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2009 Player Rankings: Defenses
Updated: September 10, 2009
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Arizona Cardinals YEAR FF PTS INT FUM SACK SF STTD DFTD
Huddle Rank: 20
Keeper: 20
Auction 10: 1%
Auction 12: 1%
2006 95 16 17 38   1 3
2007 113 18 11 36   1 7
2008 97 13 17 31   1 5
Avg 102 16 15 35 0 1 5
Proj 110 14 11 30   1 4

The Cards failed to finish in the top 15 in any significant defensive category, but five defensive TDs—fourth in the league—made them a top 10 fantasy defense in many scoring formats. It all came together in the playoffs Arizona produced 13 turnovers and 10 sacks in four games, and new DC Bill Davis intends to carry over the aggressiveness—though without Antonio Smith it won’t be easy. Darnell Dockett, Karlos Dansby, and Chike Okeafor provide a solid foundation, though Bert Berry needs to stay healthy and Calais Campbell must live up to his second-round pick status. With playmakers like Adrian Wilson, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Antrel Rolle joined by former Steeler Bryan McFadden in the secondary, expect more of what we saw in the postseason. The return game might take a hit if Steve Breaston’s workload is reduced due to a larger role with the offense.

Atlanta Falcons YEAR FF PTS INT FUM SACK SF STTD DFTD
Huddle Rank: 25
Keeper: 25
Auction 10: 1%
Auction 12: 1%
2006 77 12 14 37 1   2
2007 58 16 11 25     1
2008 78 10 8 34 1 1 3
Avg 71 13 11 32 1 0 2
Proj 100 14 11 36 1   2

The Falcons ranked 11th in points allowed and scored three defensive TDs last year; however, they lost three of their top five tacklers from last year, a net loss in personnel even with first-day draft picks Peria Jerry and William Moore. So long as time doesn’t catch up to John Abraham (a career-high 16.5 sacks last year) the pass rush should be decent; if they start getting something from 2007 top pick Jamaal Anderson (two sacks in two years), the Falcons might be worth fantasy consideration. Only one team generated fewer turnovers than Atlanta last season, and aside from Erik Coleman there’s a dearth of playmakers in the secondary—a problem compounded by the lack of pass rush. Middle linebacker Curtis Lofton had a solid rookie season, but even with Harry Douglas and Jerious Norwood boosting the return game the Atlanta D/ST barely registers on the fantasy radar.

Baltimore Ravens YEAR FF PTS INT FUM SACK SF STTD DFTD
Huddle Rank: 1
Keeper: 1
Auction 10: 3%
Auction 12: 3%
2006 136 28 12 60     6
2007 79 17 6 32   3 1
2008 110 26 8 34 3   6
Avg 108 24 9 42 1 1 4
Proj 151 25 12 37 2 1 5

Sure, there are reasons to be concerned: Rex Ryan is gone, and with him Bart Scott and Jim Leonhard. But the cupboard is hardly bare for new DC Greg Mattison, who still has Ray Lewis setting the tone in the middle and franchise player Terrell Suggs on the outside. Ed Reed still patrols centerfield for a secondary that has led the NFL in picks two of the past three years, and the addition of Chris Carr not only upgrades the nickel but also the return game. With their propensity for taking turnovers back for six it’s easy to forget Baltimore finished top-three in run D, pass D, and points allowed as well. Jarret Johnson and rookie Paul Kruger rekindling a pass rush that recorded 60 sacks in 2006 would be gravy for a defense that’s firmly among the fantasy elite.

Buffalo Bills YEAR FF PTS INT FUM SACK SF STTD DFTD
Huddle Rank: 14
Keeper: 14
Auction 10: 1%
Auction 12: 1%
2006 96 13 11 40 1 1 4
2007 91 18 13 26 2 2 3
2008 76 10 12 24   2 3
Avg 88 14 12 30 1 2 3
Proj 119 16 12 31 1 3 2

It’s easy to overlook the Bills: they finished in the middle of the pack in most categories, they don’t have a marquee player, and the past two seasons they haven’t been getting to the quarterback. Buffalo hopes first-round pick Aaron Maybin and a return to health from Aaron Schobel correct the latter problem. Jabari Greer and his two INT TD returns are gone, but the secondary remains stocked with playmaking corners Terrence McGee and Leodis McKelvin. The middle of the defense is solid with linebacker Paul Posluszny and emerging safety tandem Donte Whitner and Ko Simpson. Bobby April’s special teams are consistently among the best in the league, sparked by McKelvin and Roscoe Parrish in the return game.

