Although it is argued by some, we as New York Giants' fans know that the chant of "De- Fense" was invented at the old Yankee Stadium. We chant it in our living rooms as well as at the games in every critical defensive situation. While the Giants' offense has had it's up and downs over the years the defense has been a constant source of pride for every Giant fan. From Sam Huff and Harry Carson to Lawrence Taylor and Michael Strahan our heroes have often been on the defensive side of the ball.
While most Giant fans think of their defense first, most fantasy GMs barely give it a second thought. While thinking about drafting a D/ST in fantasy leagues there are many factors to consider. Does the defense cause turnovers? Does it get sacks? Does the team have a dangerous return man? Last, but not least, is how good is the offense. A team can have a great defense, but if it is constantly on the field it is bound to be exposed.
Let's start by looking at which defenses were the most productive last season. The guys at www.sundaysareforfootball.com had a great trivia question during their recent podcast on D/ST and I thought it would be great for our purposes.
Which three defenses combined for the most sacks and takeaways last year? Answer:
The first answer was an easy one if you paid attention to defenses early on last year as the Chicago Bears were outscoring quarterbacks some weeks. The Bears also have perennially been one of the higher drafted defenses in fantasy football. The third-ranked defense was a popular preseason pick for the best overall D/ST in fantasy football, but didn't perform quite as well after losing New Jersey's own Brian Cushing to a knee injury. With reigning Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt continuing to make quarterbacks queasy I think the Texans will again be in the top 5 of overall defenses. The second ranked Cincinnati Bengals are the surprise in the punch bowl, or so to speak. The Bengals' defenses have been built on a sold foundation with defensive guru Marvin Lewis as their head coach, but were largely overlooked during fantasy drafts last year. They most likely were picked up from week to week off the waiver-wire for match-up purposes. This year I expect them to again be undervalued and come off the board as the seventh or eighth defense.
The Giants have been a very steady defense over the last few years and when they added David Wilson to their kickoff return their special teams actually became special. If you average out the last three years the Giants come in second in takeaways combined with sacks. That kind of production is nice to bank on from year to year. With the offense looking like it could be fully stocked for this year the defense might be able to pin its ears back and really get after the quarterback.
The health of Jason Pierre-Paul and Justin Tuck's declining production are definitely reasons to give you pause when drafting the Giants this year. The absence of Osi Umenyiora could hurt the overall sack numbers, but might help the Giants defend the run and get off the field a little faster. The pluses are the additions of Mike Patterson, Cullen Jenkins, and "Big Hank" Johnathan Hankins to the defensive tackle rotation and the shift of Mathias Kiwanuka from linebacker back to full-time defensive end. The wild cards for the Giants are going to be how much the linebackers have developed and whether or not the secondary become a strength again. If Prince Amakumara continues to develop and Corey Webster bounces back from a rough 2012 Perry Fewell might be able to free up his safeties and linebackers to create pressure on opposing teams.
The Giants decision regarding Wilson's return duties definitely has an influence on how I will rank the Giants D/ST in my predraft rankings. I don't count on the touchdowns for my defenses' production. I count on the way a returner can affect field position. With Wilson returning kicks the Giants win the field position battle and therefore their defense is more likely to give up fewer points. Without Wilson the Giants will need to find another weapon to help them win the field position battle.
As a rule I do not draft a defense until the 15th or 16th rounds of any fantasy football draft. If the Giants fall to me there I am more than happy to draft and root for my favorite team doubly. Being that my leagues are mainly made up of Giants and Jets fans they tend to go a little early. This year I hope that they both go early and i get to draft the Bengals or Broncos in the 15th round. If I miss on both of those teams the Rams will be a nice conciliation prize.
Last and definitely least I will talk about the Giants' new kicker, Josh Brown. Brown was formerly the highest-paid kicker in the NFL when he was kicking field goals for the St. Louis Rams, and was usually one of the first kickers drafted in fantasy football. When the Rams realized they were paying a kicker well above market value and still not making the playoffs Brown became a cap casualty. Brown resurfaced with the Bengals last season and went 11-for-12 kicking field goals while making 1-of-2 from 50 yards plus. Brown takes over for playoff hero Lawrence Tynes and might become one of the better fantasy kickers again. Brown has shown great accuracy during his career as well as an above average leg. He might not be able to bomb them anymore, but with the Giants offense being a consistent ball mover he should get plenty of chances to score points.
With kickers I only draft them in the last two rounds. If Blair Walsh, and his 10-for-10 from 50 yards plus leg, is available in the 15th round I may bite. That would only happen if the league had bonuses for longer field goals. I would be more than happy to have Brown knocking in more than 30 field goals and piling on the extra points this year if I draft a kicker in the last round. More than likely he won't be rated higher than 15th overall at kicker on many draft sheets.
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COMING UP: Next week I will recap an experts' mock draft to give an idea of where players are being drafted this early in the summer. It's always good to see which players are undervalued and which players are shooting up the draft boards. If you have any IDP questions about Giants players feel free to tweet me or send me a message.