A list of the top defensive players to draft for the 2014 fantasy football season.
1. Luke Kuechly Carolina Panthers Linebacker
|2014 Projections||View Luke Kuechly's 2014 projected stats.|
Kuechly's 2013 season was a slight disappointment in IDP terms, as he was expected to lead the league in tackles, but he finished fourth with 156. Vontaze Burfict, Paul Posluszny and Kiko Alonso all finished with higher totals, but what's amazing is that each of them played anywhere from 100 to 200 more snaps than Kuechly. In other words, Kuechly would project to an easy lead-league in tackles if he hadn't played for a defense that saw just 975 snaps – the fourth-lowest total in the league. His floor couldn't be much higher, and there's reason to think his ceiling will rise in 2014. The Panthers offense lost two of its three best players in tackle Jordan Gross and receiver Steve Smith, so Carolina might not be able to extend offensive drives as reliably in 2014. That means more punts, which equates to more plays for the defense and more tackles for Kuechly. Thanks to his unparalleled tackle rate and his ability to consistently make plays in coverage (six interceptions in two years), Kuechly should probably be the first LB selected in most IDP formats.
2. Lavonte David Tampa Bay Buccaneers Linebacker
|2014 Projections||View Lavonte David's 2014 projected stats.|
David has been remarkably productive in his first two seasons, following up a 139-tackle rookie season with an enormous 2013, increasing his tackle total to 145 while adding seven sacks and five interceptions. When it comes to dominating in tackles, sacks and interceptions, David might be the best linebacker in the league. Although he seems likely to hover in the 135 to 145-tackle range and is therefore unlikely to challenge players like Vontaze Burfict and Luke Kuechly in that regard, David is one of the top-tier options when it comes to making plays in coverage and as a pass rusher. New coach Lovie Smith is among the brightest defensive coaches in the game, and it would be rather surprising if he didn't recognize David's sack and interception potential and scheme in ways to capitalize accordingly. After all, it was under Smith's watch that Brian Urlacher enjoyed some of his most successful seasons in the NFL. Urlacher posted at least five sacks in three of his first four years under Smith before injuries began to take their toll.
3. Vontaze Burfict Cincinnati Bengals Linebacker
|2014 Projections||View Vontaze Burfict's 2014 projected stats.|
What an immense steal Burfict turned out to be for the Bengals. After a directionless college career full of discipline issues and frustrating underachievement, Burfict went undrafted in 2012, with many suspecting he wouldn't even be signed as an undrafted free agent. The Bengals were willing to take the gamble, and now they have 298 tackles over the last two years to show for it, including a league-leading 171 (114 solo) in 2013. Burfict is firmly established as one of the league's top linebackers at this point, and while some regression would be reasonable after last year's enormous tackle-total, he's still a good bet to lead the league in tackles again in 2014. Fellow Cincinnati linebackers Rey Maualuga and Vincent Rey have never been major tackle producers, so Burfict should have a big market share of the tackles to himself, and there's definitely no one capable of stealing from Burfict's play count. The Cincinnati defense logged over 1,000 snaps in each of the last three years, and the AFC North should be fairly run-heavy in 2014, so the tackle opportunities should remain abundant for Burfict.
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