Oakland Raiders (Base: 4-3)
Full disclosure, I nearly began preparation on a new division before I realized I had one last contestant from the AFC West (my apologies Raider’s fans). But seriously, unless you’re in extreme (and possibly unhealthy) denial, you gotta know your team–and especially the defense–aren’t exactly the bee’s knees, right?
However, even in the blackest of holes (see what I did there?) a few rays of light come shining through. Such is the case of the 2013 Oakland Raiders defense…
Lamar Houston: Houston is an intriguing player and somewhat an anomaly as far as 4-3 defensive ends go. Usually a 4-3 end will be a solid pass rusher with the good ones generally posting double digit sacks but at the same time not getting many tackle opportunities; Houston–at least thus far in his career–has been the exact opposite. Last season he recorded 69 total tackles which is generally unheard of from players at his position, but only managed 4.5 sacks. He finished the year as PFF’s #9 overall 4-3 end due to his abilities against the run, and in many leagues achieved low-end DL2 status. He’s entering his 4th year and if he can improve his pass rush skills, he may one day reach the DL1 plateau.
*A quick side note: Houston played his high school ball in my home town of Colorado Springs, Colorado and played running back and linebacker*
Kevin Burnett: Coming off probably his two best seasons (at least tackle-wise) in two years for Miami, Burnett now looks to keep the good times going as he dons the silver and black. And judging on the lack of surrounding talent, there should be nothing stopping him from having a third strong season in a row. He’s no spring chicken anymore, but as long as he remains healthy he should be a lock for 100+ total tackles to go along with a few big plays.
Tyvon Branch: Much like Eric Weddle last week, Branch has been one of the more consistent defensive backs in fantasy football over the past few years. After three straight 100+ total tackle seasons, he saw his #’s dip slightly last year as he only managed 94, but that’s still right in the zone of where you want your DB1 to be. We also saw a drop off in the big plays, but we should see a nice return of those as well in 2013. The success of a defensive back for fantasy purposes depend on the the talent around them more than any other position, so uhhhh…..yeah….he should have no trouble finishing as a top 10 DB.