The preseason games have begun. This means that we are entering the Fantasy Football draft season. One of the keys to drafting is doing research for potential busts, breakouts, and sleepers. If you are unaware of what a Sleeper is then here is my definition: a player that has a lot of potential to do well and is usually taken in the late rounds or not drafted at all. The Jacksonville Jaguars were one of these sleeper defenses from 2017.
The Jaguars defense wasn’t even close to being drafted as the number one defense. If you look back at rankings from 2017 they were typically in the third tier, so ranked eighth or worse. There was loads of potential for that defense after all of the huge free agents they signed. If you take a look back at what the definition of a sleeper is, the Jags fit it like a glove.
There were many defenses that had a disappointing season due to terrible offenses or key players suffering season ending injuries last season. Heading into 2018 there are a lot of highly sought after defenses. Reasons often include players coming back from injury or off-season acquisitions. made via free agency or NFL Draft. Those defense might be gone by the time your turn rolls around in draft. Don’t worry, I’m here to tell you the five defense that most people are sleeping on for the 2018 season.
5 Sleeper Defenses
Sleeper Defenses #1: Los Angeles Chargers
I’m putting the Chargers on this list because I feel like they are being over looked by some people in the Fantasy Football industry. They finished as the fourth best defense in 2017. I know Jason Verrett suffered a torn Achilles during the Chargers’ conditioning test, but they have grow a accustomed to playing without him. Verrett has missed 55 out of the possible 80 games.
This defense relied heavily on Joey Bosa, Melvin Ingram, and Casey Hayward. Bosa had 12.5 sacks and Ingram had 10.5 sacks, so that is a total of 23 sacks. Los Angeles Chargers had a total of 43 sacks, which was tied for fifth last season. They also had a total of 18 interceptions and they were tied for fifth with the Rams and Bills. This team could repeat as a top five defense again this season.
Sleeper Defenses #2: Baltimore Ravens
After finishing as the second best defense in 2017. The Ravens are currently ranked as the eighth best defense on Fantasy Pros. It is baffling to think the Ravens are ranked that low. I get it if people don’t think Baltimore can lead the NFL in interceptions again. The 41 sacks is easily repeatable, but the 22 interceptions might be a little tough. Nose tackle, Brandon Williams, was gone for four games with a foot injury.
Here is a quote from Baltimore Sun talking about Brandon Williams effectiveness on defense, “With Williams on the field for the first two games, the Ravens allowed 85 rushing yards per game, 3.95 yards per carry and no rushing touchdowns. In four games with Williams out, the Ravens surrendered 169.5 rushing yards per game, 4.4 yards per carry and four rushing touchdowns.” You can see for yourself the effectiveness of having Williams on the field.
Last season, Baltimore shut out a total of three teams and five of their seven loses were decided by eight or fewer points. Going into this season the Ravens revamped their offense and surrounded Joe Flacco with his best weapons since 2012. This can only benefit their defense. If the offense performs better, it gives the defense more time to rest. This defense has a very high ceiling and they could finish again as a top five or top three defense.
Sleeper Defenses #3: New England Patriots
With Matt Patricia now the Head Coach of the Detroit Lions and Malcolm Butler in Tennessee. New England will have to overcome two large losses. The Patriots did bring in some players to help those losses: Danny Shelton (DT), Adrian Clayborn (DE), and Jason McCourty (CB). Return specialist, Cordarrelle Patterson, was also brought in to play alongside Matthew Slater. Playing in the worst division in the NFL will really help this defense be in contention for a top ten spot.
Buffalo Bills might not have LeSean McCoy, either a rookie or a first time starter will be under center, and have the worst receiving corp in the NFL. The New York Jets are still trying to rebuild and it is still a work in progress. The Jets almost upset New England in Week 6, but lost in controversial fashion. In Week 17, New England won in an easy 26-6 game. Finally, the Miami Dolphins. Ryan Tannehill hasn’t played in a regular season game in over a year and he’ll have to shake off some rust. This defense is definitely a sleeper and there is a chance they could be top ten simply because of their division.
Sleeper Defenses #4: Houston Texans
People might be shocked that I’m putting the Texans as a sleeper. Some see them as a good defense, but I’m hear to tell you that this Houston defense is more than good. They will be a top three defense at the end of the 2018 season. Jadeveon Clowney had to be the lone star on the defense with J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus out. With those two out and a pitiful pass defense Houston finished as a bottom five defense in 2017. People are going to be looking at this defense and think they’re terrible.
It is actually the complete opposite. This defense is for sure top five and probably top three. They addressed the need to improve their pass defense, too. They signed former Jaguars CB Aaron Colvin, and a top five safety, Tyrann Mathieu. Not only did they get those two secondary studs, but in my opinion, they will have the best edge duo if Watt and Clowney can play a full season together. This defense is more complete than Denver, Philadelphia, Minnesota, Baltimore, and Los Angeles Chargers who are all getting drafted near or before Houston.
Sleeper Defenses #5: Arizona Cardinals
Last, but not least we have the Arizona Cardinals. 2017 Sack Leader Chandler Jones leads the charge for this dark horse sleeper defense. In 2017, they finished as the 16th best defense so they were right in the middle of the pack. This defense will be relied on more with either an injury prone QB or a rookie QB being a starter and their star RB returning from a season ending wrist injury. Like New England, this defense might do well this season because of their division.
The L.A. Rams are gonna be a tough match-up, but on the other hand San Francisco and Seattle are better for them. Seattle doesn’t have the best offensive line and that largely benefits Chandler Jones, Hasson Reddick, Deone Bucannon, and Markus Golden. And Jimmy Garoppolo will (finally!) be getting his test of his first full NFL starting season. The Cardinals’ veteran secondary led by Patrick Peterson will look to pick apart Jimmy G. This defense is a strong streaming option this season. In week to week match-ups, Arizona will be one of the stronger sleeper defenses to watch.
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