Carolina Panthers YEAR FF PTS INT FUM SACK SF STTD DFTD
Huddle Rank: 18
Keeper: 18
Auction 10: 1%
Auction 12: 1%
2006 75 14 8 41     2
2007 66 14 17 23     2
2008 74 12 13 37     2
Avg 72 13 13 34 0 0 2
Proj 111 15 15 39     2

The talent on Carolina’s defense consistently goads fantasy players into giving them a spin, but for the most part the results have been disappointing—and that’s with Julius Peppers still in the fold. Both Peppers’ and the team’s sack levels bounced back last year, but a secondary filled with playmakers like Chris Gamble, Chris Harris, and Richard Marshall continued to underachieve with a third straight season of 14 or fewer INTs. Jon Beason is a tackling machine in the middle, and Everette Brown was brought on board to get after the passer opposite—or possibly in place of—Peppers, but as a unit the Panthers are generally a fantasy disappointment. The departure of Mark Jones only worsens a return game that hasn’t produced a kick return touchdown since Steve Smith and Rod “He Hate Me” Smart turned the trick back in 2003.

Chicago Bears YEAR FF PTS INT FUM SACK SF STTD DFTD
Huddle Rank: 8
Keeper: 8
Auction 10: 2%
Auction 12: 2%
Movement:
2006 138 24 20 40   5 4
2007 124 16 17 41 1 6 2
2008 104 22 10 28 1 1 6
Avg 122 21 16 36 1 4 4
Proj 133 22 11 35 1 1 4

Da Bears saw their sacks dwindle by almost a third—Mark Anderson, Brian Urlacher, and Lance Briggs had but one between them—yet they still produced six defensive touchdowns and ranked among the top five fantasy D/STs. They did it with little help from Devin Hester, who turned over much of his kick return duties to Danieal Manning while focusing on his duties as the Bears’ No. 1 wideout. Not that Manning is a slouch, but the dip from 11 kick return TDs to one last year was dramatic. Urlacher and Briggs still make tackles but aren’t making plays like they used to, but a secondary that includes Charles Tillman and Nathan Vasher produced 20-plus picks for the third time in four years. If Anderson, Adewale Ogunleye, and/or Alex Brown remember how to get after the passer, Chicago’s fantasy D will regain its elite status; otherwise, they may have to settle for merely very good.

Cincinnati Bengals YEAR FF PTS INT FUM SACK SF STTD DFTD
Huddle Rank: 27
Keeper: 27
Auction 10: 1%
Auction 12: 1%
2006 72 19 12 35     1
2007 88 19 15 22 1 1 4
2008 59 12 12 17     3
Avg 73 17 13 25 0 0 3
Proj 94 15 13 26     2

(+Upside) Don’t look now, but the Bengals may finally have the pieces in place to provide a formidable defense. Hard to believe? Consider that Cincy gave up fewer points than the Jaguars and Cowboys and fewer yards than the Dolphins and Jets last year. Sack totals that have dipped two straight years should be bolstered by rookie Michael Johnson—assuming he lives up to his potential. Fellow first-year Rey Maualuga will solidify the middle of the defense, and with Keith Rivers returning from the injury that cost him half of last season suddenly the roar has been restored. Leon Hall is a capable play-maker at corner, and if DC Mike Zimmer can find a way to get underrated Chinedum Ndukwe and Cowboy castoff Roy Williams on the field together—as well as return Williams to his Pro Bowl level of play—the Bengals D/ST might be worth paying attention to.

Cleveland Browns YEAR FF PTS INT FUM SACK SF STTD DFTD
Huddle Rank: 24
Keeper: 24
Auction 10: 1%
Auction 12: 1%
2006 75 18 9 28 1 1 2
2007 81 17 10 28 1 3 1
2008 0            
Avg 78 18 10 28 1 2 2
Proj 106 19 10 24   2 2

(+Upside) The Eric Mangini era begins in Cleveland with a lot of familiar faces—familiar to Jets fans. Four starters—Eric Barton, David Bowens, Kenyon Coleman and Abram Elam—will help make over a Browns defense that excelled at ball-hawking (23 INTs, second in the NFL) but got to the quarterback just 17 times last season. The addition of Shaun Rogers and Corey Williams failed to improve a perennially woeful run defense; the new blood might help in that area, as well as in rekindling the pass rush—specifically Kamerion Wimbley, whose sack total has dipped each year in the league. Elam replaces Sean Jones in a secondary where everyone else—corners Eric Wright and Brandon McDonald and safety Brodney Pool—had at least three picks. If Josh Cribbs doesn’t hold out, the Browns’ return game might provide reason enough to give their D/ST a fantasy spin this season.

