These defenders were the best values of the 2008 fantasy season

With the continued rise of fantasy football, most players are now aware of what it takes to be a Fantasy Football Hall of Famer --players that went largely undrafted before the season only to end up with statistics on par with players drafted in the earlier rounds. People don't often equate the "Hall of Fame" accolades to the year's surprise IDP performers, but every year there are just as many new-found studs on the defensive side of the ball as there are on offense. With that said, here are your 2008 IDP inductees at all three levels of defense, as well as the candidates that just barely missed out.

Linebacker

D'Qwell Jackson, Browns -- It's tough to imagine a player of Jackson's value being available, yet coming off two solid but unspectacular seasons with Cleveland, it's unlikely that he was drafted in all but the deepest of leagues. Jackson made an immediate impact in 2008, piling up 18 tackles in his first two games before exploding for 14 to go along with an interception against Baltimore in Week 3. Jackson now leads the league with 141 total tackles. Furthermore, he's been active in other areas of the box score with two sacks and three interceptions. While Cleveland's season was a disappointment, Jackson's was anything but and he's cemented himself as a sure-fire top-five IDP pick next season.

Honorable Mention

LaMarr Woodley, Steelers -- The signs were all there for Woodley; he had four sacks in 80 plays in 2007 with two sacks in the playoffs and he had a won a starting gig with in the linebacker-friendly Pittsburgh D. So, if you did your homework, Woodley's numbers should not have come as much of a surprise. Still, you couldn't have banked on 11.5 sacks in addition to two forced fumbles, four recovered and a touchdown. The only thing that's held him back, if you can call it that, is the low number of tackles, 58 in total.

Jerod Mayo, Patriots -- He hasn't logged a single sack or interception, but the rookie out of Tennessee has been a phenomenal source of tackles and is top-10 in the league heading into the final week of the season. Mayo has been a fresh young playmaker on an aging defense and his 20 tackles in Week 11 remain the highest total of any player in a single game this season.

Defensive Back

Michael Griffin, Titans -- Like Woodley, Griffin is another prospect you may have been lucky enough to target before he emerged as a must-add waiver-wire option; he didn't start until midseason in 2007 and finished the year with three interceptions in his last five games. He's maintained his success this season and is currently tied for first in interceptions with two other safeties you might have heard of -- Troy Polamalu and Ed Reed -- with seven on the year. He's added a sack, forced and recovered fumble and has picked up 75 tackles for good measure.

Honorable Mention

Eric Weddle, Chargers -- Like Griffin, Weddle made a name for himself in his sophomore campaign in the NFL. He sat behind Marlon McCree in 2007 but has started every game in 2008 and has posted double-digit tackle numbers in seven of his 15 games, which has resulted in him logging the second-highest number of tackles among the league's defensive backs, behind only Gibril Wilson. He's also added a sack, interception, fumble recovery and touchdown.

Nick Collins, Green Bay -- After a successful start to his career in 2005 and 2006, Collins suffered a regression last season; he missed three games with a sprained knee but still finished with 46 tackles and no interceptions. He's bounced back in a big way this year and has 67 tackles to complement his six interceptions, an astounding three of which he's returned the other way for a score.

Defensive End

Robert Mathis, Colts -- Chances are Mathis went undrafted prior to the start of your season, unless you happen to be in a particularly deep league, as he failed to reach double-digit sacks in both 2006 and 2007. He's returned to become a force this season, having notched 11.5 sacks with one game to go. His counterpart at defensive end, Dwight Freeney, has also bounced back with his first double-digit sack total since 2005 and each player's production is clearly dependent on the other's success.

Honorable Mention

Jay Ratliff, Cowboys -- Defensive tackles don't typically get much love in the IDP world, and for good reason, as they usually lack the necessary number of sacks. Ratliff didn't command any attention to IDP owners prior to 2008 having failed to pick up more than four sacks or 30 tackles, making his success this season a pleasant surprise. He's already reached 7.5 sacks and needs just one tackle in the final week to top 50 on the year.

Jacob Ford, Titans -- The Titans' defensive line was incredibly productive this season and, given that they've experienced a few bumps and bruises over the course of the year, there have been more than a few names IDP-leaguers have gotten use out of. Ford has been one of the valuable subs; though his 21 tackles are low, he's compiled six sacks and two forced fumbles to make up for it.

Danny Goldin is a writer for RotoWire. For more information, check out rotowire.com

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