Week 1 Defense (DEF) Streamers, Starts & Draft Targets: 2017 Fantasy Tiers, Rankings

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We're back, gang! Below are RotoBaller's Week 1 defense tiers and rankings, or which defenses to stream, start and target at the end of your 2017 drafts for Week 1 of the NFL and fantasy football season.

Our tiered defense rankings are your guide to drafting defenses, making waiver wire pickups/adds to improve your lineups, and to decide which defenses to start, sit, target, avoid or stream for Week 1.

Starting the right defense every week can be a difference-maker, so we have broken out our defense rankings into tiers with analysis on each matchup. Some of these Week 1 defenses have good matchups and are not widely owned, representing fantasy scoring opportunities if they are available on your league's waiver wire for a Week 1 pickup or add. Good luck in Week 1 RotoBallers!

Editor's note: Purchase any NFL Lineup Optimizer pass (including daily DFS cheat sheets), and you also get access to NBA and NHL Optimizers and DFS cheat sheets.

 

Week 1 Defenses To Start & Stream: Tiers & Rankings

Tier 1 Defenses

1. Houston Texans (vs. JAC)
2. Denver Broncos (vs. LAC)
3. Carolina Panthers (@ SF)
4. Pittsburgh Steelers (@ CLE)

The Texans are poised to be among the elite fantasy defenses in 2017, thanks in large part to their fearsome front seven. They managed to allow the fewest yards of any defense in the NFL last year without JJ Watt, who is now back and ready to bust quarterbacks. Add that to a home matchup against a Blake Bortles-led Jaguars team, and you've got a recipe for fantasy success.

Broncos are a weekly no-brainer, even against a fully-loaded Chargers lineup. That defensive unit simply puts up legitimate numbers on a weekly basis, and until a team proves otherwise they'll be in the top tier. Pittsburgh's DST lacks the star power to be an upper-echelon option, but they are an obvious stream against the Browns, even if it is an away match. If they can bottle up Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson, this should be a great matchup for them--I don't have faith in DeShone Kizer to surprise anyone this early.

The Panthers defense has top-notch talent on every part of the field, and taking on Brian Hoyer and San Francisco's lackluster offense makes them a Tier 1 option for the opening weekend.

 

Tier 2 Defenses

5. Los Angeles Rams (vs. IND)
6. Arizona Cardinals (@ DET)
7. New England Patriots (vs. KC)
8. Jacksonville Jaguars (@ HOU)

The Rams will likely fall in the third or fourth tier most weeks. They simply don't have the playmakers (besides Aaron Donald) to make an impact against most opponents. However, with Scott Tolzien likely under center in Week 1, you can safely roll out the Rams and watch them shred the Colts offensive line. T.Y. Hilton and Donte Moncrief can't hurt them if nobody can get them the ball.

The Patriots trot out a rock-solid DST every week--teams are often playing from behind, which can make them mistake-prone. Week 1 will reflect that above-average, if unspectacular production. Kareem Hunt is a dynamic back to be sure, but he hasn't been running with the ones for very long at all. Alex Smith's dink-and-dunk approach doesn't put many DSTs at risk, although Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce can certainly hurt you in a hurry. You can still feel good about the Pats in Week 1, and against most opponents.

 

Tier 3 Defenses

9. Atlanta Falcons (@ CHI)
10. Seattle Seahawks (@ GB)
11.  Los Angeles Chargers (@ DEN)
12. Minnesota Vikings (vs. NO)
13. Kansas City Chiefs (@ NE)

The Seahawks will be in Tier 1 almost every week, as they lost almost nothing from a defensive personnel standpoint and their offense will keep opponents on the ropes most of the time. However, they get Aaron Rodgers in Week 1, and no matter who the defense is you simply can't count on a great DST showing against the Packers.

The Vikings are the reigning DST-scoring champs, and they'll return almost all of an extremely talented defensive unit. Like the Seahawks, they'll be in the top tiers more often than not, but I still don't love any matchup against Drew Brees, even if he is on the road. This game will be a good test of whether or not last year's production was a fluke.

 

Tier 4 Defenses

14. New York Giants (@ DAL)
15. Buffalo Bills (vs. NYJ)
16. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@ MIA)
17. Philadelphia Eagles (@ WAS)
18. Baltimore Ravens (@ CIN)

Give me the Bills in a home game against the Jets all day. I very nearly put them in the third tier, but decided against it because there is still a ton of uncertainty given the brand new regime in place. However, against the Jets' terrible offense led by...holy cow, Josh McCown is still in the league? There should be plenty of opportunity for DST points. They're a great option if you've decided to stream all season.

The Eagles are an interesting case, as they've been one of the best fantasy DSTs for years now. However, they finished in the middle of the pack last year despite starting the year hot. I'm not ultra-confident against the Redskins in Week 1, but Kirk Cousins can toss a pick every now and then and the Eagles' pass rush should be able to get to Rob Kelley in the backfield. They're a mid-range streaming option this week, and I'm in "wait-and-see" mode for the rest of the season. Their secondary is a major weak spot on paper, and I'm looking forward to seeing how they handle Terrelle Pryor and Jamsion Crowder.

 

Tier 5 Defenses

19. Oakland Raiders (@ TEN)
20. Washington Redskins (vs. PHI)
21. Cincinnati Bengals (@ BAL)
22. Indianapolis Colts (@ LAR)

The Bengals DST had a disappointing 2016, but I have them pegged for a bounce-back in 2017. They're still loaded with big-name defensive studs (ex. Geno Atkins, George Iloka, Carlos Dunlap, Vontaze Burfict) and that unit should have some success getting to Joe Flacco given the Ravens subpar o-line. I'm slightly concerned about the Ravens versatile run game though, as the Bengals were 21st in the NFL last year against the run. Seeing how they do against Danny Woodhead and Terrance West will play a big factor in how I look at this unit next week.

The Colts DST was just plain awful last year, but upper management made some moves to address that in the offseason. Stopping Todd Gurley is the only real concern here, but I also don't have faith in the Colts to force any turnovers. They're still not going to be high on my rankings until I see them succeed more than once, but this week you can stream them as a last resort given the matchup against Jared Goff.

 

More 2017 Fantasy Football Analysis


Check out all of RotoBaller's 2017 fantasy football rankings. Staff rankings are updated regularly for all positions and include standard formats, PPR scoring, tiered rankings and dynasty leagues.