Fantasy Football Defensive Streaming: Week 1 Edition
In my “big-money” home league which drafted last week, the Seattle Seahawks D/ST went off the board at pick 8.02. I’m sure many of you reading this probably have a similar story to tell regarding how early the first defense was picked in your draft.
While the Seattle defense was certainly terrific last season, spending an eighth-round draft pick on them (or any defense for that matter) is simply lunacy in any standard league. Instead of filling out a starting lineup, you want to focus on finding breakout candidates at the wide receiver and running back position in the middle rounds before snagging your defense at the end of your draft.
To illustrate my point, three of the top five fantasy scoring defenses from last season weren’t even drafted in 12-team standard scoring leagues.
This is the first installment of a season-long series where I'll give you the best streaming defensive options for those willing to work the waiver wire looking for favorable matchups.
I'll focus on defensive units that have a 50% or lower ownership in both ESPN and Yahoo leagues to avoid obvious choices like Seattle.
While there's no guarantee of a perfect hit rate on these picks, the hope is to give you, at worst, a start-worthy defense who can keep place with your opponent, while your other positional players vault you to victory.
Let's get started.
New York Jets
Owned: ESPN - 4.7% Yahoo - 10%
Week 1 numberFire Rank: 10th
The Oakland Raiders were bad last season, ranking 23rd in Adjusted Net Expected Points per play, a measure of total team offensive efficiency adjusted for schedule. While in Houston last season, Matt Schaub threw 14 interceptions to only 10 touchdowns. So what do the Raiders do? They bring him in to start at quarterback.
But as things often go in Oakland, the Raiders have announced rookie Derek Carr as their Week 1 starter due to Schaub’s elbow injury and general ineffectiveness in the preseason. Carr has been impressive in the preseason, but when the bullets start flying, I’m banking on the Jets’ fearsome defensive front to cause problems for the rookie all game long.
The Jets ranked fifth last season in terms of Adjusted Defensive Rushing NEP per rush - a measure of how well a team can stop the run. They boast one of the best defensive tackles in the game in Sheldon Richardson, and as a group, should be able to stifle the Raiders’ running game, placing pressure on Carr.
It’s not a stretch to think the Jets could force three or more turnovers in this game. Stream away.
Owned: ESPN - 40.7% Yahoo - 53%
Week 1 numberFire Rank: 13th
The Houston Texans will most likely be a bad team this season. But what they do have going for them is the fact that their Week 1 opponent, the Washington Redskins, have the look of a team in disarray offensively.
Robert Griffin III has looked shaky at best this preseason, showing little pocket awareness, and even less willingness to protect himself when the play breaks down. Griffin has accounted for three turnovers and zero touchdowns this preseason.
Although new offensive coordinator Jay Gruden claims he isn’t worried about Griffin or his offense in general, most outside of the organization, including myself, aren’t quite as confident.
The strength of Houston’s defense is the front seven, highlighted by All-World defensive end J.J. Watt. Add Jadeveon Clowney into the mix, and it should be tough for the Redskins to contain the Texans’ pass rush and, in turn, get a run game going with Alfred Morris.
The Texans are at home and favored, a combination that defensive streamers should always be on the lookout for.
Owned: ESPN - 5.9% Yahoo - 33%
Week 1 numberFire Rank: 8th
If you haven’t caught on yet, a theme is developing here - strong defensive fronts going up against disorganized offenses are where we should aim our proverbial defensive darts in Week 1.
The Lions face the Giants at home on Monday Night Football, in a game they'll be favored to win. Eli Manning was horrendous last season, ranking 28th in Passing NEP among 30 quarterbacks who attempted 300 or more passes. His 27 interceptions last season set a career high as well.
Manning is now expected to implement new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo’s scheme, and I’m not the only one who envisions massive growing pains coming.
The Lions ranked second against the run in 2013 according to our metrics, and return the majority of their fantastic front-seven which is bad news for Rashad Jennings and Andre Williams. If the Giants fail to establish some semblance of a run game to keep the Detroit pass rushers honest, Eli and company could easily implode.
Feel good about starting Detroit in Week 1.
Philadelphia Eagles (vs. Jacksonville Jaguars), Oakland Raiders (vs. New York Jets)