It may not hold as much sway as offense in any facet, but defenses still play a role in the NFL fantasy emporium. Which units are potential surprises?
St. Louis Rams
They already have one of the best pass rush combinations in Robert Quinn and Chris Long. So to add a dynamic interior threat like Aaron Donald gives the St. Louis Rams a potentially devastating line that can wreak havoc on opponents. Throw in a number of quality talents like Alec Ogletree and Janoris Jenkins in the back seven and this young group is poised for a major leap, especially with veteran coordinator Gregg Williams now in charge.
Green Bay Packers
Dom Capers is a respected coordinator but for the past few seasons his Green Bay Packers have struggled defensively. A big part of the problem is injuries and inconsistency at safety. The team hopes both problems are solved for 2014. Julius Peppers arrived via free agency to team with Clay Matthews while rookie Ha Ha Clinton-Dix hopes to solve the coverage problems on the back end. NFL fantasy owners should be wary, but this unit has a very high ceiling.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Talent wasn’t the overall issue facing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense last season. Bad locker room environment and questionable coaching was. New head coach Lovie Smith should be able to solve those problems. He is highly respected as a players coach with excellent motivational tools and is the brainchild of some of the best defenses seen in the past decade. Throw in some quality additions like Pro Bowl corner Alterraun Verner and defensive end Michael Johnson and this defense is primed for a rise.
New England Patriots
Bill Belichick has always managed to cover up glaring deficiencies in the New England Patriots defense for years. However, that may not be required in 2014. Thanks to some aggressive free agent signings and draft moves, the unit is probably the most talented its been in ten years. Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner are in at corner, Vince Wilfork and Jerod Mayo are back from injury and Chandler Jones enters his prime at defensive end. It’s a solid mix of veteran and emerging talent that NFL fantasy leagues should watch carefully.
Injuries decimated what had been a pretty good Chicago Bears defense in 2013 and they paid the price for it by tanking to 30th overall. So GM Phil Emery decided to overhaul the depth chart. He brought in three quality defensive ends in Jared Allen, Lamarr Houston and Willie Young and retained the services of Pro Bowl corners Tim Jennings and Charles Tillman. Then he made sure to bring it all together by spending his first three draft picks on the defensive side. Add in an infusion of two quality, experienced coaches in Paul Pasqualoni and Reggie Herring and the Bears could re-emerge as quickly as they disappeared.