Five Defenses to Target During Your Draft

You don't need the Seahawks defense to win a fantasy championship. Seriously.

Drafting your defense early is like buying a dinner, taking one bite and throwing it in the trash.

Don’t waste your money. Don’t spend a valuable pick on something that is as replaceable as the diaper your three-month-old child is wearing. Defenses can be found multiple ways. Selecting one early isn’t one of them.

The reason is simple: You can stream the position. The term “streaming” is commonly used in fantasy circles, and quite simply, the notion describes the art of playing multiple players in one lineup slot throughout the season. Think of it as being in an open relationship with your fantasy team. Rather than being tied down and forced to play, say, Aaron Rodgers each week, you’re able to play someone based on [favorable] matchup. At the end of the season, the hope is that each of these week-to-week plays add up to form a single, stud player.

Streaming works best with the single slot positions in your lineup. Typically, a standard league starts just one quarterback, one tight end, one defense and one kicker, allowing the waiver wire to be littered with players of these positions. Dwayne Allen may go undrafted in your league, but that doesn’t mean he’s worthless when playing against the worst defense versus tight ends. During that single week, Allen is more than worthwhile as a fantasy starter. You snag him and start him, continuously building your tight end masterpiece throughout the season.

You’ve probably already practiced the strategy without even knowing it. Instead of playing a sound defense each week, you may have played one that was facing a miserable offense. For instance, remember the Kansas City offense last season? Yeah, well, if you would’ve started the defense that played against them throughout your fantasy season, you would have compiled your league’s third best defense. It’s not to say they only played flashy defenses, either. Take a look at their 2012 schedule, and you’ll notice that it wasn’t filled with Super Bowl-winning defenses.

This is why selecting a defense before the second to last round isn’t advisable. When there are 32 teams in the NFL and just 12 in your fantasy league, there will always be a defensive surplus.

You don’t need to worry about your defense's season-long success when you draft it. Instead, think of it in chunks. Look at it week by week. Others are going to get the sexy picks – Seattle, San Francisco, Chicago – while you’re going to sit back and snag value. Because at draft time, you should only focus on one thing with your defensive selection: Which one has the best Week 1 matchup that will help maximize my defensive slot’s weekly output?

Here are five defenses with great Week 1 matchups that you should be able to get at the end of your draft:

5. Kansas City Chiefs

Wait a second. Kansas City? The Chiefs? Why in the world should we target the Chiefs?

Well, take a look at their opponent: Jacksonville.

Remember, picking a defense isn’t all about talent. It’s more about opposition. Though Kansas City ranked dead last in terms of defensive efficiency a season ago, Jacksonville was just as bad offensively, finishing second to last in offensive effectiveness.

Keep in mind, I have the Chiefs at number five on this list. There are better options at the end of your draft, but we (numberFire) do have Kansas City ranked 9th among Week 1 team defenses. It’s not as risky as you think.

4. Washington Redskins

Another streaming-like choice, the Redskins aren’t being drafted in any normal-sized league. But they should be; they get to face Michael Vick’s Eagles during the first week of the season. A risk? Sure, we have no idea how Chip Kelly’s offense will translate to the NFL gridiron. The Redskins, however, look better on defense in 2013, and should be able to handle whatever the Eagles bring.

Even with their defensive injuries, the Redskins defense still ranked 20th in defensive efficiency last year, finishing around the Vikings and Packers. But now, the ferocious Brian Orakpo is back, making the front seven much more powerful than it was a season ago. Michael Vick and his little hands could be in for trouble.

3. Miami Dolphins

The Dolphins added linebackers Dannell Ellerbe and Philip Wheeler through free agency over the offseason, and they also drafted potential stud Dion Jordan out of Oregon. When you factor in Cameron Wake, the Dolphins have a legitimate shot at being a top defense in both real and fantasy football in 2013.

To make matters even better, they get the Browns during Week 1. Last season, the Browns scored worse than all but four offenses. Add in the fact that Cleveland’s top wideout, Josh Gordon, will be out due to suspension, and you can see why Miami should be coveted at draft time.

Miami is listed as our number six Week 1 defense, and could end up posting a top-12 defensive season.

2. Pittsburgh Steelers

Dick LeBeau’s defense has always scored well in terms of yards allowed, but the contemporary Steel Curtain hasn’t been as turnover-friendly as Yinzers (Pittsburghers) have hoped for as of late. Fortunately, they get to open up their season against the Jake Locker-led Tennessee Titans.

Last season, Tennessee ranked 26th in the NFL in adjusted net expected points per play. Essentially, every time the Titans ran a play, they weren’t doing themselves a favor. Pittsburgh, on the other hand, ranked 9th in overall defensive efficiency. When you combine the two, well, you get the picture.

The Steelers are being drafted right where they should be: The second to last round. If they fall to you, there aren’t many better options to start the season with, especially considering our number eight season-long ranking for them.

1. St. Louis Rams

The Rams should be your top defensive target in 2013 fantasy football drafts. Not only are they good – not only do we think they can finish as a top-10 unit – but the Rams get to face arguably the worst offensive line in the league during Week 1: The Arizona Cardinals.

Bruce Arians’ new squad should be better offensively, but the offensive line will continue to be a target for all fantasy defenses during the upcoming season. Though I expect the Cardinals to improve from their last-ranked offense a season ago, I still foresee them being a potential turnover machine. And the numbers agree, as they’re numberFire’s number one defense for Week 1.

Draft them with confidence.