If you know anything about fantasy football, you know you have to be flexible with your defense / special teams. You can’t waste a high draft choice on a D/ST. Most of us hold off until the late fantasy rounds, when we’re down to our last beer, to take a chance on a defensive and special teams unit.
Sometimes the best defense is determined by the weekly matchup. So that means lots of waiver wire efforts during the fantasy season.
If you’re too busy (lazy) to really focus on the waiver wire, you won’t have to worry about making space in your man cave for your fantasy league’s trophy. Defense wins championships in the real world. In fantasy football land, waiver wire moves win titles.
In 2015 the top D/ST unit was the Denver Broncos. That was on full display during the Super Bowl when the powerful Carolina offense was reduced to rubble resembling the planet formerly known as Krypton.
Denver’s D/ST scored 187 fantasy points while the worst fantasy D/ST was Chicago. The Bears scored plenty of fantasy points…for opposing offenses, but only racked up 83 points themselves on defense and special teams.
Denver was the top defensive dog last year, but three other teams were close to their fantasy average per game. Houston, Kansas City, and Arizona all put up over 11 fantasy points per contest.
So who do you want to avoid in 2016 for your fantasy defense, kickoff, punt, and return units?
Well, any defense with a bad matchup on a week by week basis. Don’t be scared to bench any defense that could get torched by a hot offense.
As for five D/ST units to avoid drafting initially, here’s the five to avoid.
– New Orleans Saints. They were the worst defense in the NFL last year and are projected to repeat as bottom feeders. I can’t even see a scenario where I would pick them up on a waiver wire desperation pick. Their offense is subject to explode on any given week. Their defense can be counted on to implode every single week.
– Cleveland Browns. Quick, name a Browns defender…..That’s what I thought. Cleveland’s defense is projected just above the Saints’ woeful crew and have done little to give Browns fans any hope in 2016. Even if RGIII manages to get back to his rookie form, every score by the Browns offense means kicking the ball back to the opponent’s offense. That resulted in the Browns giving up 27 points per game last year. And don’t look for the return teams to light it up either, as they only contributed a single touchdown in 2015.
– Baltimore Ravens. You can’t draft a fantasy team based on past glory. The Ravens have been running on the fumes of a once great defense. Ray Lewis is not walking through that door. And if he was, somebody could end up sliced, so let’s leave Ray Ray out of the mix. The team did add Eric Weddle in the offseason, but that was the extent of their defensive improvement.
– Pittsburgh Steelers. Steel Town has a rep for tough defense. But James Harrison is like 75 years old, and HGH can’t work forever, allegedly. Last year the Steelers finished in the top ten for fantasy defenses, but they feasted on turnovers. Those don’t come so easy each and every year. Also, the offense could be the top scoring unit in 2016 with Antonio Brown getting better with every game played. That quick strike threat leads to little rest for the Pittsburgh defense, which hurts fantasy owners in the long run. Take any Steeler offensive guy, but avoid their D/ST.
– Buffalo Bills. Rex Ryan gets a lot of attention. The guy is the Buzzfeed of NFL coaches. But for a defensive guru, his Bills didn’t scare anyone in 2015. They ended up 19th in total defense and gave up over 22 points a game. So don’t base your fantasy picks on empty promises from the head coach. And by the way, Rex’s incompetent brother Rob somehow draws a check from the Bills organization as well.
D/ST shouldn’t make or break your fantasy season. Yet you can’t saddle yourself with a bad unit for the long haul. Be flexible depending on the matchups each week by using the waiver wire. And pay attention to solid numbers and ignore past defensive glory.