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Seahawks defense/special teams: Undervalued and effective
The smart and savvy Fantasy owner knows to wait until the final rounds to draft his defense/special teams unit. Defensive personnel and performances change significantly every year, and many units often do not fall in line with how they produced statistically from the previous year. Some of the best defenses sometimes come off the waiver wire, and you can even play the matchups for optimum success in many weeks.
The San Francisco 49ers defense is a great example of how unpredictable and volatile the D/ST slot can be. Last year, the Niners went undrafted in most leagues. This season, they are easily the top D/ST drafted, with an Average Draft Position of 56.04 (sixth round average). The Seahawks’ NFC West rivals return most of their starters after allowing an NFC-best 14.3 points per game, and were second in the NFL with 38 takeaways. Many less experienced Fantasy players jump on the Niners too early in their drafts, because they are not as well-versed in the outlooks of other teams, or they want to have the best unit at the position form last year, which is far from a foolproof move.
Those who have played Fantasy Football at high levels for many years do their homework on personnel changes, scheme and coaching alterations and even the schedule to find gems late in the draft process, while picking off skill position players until their very final selections. When such Fantasy owners do their due diligence, they recognize the feisty Seahawks as one of the best Fantasy value D/ST units of 2012.
The Seahawks’ NFL.com ADP is 138.37 (14th round average), and they are the 12th unit off the board on average. That’s simply too low for a team with so much opportunistic potential in the secondary and tenacity and promise up front. The team’s current ADP is also proof positive that you can indeed wait until the final rounds and grab a very promising unit.
Those who do the statistical research on the Seahawks defense will find that they have good 2011 numbers to consider. They were ninth in the NFL with 31 takeaways. Seattle allowed 19.7 points per game, seventh in the league. The team’s one category that was a concern was sacks, as the team generated only 33.
Yet the Seahawks are set to improve their pass rush this season, which will make them a complete unit for Fantasy purposes. With the unrelenting Chris Clemons (11 sacks in each of the past two seasons) and ferocious rookie pass-rush specialist Bruce Irvin leading the way, the “Hawks will certainly be more prolific in terms of quarterback takedowns. Red Bryant is a force up front, one that creates so much havoc that other defenders can break free to get pressure on the passer. The secondary should be one of the league’s best in 2012, and can help generate more coverage sacks this year.
Earl Thomas is the crux of the Seahawks’ outstanding defensive back corps, and he’ll set the tone as Seattle should again remain among the league leaders in takeaways. In leagues where Fantasy participants draft Individual Defensive Players (IDP) and receive points for categories such as tackles, assists, passes defensed, etc. in addition to the standard defensive categories, Thomas is annually among the best players at his position. Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner will make opposing passers pay frequently, and Leroy Hill and K.J. Wright are joined at LB by new middle man Bobby Wagner, who figures to be very busy as a tackler and also carries a lot of promise as an IDP value. The Seahawks were fourth in the NFC with 22 interceptions last year, and were 10th with nine fumbles forced. The energetic returnees and impact rookies offer a potent mix for Fantasy players, especially when they look for turnovers.
From a special teams perspective, Fantasy players are often looking for return TD potential, and Leon Washington is a threat to score any time he touches the ball. Steven Hauschka has a NFL.com ADP of 150.48, and while he is not among the top Fantasy kickers drafted, he is certainly reliable No. 2 option, and he is consistent enough to be considered a starter when other kickers falter.
If you somehow cannot grab the Seahawks D/ST late, there are other value selections to consider. Buffalo has promising playmakers, and a friendly schedule of opposing passers. Denver should be improved now that the offense will not force the defense to spend so much time on the field. If the offense can be respectable enough, Arizona can create some havoc. Those who wait after the 49ers are drafted too early can easily opt for the Texans, who are primed for a fine season under Wade Phillips, or the Lions, who were third in the NFC in takeaways. Baltimore and Chicago are old standbys, and the Eagles should be better than they were last year, when they were considered underachievers.
Kickers should be an absolute final pick after defenses, as performances often vary from year to year, and many lower-ranked players turn out to be dependable. Philadelphia’s Alex Henery and Tennessee’s Rob Bironas will be very good values if your league mates opt for a Sebastian Janikowski or Stephen Gostkoswki ahead of the rest of the field.
SEAHAWKS FANTASY HISTORY: The 2005 NFC Champion Seahawks topped the NFL with 50 sacks, as Bryce Fisher led the way with nine QB takedowns. The team allowed 16.9 points per game, seventh in the NFL.
NEXT WEEK: Fantasy preseason review and season preview.
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