Dallas Cowboys YEAR FF PTS INT FUM SACK SF STTD DFTD
Huddle Rank: 10
Keeper: 10
Auction 10: 1%
Auction 12: 1%
2006 95 18 13 34   1 4
2007 99 19 10 46     4
2008 95 8 14 59 1 1 1
Avg 96 15 12 46 0 1 3
Proj 129 14 13 49 1 1 3

Dallas’ defense was hardly dominant—the Bengals and Browns were among 19 teams who allowed fewer points than the Cowboys last year—but they did one thing extremely well: they got after the quarterback. DeMarcus Ware’s 20 sacks led the way, but three other Cowboys—Jay Ratliff, Bradie James, and Greg Ellis—recorded eight each. Dallas is actively shopping Ellis, so 2007 first-round pick Anthony Spencer will need to step up his game. Offseason acquisitions Igor Olshansky, Keith Brooking, and Gerald Sensabaugh aren’t sexy, but they do provide a solid foundation that should allow Ware to continue his pursuit of sacks. Given the pressure opposing passers were under, just eight INTs was surprising; Terence Newman was the only Cowboy with more than one. A healthy Felix Jones could rejuvenate the return game, assuming he’s not too busy sharing carries with Marion Barber.

Denver Broncos YEAR FF PTS INT FUM SACK SF STTD DFTD
Huddle Rank: 31
Keeper: 31
Auction 10: 1%
Auction 12: 1%
2006 79 17 13 35 1   2
2007 82 14 15 33 1 1 2
2008 51 6 7 26     2
Avg 71 12 12 31 1 0 2
Proj 79 12 10 29     1

How bad was Denver’s defense last year: Put it this way: If the Broncos had been in charge of defending our country, we’d all be speaking a different language. They finished 26th or lower in every major defensive category, generated a league-low 13 turnovers, then gutted the best part of their defense—a good offense—with Jay Cutler’s departure in the offseason. What little Mike Nolan has to work with comes in the back seven, with veterans Champ Bailey and Brian Dawkins in the secondary and a linebacking corps that now includes former Brown Andra Davis and first-round pick Robert Ayers. Eddie Royal adds a spark in the return game, assuming his expanded receiver duties don’t pull him away from that role. Bottom line, the Broncos D/ST will have to learn to crawl before they can walk—and there’s no reason for your fantasy squad to provide the training wheels.

Detroit Lions YEAR FF PTS INT FUM SACK SF STTD DFTD
Huddle Rank: 29
Keeper: 29
Auction 10: 1%
Auction 12: 1%
2006 68 12 18 30 1   1
2007 104 17 18 37 1 1 4
2008 58 4 16 30 1   1
Avg 77 11 17 32 1 0 2
Proj 88 11 12 30   1 1

Now that the Lions have the Schwartz with them, things will get better. Of course, they can’t get much worse than 0-16, or a league-low four interceptions, or a unit that ranked no better than 27th in any major statistical category and was dead-dog last in rushing yards, total yards, and points allowed. The trades for Julian Peterson and Anthony Henry lift the apparent embargo on defensive play-makers, and with the signing of Steeler castoff Larry Foot and second-round pick Louis Delmas, new coach Jim Schwartz has some pieces to begin building with. But it’s going to be a long process, and there’s no compelling reason for your fantasy squad to suffer through the Lions’ growing pains.

Green Bay Packers YEAR FF PTS INT FUM SACK SF STTD DFTD
Huddle Rank: 9
Keeper: 9
Auction 10: 1%
Auction 12: 1%
Movement:
2006 109 23 10 46     5
2007 100 19 9 36   2 4
2008 109 22 6 27   2 7
Avg 106 21 8 36 0 1 5
Proj 132 22 10 32   1 5

Defensive purists didn’t appreciate the Packers last season as they finished 20th in yardage allowed and 22nd in points allowed. Fantasy followers, however, loved the way Green Bay turned a quarter of the 28 turnovers they generated into six the other way. The transition to a 3-4 scheme under new DC Dom Capers, as well as the addition of first-round picks B.J. Raji and Clay Matthews, should alleviate the purists’ concerns while continuing the defensive focus on making plays. If Aaron Kampman, now a rush linebacker, and Matthews generate the pressure a Capers defense traditionally provides, Nick Collins and Charles Woodson and Atari Bigby may actually have even more pick-six opportunities. Will Blackmon in the return game is an added bonus in leagues where special teams scores count.

