The classic football saying goes, “Defense wins championships.” And that same mantra can win your fantasy league. Now more leagues are playing with IDP lineups whether it’s just one defender or a player at the DL, LB and DB position like we play in Guru Nation. Now imagine, your team defense scores on a pick-six and you’ve also started the stud player responsible for the interception to the house. That’s double-dipping on two scores and a big hit to your opponent. Here are the top five defense and IDP stacks to target in 12-16 man leagues.
1. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS – CALAIS CAMPBELL (DE)
Expect the Jaguars defense to bounce back in 2019. Last season, the Jags unit dropped from the No. 2 defense in PPG allowed to No. 4, giving up 19.8 points on average compared to 16.3. Jacksonville disappointed in the takeaway category with just 17 (ranked 24th in the league). Defensive coordinator Todd Wash returns for a fourth year and an improved offense led Nick Foles at QB instead Blake Bortles – all points to more opportunities for the Jags defense to dominate. The foundation and anchor of this unit is veteran defensive end Calais Campbell. Over the last two seasons as a Jaguar, he’s racked up a total of 139 tackles, 34 tackles for loss and 25 sacks. He’s entering his 12th year in the NFL but has produced his best seasons in Jacksonville, earning a 91.1 defensive grade in 2018 per PFF which ranked first among edge players in the NFL. You can get Campbell for a discount as well as the Jags defense currently the third defense taken on average according to Fantasy Pros.
2. CHICAGO BEARS – KHALIL MACK (EDGE)
Sorry to shock Bears fans but I just don’t see them repeating as the top defense again in 2019. Yes, they do return nearly all their starters but let’s see what Chuck Pagano still has in his playbook. He took some time off and the scheme shouldn’t change too much from what Vic Fangio did. The question is can the Bears take the ball away a league-high 36 times like they did in 2018? Khalil Mack is back after putting up 12.5 sacks and six forced fumbles in just 14 games. He graded out as the second-best edge player according to PFF (90.7). Bottom line, this unit is going to be overdrafted and you can find value at other skill positions for depth instead of reaching for Chicago two to three rounds too early but nobody will judge you for it.
3. LOS ANGELES RAMS – AARON DONALD (DT)
Aaron Donald. Enough said. The hulking perennial All-Pro is a defender to count on week in and week out. Donald finished 2018 as PFF’s top interior defender with a 95.0 grade. The NFL sack title is his going into this season. Donald produced an insane 59 tackles, 25 tackles for loss, 20.5 sacks and hit the QB 41 times (career high). As for the entire Rams defense, the unit tied for third in takeaways (30) including 18 interceptions. As long as Wade Phillips is calling shots, you have a defense that can put up major fantasy points off turnovers. It’s also important to mention the Rams added savvy vets in Eric Weddle at safety and Clay Matthews at outside linebacker. Together, this unit has a lot of experience.
4. HOUSTON TEXANS – J.J. WATT (DE)
As long as J.J. Watt is healthy, the Texans defense should be respected. Watt came back last season with a vengeance, making 61 tackles, 16 sacks and 18 tackles for loss. Behind Calais Campbell and Khalil Mack, he’s PFF’s third-ranked edge player. Houston’s ADP is somewhere in the 13th round according to the Fantasy Football Calculator. In 2018, the unit forced 29 takeaways, good for fourth in the NFL and allowed just eight rushing touchdowns (3rd-best). Now remember the names Jadeveon Clowney and Whitney Mercilus with Romeo Crennel back at the helm calling plays.
5. LOS ANGELES CHARGERS – DERWIN JAMES (S)
I love this pair. As a rookie, Derwin James failed to disappoint with a 87.8 defensive grade (5th-best) at the defensive back position. James was a tackling machine, finishing with 105 of them, 3.5 sacks and three interceptions. He earned first-team All-Pro and a Pro Bowl selection. James solidified his role as a leader of the secondary. The Chargers defense is anchored by edge rushers in Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa. The unit allowed an average of 20.6 PPG in 2018 (ranked 8th in the NFL) but expect that number to decrease. Defensive coordinator Gus Bradley enters his third year developing his scheme and is already making big statements. “I think this is probably our fastest defense that we’ve had as far as a group of guys,” said Bradley.