Fantasy Football D/ST Preview: Declining D/ST's
Dan Malin follows up last week's D/ST preview with some defenses on the decline following transactions made so far in the offseason!
So last week we highlighted some D/ST’s to keep an eye on based on their free agency moves. This week we’ll take a look at teams on the opposite end of the spectrum that we’ll be avoiding either based on 2019 regression or personnel turnover so far this offseason. We’ll also take a look at some of the opponents for each team as well, but we won’t be dwelling on opponents just yet. The NFL schedule is being delayed, but we still know who each team will be playing, we just don’t know the specific dates. So, take a look at some D/ST’s we’ve relied on in recent years that we’d be avoiding if the season were to start today.
Los Angeles Rams – It hasn’t been a great offseason for the Rams. Nay, it hasn’t been a great year for the Rams. They operated the most explosive offense in the 2018 regular season and that carried over to the playoffs. Then in the Super Bowl they put up a whopping three points against the New England Patriots. And they failed to capitalize on 2018’s success last year. They finished 9-7 and didn’t make the playoffs. They’ve already lost Cory Littleton to the Raiders and Dante Fowler to the Falcons. They aren’t bringing Wade Phillips back as their defensive coordinator and they don’t have a first-round back in this month’s draft, nor do they have a first rounder in next year’s draft. Plus, they have six divisional games against the 49ers, Cardinals, and Seahawks that don’t fare too well for their defense. However, if there is a silver lining the non-divisional schedule for the Rams isn’t awful as the NFC West matches up against the AFC East this year. Regardless, the Rams need some assistance.
Minnesota Vikings – Similar to the Rams, the Vikings have seen some turnover in personnel on both sides of the ball, but especially on defense. Unlike the Rams, however, Minnesota at least has early draft capital to compensate for some of their losses. The Vikings have already lost Trae Waynes , Xavier Rhodes , Linval Joseph , and Mackensie Alexander while Everson Griffen remains a free agent although rumors are swirling about a possible signing with Seattle. The Vikings have managed to hang on to Anthony Harris via the franchise tag (although he could still be traded) and they signed defensive lineman Michael Pierce to a three-year deal. Minnesota also traded away Stefon Diggs in a surprise blockbuster deal with Buffalo. Minnesota acquired the 22nd overall pick in this year’s draft, which now gives them two picks in the top 25. If they were smart they’d use at least one of those picks to address the depleted secondary. I don’t hate the Vikings home schedule, but they have a pretty difficult road schedule next season. In addition to their divisional opponents they have to travel to play the Texans, Colts, Saints, Seahawks, and Buccaneers.
New England Patriots – In addition to losing Tom Brady , the Patriots have seen the departures of Kyle Van Noy , Jamie Collins , and Danny Shelton . Bill Belichick has always been a guy that loves to accumulate draft capital especially through departing free agents. So, while the Patriots do not have a second-round pick in this year’s draft, they do possess the 87th, 98th, and 100th overall draft selections. They’re more likely to make trades with other teams to acquire more picks than they are to utilize all those selections. Regardless, the defense is a little depleted from a year ago when they got off to one of the best defensive starts in league history. Down the stretch, the defense bled a lot of points. In total, the Pats allowed 225 points last year but 129 of those points came in their last five games. In early fantasy football drafts, the Patriots are still being drafted as the FIRST D/ST off the board, which is pretty wild if you think about it. They’ll be going into 2020 with Jarrett Stidham likely under center, so it’s no guarantee the offense can even maintain long drives and keep the defense off the field. New England did lock up some continuity by re-signing Devin McCourty to a two-year deal, but they’re going to look much different than in recent years while the Bills defense got better, and Miami should be a much better team overall with some solid free agency moves and three first-round picks this year. It’s not a great idea to be the first team to draft a defense, it’s an even worse idea if you’re taking New England as the first D/ST off the board and I’m saying this as a Patriots fan.
Arizona Cardinals – As exciting as the Cardinals offensive prospects are for fantasy football, I don’t share the same enthusiasm for their defense. And while they may not have been a D/ST we’ve utilized in recent years, their offseason ADP is surprisingly high. They’ve made some decent acquisitions with De’Vondre Campbell, Devon Kennard , and Jordan Phillips . Plus, they’re returning Chandler Jones who was second in the league last year with 19 sacks, and they still have Patrick Peterson who is returning for his tenth year and is normally a lock for 16 games, but a suspension in 2019 limited him to ten. But the Cardinals still ranked 23rd in defensive DVOA according to Football Outsiders. They allowed over 400 yards per game to opposing offenses, and 27.6 points per game. Surprisingly enough, they’re being drafted as a Top 10 D/ST for 2020 and I’m struggling to see why. They have the eighth overall pick and I subscribe to the theory they should address the offensive line and work on protecting Kyler Murray , but they do have needs on the defensive line still. They have just two selections in the first 110 picks but they do have three picks in the fourth round. I don’t hate their non-divisional schedule next year, but I don’t trust them enough to draft them. I’d much rather utilize them as a streaming D/ST if they were available on waivers.
Jacksonville Jaguars – Just over 26 months ago the Jaguars were on the cusp of a Super Bowl appearance with Blake Bortles under center and one of the best defenses in the league. They came up just short and it’s been all downhill for the Duval County Kitties ever since. Tom Coughlin was fired before the end of last season due to the NFLPA straight up warning free agents against signing with the Jaguars. Coughlin didn’t have the greatest regard for player rights as 25% of player grievances files over the last two years were against the Jaguars regarding their policies pertaining to offseason medical and training programs. Jacksonville has since traded Jalen Ramsey , A.J. Bouye , and Calais Campbell . Now there are some players they have fortunately retained. They signed Myles Jack to an extension prior to the 2019 season, they recently franchise tagged Yannick Ngakoue , and they also signed Joe Schobert as well. The good news for Jacksonville is that they have both quantity and quality draft picks this month. They have the 9th, 20th, 42nd, and 73rd overall picks with seven additional picks in the later rounds of the draft. The opportunity is there for them to get back to having an elite defense, and while I wouldn’t necessarily recommend drafting them at this stage in the game, their schedule presents some decent streamer-worthy matchups, but I’m approaching the Jags with some trepidation.