Fantasy Football Rankings 2015: Early Breakdown of the Top D/ST, Kickers and IDP
Kickers and team defenses are the red-headed stepchildren of fantasy football.
That's with good reason. There's an insane amount of variance from season to season with both positions. Last year's king of the mountain can easily turn into this year's fantasy flop.
This isn't to say that there isn't still some strategy involved with drafting these positions—knowing which players to target to maximize the bang for your late-draft buck.
Unless, of course, you choose to eschew team defenses altogether for the added fun and excitement of individual defensive player (IDP) leagues.
In an IDP league, players are drafted just like on offense. Rather than drafting the Houston Texans defense, you draft J.J. Watt the player. Those players are then scored in categories like tackles, sacks and interceptions.
I'll confess, I'm an IDP addict. In fact, it was an article about IDPs (and Watt in particular) that got me a nomination from the Fantasy Sports Writers Association for Web Article of the Year in 2013.
So, whether you're looking for some help with drafting a kicker or defense or preparing to take the plunge in an IDP league, here's some rankings to help you on your way.
The world of the NFL kicker has been thrown into chaos. Up is down. Right is left. Cats and dogs, living in harmony. The Cleveland Browns winning games.
OK, let's not get nuts.
The cause of this kerfuffle? The NFL's new extra-point rule. Beginning in 2015, point-after attempts will be spotted at the 15-yard-line in an effort to add "excitement" to what may be the most boring play in football this side of a kneel-down.
Much has been made of the new rule and the effect it could have on in-game strategy. Two-point attempts will still be spotted at the 2-yard-line, leading some to speculate that some NFL coaches could go for two more often.
Carolina Panthers head coach "Riverboat" Ron Rivera would appear an excellent candidate for this aggressive tack, but Rivera told Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer (via the Winston-Salem Journal) he isn't about to tip his hand:
"We’ll see. I’m not going to talk about what I want to do. We’ve talked about it. We’ve discussed some of those situations and scenarios as coaches. It’s going to be interesting to see how it does develop. We’re most certainly going to take a look at it during the preseason games."
The rule change only increases the uncertainty at fantasy football's most uncertain position. It also reinforces that the only draft strategy you need to know with kickers is this: Don't draft one before the last round. Period.
It can be hard to prescribe a blanket strategy to drafting team defenses in fantasy football.
There are any number of reasons. Chief among them is the widely varying scoring assigned to team defenses from league to league. In some formats, big plays like sacks and turnovers are king. In others, points and/or yards allowed are also a consideration.
There's also a great deal of yearly variance from season to season where team defenses are concerned. In 2013, the Kansas City Chiefs finished the season as the top-scoring fantasy defense in NFL.com default scoring. Last year, they fell all the way to 25th.
Don't waste valuable mid-round draft capital on a so-called elite defense that may not be. Or get caught chasing the prior season's fantasy production.
Instead, look for a team that starts the season with a favorable slate. When the favorable matchups dry up, just cut that defense loose and grab another team off of the waiver wire. By streaming defenses in this manner, you can get elite production from your team defense for a fraction of the price.
An excellent candidate to start the 2015 season? The Carolina Panthers, who open a season against a Jacksonville Jaguars squad that ranked 31st in the NFL in total offense and led the league in sacks allowed last year.
|3||St. Louis Rams||STL||6|
|5||New York Jets||NYJ||5|
|7||New England Patriots||NE||4|
|9||Green Bay Packers||GB||5|
|15||Kansas City Chiefs||KC||9|
|17||San Francisco 49ers||SF||10|
|22||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||TB||6|
|23||New York Giants||NYG||11|
|25||San Diego Chargers||SD||10|
It's J.J. Watt's world. We're all just living in it.
Not only is the Houston Texans defensive end the top defensive lineman in IDP leagues, but he's the top individual defensive player at any position—and it isn't close.
In Fantasy Sharks Default IDP Scoring, Watt was the No. 1 overall IDP in 2014 by over two fantasy points per game. It's the second time in three seasons Watt has laid waste to his competition—and that's unheard of for a non-linebacker.
After watching Watt wreak havoc on his Indianapolis Colts twice a season over the past few years, head coach Chuck Pagano didn't mince words while talking to Brian T. Smith of the Houston Chronicle:
"Game wrecker. Freak," Pagano said. "He's a guy you better have a plan for."
Watt is much more than just the top overall IDP. More even than a legitimate first-round pick in IDP leagues.
If your league starts several IDPs, and/or scores them at a level that makes the top defensive players comparable to the elite offensive options, then Watt is absolutely worth a look at 1.01.
You heard me right. An IDP first overall. The edge he affords at his position is that huge.
In the vast majority of IDP leagues, linebackers rule the roost.
In many leagues, the scoring for IDPs favors tackles over big plays. And racking up triple-digit tackle numbers is the purview of 'backers like Luke Kuechly of the Carolina Panthers and Lavonte David of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Not only does the tackle production of linebackers make them the top scorers in many IDP formats, but they're also easily the most consistent point producers on defense. And that makes having a solid stable of linebackers a key to success in IDP.
This isn't to say that pass-rushing outside linebackers like Justin Houston of the Kansas City Chiefs don't have substantial value. In fact, it was Houston who led all players at his position in fantasy points in Fantasy Sharks Default IDP Scoring a season ago. However, linebackers who count on big plays for production are also going to be more prone to weekly ups-and-downs than the "tackle vacuum" types like Kuechly.
As a general rule of thumb, in fantasy leagues with a 2/2/2+1 starting lineup setup (two defensive linemen, two linebackers, two defensive backs and a "flex"), two of your first three IDP picks should be linebackers. But given the depth at linebacker and the relative lack of it up front in 2015, a strong argument can be made for flipping that script this year.
Defensive backs are the red-headed stepchildren of IDP leagues.
There are a couple of reasons. The biggest is that defensive backs are wildly unpredictable from year to year. Of the top 10 defensive backs selected last year per the average draft position data at My Fantasy League, all of two finished the season there.
There's also the matter of the depth present at the position. Every season a handful of fantasy options come from nowhere at the position to become IDP starters. Rashad Johnson of the Arizona Cardinals and Mike Adams of the Indianapolis Colts both went undrafted in most IDP leagues in 2014.
Both finished inside the top 10.
Given that, the advisable strategy is simple—wait. Then wait. Then wait some more. Make a sandwich. Binge-watch Daredevil on Netflix. Then wait some more.
Pass on the "elite" IDP options at the position in lieu of late-draft upside options such as Pittsburgh Steelers safety Shamarko Thomas.
If they pan out, great. If not, no biggie—just pluck another defensive back from a waiver wire that will be loaded with talent in all but the deepest of IDP leagues.
|16||Ha Ha Clinton-Dix||GB||7|