Houston Texans YEAR FF PTS INT FUM SACK SF STTD DFTD
Huddle Rank: 21
Keeper: 21
Auction 10: 1%
Auction 12: 1%
2006 68 11 11 28     3
2007 99 11 15 31   4 3
2008 65 12 10 25   2 1
Avg 77 11 12 28 0 2 2
Proj 109 13 13 33   2 2

Finally, maybe, perhaps SuperMario Williams has a supporting cast. The Texans added free agent Antonio Smith from the Cardinals and athletic Connor Barwin from the draft to balance a pass rush that saw Williams record 12 sacks and the rest of the Texans combine for 13. Top pick Brian Cushing beefs up an active linebacking corps that also brought in Cato June and Buster Davis behind DeMeco Ryans. The secondary is still suspect behind franchised corner Dunta Robinson, but Jacques Reeves provided four of the team’s dozen picks last year and an improved pass rush should make everyone look better. Jacoby Jones and Andre’ Davis spearhead a return game that has brought six kicks back over the past two seasons.

Indianapolis Colts YEAR FF PTS INT FUM SACK SF STTD DFTD
Huddle Rank: 22
Keeper: 22
Auction 10: 1%
Auction 12: 1%
2006 63 15 11 25   1 1
2007 87 22 15 28 2 1 2
2008 86 15 11 30     5
Avg 79 17 12 28 1 1 3
Proj 109 15 13 33 1 1 2

When you think “Colts”, defense is hardly the first thing that comes to mind. Yet last year’s unit scored five defensive touchdowns and ranked seventh in points allowed; they also forced 11 fewer turnovers and allowed a league-high 47 percent success rate on third down. Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis still bring plenty of heat off the edge, but Indy’s interior will need immediate contributions from rookies Fili Moala and Terrance Taylor to improve on the 123 rushing yards per game they surrendered last season. Leading tackler Freddy Keiaho was let go and then re-signed as the Colts continue to cobble together their linebacking corps from Day Two picks and other leftovers. The secondary has talented corners Marlin Jackson and Kelvin Hayden and up-and-coming safety Melvin Bullitt; it needs Bob Sanders to stay healthy for 16 games, something he has yet to do in his NFL career.

Jacksonville Jaguars YEAR FF PTS INT FUM SACK SF STTD DFTD
Huddle Rank: 26
Keeper: 26
Auction 10: 1%
Auction 12: 1%
2006 71 20 4 35   1 1
2007 90 20 9 37   1 3
2008 66 13 4 29 1   3
Avg 76 18 6 34 0 1 2
Proj 98 14 9 34   1 2

Used to be the Jaguars were all about defense. Then their once-stout interior was gutted, and thus far their pair of first-day defensive ends have yet to turn around a slumping pass rush. Even the secondary, which had recorded 59 picks over the previous three seasons—fourth-best in the NFL—slumped to just 13 last year. Jacksonville isn’t forcing fumbles either; they’re the only team that hasn’t forced double-digit fumbles for four consecutive seasons. For the Jags to return to the fantasy radar, they’ll need Quentin Groves and Derrick Harvey to get to the passer, or at least harass him enough so that Rashean Mathis and Reggie Nelson can make plays in the secondary. With Maurice Jones-Drew unlikely to remain on kick return duty, the Jags will need someone from among rookies Mike Thomas, Tiquan Underwood, and Derek Cox, to step up.

Kansas City Chiefs YEAR FF PTS INT FUM SACK SF STTD DFTD
Huddle Rank: 32
Keeper: 32
Auction 10: 1%
Auction 12: 1%
2006 74 15 15 32   1 1
2007 68 14 9 37 1   1
2008 57 13 16 10     3
Avg 66 14 13 26 0 0 2
Proj 77 13 11 23     1

The Chiefs barely had the personnel to play a 4-3 last year, but with Scott Pioli calling the shots upstairs they’ll try to transition to a 3-4 under new coach Todd Haley. It’s a tall order for a unit that finished no better than 28th in any major defensive category last year, though they’ll have veteran leadership in linebackers Zach Thomas and Mike Vrabel. Maybe Vrabel can help his teammates find the way to the quarterback after the Chiefs set a league record for futility with a meager 10 sacks last season. Aside from getting some IDP production from the likes of Derrick Johnson, Tamba Hali (moving from DE to OLB in the new scheme), corners Brandon Carr and Brandon Flowers and Brady-buster Bernard Pollard—based on sheer volume of opportunities—the Chiefs offer little of fantasy note. Rookie Quinten Lawrence is expected to take over return duties; with his speed he’s worth keeping an eye on, especially since there should be plenty of kickoff return opportunities for the Chiefs this year.

