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First Half D/ST Streaming Targets (2018 Fantasy Football)

by Zachary Hanshew | @ZaktheMonster | Featured Writer
Sep 1, 2018

Streaming defenses facing Sam Darnold and the Jets should be a viable strategy this season

A popular strategy for fantasy football owners is streaming D/STs. This strategy involves waiting until the last couple of rounds of drafts to snag a D/ST or not drafting a D/ST at all and picking D/STs off of the waiver wire each week to exploit good matchups. When choosing a good streamer, look for matchups against teams with weak offenses, poor offensive lines, and organizational dysfunction. Although streaming is a popular strategy, the reality of playing in a fantasy football league is that by the time you go for a D/ST in the final two rounds, all of the top 12 will be gone. Excited owners and autodraft teams will have already selected them, and some teams will have already selected two D/STs.

By the end of most drafts, there will be 12-14 D/STs sitting on your waiver wire give or take a couple, and at least a few of them will be serviceable as streamers at some point during the season. In this article, I’ll name my three favorite D/STs for streaming (two of which will probably go undrafted in 12-team leagues) that you can feel comfortable using for the first eight weeks of the season. I’ll also include four alternatives with great streaming value. All of the D/STs listed can be mixed and matched as needed from week to week.

Streaming involves a plug-and-play method not using top D/STs, so all that are mentioned below will have an ADP of at least D/ST16 or below, and five will have an ADP of D/ST20 or below. Almost all of these should be available late in drafts or on waivers after your draft. 

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Chicago Bears (ADP: D/ST16)
Key streaming matchups: Week 2 vs. Seahawks, Week 3 @ Cardinals, Week 4 vs. Buccaneers, Week 6 @ Dolphins, Week 8 vs. Jets

The Bears D/ST surprisingly finished as the D/ST8 last year in fantasy points. The good news is that they are returning most of their defensive personnel, and that continuity should mean another solid season from Chicago. To be honest, the Bears D/ST may not make it to the waiver wire or even to the very last round of your draft, but if it does, this is my favorite D/ST of the ones listed here.

The Seahawks have tried to improve their offensive line this year, but it is still one of the poorest in the league. Doug Baldwin is dealing with a sore knee, Rashaad Penny has underwhelmed, and Chris Carson is still mostly unproven. This offense is not as talented as it was last year, and the absence of Jimmy Graham’s 16 red zone receptions (second in the league) and league-leading 10 red zone TD receptions from 2017 means that the Seahawks could settle for field goals more than they did last year. The Seattle organization is reeling with the loss of more key defensive players, and this looks like a good matchup for the Bears.

The Cardinals have a weak offensive line and a conservative offense that likely won’t put up a ton of points. Sam Bradford and Larry Fitzgerald are two of the league’s best at avoiding turnovers, but rookie wideout Christian Kirk is unproven, and David Johnson hasn’t played football in a year. Neither player will be up to speed in this one, and the Bears have another strong streaming week.

The Buccaneers get Jameis Winston back from suspension in Week 4, but he won’t have an easy time getting up to game speed at Soldier Field. In three years in Tampa Bay, Winston has thrown 44 picks. His team has finished in the top eight in total giveaways all three of those years, averaging just north of 27 per season. Already turnover-prone, Winston’s first-game rust should provide plenty of points to the Bears D/ST. This could be a top-five D/ST performance for Week 4. Stream to your heart’s desire.

The Dolphins are one of the worst offenses in the league in 2018 with a weak offensive line (sensing a theme here?). They have to face the Bears with Chicago coming off of a Week 5 bye. I expect the Bears D/ST to have a good fantasy outing.

The Jets are officially committed to Sam Darnold as the starter after trading Teddy Bridgewater to New Orleans. Darnold is exceptionally talented, but he is still a rookie and a bit of a gunslinger, so the turnovers will come. He threw for over 4,000 yards and 26 TD at USC last season but tossed 13 INTs in the process. This is another team with marginal talent at most of the skill positions and a weak offensive line, making the Bears D/ST a good option in this one.

Oakland Raiders (ADP: D/ST23)
Key streaming matchups: Week 2 @ Broncos, Week 3 @ Dolphins, Week 4 vs. Browns, Week 6 vs. Seahawks, Week 8 vs. Colts

Unfortunately, the Raiders will most likely be without Khalil Mack to open the season as his contract disputes continue. Fortunately, this is still an above-average squad featuring two former top-15 picks and Mountaineers (let’s go!) DE Bruce Irvin and S Karl Joseph. The Raiders have some favorable matchups, and when streaming D/STs, matchups mean everything!

The Raiders have three great matchups in a row from Weeks 2-4. Week 2 is a divisional matchup against Denver who upgraded at QB in the offseason, signing Case Keenum. Keenum had a solid year in Minnesota in 2017, but his stats before last year (9-15 record as a starter, 59% completion percentage, 24 TDs and 20 INTs) are not encouraging. It remains to be seen if his success with the Vikings can be sustained or if it was lightning in a bottle. The backfield in Denver is still being sorted out, and I’d like to see Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders in action to figure what they both have left before I get excited about this offense.

In Week 3, the Raiders face off against a Miami team which has struggled to produce quality offense recently. A Week 4 matchup against the Browns is tantalizing. I firmly believe the Browns are going to win at least five games this year, and they are more talented on offense than they have been in years. If you’ve watched Hard Knocks, though, you know how dysfunctional this team is from the GM down to the offensive line coach (check out some sound bites from the latter — you won’t be disappointed). Jarvis Landry will be a rock-solid anchor and leader on this team, but guessing what kind of season Josh Gordon will have is impossible. The Browns have a decent offensive line and have improved in the skill positions, but they have won a total of one game over their last 32. Until I see differently, I’ll recommend them as a good matchup for any D/ST facing them.

