Earlier this month I took part in a live online draft for my 2013 fantasy football league, and when faced with which team to select as my defense — I was the fourth person to draft a D, so I had 29 teams to choose from — I elected to pick the Houston Texans, who were the highest-ranked remaining defense.
Afterward, I checked out the draft grades that Yahoo! gave me, and while I got a solid overall grade of a B, I was also pleased to see that my selection of the Texans was considered my biggest draft steal.
There’s good reason for that, as coming off its best season in franchise history — particularly defensively — Houston is once again led by 24-year-old defensive end J.J. Watt, who recorded 81 tackles, 20.5 sacks, four forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries last year, with all of those numbers being higher than the totals he had in his first two years combined.
Also returning is the Texans’ other starting defensive end, 31-year-old Antonio Smith, who had 30 tackles to go with two forced fumbles, a fumble recovery and a career-high seven sacks in 2012, as well as several other members of last year’s imposing defensive unit.
The biggest new addition? Well, it’s undoubtedly safety Ed Reed, who spent the first 12 years of his career with the Baltimore Ravens before signing with the Texans in March. And given that everybody knows he was cut from the same mold as former teammate Ray Lewis, who played the duration of his 17-year career with the Ravens, there is plenty of reason to believe that the Texans’ defense will continue to improve with him joining the fray.
So, if you find yourself in, oh, round nine or so — that’s where I selected Houston — and the Texans defense is still on the board, then don’t hesitate to pick them. After all, you’d obviously much rather have Watt and Co. on your side than against you.
Wait a minute, I didn’t even talk about linebacker Brian Cushing, who is returning for his fifth season in the NFL, all with the Texans. After playing in a career-low five games in 2012, he will look to bounce back and provide his squad with the productivity that it is used to out of the former Pro Bowler.
With Cushing healthy again, the Texans’ D is even better than I thought, which is why it belongs alongside the Seattle Seahawks, San Francisco 49ers and Chicago Bears as one of the top four defenses in the league.