When it comes to defensive/special teams units in Fantasy Football, the Seattle Seahawks are widely regarded as the class of the field in 2013. It’s certainly no surprise, as the group is led by what many regard as the best secondary in football, and the front seven is aggressive against the pass and stingy against the run. The Seattle defense is arguably the most balanced unit in the NFL, and that opinion is clearly being reflected in Fantasy drafts to this point.
The Seahawks defense has an Average Draft Position of 62.30 in NFL.com leagues, putting it firmly in the seventh round. That is quite early for a defensive unit, but if you really want to start the Seahawks at your defensive slot, you’ll have to take them earlier than other units. Last year, the Seahawks finished fourth among Fantasy defenses with 182 points. They are expected to be a dominant force from start to finish this season, and many owners jump for them earlier than other team defenses because defensive units often fluctuate in performance from season to season. With the entire unit looking much the same as it did last season, it seems to be a very good bet that the ‘Hawks will fly high defensively again, and at a Fantasy position where there are few reassurances from one season to the next, they have become highly valuable because of the familiarity of their returning personnel.
The Seahawks were the stingiest team in the NFL last year, allowing 231 points. Seattle recovered 13 fumbles, which put them seventh overall among Fantasy units. They ranked ninth with 18 interceptions. They had five defensive scores (ninth) and also added a return TD. The defensive attack was balanced, but could be very explosive, as the team made Fantasy history in Week 14 of 2012.
The Seahawks defense officially stamped itself as an elite unit in a 58-0 rout of Arizona, blowing up the stat sheet with eight turnovers, three sacks, two touchdowns and a 10-point NFL.com bonus for the shutout. The 41 Fantasy points totaled were not only unforgettable, it boosted many Fantasy teams to a key playoff win and cemented the Seahawks defense as a top group to target for the next season. It’s highly rare when a Fantasy defense can be the crux of a victory. It was the best Fantasy defensive effort since 2005, when the Seahawks scored 44 total points in a Monday Night Football blowout of the Eagles.
Fantasy defensive production is highly focused on turnovers and touchdowns, which can often be very unpredictable. But with their hard-hitting “Legion of Boom” in the secondary, the Seahawks will aggressively go after the football again this year and appear to be good bets to rank among team interception leaders while also keeping point totals down, also a key element for Fantasy units. The Seattle DBs hit hard to generate forced fumbles, and as we have already seen this preseason, turnovers returned for TDs by this team will be no surprise.
Standout CB Richard Sherman intercepted eight passes last year, and forced three fumbles. His fiery approach translates into not only shutting opposing WRs down, which contributes heavily to low defensive point totals, his knack for making plays in all facets of the game propels the Seahawks defense to its lofty Fantasy status. But he is far from a lone operator. CB Brandon Browner also forced three fumbles last year, and he and Earl Thomas combined for six interceptions.
The Seahawks ranked fourth in the league against the run in 2012, allowing 75.0 yards per game. Bobby Wagner was an absolute revelation as a rookie, totaling 140 tackles. SS Kam Chancellor ranked second on the team with 101. Chancellor is a terror against both the run and pass in terms of limiting extra yardage, and he and Wagner heavily ensure that opposing point totals are stifled.
You should also note the high tackle numbers of Wagner and Chancellor if you play in a league that incorporates Individual Defensive Players (IDP). In such formats, defenders are awarded points for tackles, sacks, interceptions and sometimes passes defensed. Wagner and Chancellor’s high tackle totals make them top-level players at the linebacker and defensive back positions. Sherman’s 24 passes defensed last year elevate his appeal in leagues that utilize that stat. OLB K.J. Wright is a viable Fantasy starter as well in IDP leagues, as he totaled 98 tackles last season.
Of course, it all begins up front for the Seahawks defense, where the very underrated Red Bryant generates havoc that simply cannot be measured on a stat sheet, yet greatly impacts the Fantasy production of the unit overall. The ultra-reliable Brandon Mebane has been a steady presence, and once newcomer Cliff Avril gets into form, the Seahawks defense should be able to better last year’s total of 36 sacks. Golden Tate and Jermaine Kearse also add some TD return potential, as we have surely seen with the latter this preseason. Among kickers, Steven Hauschka is the 12th kicker off the board in NFL.com drafts, and is a solid option in most leagues.
Once the Seahawks are off the board, division rival San Francisco clearly stands out as the next best defensive unit. Their fearsome linebacking corps will be the focal point of what should be a frequently tough defense for any opponent to face. Houston totaled 44 sacks last year and should be very balanced as well. One of my top value units in the later rounds is Cincinnati, as they totaled 51 sacks last year and their defensive line is quite impressive. The Bears led the league with 24 interceptions and topped all Fantasy units with 10 TDs in 2012. They may be hard-pressed to come close to such opportunistic numbers this year, though. Arizona picked off 22 passes last year and is a very promising unit for turnovers and big plays this year. The Broncos led the league with 52 sacks last year, but some personnel issues could stifle their potential early in the schedule. Pittsburgh and Baltimore are still respectable units, and the Buccaneers and Browns could be set to move up in the ranks in 2013.
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