Coin Toss: 2012 Fantasy D/ST Rankings

It’s that time of year. As we get closer and closer to the start of the NFL season, Fantasy Football enthusiasts begin preparing for their league’s draft by putting together their own rankings and cheat sheets. So, we thought it might be fun to publicize our own rankings and then point out how off the other person is.

In the weeks leading up to the start of the 2012 season, we will highlight each of the major fantasy football positions. This week, we start off with a position that’s not the biggest point scorer fantasy wise, but still very important to a successful championship run, D/ST, or defense/special teams.


Adam’s D/ST Rankings

  1. San Francisco 49ers
  2. New York Giants
  3. Green Bay Packers
  4. Houston Texans
  5. Baltimore Ravens
  6. Detroit Lions
  7. New England Patriots
  8. Philadelphia Eagles
  9. New York Jets
  10. Cincinnati Bengals


Brett’s D/ST Rankings

  1. San Francisco 49ers
  2. Baltimore Ravens
  3. Detroit Lions
  4. Green Bay Packers
  5. Pittsburgh Steelers
  6. Philadelphia Eagles
  7. Chicago Bears
  8. New York Jets
  9. Houston Texans
  10. Minnesota Vikings


Continue reading to see Adam and I duke it out on these rankings.

Adam Says:

Well, let me preface this by saying that DST fantasy points are one of the hardest to predict in a “game” that is already incredibly difficult to predict.  Not to mention, the aforementioned “game” is based off of numerous real games that are, at times, even harder to predict.

With that being said, it looks like we both have the Niners as the top DST to covet.  They are a dominating force on defense in a weak division, and they have decent options when it comes to return men.

After that, however, we have some serious discrepancies.

Normally I would have Baltimore closer to the top of my list, but Ray Lewis and Ed Reed aren’t getting any younger, and the Suggs injury hurts that defense in the same way it would hurt the Vikings to lose Jared Allen.

The Lions are fairly close in our predictions, but I think all the various arrests will drop them out of the top five, especially considering the division they play in.
Oh, and the Steelers at five?  Seriously?  Did you see the playoffs last year?  And what’d they do to improve their defensive roster?  They certainly didn’t get any younger.

Brett Says:

Your first point is a good one, Adam. Defense/special teams are difficult to predict. I would also like to mention here before I start pointing out how right I am right and how wrong you are that I am not one to really draft a defense high (or spend a lot of money on one if you prefer an Auction style draft). I’ll typically take them right before I take a kicker… at the end of the draft. To me, the return on investment just isn’t high enough to really warrant selecting a defense in an earlier round (even a mid-round). I prefer to choose my defenses based on who they are playing. In other words, I’ll select a defense playing a  bad offense before a great defense.

Now, with all that being said, I do recognize that some defenses are better than others and that is reflected in my rankings (not so sure about yours).

The Terrell Suggs injury does hurt the Ravens, I’ll admit that. But not enough, in my opinion, to drop them out of a top-3 fantasy defense. The Ravens had (another) great year in 2011. They had the third highest fantasy points in regular scoring formats. They ranked third in points allowed. They were third in total defense. And they were tied for third in most sacks. (Maybe I should have them third on my list…?) Sure their defense is aging but the Ravens year after year are a fantasy lock. The addition of some great young talent with their core veterans returning should keep that dependency intact.

I will look past your comment about the Lions because, as you said, they are “fairly close in our predictions,” and instead focus on your dismay that I have the Pittsburgh Steelers at five on my list.

Are we really going to focus on one bad game their defense had at the hands of miracle worker Tim Tebow? Outside of that game, the Steelers actually had a pretty impressive season. They allowed the fewest points in the NFL in 2011. The Steelers are still an elite defense. Just like the Ravens, they are a lock to be a unit that you can depend on week after week to deliver.

And I’m sorry, but is that the Giants I see at number two on your list? Number two?! It’s becoming clear that your memory of the performances from these units is limited to the playoffs as that was pretty much the only time the Giants was consistent and reliable. (I would also like to point out that, as you probably know, NFL playoffs and Fantasy playoffs do not coincide. Therefore, playoff performances are kind of… well, null.) In regular scoring formats, the Giants ranked 22nd in fantasy points. That’s a whole 12 spots below the Steelers. I’ll deflect the question in your opening statement…  “And what’d they do to improve their defensive roster?” They certainly didn’t get any… better.

