Fantasy Football 2010: Ranking Team Defenses

Last week on Niners Nation, I took a look at the deep talent at WR, and users were divided about which format they prefer in terms of PPR (41%) vs. Standard Scoring (42%). This week, I'm going rank Team Defenses heading into 2010 in terms of fantasy value. To prevent relentless gushing about the San Francisco 49ers defense (which I could do for paragraphs upon paragraphs), I'm going to focus on the top 12 Team Ds equally. We all know just how awesome the 49ers defense can be, and I'll see where they stack up in the rankings. First, a quick blurb about San Francisco performance in 2009 (ok, so I lied about equality).

Heading into the 2009 season, I wasn't sure how valuable the 49ers defense would be from a fantasy perspective. The team didn't produce a lot of sacks in 2008, and it was hard to guage what kind of weekly production the team would provide. Based on standard team defense scoring, the 49ers finished 2009 with the most fantasy points of any team in football. San Francisco's notable results: tied for 3rd in sacks (44); tied 11th for interceptions (18); tied for 1st in fumble recoveries (15); tied for 2nd in TDs (4). Big performances against Chicago and St. Louis definitely helped boost San Francisco's total stats, but for the most part, the 49ers were a reliable weekly start in 2009. With such a steady performance, we'll see where the 49ers stack up heading into 2010.

I'll be ranking the top 12 Team Defenses using a combination of both current Average Draft Position and 2009's Final Fantasy Rankings (no, not Final Fantasy the video game). In other words, if a productive team defense is getting drafted later on, that might bump them up in the rankings (see: Cincinnati Bengals). These rankings represent my opinion, and may not necessarily reflect rankings you see on other websites. I'm mentioning this because in previous articles I've been referring to ESPN's fantasy rankings; this week I am not. Follow along after the jump and see just how much you'll agree with what I have to say.

[Andrew's Note: Don't forget to check out NFL.com's brand new Fantasy Football features, all free.]

2010 Team Defense Rankings (ADP accorinding to FFC, final rank based on standard scoring)

1. NYJ DEF (ADP: 86, 2009 final rank: 2) - The Jets were a strong fantasy defense in 2009, and almost certainly will be quite productive in 2010. New York added to its already impressive secondary by adding Antonio Cromartie and Kyle Wilson. The Jets also led the league in fewest points allowed. Top 4 weekly match-ups to look forward to: Week 4 @ BUF, Week 9 @ DET, Week 10 @ CLE, Week 16 @ CHI

2. SF DEF (ADP: 113, 2009 final rank: 1) - Go ahead label me a homer for ranking the 49ers second, but 2009's performance was too impressive. The team didn't add a lot of pieces to the secondary, but repeating 18 INTs isn't out of the question. With the LB crew continuing to grow, and an increased role for Ahmad Brooks, San Francisco should be a weekly fantasy start in 2010. Top 4 weekly match-ups to look forward to: Week 3 @ KC, Week 6 vs OAK, week 14 vs SEA, week 16 @ STL

3. BAL DEF (ADP: 132, 2009 final rank: 6) - Maybe it's just name sake that has me ranking the Baltimore Ravens this high, or maybe it's that the team added Terrence Cody and Sergio Kindle to bolster the front seven. A healthy Ed Reed makes any secondary dangerous, and with the Ravens improving offense, the defense should be able to thrive and continue to pimp out your fantasy roster. The later ADP also helps boost Baltimore's overall rank. Top 4 weekly match-ups to look forward to: Week 3 vs CLE, Week 7 vs BUF, Week 12 vs TB, Week 16 @ CLE

4. GB DEF (ADP: 112, 2009 final rank: 3) - Consider this: 2009 was Green Bay's first season running a 3-4 defense and they still managed to finish 3rd in fantasy scoring (impressive). Thanks in large part to NFL Defensive Player of the Year Charles Woodson, the Packers led all teams in the NFL with 30 interceptions. While the secondary isn't getting younger, the front seven should improve upon 2009's sack total (37) with another year in the 3-4. Top 4 weekly match-ups to look forward to: Week 2 vs BUF, Week 3 @ CHI, Week 4 vs DET, week 14 @ DET

5. MIN DEF (ADP: 102, 2009 final rank: 13) - The Minnesota Vikings team defense, despite an NFC Championship appearance, had a disappointing fantasy season. The team put up a huge amount of sacks (48, good for first), but struggled to create turnovers (just 11 INTs). I just don't see the Vikings getting that few interceptions in 2010 with such a fierce defensive line wreaking havoc (Jared Allen 14.5 sacks, Ray Edwards 8.5 sacks, Kevin Williams 6 sacks). Top 4 weekly match-ups to look forward to: Week 3 vs DET, Week 9 vs ARI, Week 13 vs BUF, Week 15 vs CHI

6. NO DEF (ADP: 130, 2009 final rank: 4) - The New Orleans defense was a pleasant surprise in 2009, as the Saints racked up a considerable amount of fantasy points on their way to the Super Bowl. New Orleans scored 8 defensive TDs, leading all teams, to go along with an impressive 26 INTs. These numbers will be hard to reproduce in 2010, but the Saints should definitely be projected to put up consistent numbers this season. Top 4 weekly match-ups to look forward to: Week 4 vs CAR, Week 7 vs CLE, Week 11 vs SEA, Week 14 vs STL.