Miami Dolphins YEAR FF PTS INT FUM SACK SF STTD DFTD
Huddle Rank: 17
Keeper: 17
Auction 10: 1%
Auction 12: 1%
2006 96 8 19 47 2   3
2007 70 14 8 30   1 2
2008 84 18 12 40 1   2
Avg 83 13 13 39 1 0 2
Proj 115 16 12 39 1 1 2

The dropoff without Jason Taylor last year wasn’t as steep as many expected; in fact, Miami actually recorded more sacks, picks, and fumble recoveries than in 2007 thanks largely to Joey Porter. Now the Dolphins have Porter and Taylor to pressure quarterbacks, which can only help last year’s 25th-ranked pass defense. Rookie corners Vontae Davis and Sean Smith alongside Will Allen and Jason Allen also provide an upgrade. Safety Gibril Wilson will fight Yeremiah Bell for run-support tackles; which each may lose a bit of IDP value, it’s a win-win for Miami’s run defense. Second-year ends Kendall Langford and Phillip Merlin need to step up their game to help Porter, Taylor, and Matt Roth get to the quarterback. Ted Ginn and Davonne Bess provided surprisingly little in the return game last year, though that’s par for the course; Miami has but one kick return TD the past four seasons.

Minnesota Vikings YEAR FF PTS INT FUM SACK SF STTD DFTD
Huddle Rank: 3
Keeper: 3
Auction 10: 3%
Auction 12: 3%
2006 104 21 15 30 1 1 5
2007 126 15 17 38 1 1 8
2008 100 12 13 45 3 1 3
Avg 110 16 15 38 2 1 5
Proj 143 15 15 43 2 2 4

(-Risk) All the pieces are back from a top-10 fantasy D and the top run-stuffing unit from a year ago… at least for now. The StarCaps trial could cost the Williams Wall four games and the Vikings have broken off contract talks with Antoine Winfield, the secondary’s top playmaker. Sack master Jared Allen and his mullet provide plenty of pressure, though the potential absence of Kevin and Pat Williams would mean more double-teams. E.J. Henderson returns from injury and Chad Greenway is an underrated IDP contributor, but if the playoff loss to Philly was any indication second-year safety Tyrell Johnson isn’t on Darren Sharper’s level just yet.. A healthy Charles Gordon would help one of the worst special teams units in the league; it’s possible the Vikings may use Percy Harvin as a returner as well, though he had zero game experience in that role at the collegiate level.

New England Patriots YEAR FF PTS INT FUM SACK SF STTD DFTD
Huddle Rank: 11
Keeper: 11
Auction 10: 1%
Auction 12: 1%
2006 85 22 13 44   1  
2007 126 19 12 47   2 6
2008 59 14 8 31   1  
Avg 90 18 11 41 0 1 2
Proj 128 18 12 42 1 1 3

More fallout from Tom Brady’s injury: without the offense putting the same pressure to score on opponents the Patriots defense was stripped of its playmaking opportunities. New England finished in the top 15 in points, rushing, passing, and overall D but saw its sacks, picks, and fumbles all decline—and they failed to score a defensive touchdown. The linebacking corps got younger with the departure of Mike Vrabel, but Jerod Mayo is more than ready to assume the mantle. The draft produced three first-day helpers, including Patrick Chung and Darius Butler in a revamped secondary that saw the emergence of Brandon Meriweather and also added Shawn Springs and Leigh Bodden. Full seasons from Richard Seymour and Ty Warren alongside Vince Wilfork will help. The return game lost Ellis Hobbs, but hopes are high for Matt Slater—and Wes Welker can play a little as well.

New Orleans Saints YEAR FF PTS INT FUM SACK SF STTD DFTD
Huddle Rank: 23
Keeper: 23
Auction 10: 1%
Auction 12: 1%
2006 69 11 8 38   1 1
2007 87 13 10 32 1   5
2008 70 15 7 28 1 3  
Avg 75 13 8 33 1 1 2
Proj 108 16 10 32   2 2

(-Risk) Like the Vikings, the Saints have two defensive line stalwarts awaiting the outcome of the StarCaps litigation; unlike the Vikes, though, fantasy drafters won’t be on the edge of their seats wondering whether or not to take New Orleans’ D/ST. Will Smith and Charles Grant don’t get after the passer like they used to, and even though Jonathan Vilma returns in the middle the linebacking corps is average at best. Top pick Malcolm Jenkins, free agent signees Darren Sharper and Jabari Greer, and a return to health from Tracy Porter should shore up a pass defense that ranked 23rd a year ago; it won’t hurt that the NFC South is predominantly ground-oriented division. The return game salvages the Saints fantasy value somewhat, but that would take a significant hit if Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas are pulled away from special teams by their responsibilities on offense.

