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Best-Ball Rankings Analysis - Defense

Since many of you have embraced the MFL10 format with overwhelming passion, the expert rankers at Rotoballer have assembled their Best-Ball rankings at each position. This will help you formulate a plan as you proceed through your upcoming MFL10 drafts. Our rankings also include tiers that provide you with a more detailed breakdown on which players to target for your rosters. We will also be generating our other rankings and positional analysis articles as we continue to approach the regular season.

This breakdown will focus on the defenses. When you are creating your draft plans, your focus is understandably on the most critical positions, and only a small portion of your preparation will be devoted to defensive units. In fact, some of you prefer not to think about them at all. Nevertheless, if you are drafting in a best-ball league that requires you to start a defense, you will need to secure at least two units in order to increase your chances of remaining competitive in the weekly scoring totals.

Among last year's top 10 units in fantasy scoring, just three also finished in the top 10 during the 2016 season (Eagles/Seahawks/Ravens), while only the Rams, Cardinals and Patriots join that trio in generating top 10 scoring at least three times since 2013. These results should serve as a reminder that recent point totals should not be the primary source for your decision making. Instead, remaining cognizant of personnel changes and schematic alterations that will be constructed by new coaching staffs should play an integral role in determining which defenses you select.

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Defense Best-Ball Rankings

Position Tier Position Rank Overall Rank Player Name
1 1 158 Jacksonville Jaguars
2 2 169 Los Angeles Rams
2 3 182 Philadelphia Eagles
2 4 184 Minnesota Vikings
2 5 195 Baltimore Ravens
3 6 196 Los Angeles Chargers
3 7 209 Houston Texans
3 8 210 New Orleans Saints
4 9 220 Pittsburgh Steelers
4 10 230 Denver Broncos
4 11 232 New England Patriots
4 12 233 Detroit Lions
5 13 237 Chicago Bears
5 14 238 Carolina Panthers
5 15 242 Kansas City Chiefs
5 16 249 Seattle Seahawks
6 17 256 Atlanta Falcons
6 18 257 Tennessee Titans
6 19 262 Washington Redskins
6 20 266 Cleveland Browns
7 21 269 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
7 22 271 San Francisco 49ers
7 23 273 Arizona Cardinals
7 24 281 Green Bay Packers
7 25 289 Buffalo Bills
7 26 307 Cincinnati Bengals
7 27 312 Dallas Cowboys
7 28 316 New York Giants
8 29 328 Oakland Raiders
8 30 337 New York Jets
8 31 343 Indianapolis Colts
8 32 354 Miami Dolphins

Tier 1

This is not a suggestion that an elite defense unit could ever be as critical to your success as running backs, wide receivers, tight ends, or quarterbacks. Nor does the 2017 Jacksonville defense represent the level of proficiency that you will normally find with one of these units. However, the fact remains that the Jaguars finished 53rd overall in fantasy scoring last season. They accomplished this by generating eight touchdowns, pacing the NFL in pass defense, and finishing near the top in takeaways (second), interceptions (second), sacks (second), yards allowed (second) points allowed (second), and forced fumbles (fourth). With exceptional cornerbacks Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye patrolling the perimeter, and a collection of difference makers interspersed throughout the front seven, Jacksonville could very easily lead all defenses in scoring once again.  However, the Jaguars have been drafted as early as Round 8, and anyone who is committed to securing this unit must be willing to bypass highly talented players at the skill positions.  To be clear, that massive investment is not recommended, as there are enticing options that can be secured much later in your drafts.

Tier 2

Rams, Eagles, Vikings, Ravens

Los Angeles finished fourth in scoring last season, while accumulating the fourth most sacks (48), and scoring six times. Now, Ndamukong Suh, Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters have been inserted into a staunch mix that already contained Aaron Donald, Michael Brockers and Lamarcus Joyner, The Rams need to boost their level of resistance after 18 teams allowed fewer yards, and 27 were more stringent against the run. Los Angeles also yielded the second most fantasy points to opposing runners, although the offseason restructuring should fortify each of these areas, and the interception total should also rise.

