Fantasy defenses are very fickle things. Last year, after the signing of Nnamdi Asomugha, the Eagles D shot up draft boards and reached a peak of the fourth round. It was crazy to imagine a defense going that high, but people were sure that, with three lockdown corners (Asomugha, Asante Samuel and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie) and a potent pass rush led by Trent Cole, the Eagles would be unstoppable. We all saw how poorly that worked out, and as such, I can't recommend putting stock in defenses unless you get a strong value.
This year, I felt as though I got lucky to get the Pittsburgh defense in two of my leagues. The price was right, and there were no picks on the board that really excited me. I'm kicking myself now, though, knowing that I could have had the Cardinals or Seahawks in free agency and received far greater production in the young season. Will this stay up the whole year? Who knows. I'm sure Pittsburgh will start kicking things into gear in the coming weeks, especially with matchups against the Browns looming, but still I have to throw my arms up.
Coming into the year, no one would have expected any NFC West defense outside of California to be worth their weight in anything. Now the Cardinals are the No. 2 defense in most leagues (trailing only the Bears), and the Seahawks are No. 4 (behind the Falcons). The Baltimore defense, even without Terrell Suggs, has turned a decent profit, and the Eagles are no slouches either, hovering around the middle of the league. So, if you can't get the Bears, look toward the sky.
Here are some other pick ups to keep in mind for Week Four.
Leonard Hankerson, WR, WAS. Hankerson has rightfully earned a starting role and will be the X receiver until Pierre Garcon returns. Robert Griffin III has already shown pinpoint accuracy, and Hankerson is slowly becoming one of his favorite targets. When Garcon inevitably returns, possibly this week, then he will slide over and be the Z receiver. Any starting receiver for Washington is worth keeping an eye on, and Hankerson's ceiling is as high as anyone.
This is another example of trying to guarantee production where you can. The Redskins are going to be a team that has to throw, especially with their top two pass rushers out for the year (Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan). There are few QBs in the league who are better triggerman than Griffin in the young season, and this is an offense capable of putting up some serious points.
Who knows what Garcon will be like the rest of the year due to the foot injury, and Griffin doesn't have the eyes for Fred Davis that Rex Grossman did (though Davis did get 90 of his 142 yards last week). Make the add, and start Hankerson as a low-end WR3 with upside.
Golden Tate, WR, SEA. Coming out of Notre Dame, Tate had some serious hype in fantasy circles. He was viewed as a guy who could become a slot machine receiver with sure hands that piled up lots of receptions.
Unfortunately, things didn't pan out that way, and Tate spent his rookie year and last year as a guy who was so far off the radar he couldn't even be found by satellite. This year, though, Tate seems to be flourishing with new QB Russell Wilson.
Seattle's passing game confuses me to no end. A team with Tate, Sidney Rice, Doug Baldwin, Zach Miller and Braylon Edwards should be able to air it out. Some of this can go back to the Tavaris Jackson experience last year, but now the playbook seems to have opened up for Wilson. Should Wilson falter, Matt Flynn has shown glimpses of greatness, albeit in a single game late last year. Plus, this team also has Marshawn Lynch, who very well could be one of the top five backs in the league.
During the Monday night game against Green Bay, Tate showed a fantastic burst on his first TD and, well, we all know what happened with the second one. If Tate continues to see playing time, he could quickly become Wilson's go-to target. Teams will still put their top corners on Rice, as he has the track record, which could mean big things for the Golden One. That's if Wilson can get his meager 5.79 yards per completion (his season high in yardage was against Green Bay with 153) up to a respectable level.
Tashard Choice, RB, BUF. C.J. Spiller is limited for the week, if he plays at all, and, though Fred Jackson may start, who knows how effective he will be. Before Spiller went down, he was the consensus No. 1 in fantasy through two weeks and, despite the injury, he still gave his owners a 10 plus point day. Jackson also produced three straight quality years, even though last year was cut short due to injury. So obviously Chan Gailey and the Bills' coaching staff are doing something right.
In steps Tashard Choice, who may have fallen into the second most fortunate situation in the league for a RB behind Houston. Choice was a guy who many people liked in Dallas, though he was stuck behind Felix Jones, and then DeMarco Murray emerged as the clear cut No. 1.
Those of you in PPR leagues could benefit from Choice even if Jackson is active because it's likely he could get a wealth of targets as a change of pace guy/reliever of sorts if Jackson can't carry a full load. Monitor this situation closely leading up to game time.
Shaun Hill, QB, DET. Speaking of fortunate situations, Hill must have one of the best backup jobs in the league. Sure, he sees more time than most, thanks to Matt Stafford constantly getting "owies," but just look around him. He gets Calvin Johnson to throw to, who I hear is pretty good, Titus Young, who is very capable, Nate Burleson, who has a knack for circus catches, and Brandon Pettigrew, who is a pretty good TE.
On top of that the Lions have Mikel Leshoure back (who looked great last week with a full work load) and an offensive line who can help keep him upright. There's not much to dislike here and, on top of that, he gets to play a Vikings secondary that made Blaine Gabbert look like a real quarterback in Week One.
Hill looked great last week in relief of Stafford, throwing for 172 yards and two touchdowns that led a furious comeback by the Lions that forced overtime. In 2010, he threw a touchdown in 10 of his 11 games, with four having two and a fifth having three.
He also threw for more than 320 yards in three games. He's not Stafford, but he can post some very strong numbers as a fill-in if you own any guys on a bye week or need a replacement for Stafford should he be unable to go.