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Sleeper Defenses for the 2018 Fantasy Football Season

Fantasy DST production is one of the most difficult things to predict on a yearly basis, with preseason favorites often not even registering in the top 12 come season's end. Remember the "juggernaut" Broncos last year? Didn't even finish in the top 15.

While there is almost always some joker willing to pony up for the Jaguars or Rams in the 8th round in every league, you should make sure you aren't one of those people. DST success can be had by streaming, but if you're looking for those DSTs that nobody else is going to identify, we're here to help.

Below are five defenses you should consider if you've waited on DST or plan on streaming throughout the season.

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Defensive Sleepers for Fantasy Football

Tennessee Titans 

The Titans defense is actually much better than it gets credit for. They're a classic case of real-life defensive success not translating to fantasy points, and it's entirely based on their lack of big plays. They had just 12 interceptions and nine fumble recoveries across 16 games, and most importantly they managed just one defensive touchdown.

New Titans first-year head coach Mike Vrabel is a former linebacker and certainly understands the importance of defensive prowess, and him bringing in former Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees emphasizes exactly that. The Titans invested significant draft capital in their defense, trading up to get linebackers Rashaan Evans and Harold Landry. Landry will join Derrick Morgan and Brian Orakpo as one of the most feared pass-rushing complements in the league, and they should help the Titans rack up sacks alongside legitimate star Jurrell Casey and the returning DaQuan Jones. They also added to the secondary by bringing in former Patriot Super Bowl hero Malcolm Butler to join Logan Ryan and Adoree Jackson. The secondary should take be able to take a huge step forward this year, and that should lead to more turnovers.

The Titans are a terrific Week 1 option against the Dolphins, but then they have a rough patch against the Texans, Jaguars and Eagles before becoming a top option again versus the Bills and Ravens.

Cleveland Browns

The Browns defense was middling last season despite having a decent amount of talent on the roster. Their young studs were inconsistent throughout the entire season, with both Myles Garrett and Jabrill Peppers alternating between flashing the brilliance that made them draft stars and the shoddy play expected of rookies. Both of them need to take steps forward for this defense to take another leap, but I think they're capable of it.

The secondary should be much-improved in 2018 given the additions of first-round rookie Denzel Ward, Damarious Randall and E.J. Gaines. On paper that level of talent should be able to force more mistakes and earn more interceptions, which is obviously a big factor in fantasy DST success. Their linebacking corps, led by last year's tackle leader Joe Schobert, is one of the best in the AFC and is returning at full strength.

The Browns start the season off pretty roughly, with the Steelers and Saints first up on their schedule. Right after that they draw the Jets, Raiders and Ravens, and there is certainly some fantasy potential in those matchups.

Atlanta Falcons

Not unlike the Titans, the Falcons' decent defensive season was overlooked due to a striking lack of turnovers. They ranked in the bottom three in the NFL in interceptions (8) and managed just two defensive touchdowns all season.

While losing Dontari Poe and Adrian Clayborn in the offseason wasn't ideal, there isn't as much need for concern as one would think. Freak athlete Takk McKinley will step right into the hole left in the pass rush, and he should be able to improve upon his six rookie sacks alongside 2016 sack leader Vic Beasley (who is transitioning exclusively back to edge rushing after a year mixing in coverage). Grady Jarrett is a legitimate stopper in the middle of the d-line, and he'll be joined by rookie Deadrin Senat to seal up the interior. The secondary is led by Pro Bowl linebacker Deion Jones, and there are no real holes there thanks to the presence of Desmond Trufant, Robert Alford, Ricardo Allen and Keanu Neal.

The Falcons get a couple tough draws early on in the season, opening up against the Eagles, Panthers and Saints, but things get significantly easier after that with the Bengals, Buccaneers and Giants in three of the next four weeks.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Buccaneers were atrocious last year, ranking last in both sacks and yardage allowed. They did somehow manage a respectable 26 turnovers and four defensive touchdowns, so the fantasy production was there on occasion.

Gerald McCoy has been on an island of talent for most of his career, but he's finally got some support on the defensive side of the ball. The Bucs signed both Beau Allen and Vinny Curry in the offseason, which is huge for the defensive line and should lead to a much better run-stopping unit. They drafted stud DT Vita Vea in the first round of the draft and he should make an immediate impact in the trenches alongside underrated the Noah Spence. Finally, they traded for Jason Pierre-Paul who is still a bona fide pass rush monster, 10 fingers or otherwise. The secondary isn't anything to write home about, but Brent Grimes and Vernon Hargreaves are veterans with play-making ability.

The Bucs might not be a valid option early in the season given the gauntlet they have to run through--Saints, Eagles, Steelers and Falcons are four of their first five opponents. After that they get the Browns and Bengals, and should start being considered as a fantasy option right around there.

Green Bay Packers

The Packers defense has only had one top-ten finish in the last seven seasons, and that was certainly a factor in the release of Dom Capers in the offseason. In his place is Mike Pettine, who saw success with both the Bills and Jets in recent years. This team disappointed in 2017 with just 21 total turnovers and two defensive touchdowns.

Pettine's scheme isn't overly complex, but it remains to be seen if the personnel can execute it as well as they'll need to. The addition of Muhammad Wilkerson and Dean Lowry should significantly help the defensive line take a step forward, and the Packers certainly still have a capable enough pass rush. The big question is whether or not Clay Matthews and Nick Perry can stay on the field for 16 games. The Packers spent significant draft capital on beefing up their secondary, selecting Jaire Alexander and Josh Jackson to help supplement the contingent of Tramon Williams, Davon House and potential star Kevin King. With Morgan Burnett gone, Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix will need to have a major bounce-back. Ultimately this team has a load of defensive fantasy potential, but it remains to be seen if they can capitalize on that.

The Packers carry some immediate fantasy intrigue in a Week 1 Sunday night matchup against the Bears, but then a couple of avoids against the Vikings and Redskins before a sexy Week 4 matchup against the Bills.


More Draft Prep and Analysis

Check out RotoBaller's famous fantasy football draft sleepers and waiver wire pickups list, updated regularly!

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