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Week 1 Defense (DEF) Streamers and Starts - 2022 Fantasy Tiers, Rankings

Broncos Defense - Fantasy Football DST Rankings, IDP Sleepers, NFL Team Defenses

Welcome back RotoBallers, it's that time again! The NFL season is here, and so are fantasy football defense streamers. We are back for yet another season of action, and once again I'll be bringing you my weekly fantasy football DST rankings and tiers to help you make the right picks.

Last season was my second one covering the streaming defenses article each week, and it went better than I could have ever imagined. This weekly series ended up winning an FSWA award for Best Ongoing Fantasy Football Article, and I appreciate everyone who took the time to read it all season long and reached out with kind words. I know I might not get it right every single week, but I hope the discussion and process help everybody make decisions that help them win each week.

Editor's Note: Our incredible team of writers won two writing awards and received 12 award nominations by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. A big congrats to our very own Byron Lindeque (Golf) and Jordan McAbee (NASCAR) for both winning Writer Of The Year awards! Be sure to follow RotoBaller's analysis and advice all year long, and win more. Win More With RotoBaller!

Last year I introduced my Best Overall Defense (BOD) rankings formula, and I'll be using it again this year. I'll give a quick overview of the formula below, followed by my general strategy for streaming defenses, and then my Week 1 fantasy football defense (DST) rankings. Good luck in Week 1 everyone!

 

What is the BOD Ranking Formula?

The BOD (Best Overall Defense) formula takes into account my favorite stats for picking the right defenses (both positive and negative) and weighs them in a formula that you can view here. I tweaked the formula as the season went on last year, and I feel like it gives us a pretty good indicator of who has the best defenses for fantasy purposesIf you don't want to click that link, the formula is:

(Pressure Rate x 2) + (Sacks) + (QB Hurry Rate) + (Pass Break-Ups) + (%Drives ending in a Turnover x 2)

Minus

(Missed Tackles)+ (% Drives ending in a Score x 2) + (Yards per play)

It's important to clarify that the BOD rankings ARE NOT to be treated as weekly rankings. BOD is meant to tell us who the best fantasy defenses are, but depending on the matchup, they might be ranked differently in a given week. That's why we have this column where I will be breaking down my rankings for each week and an explanation of why I have the defenses ranked the way I do. The rankings will take into account their BOD ranking, opponent, injuries, weather, etc., but I hope my explanation will help make sense of each ranking.

Since this is Week One, we are not going to use last year's BOD rankings because we have no current stats to go off of. But, make sure to always check the link to my updated rankings as the week goes on. When we get injury news or troubling weather information, I will update the rankings accordingly.

 

Picking The Right Defenses To Pickup and Start

Just a quick recap of my general philosophy and what we discussed at length last year: when choosing a defense, you want to look for defenses that get consistent pressure and takeaways. Sacks and turnovers are more valuable for fantasy defense than preventing yardage and even, to a certain extent, preventing points. If a defense allows a stingy yards-per-play number, that's great and I'll cite some of those numbers below. However, they better also be able to get into the backfield or force turnovers or else it won't really matter in the long run.

Essentially, we need to move away from points against as being the most important factor in choosing a fantasy defense. In 2021, NFL offenses gained 343.6 yards per game and scored 23.0 points per game. While that's down from the 24.8 scored in 2020 (most likely because of the deep safety defenses), it's still the third-most in the Super Bowl era.

With offenses putting up video game numbers, it means that we can't continue to judge a defense solely by the number of points they allow or the number of yards they give up. Those numbers will naturally be higher than we're used to. Instead, we need to look for which offensive lines are truly weak points and which defenses will either be blitz-heavy or get consistent pressure with their pass rush. These are all incredibly important pieces of information in determining which defenses to play in any given week.

Starting the right defense every week can be a difference-maker, so remember to check back here during the week as I will make updates once we get more information on some of these injuries and also get a better sense of the weather for the game.

 

Week 1 Defenses To Start and Stream: Tiered Rankings

Confidence Ratings (out of 15) - Since every league's DST scoring is different, projections don't always make a ton of sense. The confidence rating is a guideline for how much more I like one team over another instead of just a point projection. This is the best way to see just how much I like one team over another. Not all one or two spot differences are the same.

A zero means "do not start," and then the confidence rises from there. Typically the top three tiers will be DSTs you should target, with Tier 4 being options in deep leagues.

 

Tier 1 Defenses - Fantasy Football Rankings for Week 1

Without no game action to go off of so far this year, we're taking good defenses and attacking poor offenses and quarterbacks. The Saints were an elite unit for me last year and get to face Marcus Mariotta and a, likely, poor Falcons offense. The Denver Broncos should be in for a good year and will be facing Geno Smith, while I love the Ravens as a bounce-back option, and they face Joe Flacco. These are all matchups I want to target.

If you didn't get a chance to read my DSTs to draft piece, here is an edited version of what I wrote about each team and why I like them this season:

The Saints are a perennially underrated defense. They finished 2nd in my BOD (Best Overall Defense) rankings last year thanks to being 7th in sacks, 3rd in tackles for a loss, 6th in quarterback pressure rate, and 4th in the percentage of drives that ended in an offensive score. They were also 4th in scoring defense and 7th in total yards allowed last season, so this was a tremendously well-rounded defense. In the offseason, they added safety Tyrann Mathieu, who should help their turnover rate and also just generally improve the quality of their defense, which is saying something since the Saints have finished 8th or better in defensive efficiency for five straight seasons.

