The prevailing thought when selecting a defense for fantasy purposes is to wait until the end of the draft before addressing the position. Stocking up on offensive skill positions first is suggested especially with the move towards “streaming” defenses.
These are a few defenses that finished outside the top-20 last season that have the potential to make a move upward and are definitely “streaming” options throughout the season.
The Jaguars showed an immediate determination to improve their defense by signing defensive end Calais Campbell. who was considered one of the top defensive players in free agency. Coming off an 8-sack season Campbell’s presence immediately improves a young Jacksonville defensive front that now includes Malik Jackson (6.5 sacks), Yannick Ngakoue (8 sacks) and Dante Fowler (4 sacks).
The biggest beneficiary could be Fowler, as offensive lines will have to sell out to try and contain the 6-foot-7, 290-pound Campbell. Fowler has to work on playing more disciplined football and Campbell should play a role in a mentor capacity as well. Look for Jacksonville to easily surpass the 33-sack total the team amassed in 2016. This defensive line getting after the quarterback will also help to bolster what was a woeful secondary last season.
Jacksonville managed just 7 interceptions last season, which was dead last in the league and certainly didn’t help the unit’s fantasy value. They acquired both safety Barry Church and cornerback A.J. Bouye via free agency to address the secondary problems. Bouye graded out very highly according to PFF and will join third-year corner Jalen Ramsey, who had a pair of interceptions and a touchdown last season.
A main reason the Jaguars should take a step up for fantasy purposes is their schedule. In the first seven weeks of the season they face five teams with quarterback issues. In Week 1, they take on a Texans offense led by either Tom Savage or rookie Deshaun Watson. Week 3 brings in a Baltimore team led by Joe Flacco, who has yet to participate in training camp, and Week 4 is a matchup with the Jets, who will have quarterback issues even if they definitively know their starter.
In Weeks 6-7, they face a Jared Goff-led Rams offense and a Colts offense that will hopefully have Andrew Luck under center but will likely still have health questions. In the all-important Weeks 15-16, Jacksonville will face the Texans once again and the 49ers. Those matchups could bring Jaguars D/ST owners a few championship trophies.
We stay in the AFC South, where the Titans will improve defensively for a lot of the reasons mentioned above due to a fantasy-friendly schedule. They get to face Blake Bortles twice and he has been a turnover machine the last two years, with 45 total turnovers. Tennessee will also face the Texans and their shaky quarterback situation twice, as well as the Colts and whatever version of Andrew Luck is on the field.
The Titans also addressed a porous secondary by acquiring cornerback Logan Ryan and safety Johnathan Cyprien via free agency. While Cyprien will help in stopping the running game, Ryan should help to improve a secondary that allowed 269.2 yards per game while also bringing big-play potential. Since 2013, Ryan has posted 13 intercetions along with 3 sacks and 3 forced fumbles. Rookie Adoree’ Jackson out of USC will also have the chance to contribute as quarterbacks look to pick on him as he stands at only 5-10. Jackson has blazing speed and athleticism and put up 5 interceptions for the Trojans in 2016.
The Titans also addressed an already-potent pass rush by signing Erik Walden, who posted a career-high 11 sacks last season. While Walden graded out poorly overall in 2016 according to PFF, he does bring depth as a rotational player that can bring pressure from both the left and right edge. Walden will join edge rushers Derrick Morgan and Brian Orakpo who combined for 20.5 sacks last season. The Tennessee defense will definitely bring more big-play potential to the 2017 campaign with the chance to surpass the 40 sacks and 12 interceptions the unit put up last year.
Source: Pro Football Focus
Under-the-radar fantasy streaming defense options