Streaming for Success: Top 16 Fantasy Defenses 2018
Photo By: Dave Birkett|Detroit Free Press
In the final installment of my 2018 player rankings, we’ll cover the top 50% of defenses in the NFL and my philosophy when it comes to fantasy D/ST units.
“Wait, this is the last one? Where are the kicker rankings at??”
Looking for kicker advice? If you’re even playing in a league that still uses kickers, whatever you do, don’t take one until the final round of the draft. Pick up Matt Prater or Brandon McManus. Those guys have always been money for me in the past and I’ve consistently been able to land one or the other in the final round. Better yet, just stream kickers. It, like most things, takes some practice but once you get it figured out, you’ll never waste a draft pick on a kicker again. Justin Tucker is for noobs. No offense, Justin. You’re the GOAT. But, I digress. Be sure to look for a matchup against a defense that bends but doesn’t break, or a kicker whose offense moves the ball but struggles to execute in scoring-range. Either way, drives will likely stall out around the 20. And guess who comes in to clean up…
Anyway, back to defenses. I’ll keep this short and sweet. Defenses are a polarizing position group in fantasy football. Some people like them, some don’t. Some (who know not what they’re doing) still think it’s okay to draft a defense in the 8th round. Personally, I’ve always been the type to wait and select a D/ST in the second-to-last round, and much like kickers, I play matchups and stream them. That is, unless I happen to pick up a free agent unit that performs like the Jacksonville Jaguars did in 2017.
Despite my somewhat unorthodox approach, I fall into the camp that likes team defenses. I really enjoy breaking down defensive statistics and finding weekly sleepers. They add just one more layer of unpredictability to the game. Makes things interesting. How many times have we seen a matchup being hyped as an impending shootout only to play out as a low-scoring defensive slugfest? Any given Sunday, people.
Whatever your defensive strategy might be, this list should have a little something for everyone. I cover heavy-hitters, defenses on the decline, and sleepers that really aren’t being talked about much anywhere else.
Alright, enough small talk. Let’s get into it. The top 16 fantasy defenses for 2018 in 288 characters or less. Whatever you do, please don’t lead with the helmet…
My projected top 25% of defenses in the NFL. If you wait until the final rounds like me, good luck landing any of these.
1. Jacksonville Jaguars – …and to think I was able to nab the Jags defense from the FA pool last year. Another year of playing together should only make the unit stronger. They’re stacked at all three levels. There will be interceptions, sacks, and defensive touchdowns. Bye 9
2. Los Angeles Rams – This hinges largely on how the Aaron Donald contract dispute is resolved. We all know about who the Rams brought in this offseason. In 2017, they were 4th in sacks, tied for 6th in INTs and added 6 D/ST TDs. This unit is more talented than last year’s. Bye 12
3. Los Angeles Chargers – Jason Verrett going down with a torn Achilles hurts, but the Bolts are, frankly, used to playing without him. This unit will be fine. They’ll pick up where they left off and keep getting better as their young talent continues to develop. Bye 8
4. Philadelphia Eagles – Despite allowing Tom Brady to throw for over 500 yards in the Super Bowl, this defense remains one of the best. They fielded a top 5 unit in 2017 and it’ll be business as usual this year. Looking forward to seeing Sidney Jones play a full season. Bye 9
5. New Orleans Saints – A punchline for several years and known for poor defensive play, the Saints turned a corner in a big way in 2017. They racked up 42 sacks and 20 picks last year, finishing as a top 10 fantasy defense. This group is young and trending up. Bye 6
6. Baltimore Ravens – This feels low for a team that finished 2nd in fantasy PPG scored, led the NFL in interceptions, recorded 41 sacks, 7 D/ST TDs, and pitched 3 shutouts. Some of the starters on defense are aging but there is young talent too. Tough schedule though. Bye 10
7. Minnesota Vikings – Is this controversially low? The Vikings are an overrated fantasy defense! In 2017, they ranked 14th in fantasy PPG. They tied for 13th in INTs, 17th in sacks, and only added a single defensive TD. Still, on paper, this defense is very difficult to pass up for long. Bye 10
8. Chicago Bears – Last year’s laughably low 8-INT count for this team is worrying if I’m drafting a fantasy defense. I mean, my dude Darius Slay did that by himself. But they just traded for 2016 DPOY Khalil Mack, giving them what is sure to be an absolutely nightmarish pass rush. Bye 5
My projected next-best 25% of defenses in the NFL. Prime targets for defensive streamers.
9. Houston Texans – The Texans were completely decimated by injuries in 2017. If they can stay healthy this year (and Watson returns to form), this is a playoff team. The defense, if healthy, can be one of the best in the league. They have star playmakers at all three levels. Bye 10
10. Detroit Lions – I have the numbers to back this up! In 2017, the Lions’ D tied for 4th in the NFL with 19 picks, adding 35 sacks and 5 defensive touchdowns. They scored 9.81 fantasy PPG, 6th in the league. I’m not ready to condemn them for a poor preseason. HC Matt Patricia is a defensive mastermind. Bye 6
11. Pittsburgh Steelers – They are the NFL’s sack leaders from a year ago after recording 56. Wondering what the defense will look like without Ryan Shazier locking down the middle of the field. Still, this is a talented group that’ll play tough defense. Look out for TJ Watt. Bye 7
12. Tennessee Titans – I’m a little high on the Titans in general this year but I think their defense can be really good. After adding a shutdown corner in Malcolm Butler to a group with All-Pro Safety Kevin Byard, they could have one of the NFL’s top secondaries. Pass rush will be solid too. Bye 8
13. Carolina Panthers – The Panthers defense will get after the quarterback. In 2017, they recorded 50 sacks. They won’t reach that number again in 2018, but hopefully they can snag more than 10 interceptions. Good defense, maybe a little overrated for fantasy though. Bye 4
14. Denver Broncos – Fantasy fool’s gold. People ranking Denver as a top 10 D/ST are factoring in recent-past reputation too much. In 2017, they finished as the #19 fantasy defense. They only recorded 33 sacks. The addition of Bradley Chubb might tick that number up to 43. Bye 10
15. Dallas Cowboys – Sleeper defense. The Cowboys’ D is still young and will continue to improve over the course of the season. They finished as the #15 fantasy D/ST last year, so that’s where I will place them to begin this year. I give them an outside shot to finish top 10. Bye 8
16. Arizona Cardinals – This is another defense to be weary of. The potential lack of a pass rush worries me. Yes, Chandler Jones led the NFL in sacks with 17. But the team only had 37 total. The Cards were the #16 fantasy defense last year and the Honey Badger is now in Houston. 16 feels right. Bye 9
*The above rankings represent my personal draft strategy and are simply where I value each defense to begin 2018.