Today we bring you fantasy football’s second least-sexy position: defense (and special teams). What a title huh? It may not be the most important position, but most fantasy leagues require you to have a team D/ST, so it’s still necessary. Now, don’t feel like you have to reach for a great defense in your draft. Sure, these are the best defenses available, but often times, the difference in points between defenses is minor. In other words, don’t be that guy who takes Seattle’s defense in the 7th round. We all have those guys in our league, don’t be that guy. Defenses are meant to be taken late, as they are not prolific scoring options. If these top ten go early in your draft, don’t freak out. There’s 32 teams to pick from, you can find a viable D/ST late in any draft. If you do insist on reaching for a top tier defense, here are Realsport’s top ten fantasy defenses for the upcoming season.
1 Denver Broncos
The Broncos finished 2016 as the second ranked fantasy defense. They're not as dominant as their 2015 counterparts, but it'd be hard to match such a feat. Wade Phillips is now gone as defensive coordinator, and they lost DeMarcus Ware and Sylvester Williams in the offseason. The Broncos are still scary though; you'll still fear to play your quarterback or wide receiver against them. They may not be the top defense by the end of the year, but they will almost certainly be top five.
2 Seattle Seahawks
Would you believe that the Seahawks were the ninth ranked fantasy defense last year? There's this perception that they're still the "Legion of Boom" and unstoppable. They're not what they used to be, and just for the record, I swear the fourth member of the L.O.B. changes every year. Regardless, they have lost their dominant touch from 2013 and 2014, yet they're still being drafted like the Seahawks of old. Your buddies will still think highly of the Seahawks enough to take them ridiculously early. Pro tip, let them do it. There's plenty of value to cash in on with later defenses. The Seahawks will be fine for fantasy, but their draft price isn't worth it.
3 Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs ranked as the fourth fantasy defense last year, and they are deserving of a top spot this year as well. Their combination of secondary and pass rush is hard to come by, so they are a very safe option. They also have the ability to boom, i.e. week three last year against the Jets. Eight turnovers forced, two touchdowns scored, three points allowed, and a partridge in a pear tree. Simply incredible. Sure, it may have inflated their finishing spot a bit, but the Chiefs are still a force to be reckoned with.
4 Houston Texans
The Texans sport one of the most feared pass rushes in the game. Now that J. J. Watt is healthy, he and Jadeveon Clowney should haunt the nightmares of quarterbacks all over the league. The sack totals should be huge as long as both players can stay healthy. Like anything else too good to be true, there is a catch. The Texans lost their top two weapons in their secondary with the departures of A. J. Bouye and Quintin Demps. If their void can be filled adequately, watch out for the Texans.
5 Arizona Cardinals
I say this so often, but I'll say it again: it doesn't matter who the Cardinals have on their defense, they always find a way to be dominant. Some years the team doesn't do so well, the defense is still outstanding. Some years the pieces don't look like they'll fit, yet they still find a way to be elite. This has been the case under head coach Bruce Arians. The truth is their secondary is still great, their linebacking crew is solid, and their pass rush will still be a force. The loss of Calais Campbell won't go unnoticed, but it won't matter. The Cardinals are perhaps the safest pick at defense in the entire league.
6 Minnesota Vikings
Remember when the Vikings were the ranked first among fantasy defenses? Yeah, that was last year. There isn't enough love being showed to them. I don't know why everyone forgets about the purple people eaters, but there isn't much reason to avoid them. Their only major loss in the offseason was Captain Munnerlyn. They're still very young and very talented in every aspect of this defense. The Vikings are a steal if you can get them late.
7 New England Patriots
Speaking of safe bets at a cheap price, it doesn't get much better than the Patriots. They're going to win most of their games, which ultimately means the defense has to be on their best behavior. The Patriots allowed the fewest points per game last season, and they've been a top ten defense for five straight years. If you're the kind of person who doesn't like to make lineup changes every week, just get the Patriots defense and chill for the rest of the year. They're good in just about every matchup, even the ones that look bad on paper. It's easy to predict a win for the Patriots on a weekly basis, and even in their losses, they'll stay plenty competitive.
8 New York Giants
The Giants are often thought of as a better real life defense than fantasy defense. I'm not sure why that is, but they finished 2016 as the fifth ranked defense. The Giants didn't start the year out well, but over their last ten games of the season, they forced at least two turnovers in seven of those ten games. The Giants had the third best run defense in 2016, and considering the NFC East has no scary running backs right now (Kelly, Blount, McFadden), they should have a good defensive showing this year.
9 Jacksonville Jaguars
It's funny how narratives can change on a team so quickly. A few years ago if you took Jacksonville's defense in a draft, you'd be laughed out of the league. If you took them in a random mock, the other owners would get mad at you and say you're ruining it. And here we are in 2017, with the Jaguars a projected top ten defense. They finally have the pieces to have a solid year on defense, and everyone looks to be healthy (knock on wood). With the additions of A. J. Bouye, Barry Church, and Calais Campbell, alongside Jalen Ramsey, Myles Jack, Malik Jackson, and Dante Fowler, the Jags have the names. They have all the pieces they need, there's no excuse for them this year. It's time for the Jaguars defense to step up.
10 Carolina Panthers
The one struggle for the Panthers last year was their lack of a secondary. Did they even have a secondary last year? If they did, I missed it. The 2016 Panthers gave up the fourth most passing yards in the league. The absence of Josh Norman was definitely felt on that defense. In place of Norman, the Panthers threw a bunch of no-name corners in the starting lineup and hoped it would work; it didn't. James Bradberry, Bene Benwikere, and Daryl Worley were not the answer to their problem. However, with the additions of Captain Munnerlyn and Mike Adams, their secondary problems could be fixed. The rest of the defense from their elite 2015 showing is mostly still there, and this defense could be very complete and surprise people this year.
Was there a team we missed in our top ten? Let us know in the comments below!
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