Week 6 is a matchup against the Seahawks at Oakland, which is a disadvantage for Seattle and the “12th Man.” The Seahawks have gone from “Legion of Boom” to “Legion of Gloom,” losing key players and hearing former players share their displeasure with Pete Carrol. Oakland should have a fine performance.

Week 8’s matchup comes against the Colts who may or may not have Andrew Luck depending on his health. Outside of T.Y. Hilton, this is a below-average group of receivers and backs. Plug in the Raiders D/ST.

Cleveland Browns (ADP: D/ST24)
Key streaming matchups: Week 3 vs. Jets, Week 4 @ Raiders, Week 5 vs. Ravens, Week 7 @ Buccaneers

I know what you’re thinking. It’s the Browns who have gone 1-31 over the last two seasons and have been a bottom-five fantasy D/ST in those years. Hear me out though. The Browns have four excellent matchups on the slate over the first eight weeks of the season, including a three-game stretch from Weeks 3-5 where you can confidently play them each week. This defense features Defensive POY hopeful Myles Garrett, talented pass rusher Emmanuel Ogbah, CBs E.J. Gaines and Denzel Ward, and S Jabrill Peppers, who is also a skilled return man. This defense has some heavy hitters and explosive playmakers, so the talent is there to make a fantasy impact.

Week 3 versus the Jets is a no-brainer streaming week. Although Sam Darnold looks like the best QB in this draft class, he will turn the ball over this year. This Jets offense is one of the worst in the league, featuring Robby Anderson as their top wideout and Isaiah Crowell as their lead back. The offensive line is terrible, so Myles Garrett should eat in this one.

Week 4 against the Raiders is another solid matchup. This offense could be great under Jon Gruden. Then again, it could also be terrible. Amari Cooper has been wildly inconsistent in his career, Jordy Nelson may not have a lot left in the tank, and the backfield tandem of Marshawn Lynch and Doug Martin could end up being very average. Gruden has also been away from football for a decade, so it’s unclear if he can adapt to the rule changes and the new style of play that has been implemented since he was last a coach.

The Ravens present a good streaming week for the Browns. By Week 5, we may see Lamar Jackson under center in Baltimore. He’s a talented player, but he’s still raw and will make some mistakes. If Joe Flacco is still the starter, continue to stream confidently knowing the Browns D/ST will be facing a poor offense and a terrible starting QB. A Week 7 matchup against the Bucs should be a quality spot-start for this D/ST that will reap the benefits of a careless QB.

Other Solid Streaming Options

Tennessee Titans (ADP: D/ST17)
Key streaming matchups: Week 1 @ Dolphins, Week 5 @ Bills, Week 6 vs. Ravens 

The Bills have arguably the worst offensive roster in the NFL this season, and the Dolphins aren’t far behind them. Here’s a D/ST that plays both of them in the first half of the season, and at an ADP of D/ST17, there’s a chance they’ll be available to you at the end of your draft or on the waiver wire. A Week 6 matchup against Baltimore should yield positive results as well. Tennessee finished as the D/ST9 from Weeks 9-17 last year, showing that they are streamer-worthy with the right matchups. This defense will feature many of the same players as last year, and they added former-Super Bowl hero Malcolm Butler in the offseason. Tennessee is a great D/ST streamer in multiple weeks.

Detroit Lions (ADP: D/ST22)
Key streaming matchups: Week 1 vs. Jets, Week 2 @ 49ers, Week 7 @ Dolphins, Week 8 vs. Seahawks

With matchups against Sam Darnold in his first start, an unproven San Francisco team with a bad o-line, the hapless Dolphins, and the reeling Seahawks, you can employ the Lions D/ST for a quarter of the season as a dependable weekly streamer. They lost Paul Worrilow and Akeem Spence in the offseason, but they have talent up front in pass-rusher Ezekiel Ansah, and a great secondary featuring the reliable Nevin Lawson, Glover Quinn, and All-Pro Darius Slay, who led the league in interceptions in 2017. Detroit finished the season as the D/ST5, so the ADP of 22 makes this a sneaky-good pick with the upside to be an every-week start at the position.

Cincinnati Bengals (ADP: D/ST27)
Key streaming matchups: Week 1 vs. Colts, Week 2 @ Ravens, Week 8 vs. Buccaneers

The Bengals defense was average last year, finishing as the D/ST18. They have a couple of friendly matchups to start the year in Indianapolis and Baltimore and a great Week 8 meeting with Tampa Bay. The Bengals get Andrew Luck in his first game back in nearly two years. Look for this defense to attack while Luck knocks the rust off. The Ravens under Joe Flacco have never been an impressive regular season team, and it’s a divisional game meaning it could be low-scoring and ugly. Tampa Bay is still looking to take the next step even with a fair accumulation of talent on the offensive side of the football. Jameis Winston is a turnover machine, and this is a team that will have a losing record again in 2018.

Washington Redskins (ADP: D/ST28)
Key streaming matchups: Week 1 @ Cardinals, Week 2 vs. Colts 

Look, this is a bottom-five D/ST by ADP. They’re sure to be available on the waiver wire as a last resort if you need some help in Week 1. They certainly have a friendly opener, playing the Arizona Cardinals and their unproven offense, which will likely still be making adjustments and working out some kinks in Week 1. Week 2 against the Colts is another good matchup because of turnovers and limited talent at the skill positions in Indy. That’s two weeks of solid streaming for a D/ST that won’t be picked on draft day. It’s always good to have a contingency plan.

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Zachary Hanshew is a correspondent at FantasyPros. For more from Zachary, check out his archive and follow him @zakthemonster.

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