3 Defenses to Target in Your Fantasy Football Drafts
Playing the same defense every week in fantasy football isn't smart. Even the most casual players know this -- streaming the position is the most effective way to optimize output.
So when you enter a draft, your goal isn't to just find the best team defense out there. Your goal is to find a defense with a good early-season schedule (specifically Week 1) that also can ball.
Which defenses fit the criteria this year? Let's take a quick look at three of them.
Miami's regular season start should make any fantasy owner drool. They'll get Robert Griffin III and the Redskins in Week 1, a team that finished last year with the 25th best offense in the league, per our Net Expected Points (NEP) metric. The Redskins have also seen their fair share of injuries on offense already, making the matchup even more enticing. Vegas currently has the Dolphins as road favorites with a reasonably low 44.5-point over/under -- the defense shouldn't have a ton of trouble.
But you're not even drafting Miami for just Week 1. After facing RGIII, they get the Jaguars, Bills, Jets, Titans and Texans. That's six straight weeks to open up the season against teams that ranked no better than 21st offensively last year. And none of those teams has a quarterback -- perhaps outside of Tennessee, where things are simply ambiguous -- that's tough to beat. That's not a subjective statement to make, either: Ryan Fitzpatrick is the only quarterback or potential quarterback on these teams that even sniffed the top 20 in Passing NEP last year.
Oh, and by the way -- Miami has a good defense. Like, a potentially great one in 2015. The unit itself ranked in the top 10 according to our numbers last year, and they added anchor Ndamukong Suh to help their rush defense that finished 21st in the league.
If the Dolphins are there with one of your last two picks, snag them. They could be a plug-and-play bunch for nearly half of your fantasy season.
You're not going to want to use the Panthers when they face the Saints in Week 3, but their three other contests through Week 4 are pretty enticing.
Luke Kuechly and company open up the season against the Jaguars. Though Jacksonville should take a step forward offensively this year, it's hard to pass on an opportunity to play a defense against Blake Bortles, who finished 2014 with a -97.97 Passing NEP, sixth worst since the turn of the century. While the offense should be better, it's going to take a lot for the group to not be a constant target for defensive streamers in 2015.
After the Jags comes the Texans, who would love to win games 9-6 this season given their offensive build. Week 4 is against Tampa Bay. If Jameis Winston is showing growing pains, then the Panthers' defense -- one that played like a top unit over the second half of the season according to NEP -- should be able to take advantage.
New York Jets
If you're looking for just a one-week rental because projecting matchups based on schedule can be difficult, look no further than the Jets. New York will host the Browns in a game that has just a 41-point over/under in Week 1, with the Jets as three-point favorites. Josh McCown will be throwing passes for Cleveland, and given the Jets' improved look on defense (I'm looking at you, Darrelle Revis), things could get ugly for Cleveland.