Fantasy Football 2012: 3 Defenses Worth an Early-Round Selection
Evan Habeeb-US PRESSWIRE
Selecting your defense early on is a fantasy pick that’s often considered quite a risk. The uncertain nature of the NFL makes it very difficult to predict the performance of an entire unit. However, that’s what makes fantasy football interesting.
Although I refuse to use the phrase that mentions defense and championships, it’s maybe something to bear in mind when making your early-round draft picks.
Obviously there are some units that are safer bets than others, so to make it interesting I’ve selected three defenses of varying risk.
This would rank as the safe bet. The Ravens are consistent performers and have been for a while now. While they may not have the pass rush of the New York Giants or Philadelphia Eagles, the Ravens operate on a stifling basis.
The secondary absolutely refuses to give up big plays, with Lardarius Webb not allowing a passing touchdown for the entirety of last season. Ray Lewis is the leader of the defense, of course, lining up and charging through the middle while Ed Reed sits behind him.
There may be a little more risk to the Ravens this year, however. The younger players will obviously be the future of the Ravens defense, but have looked a little unsure in the preseason, while rookie linebacker Courtney Upshaw has yet to assert himself in a positive manner.
The Baltimore Sun reported that Upshaw turned up to training camp eight or nine pounds overweight and promptly missed a week of practice, which will have affected his standing within the team.
The rookies and second-ear players may be having some struggles, but Baltimore is still the safest bet from year to year when choosing your defense.
There is a very valid argument that the 49ers defense is the safest bet of all, purely based on last year’s performance. They look to be an elite force and as long as Aldon Smith stays healthy that doesn’t look like changing.
The difference in schedules is the key this year. The 49ers play Green Bay, New Orleans and New England this year, so don’t look for the same domination that we saw last year.
Writing for ESPN.com, Mike Sando pointed out the problems the 49ers had last year when facing the league’s top-tier offenses:
The schedule this year is even more difficult, so don’t expect the 49ers defense to recapture the glory of last year.
There is always another side to the story, however, which in this case comes with familiarity. The players will be more familiar with the scheme and each other, which usually results in better performance as a unit.
They’re still not too much of a risk, but the strength of the schedule keeps them from being the safest choice as an early pick.
Ah, the Jets. Everyone’s favorite risk. On paper, this defense should be great. Quinton Coples was brought in to help on the 4-3 system, while LaRon Landry arrived from the Washington Redskins to—hopefully—make some big hits at safety.
Add this to the fact that Tim Tebow is returning punts and they’ve got the makings of a good unit—one that could tempt a lot of people. And that’s without even mentioning Darrelle Revis.
However, this is still an unproven group of people, which brings with it obvious risk. Landry’s not exactly spent a lot of time on the field recently, while the defense still made a lot of mistakes last year.
Again, the schedule comes into play here. The Jets face the Steelers, the 49ers and the Texans this year, as well as the traditional threat of the Patriots from their own division.
It’s highly possible that they post a losing record this year and that’s why they remain a risk to take early on. Take them later, definitely, but unless you’re the biggest Jets fan alive, there are a lot of unanswered questions.
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