Fantasy football sleepers: Defensive team/special teams

by Cory J. Bonini and Tim Heaney on September 10, 2010 @ 10:50:00 PDT's analysis of fantasy football sleepers for the 2010 season will be updated weekly throughout the offseason. We have separated our sleepers and undervalued players this year, so be sure not to confuse the two.

Sleepers are also undervalued players in some cases. Yet, you can still have a hidden gem on your hands, even if appropriately drafted, as long as you identify the right characteristics that go into making up a sleeper. No one likes doing the dirty work, so let do it for you! Be sure to check for weekly updates.

Note: All average draft position (ADP) figures are based on 12-team, non-PPR leagues unless specified otherwise.

Defensive team/special teams

New York Giants | ADP: 14th round

The Giants' defense couldn't get to the quarterback last year, and injuries didn't help their cause. Expected to be healthy across the board in 2010, plus the addition of free safety Antrel Rolle, means fantasy owners have something to be excited for. Defensive coordinator Perry Fewell replaces Bill Sheridan, who was in over his head. Fewell's Buffalo Bills defense tied the Giants and several other teams for 18th in sacks last year (32) but came in second in the league interceptions (28).

New York added ultra-athletic defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul in the draft to help generate a pass rush. Rookie linebacker Clint Sintim could play on the strong side, and Jonathan Goff is expected to replace Antonio Pierce (retired) in the middle. The Giants have the necessary depth in the secondary that they didn't last year.

Fantasy value: Even after a miserable 2009 effort, fantasy owners are still digging the Giants' D. On average, they are the ninth unit selected, which is fair considering their upside. After the marquee units come off the board, select the G-men with confidence.

Miami Dolphins | ADP: 22nd round

Miami spent their first-round pick on defensive end Jared Odrick. Five picks in the first five rounds of the draft were spent on defensive players. With a young nucleus of players, led by cornerbacks Vontae Davis (undisclosed) and Jason Allen in the secondary, Miami has lot of room for growth. Veteran strong safety Yeremiah Bell is coming off back-to-back seasons with at least 114 tackles. The Dolphins' prized defensive addition, inside linebacker Karlos Dansby, is well-versed in the 3-4 alignment.

Miami finished ninth in standard fantasy scoring last year, and with defensive upgrades that number could increase. Their 43 team sacks tied for the fifth most in the league last season, and emerging pass rusher Cameron Wake (5.5 sacks last year) is poised for a big season. 

Fantasy value: The Dolphins are being drafted about where they should be. They make for a low-end No. 1 fantasy defense, and you can safely draft them after all of the big-named defenses come off the board.

Oakland Raiders | ADP: N/A

Oakland added defensive tackle John Henderson (Jaguars), defensive end Quentin Groves (Jaguars) and veteran outside linebacker Kamerion Wimbley (Browns) this offseason. In the 2010 NFL Draft, middle linebacker Rolando McClain and defensive end/tackle Lamarr Houston were selected in the first and second rounds, respectively, to bolster the defense.

Defensive end Trevor Scott has been moved to weakside linebacker to improve the pass rush. Veteran Thomas Howard could play a floater role and should be able to step in at strongside or weakside linebacker in a pinch.

Cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha is arguably the best in the league, and strong safety Tyvon Branch took his game to a new level in 2009.

Defensive tackle Tommy Kelly is healthy, and veteran end Richard Seymour has a year of experience in this system. A second season in defensive coordinator John Marshall's system can only help this unit's continuity and growth. Oakland's defensive is remarkably deep on all levels. 

Fantasy value: Fantasy owners are regularly bypassing this group on draft day. While they are not a No. 1 fantasy defense yet, the Raiders have all the makings for a major uptick in fantasy worth in 2010. If your league is deep enough to justifiably roster two defenses, take a chance on da Raiduhs with your final pick. 

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Also See:
Sleepers: QB | RB | WR | TE | PK | DT
Busts: QB | RB | WR | TE | PK | DT
Undervalued players: QB | RB | WR | TE | PK | DT
Overvalued players: QB | RB | WR | TE | PK | DT

About Cory J. Bonini

Cory is KFFL's General Manager. In late 2002, he joined the KFFL staff as a research analyst and has been involved in fantasy sports since 1996. A member of the Fantasy Sports Trade Association, as well as Fantasy Sports Writers Association, Bonini has been featured in print, on radio and on scores of websites. Bonini co-hosted Big Lead Sports on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio from 2011 to 2012.

Bonini was recognized with the 2010 Best Article in Print Award from the FSWA and was a finalist for the same award in 2011. In '11, he finished first overall in the FSWA NFL experts challenge that featured 60 of the industry's best competitors.

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