2013 fantasy football profiles and projections (DEFs 16-30)

LB RANKINGS 1-15![](http://www.nfl.com/fantasyfootball/story/0ap1000000168687/article/2013-fantasy-football-profiles-and-projections-lbs-115)

Statistical projections are provided by EA Sports/NFL.com

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After three straight seasons of finishing in the top six in fantasy scoring among defensive units, the mighty New York Jets defense fell from grace ... all the way down to an 18th-place finish in 2012. The Jets had such an off year, in fact, that they forced five fewer turnovers than quarterback Mark Sanchez committed all by himself. This offseason saw the Jets jettison former defensive starters Darrelle Revis, Bart Scott and Eric Smith, meaning the future is a tad bleak for Gang Green. The Jets also have to face a lot of offensive firepower in the form of Drew Brees, Cam Newton, Matt Ryan, Ben Roethlisberger and Tom Brady (twice) during the 2013 campaign. The addition of rookies cornerback Dee Milliner and lineman Sheldon Richardson will help this unit, but you shouldn't consider the Men in Green a solid starting fantasy option.

The Steelers saw modest gains in the stat sheets a season ago, but this unit still finished 23rd in fantasy scoring. This once-proud defense continues to age, and now lacks the type of energetic playmakers that made it one of the most feared squads of the past decade. Case in point, the Steelers gave up almost 70 more points in 2012 than they had the last two seasons. This unit has also seen it's fantasy rank fall in each of the last three years. So despite the addition of rookie linebacker Jarvis Jones, the Steelers are still just a No. 2 fantasy unit.

In 2012, the Buccaneers defense ranked 23rd in points allowed and only sacked the quarterback 27 times. That won't get the job done in fantasy land, as the team finished 25th in points at the position. Looking ahead to 2013, lineman Gerald McCoy is coming off his best season and the backfield should be much improved with the offseason additions of stars like Darrelle Revis and Dashon Goldson. So while this unit should be drafted as a No. 2 option in 2013, there's enough talent to make Tampa Bay a legitimate starting option in fantasy leagues.

A year after surprising the league with a 10th-place finish in total defense, the Browns slipped to 23rd in 2012. Part of that could have been losing star cornerback Joe Haden for five games, not to mention an overall lack of dynamic playmakers. The addition of defensive lineman Paul Kruger and rookie Barkevious Mingo could help change that, though, so this unit has some potential. In fact, the Browns could be a sleeper defense to watch from a fantasy perspective. That doesn't mean this unit is worth drafting, but it could turn into a legitimate waiver-wire pickup during the season.

When it came to defending the pass, the Redskins were overly generous to their opponents in 2012. In fact, this unit ranked 30th in pass defense and 31st in touchdowns allowed. From a fantasy perspective, the 'Skins were inconsistent overall and barely finished among the top 20 defenses based on points. The return of star linebacker Brian Orakpo should help get the team closer to the 40-plus sack range this season, which will help its fantasy appeal. However, a complete 180-degree turnaround in value is unlikely to happen in such a short period of time.

The second season of coach Ron Rivera's tenure in Carolina saw his defense finish 10th in sacks with 80 fewer points allowed compared to 2011. Linebacker and IDP sensation Luke Kuechly earned Defensive Rookie of the Year honors, while lineman Charles Johnson delivered on his big contract by racking up 12.5 sacks. There's still room to grow, however, as the Panthers finished near the middle of the pack in most statistical categories. The addition of rookie linemen Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short will help the run defense, but the Panthers are still just a No. 2 fantasy option in 2013.

The Dolphins defense has posted a pedestrian 111 fantasy-point average over the past four seasons, never once cracking the top-15 at the position. That could change in 2012, though. Lineman Cameron Wake continues to put up numbers in the stat sheets, and the addition of cornerback Brent Grimes and rookies Dion Jordan and Jamar Taylor should improve this unit. New linebacker Dannell Ellerbe will also come in and make an immediate impact in the middle of the defense, so the future looks brighter at the least. Consider the Fins a No. 2 fantasy unit with some upside for this new season.

