Defense and the draft: who to pickDate: July 10, 2019
By Jorie Mickens
It has been said that defense wins championships.
In recent years, NFL defenses have garnered some of the most athletic, massive, nearly unstoppable defensive players we have ever seen.
In the past five years, players like Aaron Donald, Khalil Mack, Chris Jones, Demarcus Lawrence and Darius Leonard began terrorizing opposing offensives every Sunday.
While defensive coordinators salivate over the names I just mentioned, in fantasy football, D/ST is the least glamourous position aside from your kicker.
Near the end of the draft, when fantasy players feel comfortable selecting their D/ST, the obvious selection is the Chicago Bears D/ST. The Bears finished No. 1 against opposing fantasy RBs, No. 2 against opposing QBs, and No. 6 against opposing TEs last season.
The Bears are likely to repeat as the No. 1 D/ST in fantasy football this season as they only lost two starters from last year’s squad. Chicago also hired Chuck Pagano as their new defensive coordinator, who was the defensive coordinator for the Baltimore Ravens in 2011 when they were No. 3 against RBs, No. 2 against TEs and No. 1 against QBs.
Aside from the Bears though, which defenses can be a reliable option during the fantasy season?
First, the team that hired former Chicago Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio as their head coach, the Denver Broncos.
This Broncos defense is reminiscent of their 2015 team, one of the best defenses in NFL history. They have a Hall of Fame-caliber veteran outside linebacker/defensive end in Von Miller and a rising superstar opposite of him, Bradley Chubb, who broke the franchise record for sacks in their rookie season with 12 last year.
Linebacker Todd Davis led the team in solo tackles last season and is looking to improve on a strong campaign.
Linebacker Josey Jewell fell to the Broncos in last year’s draft after running one of the slowest 40 times at the combine. The three-year captain at Iowa and 2017 Big Ten defensive player of the year looks to secure his spot in the starting lineup with Brandon Marshall gone. Jewell will show the NFL he might not be the fastest, but one of the savviest linebackers in the league.
The Broncos also bolstered their secondary by picking up S Kareem Jackson from Houston and CB Bryce Callahan from Chicago. Callahan played in the Fangio system last year and should do wonders for the Broncos who have been searching for a No. 2 CB next to Chris Harris Jr. ever since Aqib Talib left.
The Broncos are a team that could need their defense to put some points on the board to keep them in games during the season. This underrated defense is more than capable of doing that, especially with the defensive mastermind that is Vic Fangio.
Another D/ST that will probably go undrafted in every fantasy league are the Pittsburgh Steelers.
While the Steelers do not have one dominant defensive player that can disrupt the quarterback on every play or lock down every receiver in the game, but the Steelers have a plethora of players that complement each other greatly.
Linebacker T.J. Watt led the team in sacks last season with 13, defensive end Cameron Heyward added 8 and Javon Hargrave had 6.5. All three players are returning to the Black and Yellow this season.
Linebacker Bud Dupree will continue to grow during his third season with the team and Stephon Tuitt, a 6’7’’ 313-pound DE will continue to fill running lanes and pressure opposing QBs.
The Steelers have been searching for a leader ever since tragedy struck when linebacker Ryan Shazier suffered a spinal contusion in a game against the Bengals two years ago.
The Steelers do believe they have found their replacement though, selecting Devin Bush, LB from Michigan with the 10th overall pick in this year’s draft.
Bush was the second fastest linebacker at this year’s combine, only behind Devin White of LSU. Bush ran a 4.43 and White ran a 4.42.
Expect the Steelers to not give up too many points this season while trying to lead the league in sacks for a third year in a row.
Jorie Mickens can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.