News, Analysis & UpdatesSeptember 15, 2004

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The Top Ten Defenders of Week 1

By Arlo Vander

Daunte Culpepper threw for five TDs. Curtis Martin rumbled for 196 yards. Priest Holmes found the endzone three times. With the year’s first games in the books, the fantasy world is abuzz over this week’s offensive fireworks. But who were the top defenders?

Let’s take a look.

1. Antoine Winfield – CB, Min
Winfield might be the exception to the rule that safeties make better fantasy defensive backs than CBs. Ten tackles, two forced fumbles, a recovery and a pass defense make Winfield tops among week 1 defenders, but he’s no flash in the pan. With 96 tackles in 2003, Winfield should be considered among the elite fantasy DBs.

2. Ray Lewis – LB, Bal
Lewis was was first defender drafted in most IDP leagues, and with good reason. This season, he made an immediate impact with 13 tackles, an assist and a sack against Baltimore.

3. Sam Cowart – LB, NYJ
Cowart has piled up between 94 and 96 tackles in his last three healthy campaigns, and it looks like he has his sights set on 100 this year. With 12 solo stops in the opener, he’s off to a good start.

4. Clark Haggans – LB, Pit
Haggans probably went undrafted after posting only 20 tackles and a sack last year, but he’s worth a look now that he’s starting on the outside for the Steelers. The quick linebacker gave the Raiders fits, forcing two fumbles along with his two sacks and five tackles. A sleeper for this year.

5. Julian Peterson – LB, SF
Peterson’s line was identical to Haggans’s on Sunday: five tackles, two sacks, two forced fumbles. Don’t expect him to post multiple-sack games with regularity or join the ranks of the elite LBs, but he’s well worth owning in any IDP league. San Francisco’s defense should spend lots of time on the field this year, giving 49ers defenders plenty of opportunity to pile up stats.

6. Michael Lewis – S, Phi
The second-best DB of the opening week, Lewis added two passes defended to his ten tackles. He might not be owned in all leagues, and could make a good pickup if your secondary is suspect.

7. Duane Starks – CB, Ari
Like San Francisco, Arizona can expect to see its defense spend lots of time on the field. Starks recorded ten tackles on Sunday, but only averaged 4.8 per game in 2003, and his career high is just 60. Don’t expect lofty numbers on a regular basis.

8. Matt Bowen – S, Was
Not only did Bowen rack up nine tackles in week 1, he also added the first two sacks of his career. The former sixth-rounder out of Iowa is another sleeper worth keeping an eye on this year.

9. Terrence Kiel – S, SD
San Diego’s strong safety had an excellent day at Houston with seven solo tackles, a sack and a fumble recovery. Look for Kiel to improve significantly on the numbers he posted as a rookie.

10. Brian Urlacher – LB, Chi
It’s hard to know what to expect of Urlacher this year, but so far, so good. Nine tackles, a sack and a pass defense are the numbers his owners were hoping to see when they drafted him.

Arlo Vander started Antoine Winfield on Sunday. Unfortunately, he also started Chris Draft.

Who were your top defenders of week 1?

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