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). In the last article we discussed the NFC West and in this article we will discuss the AFC West.
Let’s start in the AFC west with the team from Mile High. The biggest thing they have done so far this offseason was resign Chris Harris. They were also able to sign Kareem Jackson in free agency which is a solid addition, but it will be interesting to see how he fits with the team as reports say he is playing a lot of safety in camps with Denver after playing cornerback almost exclusively in Houston. Another addition I thought was good for them was signed from another Texas team, but it was the AAF San Antonio Commanders. Yes, De’Vante Bausby was one of their AAF signings and was tied for 1st in interceptions for the short-lived league with 4 over the 8 games they played. Bryce Callahan also signed with Denver out of free agency, so it looked like they were focused on giving Harris some help back there.
Other than that it appeared they were more focused on offense, which is fair as they were a top 10 defense fantasy-wise last season, tying with Seattle, and they kept most of their pieces. They didn’t draft a defensive player until the 3rd round in Dre’Mont Jones who should be a decent add to Derek Wolfe, Adam Gotsis, and Shelby Harris. Von Miller, Bradley Chubb, and Josey Jewell should also help fill out that front 7 to make it a pretty strong one. Probably worth a pick, maybe your 5th to last one.
Kansas City Chiefs
The Chefs were known last year for their severely one-sided play, so they went into this offseason knowing they needed to improve their defense and they did not at least not really. However, though their defense wasn’t considered to be very good, they still did pretty well in fantasy, ranking in the top 10. They also improved their defense over the offseason even though their big signings were made to replace solid players they lost.
First look at the defensive line, which improved despite the loss of the best member of their front 7 last season. They traded Dee Ford to the 49ers and in terms of trade value got less in that trade than they gave for Frank Clark, but Clark did have a better 2018 football-wise. I also can’t help to think the Ford trade was made at least a little bit because of the offside penalty in the conference championship, simply because of superstition. Emmanuel Ogbah was also a nice acquisition from the Browns for Eric Murray, especially since they drafted a replacement in Juan Thornhill. Another safety they added was their biggest free agent signing in Tyrann Mathieu, though it ultimately seemed to cost Kansas City their leader on defense in Eric Berry. It will probably hurt the locker room and attitude next season.
The only attribute of the defense that I haven’t talked about yet is the linebackers. Anthony Hitchens has been solid, but they will probably need him to improve for next season after Justin Houston was released. Though the trade for Darron Lee should help out as he is coming off a decent year with the Jets, though he was suspended for violating the substance abuse policy for 4 games. As long as he can keep his produce at his rate, he should have a good year.
The offense is expected to not be as league-breaking as it was last year, which may have a negative effect on the defense statistically. I think they’re maybe a 4th or 3rd to last round pick in a draft, but definitely worth signing out of the free agent pool if you need one.
The Raiders made a couple big name signings this offseason and did a lot better this offseason than they did last. Of course, they didn’t have a Khalil Mack to trade away way below his value this time. Basically, every signing is going to help them so let’s just rattle off the 4 big ones. Johnathan Hankins is a big upgrade to their no-name defensive front, simple as that. Though his stats fell off last year and he only played in 11 games for the Broncos, Brandon Marshall was a decent acquisition and could be a great one if Jon Gruden can get him back to making 100 combined tackles this season. Lamarcus Joyner will also be a great addition to their secondary as he was an integral part to the Rams defense last season and averaged 9.1 fantasy points a game last season. Joyner pairing up with Karl Joseph is also going to be a terrific pairing, I’m afraid to say it will be a top 5 safety pair just because it’s the Raiders and I don’t trust Gruden, but I’ll do it anyway. I saved the most controversial for last, Vontaze Burfict. He probably will be a solid linebacker and have a season similar to the ones he’s had in Cincy. I would just be remiss if I didn’t mention him because of the locker room tension between him and Antonio Brown.
They also did a lot in the draft, going defense for 5 of their first 6 selections, all in the first 4 rounds. Isaiah Johnson and Trayvon Mullen can probably fight in camp with Daryl Worley to get the starting cornerback job. Their 3rd first round pick does perplex me though as they got the safety, Jonathan Abram from Mississippi State. It perplexes me because I doubt he’ll get too much playing time with Joyner and Joseph in front of him and after drafting 2 CBs as well, I don’t think they plan on switching him to cornerback. Of course their first pick, the 7th overall is widely considered a reach in Clelin Ferrell, but even so he will probably do well for the Raiders being apart of that dominating line at Clemson. The last rookie I want to bring up, who could very well start looking at the Raiders roster, is another one of Last Chance U fame in Ronald Ollie. Ollie was signed as a UFA and as I said before could start as a DT2 alongside Jonathan Hankins.
All in all I think the Raiders will improve their defense, but that is not saying much considering they had the worst defense in fantasy last season, not even averaging 3 points a game. So, as long as they play as advertised or even a little bit under expectations, they could maybe make it out of the bottom and by that I mean be better than maybe 3 other defenses, maybe. Needless to say you probably shouldn’t have this defense on your fantasy team at all.
San Diego Chargers of Los Angeles
The Chargers did not do much this offseason in any sense. They didn’t really need to as we’ve said on the podcast and many have said in the community that the Chargers are one of the most well-rounded teams in the NFL. The defense was expected to show out last season and they did not really live up to expectations, in terms of fantasy. Despite that they have possibly the best producing edge-rushing duo in the NFL with Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa. If Bosa can stay healthy, he’ll only increase the play of Ingram as well as the defense around him. All that being said they didn’t do much, but what they did, did help them improve. The biggest signing they made was that of Thomas Davis. The linebacking core has been okay, but nothing to write home about and Davis will bring much needed talent and leadership despite getting up there in age. The resigning of Denzel Perryman was also a plus for the LBs. The 4th round pick, Drue Tranquill will also hopefully help fill out the linebackers. That gives the Chargers a familiar face in Perryman, an old vet on a new team in Davis, and youngblood in Tranquill. The resigning of Brandon Mebane was probably the second biggest signing to bring back a solid interior lineman. Jerry Tillery will also help strengthen the line and cause the front 7 to be one of the most feared in the league.
Looking at the secondary, it was probably the best part of their defense last year as they had Derwin James and Demond King get selected to the All-Pro team and Casey Hayward had another great year for the team. The Chargers released Jahleel Addae in the offseason after having a mostly decent tenure with the team. After the year Derwin James had last year, it is reasonable to believe that the Chargers just wanted more out of their free safety which they couldn’t get out of Addae. They hope to get that kind of production out of Nasir Adderly and initial reactions from camp seem to be good. Adrian Phillips was also an All-Pro special teamer and after the release of Addae he will probably see more opportunities on defense.
All-in-all the Chargers defense will probably improve next season by how much is hard to say, but I would say it wouldn’t be surprising if they made the top 10 in fantasy. Definitely worth a draft pick, though.