Many fantasy owners wait until the second-to-last round to select a defense. Other owners reach a few rounds earlier to draft a top-tier defense like the Seattle Seahawks or Kansas City Chiefs. However, the change in the top-ranked defenses changes year-by-year. A defense to keep on your radar while drafting is the Cleveland Browns.
The Browns have been flirting with being a top-10 defense for years. Last year was the closest the defense has been to being ownable in standard leagues. The team finished in the top-10 in yards per carry (3.9) and yards per pass attempts (5.9). Yet, the defense gave up too many points; 25.4 per game (23rd in the league).
Cornerback Joe Haden is one of the premier cornerbacks in the league. He had four interceptions in 15 games last year, and has 13 for his career. As support, the front seven brought down opposing quarterbacks 40 times (16th).
While the Browns lost safety T.J. Ward to free agency, they added some key pieces like rookie Justin Gilbert and veterans Donte Whitner and Karlos Dansby. Their linebacking corps will be one of the best in the league. Free safety Tashaun Gipson is also on the rise as a member with this young defense.
The Browns defense finished as the 16th-best fantasy defense, just a mere 26 points outside the top 10. If Gilbert can play great out of the gate and the whole defense stays healthy, it will be hard for opposing offenses to find a weakness.
The defense will be drafted in deeper, 16-team leagues without a doubt. In standard leagues, there are plenty of defenses available for all 10 teams before the Browns get selected. The only reason the Browns should be drafted is solely on upside. They have a lot young players and key veterans for leadership.
If you are thinking about selecting the Browns D/ST, wait until the last two rounds. If they go undrafted, keep them on your watch list if they have a good Week 1 game.