New York Giants YEAR FF PTS INT FUM SACK SF STTD DFTD
Huddle Rank: 5
Keeper: 5
Auction 10: 2%
Auction 12: 2%
2006 72 17 11 32     2
2007 114 15 10 53   1 5
2008 88 17 5 42 3   3
Avg 91 16 9 42 1 0 3
Proj 136 17 13 50 1 1 3

The Giants get Osi Umenyiora back from injury, but that didn’t prevent them from adding Chris Canty and Rocky Bernard to what has to be the deepest defensive line rotation in the NFL. Mathias Kiwanuka may lose snaps—and Justin Tuck may lose sacks—to Umenyiora, but team-wise there’s no reason not to expect another 40-plus sacks. Free agent Michael Boley and rookie Clint Sintim spice up the linebacking corps, while the secondary is solid with Corey Webster, Aaron Ross, and Kenny Phillips—as you’d expect from a defense that finished in the top 10 across the board. With just one return touchdown the past three seasons, the Giants’ “special” teams have been anything but; that blemish may remain if Ahmad Bradshaw and Domenik Hixon are asked to pick up the slack of the departed Derrick Ward and Plaxico Burress, respectively.

New York Jets YEAR FF PTS INT FUM SACK SF STTD DFTD
Huddle Rank: 12
Keeper: 12
Auction 10: 1%
Auction 12: 1%
2006 78 16 9 35   2 1
2007 80 15 6 29   3 2
2008 107 14 16 41   1 5
Avg 88 15 10 35 0 2 3
Proj 124 17 11 36 1 1 4

Take a top-five fantasy defense, add the Ravens’ ex-defensive coordinator, and mix in three of his former players… what’s not to like? Rex Ryan brings his aggressive approach to Gotham, and with him Bart Scott, Jim Leonhard, and Marques Douglas; no, the Jets don’t have Ray Lewis or Ed Reed but the cupboard wasn’t exactly bare with Kerry Rhodes and a plethora of talented linebackers: David Harris, Calvin Pace, Bryan Thomas, and last year’s top pick Vernon Gholston—whom Ryan is hoping to mold into another Terrell Suggs. With Kris Jenkins stuffing the run and Ryan’s attacking defense building on last year’s 41 sacks, the new look Gang Green is at minimum a fast-rising sleeper and potentially an elite fantasy unit. One concern might be how much an uptick in carries might pull Leon Washington away from his return duties.

Oakland Raiders YEAR FF PTS INT FUM SACK SF STTD DFTD
Huddle Rank: 15
Keeper: 15
Auction 10: 1%
Auction 12: 1%
2006 83 18 5 34 1   4
2007 67 18 8 27 1   2
2008 90 16 8 32 2 5  
Avg 80 17 7 31 1 2 2
Proj 118 16 9 30 1 4 2

The Raiders don’t often receive fantasy consideration because their defense is subpar (24th in points and 27th in yardage last year) and their top player, Nnamdi Asomugha, isn’t an IDP stud because nobody throws at him. But all that speed Al Davis loves to accumulate makes for a very good return game, paced last year by Johnnie Lee Higgins (three punt return TDs) and Justin Miller (two kickoff return scores). Because the Oakland defense is permissive there will be plenty of kick return opportunities again in 2008—not to mention tackle chances for Kirk Morrison. The Raider pass rush isn’t bad, either, though the potential trade of Derrick Burgess wouldn’t help and Asomugha doesn’t get credit for the coverage sacks he helps create. Opposite corner Chris Johnson and rookie safety Michael Mitchell will see their IDP stats benefit from Asomugha shutting down one side of the field.

Philadelphia Eagles YEAR FF PTS INT FUM SACK SF STTD DFTD
Huddle Rank: 7
Keeper: 7
Auction 10: 2%
Auction 12: 2%
2006 99 19 10 40     5
2007 68 11 8 37     2
2008 121 15 14 48 1 2 5
Avg 96 15 11 42 0 1 4
Proj 134 16 14 44   2 3

The passing of defensive coordinator Jim Johnson was unquestionably tragic, but the Eagles remain in good hands as his long-time assistant Sean McDermott assumes the reins. Moreover, 10 starters return from a unit that finished in the top four in sacks, defensive touchdowns, and special teams scores as well as run D, passing D, and points allowed. Of course, the one departed starter is Brian Dawkins, the heart and soul of Philly’s blitzing scheme, but the returning cast adds Ellis Hobbs and Sean Jones to a deep secondary and the defensive line rotation is equally stacked. Hobbs is also an adept kick returner, as is DeSean Jackson—who may be pulled into more receiver duties this year—and top pick Jeremy Maclin.

08-24-09 Update: Maybe the adjustment will be tougher on Philly's defense than initially believed. In eight first-half possessions this season they've allowed four 75-yard touchdown drives. Of course, they've seen a couple of pretty good offenses in the Patriots and Colts, but with MLB Stewart Bradley gone for the season there are enough question marks here to bump the Eagles' D down a notch or two.

