The defensive side of fantasy is a pretty tight-knit community, a subculture that brings more specificity and nerdery to the table than the traditional format.
Essentially, the IDP side of fantasy is rewarding for many of the same reasons that the traditional side is; it keeps you intimately informed about the league, which happens to be the most popular one in the country. If fantasy has become a language of its own, one in which my 58-year-old uncle and I can banter about Javon Ringer, then being a fan of the individual defender part of the pursuit can only help add to one's fluency of the NFL. Both sides of the ball matter to us defensive fiends, and that is pretty cool.
Front Four: The weekly word on the world of defenders
Do the Math: Mathias Kiwanuka of the New York Giants has 3½ sacks in the past three games, and what's even better is that he has defensive end eligibility to enjoy. You'll find Kiwanuka rushing from an outside 'backer position, but given his history as an end, you can enjoy his healthier tackle clip while still reaping the rewards of a sack specialist. He's available in more than half of ESPN leagues.
Fresh Prince of Bourbon Street: It's nearly impossible, at least for me, to not make some corny references when discussing Saints defensive end Will Smith. The good thing is that his inclusion in this week's column isn't just for lame wordplay, because at a shallow position he is emerging as a worthy fantasy commodity, with two sacks in his latest outing. The talent has long been there, but the consistency hasn't. Consider Smith a nice plug-and-play for this week against a Tampa team that has been solid at preventing sacks compared to league averages, but keep in mind that it's also an offense that has asked quarterback Josh Freeman to drop back at a high rate. In what could be a shootout of sorts this week, keep Smith in mind if you are looking for a bye-week replacement or are streaming at the defensive end position.
Go Long: St. Louis defensive end Chris Long has flashed moments of brilliance throughout his career, but hasn't shown sustained success just yet. Last week against New Orleans, however, in an emboldening win for his Rams, saw him regularly wreak havoc on the pocket and prove nearly unblockable for much of the game, ending up with three sacks. If there was ever a time to acquire him, and for free in more than 60 percent of ESPN leagues, these upcoming weeks are ripe for solid returns. Facing an Arizona team that has allowed Kevin Kolb to be sacked 24 times, the second-most in football behind Ben Roethlisberger, is an inviting matchup (no matter the starter for the Cardinals).
Bargain Bin: Each week we'll discuss worthy commodities available in at least 60 percent of ESPN leagues. Seattle's Kam Chancellor has a sweet name and an emerging statistical game. With 21 tackles and three turnovers in his past three games, he merits more than just a mere 27 percent ownership number in ESPN leagues. Cincinnati's Reggie Nelson was deemed a bust in Jacksonville by most accounts but has flourished on the stout, ball-hawking Bengals unit this season. San Francisco's Aldon Smith has been a dominant pass-rushing force during the past four games, racking up 6½ sacks with little attention in fantasy leagues. Detroit's duo of unheralded ends, Lawrence Jackson and Cliff Avril, are worthy additions, and if you can afford to stash them while on bye this week it could pay off, as the Lions' line continues to give opponents fits.
Week 9 Rankings: Top 20 linebackers, linemen and defensive backs
So that we're working from agreed parameters, we'll use what many consider traditional scoring modifiers for an IDP league: Tackle -- solo (0.5), Tackle -- assist (0.25), Sack (3), Interception (3), Forced fumble (3), Fumble recovery (3), Touchdown (6), Safety (2), Pass defended (0.5), Blocked kick (3).
Top 20 Linebackers
Top 20 Defensive Linemen
Top 20 Defensive Backs
Jim McCormick is a fantasy football analyst for ESPN.com and the high school football editor for ESPNHS.com. Contact him at JMcCormickESPN@gmail.com or @JMacPhillies on Twitter.