While having a top tier defense is not paramount to winning your fantasy league, knowing that you have a clutch defensive unit on your roster that can put up consistent points each week is at the very least a comforting notion. What makes contemplating a teams defensive value particularly intriguing is factoring in how consistent a respective franchises special teams unit is when it comes to returning punts or kickoffs for big-time points.
However, like with kickers, defenses should be one of the last pieces you acquire for your fantasy squad. Even if you feel confident that you are in a prime position to snag the best defense in the league, just know that injuries and situations can drastically alter a defenses value from week to week. With that in mind, here the top defensive units that should be fairly steady point contributors over the course of the season.
10. Philadelphia Eagles
It’s amazing what a couple of years can do for a struggling defensive unit. After finishing 28th in points allowed per game in 2015 (26.9), the Eagles had one of most resurgent defensive squads in the league in 2016 as they allowed just 20.7 points per game (12 in the NFL). In 2017, the Eagles could find a way to be a consistent top-10 threat on defense as they added Chris Long and rookie Derek Barnett at the defensive end position. On top of that, the Eagles found a suitable replacement for Bennie Logan at the defensive tackle position in Timmy Jernigan. While the Eagles lack depth in the secondary, their loaded defensive front should force opposing quarterbacks to throw more errant passes providing their average defensive backs with opportunities to garner easy interceptions.
9. New England Patriots
While some will argue that the Patriots are not a top-tier defensive unit considering who they lost in the off-season (Logan Ryan, Jabaal Sheard and Chris Long), in terms of a fantasy contributor, the Patriots still have most of the key players that were responsible for forcing 16 fumbles last season (7th in NFL). Adding veteran defensive lineman Lawrence Guy and cornerback Stephon Gilmore (5 INT’s last season) to the mix should still allow the Patriots to be a tenacious unit that is effective at forcing turnovers. They may not be the most intimidating defense in the league, but their scrappy modus operandi will allow them to rack up points for your fantasy squad on a fairly consistent basis.
8. New York Giants
Like the Eagles, the Giants had one of the most surprisingly stout defensive units in the league last year. They allowed only 284 total points (second fewest) and intercepted 17 passes (4th most) last season. Their proficient secondary is loaded with talent (Eli Apple, Janoris Jenkins, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Landon Collins) and their two veteran defensive ends (Jason Pierre-Paul and Olivier Vernon) should allow the Giants to be a potent defense. While their linebacker corps is not nearly as dominant, this should still be a defensive squad that continues to stifle opposing offenses while racking up interceptions throughout the season.
7. Arizona Cardinals
Ok, let’s just look at what the Cardinals defensive front accomplished last year and be overwhelmed by the sheer dominance of it all. They ranked first in forced fumbles (21), sacks (48) and tackles for loss (122) in 2016, making them an aggressively effective unit that consistently racked up turnovers and fantasy points throughout the regular season. However, even with the aforementioned statistics, the Cardinals lost five of their starters from last season, three of which were essential contributors in the secondary (Tony Jefferson, D.J. Swearinger and Marcus Cooper). Yet, even with that being said, the Cardinals demeanor when it comes to fearlessly decimating opposing offensive lines should not change much and allow them to be a solid defensive squad this year.
6. Baltimore Ravens
If you thought the Ravens were a defensive force to be reckoned with last year, just wait until you see what this team does to opposing offenses this season. Aside from finishing as a top-ten defense in every major category, this unit was particularly well-known for being nearly impenetrable when opponents attempted to run the ball against them (5th in rushing yards allowed last season). Fantasy wise, this team was especially tenacious on Special Teams as they blocked four kicks last year. Combine all of this with the plethora of additions that this team added in free agency and in the draft (Marlon Humphrey, Tony Jefferson, Brandon Carr, Tyus Bowser) and this is a overwhelmingly physical defense that should continue to pound opposing offenses into submission.
5. Seattle Seahawks
Normally a top-3 defensive unit, the Seahawks slipped a couple of spots as their secondary did not live up to their dominance of previous seasons as they were 21st in the league in interceptions (11). Still, the Seahawks have one of the best defensive fronts in the NFL as they finished third in sacks (42) and third in total points allowed (292) in 2016. The latter numbers should barely waver as the Seahawks retained the majority of their dominant defensive unit. Simply put, fantasy owners should expect more the same from the Seahawks defense this year as they should be consistent point contributors week in and week out.
4. Houston Texans
Considering the Texans were the 11th best defense in points allowed last season (20.5) without J.J. Watt, this team will almost certainly bounce back to being a top-tier defense again. The front seven is amongst the best in the league (J.J. Watt, Jadeveon Clowney, Brian Cushing, etc.), which should allow them to elevate their bellow average numbers in sacks and forced fumbles from last season. Considering they play both the Jacksonville Jaguars and Indianapolis Colts twice (and the Browns and 49ers each once), this team is in an ideal position to post big fantasy numbers throughout the 2017 season.
3. Minnesota Vikings
Going from the worst fantasy defense in 2013 to the best in 2016 is no easy feat. But, in their all-around dominant performance last year, the Vikings did just that as they ranked sixth or better in fumble recoveries (13), sacks (41), points allowed (307) and touchdowns (7). Although the Vikings lost slot corner Captain Munnerlyn in free agency, this dominant defensive unit remains largely intact and should be amongst the best when it comes to being a top scoring defense in 2017.
2. Denver Broncos
Here is the one statistic that fantasy owners should make a note of: The Broncos have ranked in the top two as a scoring defense in each of the past two seasons. While this may be the golden statistic that fantasy fanatics cling to obsessively, it does not quite tell the whole story of what this defense can do. Their consistency as a opportunistic squad allowed them to finish fourth or better in fumble recoveries (13), Sacks (42), yards allowed (5,057) and points allowed (297). What makes these numbers particularly noteworthy is that the Broncos defense saw very little turnover during the offseason, priming them for another strong campaign when it comes to being consistently reliable in fantasy.
1. Kansas City Chiefs
While some may consider the likes of Denver and the Vikings as defensive squads that are more well-rounded when it comes to what they do on the field, the electric way the Chiefs make their killing as a scoring defense makes them the best defense to have in fantasy football. Last season, the Chiefs led the league in interceptions (18), fumble recoveries (15) and touchdowns (8). By the way, those interceptions from last year have been pulled of with impressive consistency in four of the last six seasons, so the Chiefs are unlikely to regress in that regard. Combine that with the fact that the Chiefs have a one of the best return men in the league in Tyreek Hill (scored three touchdowns on special teams in 2016) and this unit will undoubtedly be the best fantasy defense throughout the 2017 regular season.