Pittsburgh Steelers YEAR FF PTS INT FUM SACK SF STTD DFTD
Huddle Rank: 2
Keeper: 2
Auction 10: 3%
Auction 12: 3%
2006 86 20 9 39   1 2
2007 79 11 14 36   1 2
2008 100 20 9 51 1   3
Avg 88 17 11 42 0 1 2
Proj 150 20 15 48 1 1 4

The latest iteration of the Steel Curtain has plenty to crow about; last year they led the NFL in points allowed, run defense, and total defense and were second in pass D and sacks. All the lead players return, with Lawrence Timmons assuming Larry Foote’s old duties in one of the league’s top linebacking corps alongside James Harrison, James Farrior, and LaMarr Woodley. The defensive line is aging, meaning first-round pick Ziggy Hood might be asked to contribute sooner rather than later. Playmaker Troy Polamalu spearheads the secondary, one of just four units to record at least 20 picks two of the past three years. Santonio Holmes may be pulled away from return duties, but quality candidates abound, from veteran Mewelde Moore to rookies Mike Wallace and Joe Burnett.

San Diego Chargers YEAR FF PTS INT FUM SACK SF STTD DFTD
Huddle Rank: 6
Keeper: 6
Auction 10: 2%
Auction 12: 2%
2006 107 16 12 61     3
2007 138 30 18 42   2 6
2008 78 15 9 28 1 1 3
Avg 108 20 13 44 0 1 4
Proj 135 21 13 41 1 1 3

The Bolts’ defensive stats plunged without Shawne Merriman, who missed 15 games with a knee injury; picks and fumble recoveries fell by half and sacks declined by more than a third, costing Ted Cotrell his job. Enter Ron Rivera, the architect of the Bears’ Super Bowl defense just a few years back, and re-enter Merriman—along with fellow pass rusher (and injury insurance) Larry English via the draft. The Chargers still have tons of talent, especially in a loaded secondary with Quentin Jammer, Antonio Cromartie, and Eric Weddle, and if Merriman returns the pass rush to its previous levels—San Diego averaged 50 sacks a season from 2005 to 2007—those playmakers will have even more opportunities to do their thing. Be aware that if franchised running back Darren Sproles sees more carries from scrimmage his workload in the return game will be diminished.

San Francisco 49ers YEAR FF PTS INT FUM SACK SF STTD DFTD
Huddle Rank: 30
Keeper: 30
Auction 10: 1%
Auction 12: 1%
2006 73 14 13 34     2
2007 60 12 9 31 1   1
2008 78 12 6 30   1 4
Avg 70 13 9 32 0 0 2
Proj 88 13 9 32     2

No longer is the best defender in San Francisco wearing a headset (and, most of the time, pants) on the sidelines. The 49ers have a surprising number of defensive playmakers; then again, they ranked 13th in yards allowed and scored four defensive touchdowns so it’s not as if they’re total bottom-feeders. Patrick Willis heads up a talented linebacking corps, and the Niners added Dre’ Bly to a secondary that includes Nate Clements and Michael Lewis—both of whom are extremely familiar to denizens of the IDP scoring format. However, Justin Smith and Parys Haralson need more help rushing the passer before the 49ers register on the fantasy radar. However, with Allen Rossum in the return game and a full year of Singletary at the helm, the Niners at least bear watching.

Seattle Seahawks YEAR FF PTS INT FUM SACK SF STTD DFTD
Huddle Rank: 16
Keeper: 16
Auction 10: 1%
Auction 12: 1%
2006 85 12 14 41   1 2
2007 111 20 14 45 1 3 2
2008 79 9 11 35     4
Avg 92 14 13 40 0 1 3
Proj 117 15 12 39   1 3

Two years ago the Seahawks were top-seven in sacks, picks, and defensive touchdowns, making them a popular sleeper candidate heading into 2008. Unfortunately Seattle slept in last season; while their defensive scores increased the rest of their defensive numbers did not. So… take two on the Seahawks being a productive yet underappreciated D/ST. Nate Burleson is spending more time at receiver and less in the return game, but that may be the only negative. Patrick Kerney is healthy, and top pick Aaron Curry steps in for the departed Julian Peterson alongside Lofa Tatupu and Leroy Hill to form one of the leagues’ most talented linebacking corps. Josh Wilson is the top playmaker in the secondary, but it may be Marcus Trufant whose IDP value improves most with a switch to more Cover 2 under Seattle’s new regime.

