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Fantasy Football Defense Sleepers: D/ST Rankings Draft Value Picks for 2022

Ravens Defense - Fantasy Football DST Rankings, Draft Sleepers, IDP Targets

The NFL season is under a week away, and many people are getting their final drafts in for the season. Last week I took a look at my favorite DSTs of the year, so today we're going to look at some DSTs I like as sleepers. As I mentioned last year, I think we often get the term "sleeper" confused. A lot of the rhetoric around "sleepers" seems to center on the long-shots who might hit big and bring you massive value; something close to a late-round dart throw. However, I think "sleepers" are simply just players being "slept on" or not getting enough respect.

Obviously, that only partially applies when talking about defenses because there are no early or mid-round defenses. For the most part, all defenses are drafted within the last four rounds, and, as I mentioned in the article linked above, I would highly encourage limiting drafting your defense to just the last two rounds. So when we talk about sleepers for defense, as we are today, I'll be looking at units that aren't getting the respect they deserve. Some of these will be just outside the top 10 and others will be a bit lower, but they are all units that I think have a good chance of finishing the season inside the top 10 overall.

As you'll see more from me during my weekly DST streamer and rankings column, I've created a DST Rankings metric (BOD - Best Overall Defense) that weighs together all of the stats I've come to believe are most important for determining if a defense will be a strong fantasy unit: pressure rate, sacks, quarterback hurries, drives ending in a turnover, drives ending in an offensive score, and yards allowed per play. You can see the whole leaderboard based on last year's numbers hereOne final reminder that these are season-long sleeper picks so not necessarily defenses that you should target for Week 1

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Fantasy Football Defense Sleepers (DST) for 2022 Drafts

Cleveland Browns - Team Defense D/ST


The Browns were one of my favorite defenses coming into last season, but they didn't quite pan out. They had an up-and-down season as a fantasy unit, but their actual defensive performance wasn't that bad. As I mentioned in my draft article, when I mentioned how good the early season schedule was for the Browns, last year, Cleveland was 7th in passing DVOA and 12th in overall DVOA. Those are pretty solid numbers.

They always have a high-sack ceiling with Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney healthy, and Denzel Ward and Greg Newsome II are one of the league’s top starting cornerback pairings. The Browns can't really stop the run, but they can sack the quarterback and have solid cover corners, that's what you want from a fantasy defense because you get points for sacks and turnovers, not for rushing yards allowed.

The only issue will be that their offense with Jacoby Brissett at quarterback could put their defense in bad positions. However, that won't be a concern much at the beginning of the season since they start the season against the Panthers, Jets, Steelers, and Falcons. I'm going to back the talent on the Browns roster and say that can be a top ten or 12 defense this year when all is said and done.


Tennessee Titans - Team Defense D/ST


The Titans finished as my 4th-ranked defense last year, so it's a bit surprising to see them ranked around the 20th-best defense in many preseason fantasy rankings. Last year, the Titans were 2nd-best in the NFL in quarterback pressure rate, 9th in sacks, and 5th-best in missed tackles. This is a fundamentally sound defense that is well-coached and gets after the quarterback. That doesn't change year-over-year.

They may not have household names on their defensive line, but Jeffery Simmons, Denico Autry, Harold Landry, and Bud Dupree are super talented and should bring consistent pressure. Then you have to consider the fact that the Titans have used four top-100 picks on cornerbacks over the last three years. With young talent in the secondary and that group to rush the passer, I think the Titans can finish as a top-10 fantasy defense again.


Baltimore Ravens - Team Defense D/ST


The Ravens are ranked around 13th or 14th on the season, depending on the fantasy rankings system you use, but I believe they can get back to their elite ways in 2022, or at least close to it. This is what I wrote about them in my top DSTs to draft article:

The Ravens ranked 21st in my BOD rankings in 2021 and 28th in defensive efficiency overall, but they were decimated by injuries, so you almost need to throw out last year when trying to evaluate this defense.

In the offseason, the Ravens replaced defensive coordinator Don Martindale with Mike Macdonald, who led John Harbaugh's brother Jim's defense at Michigan last year. Macdonald will bring a more forward-thinking and schematically diverse defense, which should help to bring this unit back to prominence. Especially since they still have tons of talent and added more by signing safety Marcus Williams and nose tackle Michael Pierce in free agency.

They also used the 14th pick on safety Kyle Hamilton and the 76th pick on defensive tackle Travis Jones, so they have reloaded this team with even more talent. The Ravens start the year with a solid schedule with the Jets likely being led by Joe Flacco, and while I probably won't run the Ravens out against the Bills in Week 4, I love the first three matchups and will be targeting them often in drafts.


Washington Commanders - Team Defense D/ST


I'll admit I'm going out on a limb a bit here because I don't really KNOW if Washington's defense will be much better, but I know that it SHOULD be much better. They were third in defensive DVOA in 2020 and then plummeted to 27th last year, and it doesn't quite make sense.

They still have plenty of talent on the defensive line with Montez Sweat, Jonathan Allen, Daron Payne, and Chase Young, and while I know Chase Young will be out at least four weeks, he should still play for a majority of the season and the other guys have more than enough talent to bring pressure without him. That's the kind of defensive line that hounds opposing quarterbacks, which leads to sacks and forced turnovers. It did in 2020. It forgot how to in 2021, but I have to imagine they right the ship, to a certain extent in 2022.

Most people were drafting Washington as a top-six unit last year, and while I'm not sure they will finish that high, I can certainly see them ending in the top 10. Since they start the year with matchups against the Jaguars and Lions, it's not a bad gamble in the draft to see if that 2020 performance returns.

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