Top Five Fantasy Picks, Pt. 7: Defenses
Since there are far fewer defenses drafted then the skill positions I have previously handicapped I am going to change the format to include both leagues in this top five list.
Once the top six or seven defenses are gone it becomes a crap shoot when choosing a defense so if the teams on this list are gone I would suggest waiting until as late as possible to draft a defense.
When drafting your fantasy defense keep in mind the fact that the biggest numbers come from teams that create turnovers, stack up sacks and get in the end zone.
This may sound like a no brainer, yet imagine there is a solid defense that limits big plays and "bends but does not break." This team may limit opponents to 10-17 points a week.
Then you have a defense that gives up occasional big plays because thy are aggressive and that same aggressiveness results in a number of turnovers, a few of which get returned for touchdowns. This team could give up 14-24 points on any given Sunday.
The latter would not be the more impressive defense statistically, yet they would be more beneficial for fantasy owners over the long haul.
The top five defenses for fantasy owners in 2009 are...
5. San Diego Chargers
The San Diego Chargers?
Keep in mind the facts we just discussed on the opening slide.
First and foremost, Shawne Merriman is back after missing almost the whole 2008 season with an injured left knee. Reports are he has returned to full speed and is just as powerful as he was before.
If this proves to be the case, the havoc for opposing offenses is increased tenfold and the biggest hole in the Chargers defense will be assisted.
In 2008 San Diego was horrid against the pass. More pressure on the quarterback will change this.
Antonio Cromartie (pictured), has shown flashes of brilliance at cornerback and is always a threat to pick off even well thrown passes.
Two of the Chargers' draft picks look to help shore up pass coverage as well. Larry English and Brandon Hughes.
Expect the Chargers defense to create a number of turnovers and be amongst the league leaders in sacks.
4. Minnesota Vikings
The Minnesota Vikings have most of their guys returning from what turned out to be a stout defense in 2008.
Darren Sharper is no longer around and both Kevin and Pat Williams may be facing suspension to start the season. This is why the Vikings are not ranked higher.
Jared Allen (pictured), and company will be in the backfield all year long. Antonio Winfield and the rest of the Vikings secondary will be the beneficiaries.
3. New York Giants
Osi Umenyiora (pictured), will be back on the field in 2009 to improve a New York Giants defensive line that was able to record 42 sacks in 2008 in his absence.
The giants stiffened their defense via the free agent market as wel,l signing Chris Canty and Rocky Bernard.
The heart of their linebacking corps, Antonio Pierce, is primed for another strong season and cornerback Corey Webster has continued to improve.
Fantasy owners should not overlook the potential for the New York Giants defense to contribute to their roster.
2. Baltimore Ravens
Owners can always count on Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs, and Ed Reed to lead the Baltimore Raven's defense to stellar fantasy numbers.
Reed (pictured), can take it to the house any time he gets his hands on the pigskin, which is relatively often. In 2008 the safety had nine interceptions.
Greg Mattison has replaced Rex Ryan as the defensive coordinator of the Ravens.
Ryan is not a coach easily replaced, the transition will be eased, though, by the fact Mattison has a nucleus of players that will perform and perform well.
1. Pittsburgh Steelers
Troy Polamalu (pictured), single-handedly provides nightmares for offenses and points for fantasy owners.
In 2008 the Pittsburgh Steelers had 51 sacks 20 interceptions and forced 12 fumbles.
Dick LeBeau invented the 3-4 defense that has become so popular around the league and for the last two years his Pittsburgh Steelers defense has been ranked No.1. Expect similar results in 2009.