Ah ha! So you've finally decided to get down to the fun part of fantasy football. This is the tough stuff. It separates the men from the boys. Anyone can pick out which quarterbacks will have a big year. Now you've got to decide which individual players will have the most success...at a quarterback's expense.
Some leagues will have you specifically draft linemen, or defensive backs. It's very important to figure out how your league will be organized, and how the points system will be handled.
The easiest way to include individual defensive players in your draft (if you're a first-timer) is to lump them all into one big category.
Players receive points for interceptions, fumble recoveries, forced fumbles, sacks, safeties, touchdowns, and even tackles. Just make sure you find out how many points a player can receive on defense.
If whole numbers are used (especially for tackles), you might consider taking one of these players even before a mediocre tight end.
As linebackers usually have higher fantasy numbers, Winfield is my only cornerback in the top 10. He's one of the best tackling cornerbacks in the league, and he definitely will rack up some points for you.
In 2008, he had 95 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 interceptions, and 4 forced fumbles. I'm looking for him to have another solid year with the Vikes.
Jackson is definitely the leader of the Browns' linebacker corps. Despite his impressive 154 tackles in 2008, he's attracted very little fantasy attention. Don't sleep on this guy. He seems ready to top even last season's big numbers.
You may have been expecting to see this guy a little higher on this list, but I'm not so sure about that. Sure, he had a huge 2008, but I am not as confident that he'll be able to rack up 16 sacks again in 2009.
He is, however, a safe bet to pick up 100+ tackles.
Though he's a safety, I really was considering an even higher ranking for Eric Weddle. When it comes to defensive backs, this guy is definitely the No. 1 player you should consider.
He will rack up a ton of tackles for you, and probably even throw in an interception or two. Trust me, if you get points for tackles, Weddle would be a solid choice.
Also, believe it or not, Gibril Wilson (Miami) is another guy who could help you a lot...if you get even a full point for every tackle.
He may not be Brian Urlacher, but he's younger, and has actually turned out to be a better fantasy option. He had 110 tackles last year, with a sack, 3 interceptions, and a forced fumble. He seems poised to have a strong 2009 season.
After an injury-plagued 2007 season, Vilma really came back in a big way. It seems that he's going to get his name back among the elite linebacks in the NFL. He did recently have surgery on his abdomen, but should be completely fine in a couple of weeks.
2008 stats: 132 tackles, 1 sack, 1 interception, 2 forced fumbles.
New coaching staff, new defensive scheme, and no Derrick Brooks. Barret Ruud really might end up having an even bigger year than he did in 2008. Ruud is an obvious top five choice.
2008 stats: 137 tackles, 3 sacks, 2 interceptions.
As hard as it is for me to rank a Cowboy this high, I've got to do it. Though it's pretty unlikely that he'll rack up another 20 sacks this year, I'd say 10+ wouldn't be too hard to imagine.
He only scored 84 tackles last season, but again, 20 of those were sacks. He also forced 6 fumbles in 2008.
Jon Beason is, well, a Beast! I'm personally a big fan of his, and I expect him to have another big year. Maybe he'll even land a few more interceptions as Ron Meeks will have him dropping back into coverage a little more this season.
Last year, Beason had 138 tackles (110 of those were solo), along with three interceptions. I consider him just as solid as the guy who is No. 1 on my list.
Patrick Willis will likely flirt with 150 tackles again this year. I'd bet that it's far more likely for him to rack up a ton of tackles than it is for someone like DeMarcus Ware to get another 20 sacks.
In '08, Willis had 141 tackles (109 solo), 1 sack, 1 interception, and 1 forced fumble.
I really might try to grab Willis, Beason, or Ware fairly early (for a defensive player) in my draft. You might want to do the same. Good luck!