It seems as if just a few weeks ago we were drafting seemingly unbeatable fantasy teams and preparing for months of dominance. Few things in life move faster than the football season, and 2011 was certainly no exception.
No matter the results of your intended run at fantasy glory, the main objective in fantasy football has always been to enhance the football experience and simply make it more fun. With most fantasy campaigns in the books already, we'll take a look at some of the top individual defenders this season.
MVP: D'Qwell Jackson, Cleveland Browns. After an epic 2008 effort in which Jackson tallied 154 total tackles and picked off three passes, injuries and schematic shifts saw him disappear from the field and the fantasy scene altogether in 2009 and 2010. Given another shot at manning the middle in a traditional 4-3 this season, Jackson has enjoyed a renaissance season and afforded his owners consistent production throughout.
London Fletcher, Washington Redskins: Things were looking grim for Fletcher's fantasy prospects after the first month of the season. With just five tackles per game over the first four weeks, it appeared that time had finally caught up with the ageless wonder from the powerhouse that is John Carroll. Maybe he just needed a rest, because since his Week 5 bye, he's averaged nearly 13 tackles per game and established a new career best for tackles.
James Laurinaitis, St. Louis Rams: Another solid season from the Ohio State product. With strong defensive end talents around him, he just needs some help up the middle to emerge as a true breakout fantasy defender next season.
Honorable Mentions: In leagues that heavily reward sacks, DeMarcus Ware remains a top option. … The Kansas City Chiefs' Derrick Johnson established a new team high in total tackles and cemented his status as a stud fantasy linebacker. … James Anderson is the linebacker of choice in Carolina when it comes to consistent production. … Like Jackson in Cleveland, Nick Barnett enjoyed a renaissance season with the Buffalo Bills. … Chad Greenway racked up the tackles, but the lack of big plays limited his fantasy impact.
Rookie of the Year: Aldon Smith, San Francisco 49ers. The Denver Broncos' Von Miller was a force for much of the season and likely will land the coveted Defensive Rookie of the Year award, but for fantasy purposes, Smith finished the season as strong as any linebacker, with 6.5 sacks over the past month. The Tennessee Titans' Colin McCarthy was also considered for this distinction and is primed to be a breakout performer in 2012.
MVP: Jared Allen, Minnesota Vikings. As tempting as it was to give Jason Pierre-Paul the nod for his breakout campaign, Allen's production in the turnover department swayed the decision. With four forced fumbles and four recoveries to go along with a pick and 18.5 sacks, Allen remains an elite option at the position.
Jason Pierre-Paul, New York Giants: With an amazing blend of tackles (81) and sacks (15.5), this second-year phenom proved once again that the Giants front office knows how to draft and develop at the position. If Justin Tuck can stay healthy next season, NFC East quarterbacks are in peril.
Terrell Suggs, Baltimore Ravens: With eligibility at defensive end, Suggs' value as a dynamic fantasy force imitates his immense value on the field for the Ravens. He set a career high in sacks, forced six fumbles and recorded two picks.
Honorable Mentions: Cliff Avril's breakout season was finally realized as he went from sleeper to star this fall. … Similarly, Chris Long emerged as the force many expected from the former No. 2 overall draft pick. … Jason Babin might struggle against the run, but the guy can pressure the pocket with the best of them.
Rookie of the Year: Ryan Kerrigan, Washington Redskins. Keeping in mind that this is a fantasy distinction and not a real one, Kerrigan merits some love for his great freshman campaign. While he's officially an outside 'backer, his fantasy eligibility at defensive end added to his already impressive value.
MVP: Charles Woodson, Green Bay Packers: At the most fickle of defensive positions in fantasy, it's nice to know that some trusted veteran consistency can still be found in the likes of Woodson. In addition to a healthy heaping of solo tackles (62), Woodson produced nine total turnovers, including seven interceptions, and recorded two sacks. He was all over the field and regularly filled the box scores.
Honorable Mentions: Jairus Byrd turned in another great campaign and before injuries subdued his stats, while George Wilson was also stellar for fantasy owners. … Both Lardarius Webb and Jason McCourty appear to be great investments for 2012 fantasy drafts.
Rookie of the Year: Patrick Peterson, Arizona Cardinals: His astounding talents in the return game propelled his fantasy value. He'll be a coveted corner in 2012 drafts and a top-flight keeper to consider.
IDP Rankings Week 17: The 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).
Jim McCormick is a fantasy football analyst for ESPN.com and high school football editor for ESPNHS.com. Contact him at JMcCormickESPN@gmail.com or @JMcCormickESPN on Twitter.