2016 fantasy football profiles (DEF 1-12)

Auction...............$5

Bye Week.............5

The Seahawks turned in another banner season in 2015, finishing second in yards allowed. Their pass defense was suffocating towards the end of the season, allow a 14-to-14 touchdown-to-interception ratio on the year. Ironically, the team wasn't quite as big-play dependent, finishing 10th in drives ending in a turnover and 16th in sack rate. Yet, as a fantasy defense, the unit was even better in 2015 scoring 17 more points than the year prior. Much of that was on the back of Pro Bowl rookie kick returner Tyler Lockett. With that young dynamic talent back again to add to a storied tradition of great defensive play, look for Seattle to be one of the first units off the board.

Auction...............$4

Bye Week.............11

The Denver defense carried the Broncos to a Super Bowl win in 2015, and flummoxed the likes of Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers throughout the season (to name a few). That helped the unit finish first in yards per play allowed (4.4) and average points scored per drive (1.38). This unit lost a few key pieces in free agency in Malik Jackson and Danny Trevathan, but the secondary remains intact as does the fierce pass-rushing duo of Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware. Coordinator Wade Phillips will have this unit ready to rock once again, and fantasy fans should look to make the Broncos one of the first units selected in drafts this fall.

Auction...............$4

Bye Week.............9

One of the most popular D/ST units in fantasy drafts (thanks, J.J. Watt) Houston went off the board in single-digit rounds in some casual drafts. Yet, they started painfully slow with 10 combined points in the first five weeks of the season. That stretch landed them on waivers quickly, but they closed out the season on a sky-high note with 62 points in the final three weeks. This was just another reminder of the disparate nature of defensive fantasy scoring, and why you don't rely on one unit on a week-in-week-out basis. For 2016, the Texans should once again be back with a bang. Watt and Whitney Mercilus are a ferocious pass rush duo, and new faces might help to make them more consistent.

Auction...............$4

Bye Week.............5

The Chiefs defense was another slow starter, but were a total league winner down the stretch. In fact, they finished just one point behind the mighty Denver Broncos defense in 2015. The Chiefs came in fourth in sacks, carrying some of the most underrated front-seven players in the NFL, and second in interceptions thanks to a breakout campaign from rookie Marcus Peters. With Justin Houston in better health than what we saw at the close of the regular season, and Peters and young pass rusher Dee Ford with more experience under their belts, this defense could take another step forward. Six games against their AFC West foes, several of whom have offenses in transition, make them an extra attractive candidate.

Auction...............$3

Bye Week.............9

While the Arizona defense was a fantasy force to be reckoned with in 2015, their one glaring weakness was the lack of an elite pass rush. Their 6.7 percent sack rate was the lowest mark among the top 10 scoring fantasy defenses, which is why the team acquired Chandler Jones in an offseason trade with the New England Patriots, and Robert Nkemdiche in the first round of the NFL draft. Those two should help bolster the pass rush, while the rest of the talented Arizona defense picks up right where they left off (though Tyrann Mathieu is working his way back from an ACL tear). All told this unit has the look of a group ready to badger the weaker teams in their division (49ers, Rams) en route to another top-10 fantasy finish in 2016.

Auction...............$3

Bye Week.............7

The Panthers defense, led by a ferocious front seven, was a key part in the team's run to Super Bowl 50 last year, allowing the sixth-fewest points on the season. Losing Josh Norman to Washington in free agency will hurt, but this is a team that has manufactured great secondary play for years behind a strong pass rush and an elite linebacking corps. 19.8 percent of offensive drives against the Panthers resulted in a turnover in 2015 (best in the league), though that number could be hard to duplicate. The Panthers could get a boost from second-year lineman Kony Ealy stepping into a larger role after a memorable showing in the Super Bowl. Either way, this unit is loaded with playmakers and merits being one of the first defenses off the board.

