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Fantasy Football Advice from Darius Butler and Clinton Portis
DST & K Rankings, Projections and Analysis
Team Defense & Kicker Sleepers & Busts
Weekly Rankings, Start N' Sit & Sleepers Every Wednesday

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Seahawks DST
Every year it seems like there's a newbie who drafts a top defense or kicker way earlier than logic dictates, while more experienced players wait until the final rounds to fill these positions. If you look at the last four years, the percentage of fantasy DSTs who remained in the top 5 the next year was 20% (2010), 20% (2011), 20% (2012) and 40% (2013). DSTs are just too dependent on flukey factors like INTs and defensive/special teams TDs to make them predictable from year-to-year. Add to this the impact of free agency and you have a recipe for disappointment if you draft one early. Ditto for Kickers with only 20% (2010), 40%(2011), 20%(2012) and 20%(2013) remaining in the top 5 the following year.

Nonetheless, it can be a good strategy to draft one of the premier DSTs or Ks a round or two earlier than fellow owners before addressing your back-up spots. But that's about the extent of it, as this lack of predictability often leads to very good options being available later on the waiver wire.

Top 10 Slideshow
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The Best of the Rest
  1. Baltimore Ravens
  2. New York Giants
  3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
  4. Pittsburgh Steelers
  5. Miami Dolphins
Top 10 Slideshow
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The Best of the Rest
  1. Connor Barth
  2. Shaun Suisham
  3. Blair Walsh
  4. Josh Brown
  5. Mike Nugent
St. Louis Rams DST
Normally there's not much of a risk of a draft bust when it comes to DSTs and Ks, since you probably aren't using an early round pick on them but every year there are some overlooked gems and overhyped disappointments. Often this is due to owners evaluating the positions by looking in the rear-view mirror, failing to make a subjective evaluation that takes into account the diverse factors that may influence their production.

The successful fantasy owner takes into account the movement of players and defensive coordinators from team-to-team along with trends in each unit's production when drafting a DST. Likewise, even though the accepted axiom is to pick a kicker who plays for a high-powered offense, accuracy and field goal opportunities count (along with leg strength in leagues that award extra points for long field goals). However predicting an offense's scoring output or the number of field goal attempts from year-to-year is kind of like playing roulette.

New England Patriots DST
New England Patriots DST
The Patriots DST dropped from 4th to 9th in standard scoring leagues mainly due a decline in turnovers and defensive/special teams TDs. These two statistics tend to be difficult to predict and the team did manage to improve both its sack production and points allowed, despite losing several key starters. We believe the return to health of Wilfork (4 games played last year due to a torn Achilles), Mayo (6 games played due to a pectoral injury), Tommy Kelly (5 games played due to a knee injury) and Will Smith (out last year with a torn ACL) should give this DST a boost and think the combo of CBs Revis and Browner and returning S Chung should create more turnovers, even if they're unlikely to duplicate the incredible number of them (41) they had in 2012. Owners seem to be discounting the effect these injuries had on their defense last year so this unit is being passed over until around the 10th or 11th round in most leagues, making them a nice consolation prize once the elite defenses are off the board.

St. Louis Rams DST
St. Louis Rams DST
This is a young improving unit that often gets overlooked on draft day. They've been a top 10 defense the past two years and one of the top sack producers with bookend standout DEs Robert Quinn and Chris Long, who accounted for a whopping 27.5 sacks last year. They should only get better with the addition of DT Aaron Donald and a pair of talented CBs in the draft, along with one more year of seasoning for their young secondary. If they can improve against the pass, where they ranked 19th in the league last year, the sky's the limit for this defense. It doesn't hurt either playing in the defensive-minded NFC West.

Mason Crosby
Packers K Mason Crosby
Crosby's being drafted as a low-end starting kicker despite scoring the fourth most points by a kicker last year. We expect the Packers offense to produce plenty of scoring opportunities now that Aaron Rodgers is healthy. While we doubt Crosby receives the 37 field goal attempts he got last year, we think an increase in PATs should help make up for a likely decrease in FG conversions. He should be good for around 125-135 points (he's averaged 129 points a season since joining the Packers in 2007) and is a sneaky pick in leagues that award bonus points for long FGs, as he averages almost six 50+ FG conversions a year and has one of the stronger legs in the league with a career-long of 58 yards. The only thing limiting his upside is his accuracy, which can be erratic at times (his career FG conversion rate is just 78.7%).