Most owners are aware of the sustained proficiency that Philadelphia's defense has attained in recent seasons, as the Eagles have finished as a top three unit in scoring for three of the past four years. and tied for third in 2017. Their ability to generate unrelenting pressure enabled them to lead the league in that category. They were the league’s best defense against the run, finished fourth in total defense, and also finished among the NFL leaders in scoring (fourth), takeaways (fourth), interceptions (fourth), and fumbles (fourth). While the departures of Beau Allen and Patrick Robinson are noteworthy, the infusion of Michael Bennett and Haloti Ngata into the remaining assortment of talent should keep this unit entrenched among the elite.

Minnesota led all defenses in scoring during 2016, but finished a surprising 14th last year. At first glance, it may be difficult to ascertain why, since the Vikings edged Jacksonville for the #1 ranking in both total defense, and scoring (15.8 PPG), while also ranking second against both the run and the pass. However, they only finished 23rd in takeaways (19), and tied for 29th with five fumble recoveries. However, considering the impressive array of talented performers throughout each level of the unit, it is reasonable to draft the Vikings with an expectation that they will generate top five scoring this season.

Jacksonville was the only team that assembled more fantasy points than the Ravens last season, as Baltimore led the NFL with 34 takeaways, including a league best 22 interceptions. New defensive coordinator Don Martindale has already stated his preference for deploying a more aggressive approach than predecessor Dean Pees. This should increase the effectiveness of a unit that already contained abundant talent at every level including linebacker C.J. Mosley, nose tackle Brandon Williams, and a sturdy secondary consisting of Eric Weddle, Tony Jefferson, Jimmy Smith and Marlon Humphrey.

Tier 3

Chargers, Texans, Saints

Generating yardage against a formidable unit that finished at DST5 last season should remain extremely difficult once again, as the Chargers’ imposing front, will combine with a stellar cluster of cornerbacks to stifle the production of opposing offenses. Only two teams allowed fewer points last season (17 PPG), while Los Angeles also ranked third versus the pass, tied for fifth in sacks (43) ,and amassed 27 takeaways. Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram should continue to function as a highly disruptive tandem on the edge, while rookie Derwin James and a healthy Jason Verrett should reinforce an already  suffocating secondary that includes Casey Hayward, Desmond King and Jahleel Addae.

During the past two seasons, Houston's defense has not even remotely resembled the staunch unit that tied for second in fantasy scoring during 2014, while finishing fourth in 2015. Last year's injury-depleted unit plummeted to 25th, while also ranking dead last in scoring defense (27.8 PPG). Losing J.J.Watt and Whitney Mercilus in early October certainly contributed to their struggles, as did the team's inability to adequately replace Bouye at cornerback. However, Watt and Mercilus will return, while the arrival of former Jaguar Aaron Colvin and Tyrann Mathieu should reinforce a secondary that was scorched for 30 touchdowns. Owners who prefer waiting beyond the initial two tiers before securing their defense can focus on this unit.

The Saint defense was hardly a consideration one year ago after finishing a dismal 28th in scoring during 2016. But New Orleans catapulted to an impressive seventh last season, as the Saints transformed from one of the league’s least appealing units, into a viable option for owners. This unit should be even better with the addition of linebacker Demario Davis, while the aggressive pursuit of Marcus Davenport will complement Cameron Jordan's edge rushing prowess. New Orleans also pilfered the NFL’s third most passes last season (20), after managing just nine one season earlier. Five of those were collected by Defensive Rookie Of The Year Marshon Lattimore, who anchors an improved secondary that will be strengthened further by the return of Patrick Robinson. Provided that he can perform at a level that approaches his career best 2017 season.

Tier 4

Steelers, Broncos, Patriots, Lions

The Steelers tied for ninth in scoring last season, in part because they edged Jacksonville for the league lead in sacks (56). Their most noteworthy offseason roster alterations have included signing former Colt Jon Bostic  - as the team proceeds without Ryan Shazier - and securing safety Morgan Burnett to solidify the strong safety position. First round pick Terrell Edmunds provides further safety depth, while significant contributions from Cameron Hayward, Bud Dupree and T.J. Watt should make Pittsburgh a feasible unit for owners to target.

