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Defense Tiered Rankings and Draft Analysis

Defense is a position in fantasy leagues that is often wildly over-drafted. Even the best scoring and most consistent defenses do not differentiate themselves enough to the others to make them worth the price that they often go at. Last year the Jacksonville Jaguars defense lit up fantasy leagues, scoring among the top-10 defenses more consistently than anyone else in the league, yet they weren't even selected in most fantasy drafts. The top three defenses according to last year's ADP, Denver, Seattle, and Houston, all disappointing mightily for various reasons.

So which defenses should you target toward the end of your draft? To help you prepare, here is a look at the top defenses in standard fantasy leagues heading into the 2018 season.

When you're done, you can also check out our running back rankings and analysis here.

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2018 Defense Rankings - Standard Leagues

Position Tier Overall Tier Position Rank Overall Rank Player Name
1 10 1 124 Jacksonville Jaguars
2 11 2 145 Los Angeles Chargers
2 12 3 166 Denver Broncos
2 12 4 167 Minnesota Vikings
2 12 5 169 Los Angeles Rams
2 12 6 171 Philadelphia Eagles
3 13 7 189 Houston Texans
3 14 8 198 Baltimore Ravens
3 14 9 201 New Orleans Saints
3 14 10 206 Carolina Panthers
4 14 11 209 Chicago Bears
4 15 12 211 Atlanta Falcons
4 15 13 213 Pittsburgh Steelers
4 15 14 217 New England Patriots
5 15 15 224 Cleveland Browns
5 16 16 234 Cincinnati Bengals
5 17 17 257 Dallas Cowboys
5 17 18 267 Arizona Cardinals
5 17 19 270 Kansas City Chiefs
5 17 20 276 Tennessee Titans
6 17 21 279 Green Bay Packers
6 18 22 282 New York Giants
6 18 23 284 Detroit Lions
6 18 24 296 San Francisco 49ers
6 18 25 299 Buffalo Bills
6 18 26 307 Seattle Seahawks
7 18 27 309 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
7 19 28 313 Washington Redskins
7 19 29 325 New York Jets
7 19 30 326 Indianapolis Colts
7 19 31 333 Oakland Raiders
7 19 32 334 Miami Dolphins

Tier 1

It is hard to find a reason not to like the Jaguars defense. They finished 2017 as the top-scoring defense and were the second-most consistent defense. They have lost a couple of pieces but the main parts of their defense remain the same. They have a ton of depth on their defensive line which will mean they are constantly pressuring the quarterback. If you can get pressure on a QB then you can hide many deficiencies in your defense. Trying to pick out reasons they may struggle is difficult, but generally, top defenses struggle to repeat the following season. If the Jaguars do struggle then it will likely be injuries that are the cause. The Jaguars were extremely lucky when it came to injuries during the regular season, so the chances they do not suffer major injuries again feels remote. If they do have injuries among their linebackers and defensive backs, I am not sure how good their replacements will be. However, as long as they can keep their weapons on the defensive line going, they should be able to do damage.

Tier 2

The Chargers are another team with a strong defensive line, which means they will always have a chance to score points. Sacks and interceptions are the big ways to put up points in fantasy and a good defensive line can create both. In addition, they have a decent secondary despite the loss of Jason Verrett, which will allow them to take advantage of opportunities their defensive line can create.

You will notice a theme developing here regarding the top-ranked defenses and the strength of their ability to get after the quarterback. The Broncos have a superb group of pass rushers, including Von Miller and Bradley Chubb. They ranked third in the consistency rankings in 2017 and they are a defense I expect to consistently put up good numbers now that the QB situation is better on the other side.

If the Vikings ended the season as the top-ranked defense I would not be surprised. Last season, they topped the consistency rankings, but their overall totals were not as impressive as people first thought. They have improved their defense with the addition of Sheldon Richardson. However, the key is that they have just managed to keep their young core intact and move into 2018 with a defense capable of dominating in all aspects.

Defensive lines do not get much better than what the Rams can offer. Right now the starting front three are Michael Brockers, Ndamukong Suh and a little-known fellow with the name Aaron Donald. Behind them, the rush from the linebackers will not be huge, but with that front three, it really does not need to do much more than assist. In addition, they have an extremely good defensive backfield who will make quarterbacks pay for any mistakes.

Making up the final group of elite offensive lineman is the Philadelphia Eagles. They do not necessarily have the stand out names of other teams but what they have is incredible strength in depth. Their let down could be their defensive backfield which is not as strong as some of the other teams here. Of the teams in this tier, this is the one I would least expect to challenge for the number one overall spot among defenses.

Tier 3

This defense revolves around its stars, J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney. If they perform to their talent then this defense has the ability to challenge for number one. However, they do not have the strength across their while starting lineup, as the tier above does. Last year, when hampered by injuries they finished second to last in terms of defensive consistency.

This defense was extremely impressive last year, finishing second in fantasy points among defenses. The issue for them in 2017 was their consistency, as they ranked 15th. They have decent names in their lineup but they lack the explosive pass rush that would help them improve their week-to-week consistency.

The Saints had a solid year overall in 2018, finishing 10th in fantasy points per game. However, much like the Ravens, they struggled for consistency, ranking 24th. A solid defensive line and defensive backfield should mean they are more consistent this season.

Last year was a fairly good one for the Panthers, finishing 12th in fantasy points per game and sixth in weekly consistency. If you just look at the names that make up this defense then you would expect them to do quite well. I fully expect them to be very similar to 2017, finishing around the top-10 with consistent performances.

Tier 4

The Bears relatively young defense should be ready to make the next step in 2018. The addition of Roquan Smith should help solidify this defense but they will need to get their pass rush going to improve on last years top-10 performances in both consistency and fantasy points per game.

The Falcons defense is one that I could absolutely see finishing top-five this season. They have a young core that has talent and can get after the quarterback. Last year they were extremely consistent but they failed to make an imprint in terms of fantasy points per game. With the addition of Deadrin Senat and Takkarist McKinley possibly starting more regularly the Falcons defense could make a big impact in 2018.

The Steelers finished top 10 in both consistency and fantasy points per game. Their defense will always be there or there about, making them an interesting late round pickup who you can feel confident will put up solid scores week-to-week.

The Patriots defense was not good in 2017. Entering the year many felt they could challenge for the best defense but they struggled to stop offenses because they could not muster an effective pass rush. They added Adrian Claybourn from the Atlanta Falcons who they will hope can give them a consistent threat off the outside. With Bill Belichick as the head coach you always expect this defense to challenge to be among the leagues top-10.

Tier 5

Among this tier a particular favorite if you feel like a gamble is Cleveland. They have a ton of defensive talent, due to their high draft picks. If they can keep Myles Garrett on the field then the pass rush could cause havoc in 2018. The Titans are a team I expect to improve this year, with defensive-minded head coach Mike Vrabel in charge.

Tier 6 and beyond

Among tier six a team to watch are the Detroit Lions, who finished sixth in consistency last season and have added a defensive minded head coach in Matt Patricia. The rest of tier six, except the Seattle Seahawks, all finished near the bottom of the consistency rankings. In tier seven I like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to improve in 2018 but they are a team for deep leagues only because they play in an incredibly tough division.


More Draft Rankings Analysis

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.