Fantasy owners don’t often spend quality time investigating defense/special teams outlooks. The majority will stream as they can, looking for matchups and hoping they can pick up whoever plays the Browns and Jets each week.
But it’s not a bad idea to have a solid defense on your roster in case you can’t get the best streamer option. That usually means Denver, Kansas City, Seattle, Houston and New England as top-tier teams. Last year, Minnesota crashed the party, while Carolina, Baltimore, and Arizona usually get some respect. This season, the New York Giants are getting some love, with an ADP of eight.
Here are five defenses from the streaming ranks who might come close to or even join the top tier in 2017.
1. Philadelphia Eagles (ADP: DST11)
Why the Eagles are not being drafted higher is a puzzle to me. Defensive coordinator Jeff Schwartz always manages to field a fantasy-relevant unit and he did not disappoint in his first season in Philadelphia.
The Eagles spent their first three draft picks improving a unit that ranked sixth in points last season. They will be hard-pressed to repeat that finish, but it is possible and a top-ten is almost certain. The only reason I can think of for Philadelphia’s ADP is their reputation of crashing and burning every time we think they are on the verge of something great.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars (ADP: DST12)
Jacksonville has spent the last several years picking up pieces that make it a perennial sleeper pick. The one thing they never had was an offense that could keep them off the field for a while.
That changes this season. Head coach Doug Marrone and his new boss Tom Coughlin know how to keep games close. Leonard Fournette will join Chris Ivory and Corey Grant in running big chunks of time off the clock. Whoever the quarterback is will run a controlled offense. They might even score points before the fourth quarter.
A strong defensive line and solid cornerback play will help Jacksonville finally make the leap into fantasy relevance.
3. Los Angeles Chargers (ADP: DST16)
Only three points separated the 5-11 Chargers from the eighth-ranked point total of new England’s DST last season. Joey Bosa made the whole front seven better and with Jason Verrett returning to the secondary, this season’s unit gives new defensive coordinator Gus Bradley the potential party crasher of 2017.
Whatever they do during their tough early schedule, make sure you grab the Chargers before the fantasy playoffs. Their four opponents during that time include the Jaguars, Bills, Browns, and Jets!
4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (ADP: DST17)
The Buccaneers’ defense scored double digit points in five of their last eight games of 2016. They signed a solid defensive back in Chris Baker and seem poised to re-establish themselves as a defense to be reckoned with moving forward.
Facing New Orleans and Atlanta twice a year will hurt, but overall, this looks to be a legitimate DST unit.
5. Pittsburgh Steelers (ADP: DST18)
Count me as one of those unimpressed with T.J. Watt’s two sacks in his first preseason game. I mean, on one, the offensive lineman sprung out for a screen that wasn’t called and Geno Smith stepped right into him on the second.
Still, his time will come and Pittsburgh’s ninth-ranked sack total will probably improve. The increased pass pressure will give the Steelers opportunities for more big plays. Meanwhile, Ben Roethlisberger and Le’Veon Bell lead a deliberate offense that rarely leaves the defense in poor position or on the field for extended minutes.
That translates into a DST 12-13 when all is said and done.
Or you can just keep streaming
Any of these teams will make fine streaming options if no one holds them on their roster. If they are not available, look for teams with strong pass rushes going against the Bengals, Giants, or Colts weak offensive lines.
Of course, anyone going against the Jets and Browns is a good risk, with Jacksonville, San Francisco, and Buffalo’s opponents worth a look, too.
Whether they are streamed or locked into a lineup, I am confident at least two of these five defenses crash the top ten DST ranks in 2017. Be sure to check back in January to see what you should have listened to!
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