diego Chargers

Key Additions: Manti Te’O (LB), Dwight Freeney (LB), and Derek Cox (DB)
Key Losses: Shaun Phillips (LB), and Takeo Spikes
Grade: D

The Chargers ranked as the 7th best fantasy defense in 2012. We all know just how much turnover there is among defenses from year-to-year, so yes, what I am intimating is that I see the Chargers being a team that falls out of the top-12. Manti Te’O isn’t a dominant LB, so I don’t see him as a player that will do much for the fantasy prospects of the Chargers. Dwight Freeney finds himself back as a LB in a 3-4, far from his best fit, and quite honestly, I see him as a downgrade over the departed Shaun Phillips. Even at their ADP of 19 I’m steering clear of the Chargers defense.

San Francisco 49ers

Key Additions: Eric Reid (DB)
Key Losses: Dashon Goldson (DB)
Grade: A

The 49ers don’t have many weaknesses as an overall defense. When it looked like the loss of Dashon Goldson – who signed with the Buccaneers – would be a chink in their armor, the 49ers added Eric Reid in the 2013 NFL Draft. I don’t play in many team-D leagues, but I can tell you that I won’t own the 49ers in any of them. Not because they aren’t a great defense, but because of where you have to draft them. I’d much rather address another position than draft a defense that early.

Seattle Seahawks

Key Additions: Cliff Avril (DL), Michael Bennett (DL), and Antoine Winfield (DB)
Key Losses: LeRoy Hill (LB),and Marcus Trufant (DB)
Grade: A

The Seahawks are another team that is going to cost a pretty penny if you want to draft them. As I stated in the 49ers write-up, I don’t like drafting a defense early, so like the 49ers, the Seahawks won’t be on any of my teams this year. However, if you are a buyer you have to like the additions of Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett to help with the pass rush while Chris Clemons recovers from injury. I am also a big fan of Antoine Winfield and while he won’t start he is a great fit for the Seahawks.

St. Louis Rams

Key Additions: Alec Ogletree (LB)
Key Losses: Craig Dahl (DB), and Quintin Mikell (DB)
Grade: B+

Don’t read much into the losses of Dahl and Mikell, trust me when I say they won’t be missed. I like the addition of Alec Ogletree from this year’s draft. James Laurinaitis is still the LB to own in IDP leagues, but Ogletree adds speed and some playmaking ability. What makes me really like the Rams defense this year is a healthy Michael Brockers and Robert Quinn. The Rams currently have an ADP of 8, so others are buying in on them too. The silver lining is that I think they have top-5 upside.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Key Additions: Darrelle Revis (DB), and Dashon Goldson (DB)
Key Losses: Ronde Barber (DB), and Michael Bennett (DL)
Grade: C+

The Buccaneers only ranked 20th among fantasy defenses in 2012, but in 2013 I think we could see them make a big jump in those rankings. Darrelle Revis is a big reason, but we need to see during the preseason that he has returned to his pre-injury Revis Island ways. The other addition that is big for the Bucs is that of Dashon Goldson. Last year the Buccaneers pass defense was atrocious so seeing them invest in that secondary is a good thing. While the Buccaneers lost Michael Bennett to Seahawks, I don’t think it will hurt the Bucs much, if at all. But then again, I really am high on both Da’Quan Bowers, and Adrian Clayborn. The addition of Revis and better play in the secondary will give the duo fractions of time that should turn pressures into sacks this year.

Tennessee Titans

Key Additions: Bernard Pollard (DB), and George Wilson (DB)
Key Losses: Sen’Derrick Marks (DL)
Grade: D-

The Titans added a big hitter in Bernard Pollard, but Pollard is a liability in coverage. What’s that? You say, but they added George Wilson at safety too. Yes, they did, but what does it say about Wilson if he is still listed behind Pollard on the depth chart? Exactly, not much. My D- grade might be a bit low, but I just don’t see much to like about the Titans defense, and I surely don’t see much upside with them.

Washington Redskins

Key Additions: Brian Orakpo* (LB), Phillip Thomas (DB), Baccari Rambo (DB), David Amerson (DB), Darryl Tapp (LB), and Nick Barnett (LB)
Key Losses: Madieu Williams (DB)
Grade: C+

Orakpo isn’t really an addition but considering the Redskins lost him to injury last year he’ll be a big addition to the defense in 2013. Early in camp, what I saw from Orakpo, was a player that looked powerful and explosive. I think he is in for a big year, which of course bodes well for the Redskins defense. The thing that keeps me from grading the Redskins higher than a C+ is the fact that they are going to have a rookie starting at safety this year, and as it stands now without seeing any game action on either Phillip Thomas or Baccari Rambo you have to currently view the position as a weakness. I did get to speak with defensive backs coach, Raheem Morris, and he spoke highly of Rambo when I asked about him, but he also intimated that seeing him in a live game will be telling. When I spoke with Rambo he said his biggest transition is game speed and remembering what the coaches tell him.

*Returning from injury.


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