After profiling the “sexy” positions of quarterback, running back, wide receiver and tight end in recent weeks, our fantasy guru James Morris turns his attention to what often times is the unsung hero of fantasy football: team defense. Here are James’ top ten fantasy defensive units heading into 2012:
1) Philadelphia Eagles: The Eagles defense enters its second year under Juan Castillo, and with all the talent they have you have to expect them to finish as the top rated fantasy defense this season. They have no real holes at any position from the line to the secondary.
2) San Francisco 49ers: The 49ers have virtually the exact same defensive unit as last season, and they were dominating last year. Not to mention that Ted Ginn Jr. is one of the most dangerous return men in the NFL.
3) Pittsburgh Steelers: Now that LaMarr Woodley and James Harrison are healthy, the pass-rush will produce more sacks, more fumbles and more hurried throws. I look for the Steelers to improve off last year’s fantasy numbers.
4) Denver Broncos: The Broncos defense has one major advantage going for it, Peyton Manning running the offense. With the Broncos playing with the lead for a change, the defense will be allowed to take a few more chances. Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil are going to pin their ears back and rack up the sacks. There is plenty of sleeper value in the Broncos defense this season.
5) Baltimore Ravens: The loss of Terrell Suggs until December and the suspension of Ryan McBean will be major problems for the Ravens defense to overcome. Ray Lewis turned 37, and is showing signs of slowing. The Ravens have enough talent to give you a top-5 fantasy season on defense, but the likelihood of them getting above the Broncos or Steelers in the season’s final rankings are slim at best.
6) Dallas Cowboys: The Cowboys brought in Brandon Carr and traded up to get CB Morris Claiborne in the draft to sure up their vulnerable secondary. Add a D-Line that features the unstoppable DeMarcus Ware, and you have the makings of a defense that can do some fantasy damage. They could get even better in the second half of the season when Claiborne finds his groove with the speed of the NFL game.
7) Houston Texans: The best thing I see about the Texans defense isn’t necessarily the players on the field, but rather the teams they play against. They have six match-ups against uncertain offenses in the Colts, Jaguars and Titans, and that alone could be fantasy gold. Yes, they lost a great talent in Mario Williams to FA; but, Brooks Reed, Connor Barwin and Whitney Mercilus are going to be enough to make up for the loss.
8) Kansas City Chiefs: Romeo Crennel is now the HC and DC, and we all know what a great defensive mind he is. Then the Chiefs spent their first-round pick on Dontari Poe. The kid is freakishly athletic and should start at NT in week 1. What keeps the Chiefs defense toward the bottom end of the starting fantasy defenses are guys named Peyton Manning, Philip Rivers and Carson Palmer. This defense has talent, but they are going to give up some points this season with tougher divisional games.
9) New York Giants: The Giants are going to get you sacks with a DE rotation of Jason Pierre-Paul, Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora. However, their pass defense ranked 29th last season and they did little to address this problem. They are still a defense worth drafting, but the INTs will be lacking, and the points allowed are going to hurt the fantasy totals.
10) Cincinnati Bengals: The great thing about the Bengals defense is you know what you will get out of them. Rookies Dre Kirkpatrick and Devon Still are expected to play significant roles right away, and Taylor Mays and Terence Newman will add veteran leadership to a solid defensive unit. The Bengals are a safe value pick in the later rounds of the draft.
* Miami Dolphins Defense: The Dolphins defense didn’t crack the top 10, but that doesn’t mean they are without consideration for fantasy purposes. Yes, there is a new scheme and Vontae Davis is gone, but Karlos Dansby, Cameron Wake, Kevin Burnett, Sean Smith and Richard Marshall will make this a solid Def2 in standard scoring formats.
Now, as you may have noticed, I didn’t include Kickers in my rankings. The reason for that is there is minimal points difference between the #1 K (Sebastian Janikowski/David Akers) and the #12 K (Dan Carpenter/Matt Prater). Last season Janikowski racked up 153 fantasy points and Carpenter finished with 128 points. That is a 25-point difference, which comes out to roughly 1.5 points-per-game difference. Even the #20 kicker last year had 115 points, so one is just as good as another. Wait until the final round to take your kicker and grab depth when others are burning a pick.
There you have it Dolphins fans, your 2012 fantasy football draft rankings. The WR and RB positions are obviously drafted much deeper than 10 players, so should you need help with your RB2, WR3 or flex picks, just ask him on twitter and he will guide you to drafting the best team possible. Good luck in your draft; and remember, 2nd place is just the first loser
For more fantasy guidance, you can follow James Morris on Twitter @Fantasyguy23
To sign up for the NFL’s free official fantasy game click here.
The opinions, analysis and/or speculation expressed by The Finsiders Blog represent those of individual writers, and unless quoted or clearly labeled as such, do not represent the opinions, policies or desires of the Miami Dolphins organization, front office, coaches and executives. Writers' views are formulated independently from any inside information and/or conversation with Dolphins officials, including the coaches and scouts, unless otherwise noted.