Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
Unlike in real life where a kicker will frequently determine the outcome of an NFL football game, in fantasy leagues, both the kicker and defensive teams are of equal "un-importance."
In a previous article I provided statistics that showed the difference between the best kicker and the 12th-best kicker (likely the worst starter in a 12-team league) was just 2.525 points per game. Well the situation is almost the same at the defensive/special teams position.
In 2007 the top D/ST was the San Diego Chargers who collected 42 sacks, 30 interceptions, 18 fumbles and ran five turnovers back for touchdowns for a league-high 192 fantasy points.
Meanwhile, the Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers scored 142 points to take the 11th and 12th spots. The 50-point difference, spread over 16 games means the difference between the best and worst starting defense was just 3.125 ppg.
For me, the variance is just not enough to warrant picking my team early in the draft.
But that doesn't mean you shouldn't know who to pick when the "run" begins. Based on 2007, the top-five teams were the Chargers, New England (177), Minnesota (176), Indianapolis (168) and Seattle (164).
The Chargers lost virtually no one from last year's team and should once again challenge for top honors.
The Patriots drafted inside linebacker Jerod Mayo to eventually replace the aging Tedy Bruschi and it will allow Adalius Thomas to move to the outside. The secondary lost one of the league's top cornerbacks in Asante Samuel (to Philadelphia), but signed plenty of veterans to cover the loss.
The Vikings made a big move in the off-season when they traded for defensive end Jared Allen. The 6'6", 265-pounder had 38 sacks over the last three seasons adding another dimension to a line which allowed the fewest rushing yards in the NFL.
The Colts are a hard team to draft because its two best players Dwight Freeney and Bob Sanders are always hurt. Freeney is still working his way back from the foot injury that ended his 2007 season and Sanders is still rehabbing a shoulder which doctors operated on in February. This defense could easily drop in the rankings if these guys aren't near 100-percent.
The Seahawks were one of the big surprises in 2007 - defensively. It helped that they had a relatively easy schedule, but the linebackers were most of the reason the team won 10 games. Lofa Tatupu and Julian Peterson went to the Pro Bowl and Leroy Hill might be the league's most underrated. The defensive line is deep and he secondary is talented, led by Marcus Trufant and Deon Grant.