Denver surrendered 29 passing touchdowns in 2017, after permitting a league low 13 in 2016, while also plunging from fourth in scoring defense (18.6 PPG) to 22nd last year (23.9 PPG). The Broncos also plunged from seventh to 26th in takeaways, and will no longer have Talib protecting the perimeter. There is still sufficient talent for the Broncos to approach the top 10, but this is no longer a tier 1 unit.

New England’s offseason additions should enhance the appeal of a unit that finished at DST13. Former first round pick Danny Shelton should boost strengthen a run defense that ranked just 20th, while yielding 4.7 YPC, while Adrian Claiborn’s presence should theoretically strengthen the Patriot pass rush. Shelton’s former teammate Jason McCourty joins brother Devin in the secondary, in hopes that his presence will help New England improve last year’ 30th ranked pass defense, which surrendered 251 YPG and 24 touchdowns.

During Matt Patricia's six seasons as defensive coordinator with New England, the Patriots finished eighth or better in fantasy scoring four times, even though last year's results provided one of the exceptions.He now inherits a unit that ranked just 27th overall and allowed 4.2 YPC on the ground. However, the Lions also finished sixth overall in scoring, and were opportunistic in capturing tying for second in fumbles (13) and tying for fourth with 19 interceptions. Patricia should build this unit into a dependable option for owners.

Tier 5

Bears, Panthers, Chiefs, Seahawks

Only eight teams manufactured more fantasy points than the Bears in 2017, as Chicago led the NFL with 14 fumble recoveries. Roquan Smith should thrive under defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, while fortifying a unit that ranked 10th in total defense, ninth in scoring defense, and seventh versus the pass.

Carolina finished third overall in sacks (50), and also ranked third against the run. But even though the Panthers still finished 11th  in fantasy scoring, their total was hampered by a drop to 16th in takeaways after tying for seventh in 2016. While Star Lotulelei departed in free agency, the signings of Dontari Poe and Julius Peppers, combined with the promotion of line coach Eric Washington into the coordinator role, should help the line remain formidable. The linebackers do not present a concern, but the secondary appears capable of surrendering more big plays than owners would prefer.

Kansas City ranked just 28th in total defense, and 29th against the pass last season, while the Chiefs also dropped to DST12, after delivering two top four finishes in 2015/2016. Now, KC enters 2018 with a revamped unit that could include at least seven new starters. This creates too many looming questions to warrant inclusion in a higher tier.

The Seahawks are the only team that has finished inside the top 10 during each of the past five seasons. However, they have undergone a significant makeover, and it is difficult to envision this unit being capable of maintaining their recent level of proficiency. Not only have they endured the losses of multiple starters (Richard Sherman/Sheldon Richardson/Bennett), but the status of safeties Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas also remains in question. Seattle did tie for ninth with 25 takeaways and can be drafted near our ranking of DST16. But this unit will not accrue enough points to justify being selected any earlier. 

Tier 6

Falcons, Titans, Redskins, Browns

The units in this tier all dwell between 257-267 in our rankings. However, any of these teams could also deliver better results than some of the options that will be selected before them. If you have abstained from drafting a defense until two rounds remain, then you should consider targeting a member of this group.

Tier 7

Buccaneers, 49ers, Cardinals, Packers, Bills, Bengals, Cowboys, Giants

These defenses reside between DST21-28 in our rankings, and present owners with options for a second unit to commandeer in the finals rounds of your drafts. It is also worthwhile to remember that Jacksonville finished just 25th in scoring during 2016, while New Orleans was 28th, yet their performances improved significantly last season.


More MFL10 and Best-Ball Strategy

Check out all of RotoBaller's fantasy football rankings. Staff rankings are updated regularly for all positions and include standard formats, PPR scoring, tiered rankings and dynasty leagues.

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