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Defensive lessons learned + 4 sleeper defenses for 2006

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Defensive lessons learned + 4 sleeper defenses for 2006

Postby The Lung » Thu Mar 23, 2006 2:45 pm

From Sportingnews.com: http://fantasy.sportingnews.com/nfl/experts/roger-kuznia/20060322.html

I never was a Cher fan until she started singing about turning back time. And then I thought about how great it would be if I could do that. I could hang with Marty McFly, Dr. Emmett Brown and Einstein, and wonder where on Earth we could find 1.21 gigawatts! I could hang with Bill and Ted and tell them it would be excellent to bring back Lyle Alzado so he could talk sense into particular baseball players.

But most of all, I could talk myself out of drafting the Ravens' defense in the seventh round of two of my drafts last year. Yeah, smart pick that turned out to be.

The Ravens were widely, if not unanimously, considered the top defense available for fantasy football owners. How can you say no to playmakers like Ray Lewis, Chris McAlister and Ed Reed, the 2004 defensive player of the year? I was sold and even touted this defense in our fantasy football yearbook. Take them early, I said - there's no other sure thing.

Let that be a lesson to you and to me that there are no sure things when it comes to defenses. Take a look at our top five ranked defenses heading into the 2005 season. We had the Ravens, Patriots, Bills, Steelers and Eagles in the top five spots. Four of those defenses largely disappointed. The Colts, meanwhile, were ranked 14th. The Bears were 18th. Who wouldn't have scrubbed 30 toilets for a chance to have them on their team? You could have if you had waited to pick your defense.

Look at the opportunity cost of drafting the Ravens in the seventh round. Guys like Tom Brady, Mike Anderson, Todd Heap and T.J. Houshmandzadeh likely were still available in drafts. All four of those players had excellent seasons, and I passed on them.

Where did it go wrong for the Ravens? Well, Lewis was rendered useless for half the season because of a thigh injury. Reed missed six games because of an ankle injury. Take away those two players, and the Ravens really became also-rans.

It wasn't until late in the season that the Ravens performed anything like they were expected to. And by then, it was too late for most owners who drafted them. However, they might have helped owners scavenging for good matchups in the final weeks. There's a good chance they were available on the wire by that point.

As much as I want to anoint the Bears as the only sure thing in 2006, you can see why I'm reluctant to do it. That's not to say I think they'll be bad. It's just that there are better risks to take early in the draft. Let someone else take the Bears, and take your chances on some of the defenses left in the later rounds. It really could pay off if you play the matchups during the season with defenses from the waiver wire.

So what are some sleeper defenses you'll want to target? Take a look at these four:

Dolphins. The Dolphins have improved their defensive depth with the additions of Kevin Carter, Vonnie Holliday, Sedrick Hodge, Renaldo Hill and Will Allen. Those players will help holdovers Jason Taylor, Zach Thomas and the emerging Channing Crowder get to the quarterback and take the pressure off the team's secondary. And with Nick Saban's coaching, this defense can be molded into a playmaking force.

Redskins. The Redskins were ninth in points allowed last year, but they didn't make enough big plays to be relevant for fantasy owners. The additions of Andre Carter and Adam Archuleta really should help Gregg Williams' defense in that department. Although Carter's numbers the past three years haven't been impressive, remember that he had 12.5 sacks as a rookie in 2002 with the 49ers. Archuleta was known for big plays with St. Louis, and he is very good on blitzes and against the run. Owners could do a lot worse than the Redskins as a starting unit.

Bengals. Cincinnati pretty much was the opposite of the Redskins -- they led the NFL in takeaways with 44, but they were fifth worst in the league in yards allowed. Odell Thurman proved his talent as a rookie, Deltha O'Neal had a league-high 10 interceptions, and Justin Smith pressured the quarterback. Let's not forget about David Pollack, who showed glimpses last year. This unit will continue to improve in 2006 under coach Marvin Lewis.

Cowboys. The Cowboys struggled to make enough big plays last year, and they really struggled to stop the run in the second half of the season. Shoring up the run defense is a must, and the maturation of some of the team's younger players (Marcus Spears, Chris Canty, DeMarcus Ware, Bradie James) should play a big part in that. Pressuring the QB is another must - Dallas had 37 sacks last year, good for 17th in the league. I'll be looking at them late for sure.