Matt Bryant
Falcons K Matt Bryant
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Bryant is going off the board after 8-10 kickers in most drafts, as fantasy owners seem to have a "What have you done for me lately?" attitude. The Falcons offense took a nose dive last year due to the absence of Julio Jones and the hamstring issues that affected Steven Jackson. If they return to the form they had in 2012 when they ranked 7th in scoring with 26.2 PPG, Bryant should rebound from last year's pedestrian numbers. Prior to last year in 3 full seasons with the Falcons he averaged 132 points a year. He's a great value where he's being selected and may even be available early in the final round of your draft.

DST Busts
Houston Texans DST
Houston Texans DST
The Texans are being picked as a top 5 fantasy DST in most drafts based on the star power of rookie draft pick Jadeveon Clowney. While we certainly see him helping the Texans improve from the paltry 32 sacks they recorded last year and Cushing's return from the torn ACL that limited him to 7 games should give the middle of the defense a boost, this unit hasn't finished better than 8th place among fantasy DSTs the last five years, allowing a whopping 24.4 points a game last season. They ranked sixth in the league in yards allowed but a deplorable offense that led the league in giveaways often left them with their backs against the wall. While Fitz may be a slight upgrade over the revolving door they had at QB, the team is still in rebuilding mode so we don't see the defense getting a lot of breathers.

Denver Broncos DST
Denver Broncos DST
The Broncos, who gave up points in droves last year, are around the first five or six defenses being picked in fantasy drafts. Many owners, stoked by the high profile FAs they signed and the return to health of Von Miller, are banking on them returning to the form they had in 2012. However, they had Dumervil (11 sacks and 6 FFs in 2012) on the roster, which helped them achieve 52 sacks, and weren't always lining up in prevent formation sitting on a multi-TD lead. We expect some improvement, as we don't believe Manning & Co. will duplicate those record-setting numbers, but aren't buying the hype surrounding the FA acquisitions. DeMarcus Ware's on the downside of his career and will be challenged to replace the production Phillips had last year (10 sacks, 1 INT & 2 FFs). Likewise, while Talib and Ward should be an upgrade over their predecessors, rookie Bradley Roby's a raw prospect that teams may pick on frequently. Finally, the return game takes a step back with the departure of Trindon Holliday.

K Busts
Nate Freese
Lions K Nate Freese
Freese is one of the first 3 kickers being selected in many drafts despite the fact he's never played a down in the NFL and isn't guaranteed a starting job. He's competing with Giorgio Tavecchio and the reports coming out of Detroit are that it's been a fairly even competition. Freese has a slight edge since the Lions spent a 7th round pick on him but most teams don't lose any sleep at night cutting a 7th rounder if a UDFA makes a better impression. Fantasy players still seem to love Detroit kickers even though Akers failed miserably in the role last year, producing only 99 points. Perhaps they're thinking of the 2011-2012 seasons when Jason Hanson scored 126 and 134 points but forget he scored 100 or less in more than half his seasons there. As for the Lions offense, every year it seems like the sky's the limit due to the combination of Stafford and Megatron - expectations which the team seldom lives up to. The last two years their offense has been just average, ranking 17th (2012) and 13th (2013) in scoring. Can you say "overvalued"?

Justin Tucker
Ravens K Justin Tucker
Tucker's been one of the first five kickers off the board in most drafts based largely on his production the past two seasons. However, last year when the Ravens couldn't get their running game on track and struggled on offense (25th in the league in scoring), he benefited from an unusually high 41 field goal attempts and in 2012 his numbers got a bounce from a Ravens offense that was unusually productive, ranking 8th in the league in scoring. We think the Ravens passing game will be improved this season due to the return of TE Pitta and the addition of Steve Smith but aren't convinced they've fixed their run blocking issues. While the offense should improve, we doubt they score as many points as they did in 2012, which was the best performance by a Baltimore offense in years. If you assume the PATs and FG attempts revert to the mean of the last few years, Tucker's production should decline. He's still a top 10 kicker, just not a top 5 in our opinion.
Lions RB Reggie Bush
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There's no better source of advice on fantasy defenses than the players who play the game. We're very grateful to the following NFL players and retired players who were kind enough to answer our questions and provide our readers with advice:

Darius Butler
CB Indianapolis Colts
Colts CB Darius Butler
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Clinton Portis
Retired NFL Running Back
Retired RB Clinton Portis
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Rich Gannon
Retired NFL Quarterback
Former NFL QB Rich Gannon

Tank Johnson
Retired NFL Defensive Tackle
Former NFL DT Tank Johnson
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Shaun Smith
Retired NFL Defensive Tackle
Retired DT Shaun Smith
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