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Fantasy Football: You must be savvy to go for the Seahawks defense in 2014

Posted Jul 23, 2014

Scott Engel of RotoExperts.com says the Seahawks defense is destined to look dominant again.


Scott Engel of RotoExperts.com says the Seahawks defense is destined to look dominant again, but you have to be well-prepared as a Fantasy player to make the aggressive move of drafting them.

When the Seahawks were decisively victorious in the Super Bowl last season, they confirmed the old football axiom that defense wins championships. In Fantasy Football, a defense can also help you win a championship, and there is simply no better unit to draft than the Seahawks. Yet if you want to roster their unit, you better be ready to take them earlier than any other defense. If you’re not well-prepared overall on draft day, taking a defense earlier than most other teams in your league could prove to be a strategic misfire.

There’s no doubt that the Seahawks are prepared to be a major defensive force again in 2014, as their highly formidable back seven remains intact and the defensive line has undergone notable changes, but still remains deep and diverse. Last year’s unit, which of course is technically classified as a defensive/special teams unit because any special teams TDs are figured into the scoring as well, finished with 195 fantasy points on NFL.com, second to only the Kansas City Chiefs. Despite what the point totals indicated, though, Seattle was regarded as the premier defense in fantasy and is the overwhelming favorite to be the top unit at the position for the upcoming season.

The Chiefs defense and special teams scored a combined 11 TDs last year, and such an impressive number is usually difficult to replicate, especially their seven defensive scores. Experienced veteran Fantasy players know that the most important and relevant Fantasy defensive categories for team units are interceptions, sacks, fumble recoveries and points allowed. In NFL.com standard scoring, defensive units receive two points each for interceptions and fumble recoveries, and one point is awarded for each sack. In terms of points allowed, 10 points are awarded for a shutout, seven points for holding an opponent to six points or less, four points for 7-13 opposing points allowed and one point for 14-20 allowed.

In 2013, as you well know by now, the Seahawks championship caliber defense led the NFL with 28 interceptions, allowed the least points in the league with 225, and added 44 sacks and 11 fumble recoveries. No Fantasy defense blended the important categories together better, and no other unit is expected to best them overall again in 2014. NFL.com projects the Seahawks to lead the league in interceptions again with 25 while allowing only a league-best 14 points per game. They are projected to raise their overall sack total to 49 and recover 13 fumbles, and this year, they are projected to lead the league with six defensive scores. NFL.com projects the Seahawks defense to score 209 points, 25 points better than the second place projected finisher, the Carolina Panthers.

There’s no real reason at this point not to expect the Seahawks defense to soar high past any other Fantasy unit this season. The Legion of Boom is set to stifle opposing passing games consistently again, and Fantasy players will naturally enjoy their thrilling interception totals. Richard Sherman led the team with eight last year, and if opposing passers choose to test the other side of the field, Byron Maxwell will certainly register much more than last year’s total of four picks. Remember that Maxwell only started the last five games of the season last season, so he could be even more opportunistic overall this year.

Earl Thomas picked off five passes last year, and Kam Chancellor is a well-known tone setter that will help to prevent big plays with his decisive hitting style. Middle linebacker Bobby Wagner is a focal point of a deep LB crew that includes hybrid pass rush demon Bruce Irvin, who will certainly statistically boost the sack totals of the Seattle defense with his potential and unique pass rush if he can remain healthy. Let’s not forget Irvin totaled eight sacks in his rookie season of 2012, and his very presence on the field in passing downs can vault the pass rush to higher levels even if others officially register the QB takedowns when he is inserted into the schemes.

On the line, Michael Bennett (8.5 sacks) and Cliff Avril (8.0 and five forced fumbles) return to lead the pass rush, and defensive tackles Brandon Mebane and Tony McDaniel will anchor the middle for sure. Yet a major feature of the group as a whole is its depth and ability to wear the opposition down with rotations. Look for youngsters Greg Scruggs and Cassius Marsh to make an impact, and veteran DT Kevin Williams will prove to be a prime addition.

The Seahawks tied for seventh best against the run in the league last year, and with their front seven still very strong and formidable, stinginess against opposing RBs is another added element that makes the defense so highly appealing. Add in the fact that Percy Harvin will work on return teams this year, and you get the bonus caveat of special teams TDs at any time. All of the stats and factors we have outlined to this point lead us to two unequivocal fantasy conclusions.

