It’s bound to happen in every draft. There’s that guy who spends a mid-round pick on San Fransisco’s defense, or drops $5 on Chicago in an auction draft. It’s just not worth it to spend anything more than one of your last two picks (or $1) on a defense or a kicker.
One of the reasons that this is true is that defensive scoring is extremely erratic, with most of it revolving around big plays – turnovers, kick returns, and touchdowns – which, with few exceptions, are inherently random. Another reason that you should not invest too much in a defense is that you can easily stream them throughout the season. You can easily find plug-and-play defenses off of the waiver wire who will produce strong numbers against great matchups.
That’s what I’m going to focus on today (and for the rest of the season): streaming defenses. Each week, I’ll give you a handful of defenses that can be found on the waiver wire and despite not being a great unit, can score like one, if employed in the proper situation.
Indianapolis Colts vs. Oakland – Owned in 4.4% of ESPN leagues
The Colts are a wonderful example of what I just referred to; a team that’s not necessarily stout on defense, but one that can give you a nice little fantasy outing when the matchup is tasty. Well, in 2013, I’m not sure that it’s going to get much tastier than a home game against the Oakland Raiders. You should expect to see a lot of the Raiders’ opponents in this weekly feature. With Terrelle Pryor hitting the road to make his first start and the general state of Oakland falling somewhere between chaotic and comical, the stars have aligned for Indy in Week One. It’s pretty easy to envision at least one Pryor turnover, and it’s not hard to picture more. The Raiders are going to be playing from behind (aka throwing), and they are probably going to want to see what they have in Pryor; they’re more than likely going to let him play through some mistakes. All of this should add up to big things for a Colts defense that finished 25th in standard leagues last year.
Washington Redskins vs. Philadelphia – Owned in 4.6% of ESPN leagues
Chip Kelly and the Eagles may do big things this season, but I don’t think they’re going to be a well-oiled machine right out of the gates. For starters, the turnover-prone Michael Vick is still under center for Philadelphia. A year ago, the Eagles gave up the fourth most points to fantasy defenses, mostly because Vick was a turnover machine. The Redskins, much like the Colts, were not a defensive juggernaut in 2012, finishing with the 19th most fantasy points among defenses. Washington did, however, show a propensity for snatching interceptions, finishing the season with 21. This tied them for the third-most interceptions in the league. In their two games against Philadelphia last year, albeit versus a different offense, the Redskins held the Eagles to 26 total points and came up with five total turnovers.
Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Kansas City – Owned in 0.3% of ESPN leagues
I seem to be one of the few people who feel this way, but I don’t think Andy Reid is going to turn Kansas City into a really good offense. Alex Smith isn’t that good and the weapons around him, other than Jamaal Charles, aren’t either. Meanwhile, Jacksonville quietly has one of the league’s upper-echelon defenses. That’s surprising, isn’t it? The Jaguars gave up just 16.1 points per game a year ago. The reason they weren’t more of a factor in fantasy is that they managed just one defensive touchdown. Meanwhile, the Chiefs’ offense gave up the second-most points to fantasy defenses. Smith typically does a good job limiting turnovers, but the Jaguars should be able to keep Andy Reid and the Chiefs bottled up.
Defenses that are likely unavailable, but have good matchups:
New England (at Buffalo), Houston (at San Diego), Pittsburgh (vs. Tennessee) and Tampa Bay (at New York Jets).