Strategies and Rankings for Fantasy NFL Defense and Special Teams (D/ST)

2023-08-14 23:50:04

The players of the Fantasy NFL They tend to treat defensemen and special teams (D/ST) in one of two ways: they either care too much about it, or they don’t pay enough attention to it. Rarely do we see owners pay just the right amount of attention to defense and special teams. There will always be one group that hits a top-tier D/ST in Round 10 or 11, draining defense value and depriving themselves of solid offensive contributors that their leaguemates will pick up with subsequent turns. Others will wait until the last round to select the best D/ST available, a strategy that can also carry more risk than reward.

Anyone can select a top-tier D/ST like the 49ers, Eagles, Cowboys or Bills in the No. 150 pick, but consider that decision in terms of WAR (wins above replacement). Did you get any wins by taking a D/ST at a point in the Draft where your opponents will be saving Kyler Murray, Raheem Mostert, Zay Jones and Dawson Knox?

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Do not fool yourself. You passed up much-needed value and depth elsewhere to try and get the No. 1 defense, which is rarely where the first defense drafted ends up at the end of the season. Additionally, the difference between last year’s No. 1 D/ST New England and No. 13 Seattle Seahawks was four points per game (10.9 to 6.9). The top seven D/STs averaged 7.9 or higher!

We will always be frank about it: the first owner to select a bumper rarely wins the championship of the league, but the owners who don’t put any effort in the D/ST position, from Draft research to weekly broadcasts, they will also be at a disadvantage. Aim for a middle ground when it comes to D/ST preparation.

In our experience, the most successful owners tend to select a D/ST in the last four rounds of his Draft. If 60-75 percent of the best defenses have already been selected, it’s important to look at schedules and proactively plan for weeks.

Certain defenses, like the Chiefs, could be useful to start the season (vs. DET, @JAX, vs. CHI), but you might want to have them when they face the Jets and Vikings in Weeks 4 and 5. Similarly, the Jaguars have Indy, Houston and Atlanta in three of their first four weeks, but the Chiefs and Bills in Weeks 2 and 5.

Keeping an eye on each team’s 2023 schedule and player trades in the offseason is imperative. On paper, the Steelers might look unimpressive if you just look at their 2022 stats, but remember that they spent half of last season without standout TJ Watt, who suffered a pectoral injury. With Watt back and a schedule that includes the Texans, Rams, Jaguars and Packers in the first 10 weeks, Pittsburgh should be a solid value.

We can’t imagine a better schedule for a D/ST than the Saints, who are also led by the highly intelligent defensive coach Dennis Allen. New Orleans schedule is so good we have to share it: Titans, @ Panthers, @ Packers, Buccaneers, @ Patriots, @ Texans, Jaguars, @ Colts, Bears, @ Vikings, BYE, @ Falcons, Lions, Panthers, Giants, @Rams, @Buccaneers, vs. Falcons.

That, my friends, is a schedule that should result in my ending as one of the top five fantasy defenses. Green Bay, Tampa Bay, New England, Indy and the Rams aren’t the scary offenses they used to be. In fact, they are likely to be shadows of their former dominance in the upcoming season. Take advantage of your leaguemates not doing their due diligence and scouring every schedule to find defenses with hidden potential. Several other teams have seemingly favorable Weeks 1 and 2 (Washington, Green Bay, Arizona, Chicago, Atlanta), but we wouldn’t bother with the last three D/STs on that list.

Speaking of the Packers, they continue to post an above-average D/ST from start to finish. Linebackers Preston Smith, De’Vondre Campbell, Quay Walker and Rashon Gary form the foundation of a solid 3-4 defense, with standout cornerbacks Jaire Alexander and Rasul Douglas patrolling the skies. The Packers also have a good schedule, with Chicago, Atlanta and New Orleans to start the season, and matchups with the Broncos, Rams and Steelers in Weeks 7, 9 and 10.

Of course, we can also use the calendar, past results and personnel changes to help us identify weaknesses. The Patriots were impressive last season, but Jack Jones could face disciplinary action on a firearms charge and cornerback Joejuan Williams left for Minnesota in free agency. New England also has a brutal start to the season: Philly, Miami, Jets, Dallas, New Orleans, Las Vegas, Buffalo and Miami again. You could try trading for this D/ST in Week 8, since the Pats’ second-half schedule is much easier, but don’t take them too early in the Draft. You’re better off looking for value for a top-10 team with a more favorable schedule, like the Ravens, or an improved D/ST like the Jets or Dolphins.

The ranking of the best defensemen in Fantasy NFL 2023

Pos. Equipment

1    Philadelphia Eagles
2 San Francisco 49ers
3    Buffalo Bills
4    Dallas Cowboys
5    Baltimore Ravens
6    New England Patriots
7    New York Jets
8    Miami Dolphins
9    Pittsburgh Steelers
10    New Orleans Saints
11    Kansas City Chiefs
12    Tampa Bay Buccaneers
13    Cleveland Browns
14    Los Angeles Chargers
15    Cincinnati Bengals
16    Washington Commanders
17    Denver Broncos
18    New York Giants
19    Carolina Panthers
20    Jacksonville Jaguars
21    Detroit Lions
22    Green Bay Packers
23    Houston Texans
24    Los Angeles Rams
25    Indianapolis Colts
26    Seattle Seahawks
27    Minnesota Vikings
28    Arizona Cardinals
29    Chicago Bears
30    Tennessee Titans
31    Las Vegas Raiders
32    Atlanta Falcons

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