St. Louis Rams YEAR FF PTS INT FUM SACK SF STTD DFTD
Huddle Rank: 28
Keeper: 28
Auction 10: 1%
Auction 12: 1%
2006 78 17 15 34     2
2007 79 18 10 31 1 1 2
2008 62 12 14 30     1
Avg 73 16 13 32 0 0 2
Proj 94 14 11 32     2

There’s a new defensive-minded sheriff in town, but Steve Spagnuolo doesn’t have near the horses he had in New York. Chris Long needs to step up his game a notch, though with Leonard Little and James Hall there’s a decent amount of pass rush being generated. Second-round pick James Laurinaitis should stabilize the middle of the defense, but the Rams will miss last year’s leading tackler, Pisa Tinoisamoa. Now that everyone knows Nnamdi Asomugha, free safety Oshiomogho Atogwe can lay claim to the title of best player whose name most people can’t pronounce. There isn’t anything in the return game that would suggest taking a fantasy flier on a defense that finished 28th in yards and 31st in points last year.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers YEAR FF PTS INT FUM SACK SF STTD DFTD
Huddle Rank: 13
Keeper: 13
Auction 10: 1%
Auction 12: 1%
2006 63 11 9 25     3
2007 86 16 19 33   1 2
2008 101 22 8 29   2 5
Avg 83 16 12 29 0 1 3
Proj 122 19 12 34 1 1 3

With Raheem Morris taking over in Tampa Bay, defense is once again a priority. A play-making secondary is anchored by veteran Ronde Barber but stocked with young talent like Aqib Talib, Tanard Jackson, and Sabby Piscitelli; that unit plays precisely into new DC Jim Bates’ aggressive philosophy, which preaches getting to the quarterback and turning the ball over. The Bucs will need Gaines Adams and Stylez White (the league’s best defensive end named for a Teen Wolf character) to step up their pressure, but perhaps more importantly the interior of the line must stay healthy in addition to playing better. Middle linebacker Barrett Ruud is an IDP stud, but he’s flanked by question marks; if Angelo Crowell comes back from his knee injury he’ll be a stud on the strong side, while Jermaine Phillips looks to transition from in-the-box strong safety to weakside linebacker. Pro Bowler Clifton Smith brought back both a punt and a kickoff last year to spark the return game.

Tennessee Titans YEAR FF PTS INT FUM SACK SF STTD DFTD
Huddle Rank: 4
Keeper: 4
Auction 10: 2%
Auction 12: 2%
2006 104 17 11 26 1 3 5
2007 86 22 12 40     2
2008 99 20 11 44     4
Avg 96 20 11 37 0 1 4
Proj 137 23 12 41 1 1 3

Sure, they’ll miss Albert Haynesworth—but not as much as you think. After all, Tennessee held the Steelers to 14 points without him in Week 16 and given his 22 missed games over the past six seasons they’re used to playing without him. Between Jason Jones, free agent signee Jovan Haye and rookie Sen’Derrick Marks the Titans should be able to plug the hole enough to remain a top-10 defense—fantasy and otherwise. More than replacing Haynesworth may be keeping ends Kyle Vanden Bosh and Jevon Kearse on the field. Linebacker Keith Bulluck is nearing the end of his run, but the secondary is full of playmakers like Cortland Finnegan, Chris Hope, and Michael Griffin. Tennessee lost Chris Carr but signed Mark Jones and drafted Ryan Mouton in hopes of improving a special teams unit that has failed to house a return three of the past four seasons.

Washington Redskins YEAR FF PTS INT FUM SACK SF STTD DFTD
Huddle Rank: 19
Keeper: 19
Auction 10: 1%
Auction 12: 1%
Movement:
2006 47 6 6 19 2 2  
2007 73 14 10 33 2   2
2008 48 13 5 24   1  
Avg 56 11 7 25 1 1 1
Proj 111 17 12 33 1 1 2

The Redskins were top-eight in each of the major defensive categories— rushing, passing, total yards, and points allowed—last year. That general success, however, did not translate into any sort of playmaking on the defensive side of the ball: Washington generated just 18 turnovers (30th in the league), finished 29th in sacks, and was held without a defensive touchdown for the second time in three years. An offseason that yielded Albert Haynesworth via free agency and Brian Orakpo through the draft threatens to change that… but so did Jason Taylor last year and that didn’t work out so well. The secondary has talent and could surprise if Haynesworth and Orakpo generate pressure on opposing QBs. The return game could provide a boost, but the Skins need Santana Moss and Antwaan Randle El to focus on their receiver duties—at least until Devin Thomas and Malcolm Kelly develop. In short, Washington’s D/ST is on the verge of fantasy relevancy… but it’s unlikely they get there by drauction day.

09-04-09 Update: Albert Haynesworth is still healthy (for now), and Brian Orakpo has looked great this preseason. The Redskins were solid last season yet flew largely under the fantasy radar; now their blip is increasing in brightness.

   
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