There are a select few of us fantasy football nerds who are rediculous enough to choose to be in leagues with individual defensive player positions. It takes a special breed of crazy to complete a feat like this. Offensive statistics are highly popularized and you can throw on ESPN and learn how your offensive guys did.
Defensive players for fantasy football, however, that's a whole different story. Individual research and constant attention need to be paid to get the most out of this position. Below, we answer a couple fantasy football questions for the individual positions of Defensive Line, Linebacker and Defensive Back.
Defensive Line (DL)
1) Who will the top three fantasy performers at defensive line be in 2011?
Andrew: I have to give number one to Jared Allen. He had a good last half of the season and the season before that, he was an animal. He'll get the sacks, and the turnovers. He's consistent and you know exactly what you are getting. Ndamukong Suh is my second pick. With Nick Fairley beside him, and Vanden Bosch, you know they can't double them all. Number three goes to either Justin Tuck or Osi Umenyiora, take your pick basically.
Jordan: Like Andrew, I'm going with Allen #1. After that, it's a bit unclear, but I like Mathis for the Colts and Charles Johnson for the Panthers. I would take Suh in a heartbreak though, but I'm afraid of everything Lion. And Detroit. And rookies that are sensational but play for the Lions.
2) Who is the biggest fantasy bust at defensive line?
Andrew: Bust is a strong word for Peppers, but I don't see him thriving in Chicago, at least fantasy-wise. He could still end up in the top 15 stat-wise, but he won't be as elite as he used to be. Freeney and Kampman will likely be drafted just because their names are recognizable, but I don't even have them in the top 20 fantasy performers.
Jordan: Dwight Freeney is just plain old and clearly not at the height of his powers, while Mathis certainly is. I would stay away from the aforementioned Freeney, and I would also shy away from Mr. John Abraham. He's old too, and though he's had years of unbelievable productivity, he's just not top flight anymore. Big name defensive players are usually the ones that newbies will gravitate toward if faced with having to draft individual defensive spots.
3) Which defensive lineman will have the best rookie season?
Andrew: Lots of rookies to choose from at the defensive line position. Any of them could break out. Its very important to pay close attention to the preseason if you are thinking about going for a rookie. See who looks good against first stringers and who is playing with the starters the most. I'm going to go with Cameron Jordan of the New Orleans Saints as the top rookie this year. Size and strength will give him a good blend of tackles and sacks.
Jordan: I like Robert Quinn for STL here. Playing on the same line as Chris Long and James Hall will help this young man blossom and get looks that young guys don't normally get their first year on the line.
4) Got any fantasy sleepers at defensive line?
Andrew: Probably a couple linemen could have a big season. Haloti Ngata proved last year that he is one of the best interior guys in the NFL. I'm giving my sleeper nod to Tommy Kelly of the Raiders though. He is lined up next to the far more popular Seymour, but he had a better 2010 season, with 7 sacks and 38 solo tackles.
Jordan: Vanden Bosch, if he makes it back from neck injury, could return to his previous elite status. You can probably get him on the cheap, or even the waiver wire.
1) Who are your top three fantasy linebackers?
Andrew: Gotta give number one to Patrick Willis. Good in coverage. Great blitzer, and the 49er defense is designed around him. Number two is Jerrod Mayo of New England. He shook of his 2009 injury for the best linebacker season in 2010, and should continue this season. Jon Beason is my guy at number three. Massively consistent and could very well lead the league in tackles.
Jordan: Jerrod Mayo, Patrick Willis, and James Harrison, in that order. You can't go wrong with any of these guys. Period. Clay Matthews is a beautiful man too.
2) Which linebacker will be the biggest fantasy bust in 2011?
Andrew: I've got a couple players that aren't exactly busts, but they are people you should avoid. They have big names, and will mistakenly be taken higher than they need to be. Expect DeMarcus Ware, Brian Urlacher and Von Miller will all be taken higher than they should be. As far as a real bust, I'm not sure how D.J. Williams, since Miller will likely take a lot of his work.
Jordan: Watch out for old guys with big names. That's all I have to say on that matter.
3) Which linebacker has the best chance to be a breakout sleeper?
Andrew: Do you know who Paris Lenon is? I didn't think so. He is easily the biggest sleeper. Lenon came out of nowhere last season with 94 tackles, 2 sacks and 3 turnovers for the Arizona Cardinals. Expect the same. And expect a good value, since he probably isn't on anyone's radar.
Jordan: There's this dude that sounds like an illness-- James Laurinaitis. He plays for the Rams. He's not going to be a huge surprise, but most people outside of Missouri have never heard of this guy. He's average 117 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 ff, and 1 int for the past two years, and his line just got better. And he's only 24.
Defensive Backs (DB)
1) Lots to choose from, who are your top five fantasy defensive backs for the 2011 campaign?
Andrew: Buh. There are so damn many of them. Top 5... I'm going with Tyvon Branch, LaRon Landry, Terrell Thomas, T.J Ward, Charles Tillman. I'm keeping Roman Harper out mostly due to that miserable playoff game. He's usually a good bet though.
2) Which defensive backs will have a disappointing fantasy football year?
Andrew: Fantasy is awkward at D-Back because the best NFL corners are usually the worst fantasy defensive backs. So don't be the fool to go after a big name. Likely joining the list of big names to avoid is last year's rookie standout Devin McCourty. He had good fantasy stats last year, but I would think that QBs start shying away from him, dropping his fantasy stats. Patrick Peterson is all but guaranteed Defensive Rookie of the Year honors, but fantasy wise, he won't get many stats if no one is throwing the ball at him.
3) Which defensive backs will you avoid because they're getting hurt/old?
Andrew: A lot of players make this list too. And most of them will likely be drafted pretty early. Troy Polamalu has missed over 20 games in the last 5 years. So I can't trust him to stay on the field. Ed Reed has been missing games recently as well. Both are outstanding talents, but that doesn't translate to fantasy stardom.
4) Any defensive back fantasy sleepers for 2011?
Andrew: Michael Huff is my pick. As of now he hasn't been picked up. But he is sure to land a starting gig somewhere. He had good stats last year, but before that never lived to potential. He has the skills to put up impressive tackles, he can manage some great sack numbers and created six turnovers in 2010.