- Scott Engel, ESPN Fantasy Games
With many personnel changes changing the outlook of several units recently, it's time to revisit the defense/special team rankings from the fantasy football perspective. Of course, these rankings will be altered slightly after the NFL draft, but here's how the units rank at this time.
1. Chicago: There are some issues at defensive tackle, and the Lance Briggs situation is a problem, but the unit still has top playmakers and the added bonus of Devin Hester in the return game.
2. Baltimore: Losing Adalius Thomas could hurt, but the Ravens should remain strong overall. Defensive end Haloti Ngata will continue to improve, and the secondary remains solid.
3. New England: Adding Thomas helps, but there are still some concerns to be addressed in the secondary. Good schemes and resilience will overcome any holes and a seemingly-tough schedule.
4. Miami: Joey Porter adds another edge rusher to an underrated unit that should spend less time on the field if Miami can find more balance on offense. Getting younger at defensive tackle in the draft can also boost this unit's outlook.
5. San Diego: Nose tackle Jamal Williams and outside linebacker Shawne Merriman will continue to anchor this group, and some holes should be plugged early in the draft.
6. Jacksonville: Defensive tackles Marcus Stroud and John Henderson anchor a very solid group that just needs more help from the offense to spend less time on the field.
7. Denver: A terrific linebacking crew and the ultimate cornerback tandem of Champ Bailey and Dre' Bly make the Broncos look quite good heading into 2007.
8. Carolina: Julius Peppers obviously leads a strong defensive line, and opponents usually find that testing the cornerbacks isn't easy. Losing defensive tackle Kris Jenkins could be an issue, though.
9. Minnesota: The defensive line boasts stalwarts Kevin Williams and Pat Williams, and the secondary makes opponents pay often. They could be even better if the offense held up their end of the bargain.
10. Philadelphia: There are some holes to fill on the defensive line and at outside linebacker, but the secondary will continue to make plays, and the overall fantasy results should be satisfactory.
11. Pittsburgh: They should remain aggressive and physical, but the secondary is now a sore spot, especially at cornerback.
12. Buffalo: There's good young talent in the secondary, and the return game can be a great added dimension with Roscoe Parrish continuing to blossom.
13. Seattle: They have been building towards becoming more solid, and if defensive end Patrick Kerney stays healthy, the defensive line can anchor better outings.
14. Dallas: They have the makings of a promising unit, with key veterans like defensive tackle Jason Ferguson to complement some young, rising stars.
15. New York Jets: Young talents like Jonathan Vilma and Bryan Thomas need some more help but can spur good performances.
16. Green Bay: Linebackers Nick Barnett and A.J. Hawk are two of the better players on an aggressive front seven.
17. Oakland: The talent is abundant on both the front seven and in the secondary, but the unit obviously needs a lot more help from the offense.
18. Kansas City: The return game is no longer the major threat it once was, but there are some good building blocks for the future in the Cover 2 scheme.
19. New York Giants: They can't be trusted, but the defensive ends can certainly ignite some quality outings when the matchup is right.
20. Cincinnati: The Bengals will surrender some big gains, but the secondary can certainly make some plays.
21. Tampa Bay
24. New Orleans
27. St. Louis
31. San Francisco
2hTristan H. Cockcroft