I have to admit I am afraid when a fantasy football article starts out with "I never was a Cher fan until..." Additionally, the "don't draft a defense early" is stuff most of us already know. But I do like the defensive picks.
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Postby VaderFin » Thu Mar 23, 2006 2:53 pm

I'm going to reserve judgement on Miami's D until free agency and the draft are over. Last year Saban got starters in the 3rd and 4th round, if he does that again I will be very excited about the D.
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Postby terpfan » Thu Mar 23, 2006 2:58 pm

Pretty good article, although like The Lung said I think most of us allready know not to draft a defense early. (although there are still those people that swear by it)

I like the sleeper defenses too, the only quibble I have is that Andre Carter had 12.5 sacks in his second year. His rookie year was 2001, when he registered 7 sacks.
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Postby Warhawk » Thu Mar 23, 2006 3:26 pm

Most reliable way to pick a defense:

1. Don't look at the players, look at the numbers.
2. Don't simply go by points or yards allowed.
3. Go for a young (not too young) defense and one with solid all-around play, not an older defense or one with a few stars and a major hole or two.
4. Don't just look at the previous season. Look at the trend.
5. Also, don't neccesarily look at the seasons as wholes, look at games. A sign of an up-and-coming defense is one that is mediocre for the year, but has a number of very good games - it's a sign of potential. Then look at what was different about those games than the others - did they start different players? Were they against different teams? Did they use a different gameplan? If your sources say that in the upcoming season they'll be running the D like they did in their successful games the previous season, bite.

I picked the Colts in almost all my leagues last year. Why? It's not because I'm a Colts fan.

First of all, they showed improvement last year. Not in the final stats, but they had a number of good games. Also, in the last couple years, they shot to the top in turnovers, which are a major part of a defense in fantasy. You can't always count on a defense to hold a team to low scores - sure, the bears last year or ravens the year they won the SB - but teams that create turnovers consistantly are valuable. They're also a young defense, though their CBs worried me when I made the pick. What was great, though, was that I could get them late in the draft.

Also, look at the bears who turned out sucessful last year. They were 21st in yards the year before. On the other hand, they had improved 3 years straight in points allowed. They also have a younger defense which, aside from Urlacher, is fairly low-profile, but solid all-around. Also, because Urlacher had injury trouble last year, they had problems in games he wasn't in. Look at the stats: With him, they were 5-4 and held 7 of their 9 opponents to 20 points or less. Without him, they were 0-7 and held 2 teams to 20 points or less. So, starting the season with a healthy Urlacher means they're a good draft pick. 04 was the only season he'd missed games, so it's not too big a risk, and much less of a risk than some top-tier RBs. On the other hand you got another 'big name' guy like Ray Lewis. But the Ravens were 2-4 with him last year, holding 3 opponents to 20 points or less (3 out of 6), and without him they were 4-6, holding 6 opponents to 20 points or less (6 out of 10). In fact, Ed Reed proved to be much more valuable to the Ravens last year than Lewis (5-5 with him, 1-5 without).

Still, in effect, the Ravens weren't a bad choice at defense for 2005. However, at the position they were picked, they caused lots of problems. Teams like the Bears and Colts, who also had positive statistical signs and trends coming into the season, could have been gotten much later, causing much less of a headache than the Ravens, who were picked too early in almost every draft.

Still, a healthy Ed Reed bodes well for Baltimore's defense next year.

But the moral of the story is to not pick them early. Sure, someone else will, but you should be able to find some 'sleeper' defenses that people don't pick just because of the stars, or the points or yards allowed rankings for the previous year.
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Re: Defensive lessons learned + 4 sleeper defenses for 2006

Postby jayday » Thu Mar 23, 2006 3:35 pm

Bengals. Cincinnati pretty much was the opposite of the Redskins -- they led the NFL in takeaways with 44, but they were fifth worst in the league in yards allowed. Odell Thurman proved his talent as a rookie, Deltha O'Neal had a league-high 10 interceptions, and Justin Smith pressured the quarterback. Let's not forget about David Pollack, who showed glimpses last year. This unit will continue to improve in 2006 under coach Marvin Lewis.

-looks at sig- Yea! ;-D

I am confident Cincy will be a top 10-15 defense next season.....The need at DT will be addressed in the draft....Also, expect to see a S, CB, and a DE drafted by Cincy in April ;-)

I agree with the picks of Dallas, Miami, and Washington as well...
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Postby Redskins Win » Thu Mar 23, 2006 3:36 pm

i hardly consider Washington as a sleeper. they really go better fantasy wise as the season progressed and well actually when lavar started playing. But I'm over that. still not a sleeper in my opinion possibly top 5. cincy is not really sleeper either.
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Postby JStein » Thu Mar 23, 2006 3:41 pm

I'm picking up Denver, but not until very late in the draft or FA. I dropped and switched DEF almost bi-weekly last year - can't afford to use an early draft round for that.
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Postby Jimboozie » Thu Mar 23, 2006 5:57 pm

Last year I drafted Chicago in the 18th round of a 8 team league.

I also picked Arizona with my next pick cause I liked their potential. I will probably choose them again late this season.
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Postby Kensat30 » Thu Mar 23, 2006 6:24 pm

I'm gonna go out on a limb and say that Chicago is the #1 defense again this year.

Their schedule is the easiest in the NFL.

AFC East - Duddenly the weakest division in the conference
NFC West- Has been money for fantasy Ds for a few years now
NFC North- Chicago dominated them all last year

Too bad you can't draft them in the 15th around again.
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For a cheap pick, I like Dallas. They will be the class of the NFC this year.
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Postby olympia0731 » Thu Mar 23, 2006 6:36 pm

For defenses, I just pick one in the last round and play matchups, works well for me!!!
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