The Cowboys defense was a major disappointment last season, which led to the release of coordinator Rob Ryan and the return of a 4-3 scheme under Monte Kiffin. Pass rushers DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer could thrive under Kiffin, so an uptick in their sack totals is not out of the question. The presence of cornerbacks Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne improved the pass defense a bit last season, and Year Two of that tandem could produce greater results in the stat sheets. The 'Boys are still far from a No. 1 fantasy defense, though, so don't draft this unit based on name alone.

Don't be fooled by the Titans 12th-place finish in fantasy scoring among defenses last season -- that was due in large part to a miraculous Week 17 performance that included four total touchdowns. Without that 38-point outburst, in fact, the Titans would have been close to the worst defense in fantasy land. Considering this unit allowed an NFL-high 29.4 points per game and were near the bottom of the league in yards allowed, there's a lot of improvement that needs to be made in 2013. The addition of defensive back Bernard Pollard aside, this unit won't have much fantasy value.

The Bills defense helped their fantasy owners by registering a respectable 37 sacks in 2012, but a lack of turnovers and a whopping 423 points allowed sank their squad to a 26th-place finish in fantasy scoring. This all came despite the addition of lineman Mario Williams, who didn't make an enormous impact in the stat sheets. Overall, this unit has finished no better than 12th in fantasy points over the last four seasons, and a major change in statistical success isn't a guarantee under new coordinator Mike Pettine. For now, the Bills aren't even on the fantasy football draft radar.

Not much went right for the Chiefs last season, particularly on defense. Only two teams finished with fewer sacks, and no team forced fewer turnovers or scored fewer fantasy points. The Chiefs do boast playmakers at every key position, though, as cornerback Eric Berry, linebacker Derrick Johnson and lineman Tamba Hali are all skilled contributors. If new coordinator Bob Sutton can right the ship and help this unit improve in the stat sheets this season, the Chiefs could actually turn into a respectable fantasy option. Until then, though, they should be avoided come Draft Day 2013.

The Eagles allowed the third-most points in the NFL last season and failed to generate any pressure or turnovers. New coordinator Billy Davis will bring his own scheme to the City of Brotherly love, but it'll take time for the players to embrace this system. There is some definite talent here, though, as lineman Fletcher Cox was an impact player as a rookie. The team also added Connor Barwin, Patrick Chung and Isaac Sopoaga, who will be asked to make their presence felt. Still, owners shouldn't consider this unit more than a No. 2 option.

The first year of coach Chuck Pagano's 3-4 defense in Indianapolis was largely unsuccessful, as the Colts finished in the bottom third of the league in both passing and rushing yards allowed. This unit also forced a mere 15 total turnovers all year. Pagano did stock the cupboards with the type of defensive personnel he needs to build a championship-caliber team during the offseason, adding linemen Erik Walden and Ricky Jean Francois as free agents and rookie Bjoern Werner. As it stands, the Colts should be used as merely a fill-in defense in 2013 leagues.

What a difference a year makes. In 2012, the Lions defense was a trendy pick in fantasy leagues. Now, they're coming off an abysmal season that saw their squad tumble from fourth in fantasy points in 2011 down to 29th last season. Their secondary gave up 26 touchdown passes and will have to face the likes of Aaron Rodgers (twice), Tony Romo, Robert Griffin III, Joe Flacco and Eli Manning in 2013. New defensive back Glover Quin will help, but losing lineman Cliff Avril will hurt the pass rush. Overall, this unit is going to open this season as waiver-wire fodder in the majority of leagues.

Just four years ago, the Saints boasted the top defense in all of fantasy football. Times have changed, though, as this unit finished outside the top 25 in 2012 for the second straight season. There is some talent on this team in the form of linebacker Curtis Lofton, lineman Will Smith and second-year pro Cameron Jordan, who has emerged as a pass-rushing threat. The Saints also drafted safety Kenny Vaccaro to help their pass defense. If new coordinator Rob Ryan brings some energy and swagger, the Saints cold be an improved defensive unit. Still, this isn't a team to target in fantasy land.

LB RANKINGS 1-15![](http://www.nfl.com/fantasyfootball/story/0ap1000000168687/article/2013-fantasy-football-profiles-and-projections-lbs-115)

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