Now I know what you’re thinking. DST is just a throw away position, they’re just a dime a dozen. However, I attest that every slot in your fantasy roster is important and needs attention so that you can build the best team you possibly can. If you don’t believe me, then don’t come crying to me when you lose by 5 points one week, because your throwaway defense gave up over 300 yards and 4 touchdowns. That’s not a threat it’s just a warning.
In this series of articles I will go division by division talking about each team’s defense and ranking them in the last article. What makes me qualified? Well, I did take a defense as my first round pick one year. To be fair, it was my first year actually playing fantasy. Also, in my first year of fantasy it should be known that 9 DSTs averaged at least 10 fantasy points a game as compared to last season where the Bears were the only squad to do so (and by a considerable margin). Anyway, let’s start off with the West divisions to get my embarrassment out of the way first and talk about the defense that I drafted in my first year’s current platoon.
San Francisco 49ers
Last season was not a stellar one for the Niners in general and that includes there defense. Despite belief in the team making the playoffs before the season with momentum from the end of last season and the acquisition of Richard Sherman in free agency, they were near the worst defense in the league. In fact, they ranked 31st in fantasy points last season, only outscoring their bay area neighbors in the Raiders. The wind seemed to be taken out of their sails early in the season because of Jimmy Garoppolo’s injury, but it wasn’t hopeless as Deforest Buckner had a solid season racking up 12 sacks and Fred Warner showed promise.
I don’t have too much more to say about their lackluster season because what is more important is what they did this offseason. They had additions in all three levels of their defense. Starting out with their defensive backs, the biggest signing they made there was former Chargers CB Jason Verrett. When he’s not on the injured list, Verrett is a solid cornerback and would make a good tandem with Sherman. Onto the linebacking core, Kwon Alexander is probably my favorite acquisition by San Fran this season. Alexander, like Verrett, is coming off an injury, but he was a pro-bowler in 2017 and still was able to rack up 45 combined tackles (34 solo) and 6 tackles-for-loss in the 6 games he played last season and if he can come back and play like that this season and play all 16 games he will greatly improve this defense. Even though I like the Alexander was my favorite signing for the team, the biggest improvement as a unit has to go to the d-line. Buckner and Arik Armstead are going to be joined next season by KC scapegoat, Dee Ford and who was thought to be the clear-cut No.1 pick this year before Kyler Murray threw his hat into the mic, Nick Bosa. I would argue that it will be hard to find a better line this season if Ford and Buckner play like they did last year and if Bosa performs as advertised.
This team I see ending as a middle-of-the-road team because I do still feel uncertainty especially with how they performed as a whole last season. They need Verrett and Alexander to stay healthy, the line to perform like they should, and Sherman to revert back to Seahawk form as 2018 was his first season that he didn’t have a single interception after going his first 7 seasons with at least 2 a year. I wouldn’t recommend drafting this D in the first round if at all
Los Angeles Rams
The 49ers’ in-state division rivals had a much better fantasy defense last year than most teams, basically anyone other than Chicago and they are expected to be the number 2 this next season as well or at least in the top 5 by many experts. Why? Well I would say despite some players leaving in free agency, for the most part the rams have improved on defense. Their biggest losses to free agency were Ndamukong Suh and Lamarcus Joyner.
Sam Shields was also lost to free agency, but that shouldn’t affect them as they still have their top 3 cornerbacks in Aqib Talib, Marcus Peters, and Nickell Robey-Coleman. Joyner’s free agency was also no real cause for concern with how much talent this off-season’s free agency class provided as they were able to get Eric Weddle. This is a slight downgrade as Joyner was able to put up more points than Weddle in two less games during the regular season. Weddle is also 6 years older than Joyner, but that shouldn’t take away the fact the Weddle is still regarded as a top flight safety in the league even though he may not be as dominant as some other safeties in the league who are his junior.
