5 sleeper defensive teams to target in fantasy football drafts

5 sleeper defensive teams to target in fantasy football drafts

Fantasy Football Sleepers and Undervalued Picks

5 sleeper defensive teams to target in fantasy football drafts

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While most fantasy football owners wait until the last couple of rounds to select their defenses, some groups out there perhaps aren’t getting the level of respect they deserve. With that in mind, here are five defenses to consider utilizing a pick on after the marquee selections come off the board.

5
Washington Commanders

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While the news that defensive end Chase Young (knee) will remain on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list and miss the first four games of the season takes some wind out of Washington’s sails, the team believes Young will be ready to roll after that. Washington struggled last year, especially down the stretch, but don’t forget they were the No. 2 ranked defense in 2020 (fourth in scoring), and on paper they have some high-end talent, particularly along the frontline where they can put four former first-round picks on the field at the same time once Young is back.

4
Cleveland Browns

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Any time your defensive front features two former No. 1 overall picks, which Cleveland does in the form of Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney, the potential is there to cause havoc. They finished ninth in sacks last year (43) and fifth in total defense, so even though they struggled to produce takeaways (19) the overall level of performance was high. For those who like to play matchups, the Browns offer a month of mouthwatering ones to open 2022 with games against the Carolina Panthers, New York Jets, Pittsburgh Steelers, and Atlanta Falcons — all of whom have quarterback issues. If you’re looking for an intangible, consider this: The Browns are prime “circle the wagon” candidates after taking a beating in the offseason for acquiring quarterback Deshaun Watson. Cleveland vs. everyone, indeed.

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3
Philadelphia Eagles

Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

While the Eagles finished a respectable 10th in total defense a season ago, they struggled to take the ball away (16 takeaways, tied for 26th) or get sacks (29, 31st), which are the lifeblood of fantasy defenses. While the turnovers forced have underwhelmed for a while now, last year was the first time since the 2017 campaign that Philly didn’t register more than 40 sacks, so that feels like a bit of an aberration — the team will be hoping that the return of defensive end Brandon Graham, who led the team in sacks in 2020 before missing all but two games a year ago, will help revitalize the rush. Philly also invested first- and third-round picks, respectively, on defensive tackle Jordan Davis and linebacker Nakobe Dean, which could help the Eagles turn things around in 2022.

2
Miami Dolphins

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After leading the NFL in takeaways (29) in 2020, the Dolphins finished tied for eighth in that department last year with 26. The cornerback tandem of Xavien Howard (27 INTs since being drafted in 2016) and Byron Jones is in the discussion for best in the league. The latter will miss the first four games on PUP, but Miami has adequate depth. They’ve also quietly built a strong defensive front, led by Emmanuel Ogbah, who has registered back-to-back nine-sack seasons, helping the Dolphins to finish fifth in the NFL in QB takedowns (48) last year. Despite a change at the top, defensive coordinator Josh Boyer returns for a third season, providing some stability for a defense that has finished in the top half in points allowed in both of his years in charge.

1
Green Bay Packers

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With so much of the offseason attention in Green Bay falling on its receiving corps, it may have slipped by that this team is suddenly loaded with talent on all three levels defensively. Their D-line has depth and a true playmaker (Kenny Clark), edge rusher Rashan Gary looks like an emerging star, they have an All-Pro (De’Vondre Campbell) and a first-round pick (Quay Walker) at linebacker, a solid safety duo, and arguably the best top-three cornerbacks in the NFL, led by Jaire Alexander. On paper, this looks like a potential top-five unit with the ability to rush the passer and cover on the backend. That’s a tried-and-true recipe for sacks and takeaways.

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