7. PIT DEF (ADP: 124, 2009 final rank: 15) - The Steelers, much like the Vikings, put up a huge number of sacks (47, 2nd) while failing to make turnovers (just 12 INTs). Pittsburgh also allowed an uncharacteristic amount of points, which definitely hurt the team's overall fantasy value. Troy Polamalu's injuries in 2009 also didn't help the Steelers too much, and when he's healthy, Pittsburgh's defense is always a threat to produce. Top 4 weekly match-ups to look forward to: Week 3 @ TB, Week 6 vs CLE, Week 11 vs OAK, Week 12 @ BUF.

8. PHI DEF (ADP: 137, 2009 final rank: 5) - The Eagles were big producers in sacks (44) and interceptions (25). The addition of Nate Allen helps an already strong secondary, and despite the no-name front seven, Philadelphia alwasy puts up big sack totals. Ernie Sims might be a pleasant surprise after coming over from Detroit in a trade. A very tough 2010 schedule keeps the Eagles from a higher rank. Top 4 weekly match-ups to look forward to: Week 2 @ DET, Week 3 @ JAX, Week 11 vs NYG, Week 12 @ CHI.  

9. CIN DEF (ADP: 162, 2009 final rank: 12) - This is the best example of ADP jumping a team up in the rankings. The Bengals are averaging a pick in round 14, not too shabby for a team that finished 12th in 2009 defensive team scoring. I also like what the Bengals did in the draft, adding potential pass rush threat Carlos Dunlap and complementing an already impressive group of CBs with Brandon Ghee. Cincy had 19 interceptions in 2009 thanks to Jonathan Joseph (6) and Leon Hall (6), a number which could increase in 2010, but will suffice if it remains the same. Top 4 weekly match-ups to look forward to: Week 4 @ CLE, Week 5 vs TB, Week 11 vs BUF, Week 15 vs CLE

10. DAL DEF (ADP: 146, 2009 final rank: 11) - Another team falling short on the turnovers (11 INTs), but producing big sacks (42) were the Dallas Cowboys. With such a fierce beast like DeMarcus Ware constantly harassing QBs, one would expect the team to create more turnovers. It's likely in large part because of poor playt from the Cowboys safeties. With Gerald Sensabaugh and Alan Ball as the projected starting safeties, Dallas is held back from a higher ranking (that, and a reasonably tough schedule). Top 4 weekly match-ups to look forward to: Week 2 vs CHI, Week 8 vs JAX, Week 11 vs DET, Week 16 @ ARI

11. DEN DEF (ADP: 167, 2009 final rank: 8) - The Broncos first season with Josh McDaniels saw the team's defense have a very productive fantasy season. The loss of Mike Nolan as Defensive Co-Ordinator can be viewed as both a loss and a gain. Nolan is a good DC, but the Broncos should have a clearer identity on D now that the former San Francisco head coach is in Miami (who have better personnel for a hybrid). Expecting Elvis Dumervil to repeat 2009's 17 sacks is a tall order, even though the Broncos don't have a very tough schedule. Top 4 weekly match-ups to look forward to: Week 2 vs SEA, Week 10 vs KC, Week 12 vs STL, Week 15 @ OAK.

12. CHI DEF (ADP: 150, 2009 final rank: 22) - I'm actually dogging on the Chicago Bears offensively (as noted by the favourable match-ups section), and with Mike Martz as the OC, Chicago could certainly light things up. Considering the addition of Julius Peppers, and Brian Urlacher's return from 2009's lost season, the Bears could very well be a solid team. I'll save the predictions, but one thing is virtually certain: The Bears defense will be much better in 2010 than it was in 2009. Major Wright could be an immediate impact on defense, and a healthier team overall will be important. Week 4 weekly match-ups to look forward to: Week 1 vs DET, Week 6 vs SEA, Week 9 @ BUF, Week 13 @ DET. 

That wraps up my defensive team rankings, feel free to comment about which teams you think I snubbed, or which team I overrated. Don't forget to vote in this week's poll which asks you to rank which Team DEF you think will be number one in 2010. My apologies to the Buffalo Bills, who automatically made it on a team's favourable match-up list (if said team is fortunate to have Buffalo on the sked).

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