Auction...............$2

Bye Week.............8

In each of the last four seasons, the Rams D/ST finished as a top-nine fantasy defense. They played particularly stifling pass defense this year, giving up the sixth lowest touchdown rate on the season, and once again finishing with an above average sack rate. The Rams return Aaron Donald and should have Robert Quinn healthy again, and that alone should keep their high-end stop unit intact. One wrinkle to watch is how the team performs as they relocate to Los Angeles, and play in an outdoor stadium, for now. Over the last two years the Rams allowed a 16-to-17 touchdown to interception ratio at home compared to 23-to-11 on the road.

Auction...............$2

Bye Week.............6

Mike Zimmer knows defense, so it's no surprise that since he joined the Vikings in 2014 they've finished 14th and eighth in fantasy scoring, respectively, after finishing 28th the year before his arrival. That's also because the team has loaded up on playmakers early in the NFL draft, grabbing the likes of Anthony Barr, Eric Kendricks and Trae Waynes in recent years. With that young core having another year of experience (and another year of guidance from Zimmer), they should be set to take the next step and keep this stop unit among the best in fantasy. While the unit does have to face Aaron Rodgers and the Packers twice a year, Zimmer has historically kept him in check.

Auction...............$2

Bye Week.............9

It seems the Bengals defense goes as Geno Atkins goes. Atkins wasn't himself in 2014, still working his way back from knee surgery, and the Bengals defense plummeted to 24th in fantasy scoring after back-to-back top-five finishes. With Atkins back at full strength in 2015, the Bengals surged back into the top-10, led by his 11 sacks. This stop unit features a young secondary that allowed the second-fewest passing touchdowns in the league last year (18), and should be getting better with the addition of William Jackson III from the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft. When looking for a reliable week-in, week-out fantasy defense after the elite teams are gone, the Bengals should be at the top of the list.

Auction...............$1

Bye Week.............9

The Patriots defense has finished as a top-12 fantasy unit six years in a row, proving remarkably reliable and consistent at a typically volatile position. The loss of Chandler Jones will hurt the pass rush a bit, so anticipating the team to finish second in sacks (49) again in 2016 is misguided. The team did add Chris Long and Terrance "Pot Roast" Knighton in free agency which should help the cause. Bill Belichick and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia are excellent at training up new talent as well, so while this unit might not push for a top-five finish, it represents a great, safe value for those who miss out on the initial rush at the position on draft day.

Auction...............$1

Bye Week.............8

Much maligned at times, the Steelers defense surprisingly turned in a fantastic fantasy campaign in 2015. The team racked up the third-most sacks in the league (48), and snagged 17 interceptions to help mitigate the damage from their 29 passing touchdowns allowed. The arrival of first-round pick Artie Burns could help solidify the pass defense, while Bud Dupree, Ryan Shazier and the rest of the front seven try to keep the pressure on the quarterback. The Steelers represent a nice, low-end starting defense thanks to their scoring consistency (nine games with eight-plus fantasy points in 2015) and the fact that they'll be guaranteed two games against the rebuilding Browns. Those matchups at worst would be great streaming candidates.

Auction...............$1

Bye Week.............4

After scoring 11 defensive and special teams touchdowns in 2014, no one expected the Eagles to repeat that insane total. However, their seven scores in 2015 should be considered a win, and one of the main reasons why this stop unit finished as the 13th-highest scoring defense on the year. While defensive touchdowns will remain extremely volatile, what could help this unit remain one of the best in fantasy is the arrival of Jim Schwartz as defensive coordinator. Schwartz is known for being able to put constant pressure on quarterbacks, which can benefit all aspects of the defense fantasy-wise. When he was defensive coordinator of the Bills in 2014 (his most recent job), that team finished first in sacks (54) and third in fantasy scoring. While this Eagles front seven isn't as talented as that Buffalo unit, they're good enough to make the Eagles D/ST worthy of a look as a fringe starting defense in 2016.

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