Adam Says:

Okay, I’m not in too contentious of a mood, and something like this is really hard to argue with any sense of true conviction, so I would just like to say:  You made some good points.

In the case of the Giants, the Super Bowl run is just another example of what their defense is capable of when they are relatively healthy.  So, that’s how I think they have gotten better this year… they have gotten healthier.  ACL injuries, torn pecs, broken bones in the feet, the Giants defense had some pretty horrible luck last year and while there is always the chance that luck can be repeated, a healthy Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora are quite the upgrade.  Oh, and they have certain monster on their front line named Jason Pierre-Paul.  Defense, even in fantasy, is all about getting to the quarterback and I am hard pressed to find a team that does it better than this version of the G-Men.

Mark my words:  The once vaunted defense in Pittsburgh is finished.  Done.  Complete.  Time to rebuild.  And the decline showed up more than in just the playoffs last year.  Their sack total dropped by double digits.  Their interception total was cut in half.  The recovered 14 fewer fumbles than in 2010.  They scored three defensive touchdowns in the two previous years, but only one last season.  Oh, and they have a tough schedule this year by anyone’s standards.

I’ll give you a pass on the Bears aging defense being included in your top ten due to the presence of Hester, but do you really think the Vikings are going to be a top ten fantasy team?  They had a great sack total and recovered some fumbles last season, but they also broke new ground in terms of interception droughts and have a lot of considerable question marks.  Jared Allen is a beast, yes, but the talent around him is in development mode… not double-digit fantasy score mode.

Brett says:

Where is your passion, Adam!?

I still don’t think you can use the Giant’s performance in the Super Bowl (or, let’s just generalize and say the postseason) to warrant such a huge leap in DST rankings. Sure, they may be healthier this year but I still don’t see them being the number two defense. While the teams in my top five have proven track records and stats to back up their position, your inclusion of the Giants doesn’t really have much ground to stand on. Yes, the Giants can get after the quarterback. But they also allowed the eighth most points in the league. That really hurts a fantasy defense.

Alright, back to the Steelers. Even with less interceptions, sacks, fumbles, etc. in 2011, the Steelers still had a top-10 defense. I think that’s a testament to the strength of that unit. A unit which also had its own injury issues. Even with James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley injured at various times throughout the year, they still managed to get to the quarterback 42 times! I also don’t think they’re as old as you think. The Steelers do a good job of mixing young talent in with older veterans. Examples? Lawerence Timmons, Lamarr Woodley, Ziggy Hood, Cameron Heyward… All those guys are in their mid-20s.

I will “mark your words” and look forward to seeing where the Steelers stand when the dust settles!

I was waiting for you to point out the fact that our beloved Minnesota Vikings made my top-10. I’m prepared to defend that decision.

As I’m sure you know, the Vikings led the league in sacks in 2011. And as you said, “Defense, even in fantasy, is all about getting to the quarterback…” I expect the Vikings to meet their 2011 sack numbers or potentially even exceed them as Jared Allen is determined to obtain the NFL record for sacks and I expect Brian Robison to continue to improve. Overall, the Vikings front seven really had a great year in 2011. It’s well known though amongst us Vikings fans that the secondary was really the missing piece last year. The Vikings allowed a lot of points, a lot of yards and did have an interception drought. I expect the Vikings secondary to be much improved this year, though. I’m not predicting they’ll be a shut down unit. But, with Winfield and Cook both being back and the addition of some new talent at safety, I don’t imagine we’ll allow nearly as many points or yards. Furthermore, I expect some scoring on special teams this year a la Jarius Wright or Josh Robinson which will boost the units DST scoring.

Now that we’ve fought it out, where do you stand? Who’s DST rankings align more closely with yours? Who’s completely off base? Vote in the poll below and then let us know your thoughts or rankings in the comments.