Anyway the biggest losses to the Rams defense was incurred on their line. Mostly due to one Ndamukong Suh signing with Tampa Bay. Dominique Easley is also still a free agent, but his departure is not as harmful as Mr. Suh’s. However, “harmful” does seem like a strong word to use in this situation especially considering the Rams still have probably the best defensive player in the league and definitely the best defensive lineman in the NFL in Aaron Donald. I you’re your name doesn’t get thrown around in consideration for NFL MVP without you being something special. Donald had 20.5 sacks last season which dwarfs Suh’s 4.5 and also with Michael Brockers probably going to take Suh’s position on the line I have no doubts that the Ram’s won’t suffer from the loss of the big guy from Nebraska. Aside from the interior linemen I also like the Linebackers that the Rams have, notably Samson Ebukam and Cory Littleton. Littleton averaged around 15 fantasy points a game last season which was good enough for 3rd among LBs and 1st for LBs that played in all 16 games. Also, if Ebukam can replicate just some of the dominance he showed in the Rams game against Kansas City, then he can definitely become a top-tier linebacker. Clay Matthews was another big name signing the Rams made returning the notable linebacker to southern California, though years removed from being named an All-Pro linebacker he still can make some flashy plays and get some sacks (as long as he doesn’t get penalized for it). Also, though I’m not for sure what role he’ll have on the team I just want to note that the Rams also have Dakota Allen of Last Chance U fame in the LB room and I think he was a decent pick for a seventh rounder.
This squadron made it to the Super Bowl last year in real-life and they look to be almost as strong this year. They would be a great defense to draft and keep on your roster during a bye week, it will be okay if you release your 5th-string RB for one week to pick up another defense, because someone else will sign them if you let them go.
Though not as dominant as the Legion of Boom, the current variation of the Seahawks defense is still a top-10 in the NFL. The outstanding secondary has entirely left now after Richard Sherman signed with San Francisco last offseason and we all remember the gesture Earl Thomas made towards Seattle’s sideline last season while leaving their week 1 game on cart with a leg injury as he was fed up with the organization and thus signed with Baltimore during free agency. The defensive backs they have now may not be as dominant as the L.O.B., but Shaquill Griffin and Bradley McDougald have proven themselves to be solid in the pass prevention game. None of the defensive backs may remain from the legion, but K.J. Wright and Bobby Wagner are still on the team and have helped maintained a solid linebacking core. Mychal Kendricks was added last season, but did not contribute much as he was only able to play in 4 games before getting taken out for the rest of the season with a left knee injury. Kendricks will be coming into this season off of surgery on said knee and leg as a whole so it may be difficult to judge his effectiveness.
Now the other big change that occurred this offseason for their defense was the Frank Clark trade, where Seattle sent their best lineman to Kansas City for a plethora of picks. That won’t help them this season, but that’s why they signed Ziggy Ansah and Cassius Marsh and drafted L.J. Collier. However, it will be difficult for them to match Clark’s production last season, even combined. They still have Jarran Reed and Quinton Jefferson to anchor the interior line, but it may be hard for them to remain a top-10 defense next year.
The Cardinals had a below average defense last year scoring 100 fantasy points throughout the season, which honestly is not as bad as their record would imply. Thanks defensive coordinator-disguised-as-a-head coach, Steve Wilks! That is better than their season would suggest and I think it got worse in the offseason. Their biggest acquisition was very on-brand for them as they signed 36 year-old Terrell Suggs. Despite a Pro-Bowl nod in 2017, T-Sizzle hasn’t really been the mighty force he was before his Achilles injury in 2015. Though I still think it is an upgrade from what they had before and gives them someone else to rush the quarterback so that they have a decent onslaught of Robert Nkemdiche, Chandler Jones, and now Hacksaw.
The secondary also made some moves as they signed Robert Alford and Tramaine Brock as well drafting Byron Murphy in the 2nd round to give some cornerback help to Patrick Peterson. I feel like that and drafting a safety in the 5th round helps make up for the departure of Tre Boston, if they don’t resign him some time soon. Which leads me to believe that Arizona will probably be about the same as they were last year, maybe worse because they also lost Markus Golden and Deone Bucannon to free agency. So, probably stray away from drafting them.