Fantasy Football Friday: Where should Miami defense be ranked?

I've been receiving a number of e-mails asking me about our Phinsider Fantasy Football League, to be hosted by CBSSports.com. Don't worry, I haven't forgotten. I'm going to be holding our lottery to determine which 10 readers will be in our league, joining myself and last year's champion - "LeftCoastFinFan" - to round out our 12 team league, in about ten days or so. If you never entered the lottery, do so by heading to this post and commenting that you want in.

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What if you aren't lucky in our lottery and aren't selected to join our free league? That's fine. You can just sign up and run your own fantasy football league on CBSSports.com using their outstanding Fantasy Football Commissioner product. If you sign up your league through this link I'm providing, you will receive 50% off - meaning you can use their Fantasy Football Commissioner for just $89.99 - which amounts too just $7.50 per team in you are running a 12 team league. That's nothing considering how insanely customizable their leagues are and how accurate their live scoring is - no matter how complicated your scoring system is.

One of the most difficult parts of preparing for fantasy football drafts is attempting to project how defenses are going to perform in the upcoming season - from a fantasy perspective. A defense doesn't have to be a great defense on the field in order to be a very good defense from a fantasy football perspective. Scoring systems for most fantasy leagues don't typically penalize you for having a defense that yields a lot of yardage. Some don't even penalize enough for surrendering a lot of points. Instead, an emphasis is just put on big plays - sacks, interceptions, fumbles and the like.

So where should the Dolphins be ranked in terms of fantasy football defenses? That's a question that isn't all too easy to answer.

CBSSports.com has Miami ranked right in the middle of their rankings. Off the top of my head, that seems about right. The Dolphins were third in sacks and tied for 16th in interceptions a year ago. However, their 21 total takeaways was among the lowest total in the NFL in 2009 - tied for the fifth fewest.

This year's unit, though, looks much different than they did a year ago. Their top two pass-rushers from last year (in terms of total sacks) are both gone. Their nose tackle retired yesterday. And they have inexperienced youngsters battling to start a free safety.

The pass rush is obviously issue number one when you talk about this defense. The Dolphins tied for third in the with 44 sacks a year ago. It'll be tough for the Fins to produce such a high figure in 2010 considering they have to make up for the 16 sacks tallied between Jason Taylor and Joey Porter, as well as the 7 tallied by Randy Starks, who is now a full-time nose tackle.

On the flip side, there's every reason to think that the Dolphins will force more turnovers. Their 15 interceptions a year ago tied them for 16th in the league. But that number could easily go up now. Sean Smith, for example, should finally get his first career interception - and then some. They should also get more production from their free safety. Last year, Gibril Wilson and Tyrone Culver combined for just one interception.

The biggest difference from a year ago, though, should be the hiring of new defensive coordinator Mike Nolan to run the defense. His schemes are aggressive and put players in positions to make plays. He instantly transformed Denver's defense in his one season there. That unit went from forcing just 13 turnovers in 2008 to 30 in 2009. The Dolphins, meanwhile, saw their defense take a big step backwards, going from 30 forced turnovers to 21.

With all of these question marks, it's easy to see why Miami's defense is rated in the mid to upper teens in most fantasy football rankings. My advice? Take a very late round flier on them if you must. But know that there's a good chance the unit goes undrafted, allowing you to sign the unit if you'd like as the early part of the season progresses.


Remember that whether you are a regular reader of this site or not, you are entitled to a 50% discount on CBSSports.com's Fantasy Football Commissioner - just as long as you use this link to register your league. Enjoy!

CBSSports.com is an SB Nation partner and paying sponsor of the SB Nation football communities.This post is one of a series of sponsor endorsed posts relating to the CBSSports.com Fantasy Football Commissioner League.

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