Despite Von Miller leaving and Bradley Chubb getting hurt, the Broncos finished 9th in my defensive rankings last year. The pass rush really suffered without those two, but the Broncos were 4th-best in the NFL in drives that ended in an offensive score, and they missed the fewest tackles of any defense in the NFL. In fact, no other defense finished within ten of them. They will get Bradley Chubb back this season, which will help their pass rush tremendously, and the offense's likely improvement under Russell Wilson will put more pressure on opponents to try to keep up, which tends to lead to more opportunities for sacks and turnovers.

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, they 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 in 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.

 

Tier 2 Defenses - Fantasy Football Rankings for Week 1

These are all solid defenses that have good matchups and one potentially elite defense with a tough draw.

The 49ers were 8th in sacks last year and 7th in drives ending in an offensive score, which I love against a Bears offense that has a poor offensive line and few weapons for Justin Fields outside of Darnell Mooney. However, the 49ers were also 26th in the league in turnover rate, and Justin Fields has looked really good this preseason, so there is a chance that he's able to make a few big plays and avoid some seemingly easy sacks, which will limit the ceiling for the 49ers defense.

I have the Titans as one of my sleeper defenses to target this year. They finished as my 4th-ranked defense last year because they 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. While I think Brian Daboll was a great hire for the Giants, it's early and Daniel Jones has not inspired a ton of confidence yet.

The Colts are often a better real-life defense than fantasy defense because they don't blitz a lot, which puts a lot of pressure on their front four to get sacks. However, they have a strong secondary that can force turnovers, which could come into play this week since the jury is still out on Davis Mills. I also think we're expecting a lot right out of the gates from Dameon Pierce when it might take him time to adjust to the NFL game. Moreso, I think this Colts offense should score a lot, which will force Houston into catch-up mode, which will lead to sacks and turnovers.

The Dolphins were my 10th-ranked defense last year thanks to being 3rd in the NFL in sacks, 12th in turnover rate, and 10th in yards allowed per play. However, this is also a play against the Patriots. I'm just not in on them. All of the reports out of camp are that this offense looks terrible. They won a lot of games last year on the back of their defense but were exposed by Buffalo in the playoffs. I think this Dolphins team is ascending, and I don't buy the Patriots' resurgence.

The Bucs are a really strong defense. I don't need lots of stats to tell you that. However, Dallas is a tough offense, even with their banged-up wide receiver corps. I think Tampa Bay is playable this week given the Cowboys' offensive line issues, but certainly not the top-tier unit you'll come to expect in subsequent weeks.

I like a lot of what Philadelphia did in the offseason, adding edge defender Haason Reddick, linebacker Kyzir White, and cornerback James Bradberry. They also drafted defensive tackle Jordan Davis in the first round and linebacker Nakobe Dean in the third. That's a lot of talent to bring into a defense. I know the Lions are a fun story and might be a solid team this year, but I don't believe in their offensive line, and I need to see Jared Goff really lead that offense before I believe that they can take a big step forward this year.

 

Tier 3 Defenses - Fantasy Football Rankings for Week 1

The majority of these teams are good defenses in not-so-great matchups or fine defenses in good matchups. Given that it's Week 1 and we're guessing a little bit, I think you can make an argument that any of these defenses are startable in 12-team leagues.

We'll start with the Commanders. They were 3rd 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 (even without Chase Young) with Montez Sweat, Jonathan Allen, and Daron Payne. That's the kind of defensive line that hounds opposing quarterbacks, which leads to sacks and forced turnovers. I know the Jaguars should be better without Urban Meyer, but how good will they really be?

The Panthers lost Haason Reddick but still have defensive end Brian Burns, defensive tackle Derrick Brown, cornerback Jaycee Horn, and safety Jeremy Chinn, so there is talent here. They were 11th in QB pressure rate last year and 4th in tackles for a loss, so they will bring pressure. They also get to face a Browns team that is starting Jacoby Brissett at quarterback and has had so many distractions this summer it's hard to count. With Baker Mayfield looking for revenge, I'm going to lean towards Carolina in this battle because I think Christian McCaffrey, D.J. Moore, and Robby Anderson are a solid enough trio that the Browns' defense might not be as a good a play in week 1 as many think.

The Patriots' defense was great last year. I expect them to be really good this year. But I also just think that this Dolphins offense with Chase Edmonds, Raheem Mostert, and Tyreek Hill added to the mix could be a pretty strong unit this year. There's certainly an argument to be made that they should be at the top of this group, but that's also why this group is ranked so closely.

I'm not sure what to make of the Bengals' defense. They flashed at times last year, but I'm not confident in them. However, I am OK attacking either Mitchell Trubisky or Kenny Pickett in deeper leagues, so I think the Bengals are 15-team viable for sure.

The Bills and Chargers are two defenses that I really like for this season. I just simply don't love their offensive matchups and don't love that the Bills need to start a rookie cornerback against the Rams because Tre'Davious White will begin the season on IR.

 

Tier 4 Defenses - Fantasy Football Rankings for Week 1

I like the Steelers, Packers, and Rams defenses this year. They will likely be top-10 for me for many weeks, but they all have really bad matchups to start the year.

 

Tier 5 Defenses - Fantasy Football Rankings for Week 1



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