The first is that the Seahawks defense appears destined to be the best in fantasy football again this year, and they’re a very safe pick for high production at a fantasy position that is often very difficult to project and pinpoint because of constant changes in personnel and schemes around the league.  The second is that the Seattle defensive Average Draft Position is going to be very high overall this season. If you want the Seahawks, you have to make an aggressive move to land their fantasy rights.

It should come as no surprise that the Seahawks’ defensive Average Draft Position on NFL.com is now 52.41, which lands them in the sixth round. The 49ers are the next closest at 66.91 (seventh round average). Most Fantasy analysts and experts universally agree that drafting a defense before the final rounds is a big no-no. The reasoning is that you should not leave valuable skill position players on the board when you can land a quality defensive unit very late in the draft, or even off the free agent wire early in the season when some defenses surprise with their performances.

Based on the NFL.com current ADPs, if you take the Seahawks defense at its current spot, you will be passing on very valuable and promising players such as RB Toby Gerhart (60.09) and WR Cordarrelle Patterson (54.47). Heck, you’d even be passing on Percy Harvin (58.12), and do you really want to do that when he could be destined for some memorable Fantasy outings playing more regularly with Russell Wilson this year?

But there is no one singular way to win a fantasy league this year, and if you visit this space and NFL.com and RotoExperts.com regularly to do your homework, you can be the guy/gal to successfully make the daring move of drafting the Seattle defense earlier than some other fantasy leaguers would. If you are well-prepared and know the player pool well, you won’t miss a beat picking those sleeper and upside types in the rounds immediately following your selection of the Seahawks defense. You’ll only be interrupting your flow of selecting skill position players for one round.

If you are well-prepared enough to know that you can land sleeper/value types like Emmanuel Sanders (91.05 NFL.com ADP) and Terrance Williams (119.26) later on at WR, you’ll still be gaining advantages over your opposition no matter where you draft a defense. Trent Richardson (89.88) could be set for a big rebound season, and if you’re in the know on his rebound potential, you can grab the Seahawks defense earlier and still pick the opposition apart with your deep pool of knowledge thereafter.

So you can boldly draft the Seahawks defense where others may not want to risk it this year, if you are simply more prepared and do more fantasy homework than your opponents. No one will be able to snicker at you when you went against fantasy convention and still ended up with a great team.

If you do choose to wait on a unit, though, Denver looks much improved with the offseason additions of DeMarcus Ware and Aqib Talib. The Patriots now have a very intimidating secondary that will feature Darrelle Revis and former Seahawk Brandon Browner. Drafting any defense in the NFC West appears to be a good choice. St. Louis will have one of the best pass rush fronts in the league, and Arizona also looks improved in the secondary. The Titans and Browns have the potential to be solid surprises. Tennessee will really get after opposing passers, and Cleveland has some big-play promise.

For those who truly appreciate defense in its purest form, you can play in an Individual Defensive Player (IDP) league, where you draft defensive linemen, linebackers and defensive backs. Scoring is heavily based on tackles and sacks at these positions, but can also include categories such as passes defensed. In these types of leagues, Thomas is a top performer, as he registered 105 total tackles last year with his five picks and a pair of forced fumbles. Sherman is among the better DBs because of his interception totals, and Chancellor (99 total tackles in 2013) is a very solid starter. Wagner (120 total tackles and five sacks) is among the very best IDP linebackers overall. Bennett will be a very good starter on the defensive line in such leagues again this year because of his expected sack production.

The fantasy position that is usually left to the very final rounds is kicker. You only have to start one, results can vary greatly from year to year, and there’s always quality options on the waiver wire. You certainly cannot go wrong with Seahawks kicker Steven Hauschka, who finished fifth on NFL.com last year at his position with 149 points. He is projected to score 152 points on NFL.com this year, the fourth-best projection among kickers for 2014. The Seahawks offense will remain steady and sometimes spectacular in 2014, making Hauschka one of the safest players you can tab at kicker.

Scott Engel is an 18-year veteran of the Fantasy industry and was an inaugural member of the Fantasy Sports Writer’s Association’s Hall of Fame. For more in-depth Fantasy Football analysis from Scott and his team at RotoExperts.com, register now for the Xclusive Edge Fantasy Football package right here and take advantage of a very special discount offer for Seahawks fans!

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