Fantasy Football Rankings: Top 12 Defenses

Photo: Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome back for year two of The Draft Network’s preseason fantasy football rankings. The following is some quick background on how these rankings were determined. 

More than 40 hours of research went into the ranking process. It started by coming up with custom stat projections for more than 200 NFL players. From there I adjusted the order you’ll see below based on upside, injury risk, likelihood of reaching the projected total, etc. It’s important to keep in mind that the rankings are not simply in descending order of projected fantasy points. Finally, I placed each defense into a tier.

All of my rankings reflect the order in which I would take players if I were drafting today in a 12-team PPR league with ESPN scoring and no bonuses. These rankings will be updated throughout the offseason, so be sure to check in with The Draft Network often to gain an edge on your league-mates.

If you have any specific questions or want to know more about what I think of certain players, hit me up on Twitter (@JaimeEisner). I’d be happy to chat with you! Also, tune in to the TDN Fantasy Podcast for in-depth audio breakdowns of these rankings and all the latest fantasy football news. 

For access to DST rankings 13-25 and stat projections, please click here and become a TDN Premium member.

Other rankings: QB | RB | WR TE K


TIER 1


1. Pittsburgh Steelers

2. San Francisco 49ers

3. Baltimore Ravens

The Steelers finished as the No. 2 overall fantasy defense last year and saw about a one-point-per-game increase in their output after trading for star safety Minkah Fitzpatrick. Their division is tough, but they generate a ton of turnovers and the offense should help them out a lot more in 2020. The 49ers may be the NFL’s best real-life defense, but come in at No. 2 here—although the margin between these three teams is razor-thin. They’ll need to generate a few more takeaways to be the top fantasy defense. As will Baltimore, although they had the best fantasy defense in the NFL in the second half of the 2019 season.


TIER 2


4. New England Patriots

5. Los Angeles Rams

6. Chicago Bears

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

8. New Orleans Saints

9. Buffalo Bills

New England had the top fantasy defense last year, but their schedule had a big role in that. Their offense won’t be as good so they’ll be on the field more. They’ll need to continue to generate 30-plus turnovers to maintain their top-five spot. The Rams are a sneaky good fantasy defense that finished fifth last season. They finished top 10 in turnovers and top five in sacks last season. 

After a phenomenal 2018, the Bears barely cracked the top 20 last season. However, they’re still supremely talented and I cannot imagine them falling outside the top 25 in sacks and turnovers again in 2020. The fourth-best fantasy defense in the second half of 2019 was… the Buccaneers. They were the best team in the NFL against the run, top five in the NFL in turnovers, and top eight in sack rate. 

Of the final four teams in this tier, the Saints have the lowest upside. They’re safe—finishing in the top nine in two of the past three seasons—but they were an average turnover team in 2019. The Bills have all the tools to be a great fantasy defense—top 10 in turnovers and sacks in 2019, no more Tom Brady in the division, etc.—but haven’t been able to put it all together for fantasy purposes, finishing 15th and 12th over the last two seasons. 


TIER 3


10. Kansas City Chiefs

11. Denver Broncos

12. Indianapolis Colts

The Chiefs’ defense isn’t anything special in real life, but they were pretty stingy in the points allowed category in 2019, which propelled them to a second straight top-eight fantasy finish. The Broncos play in a tough division, but the return of Bradley Chubb should help them a lot. The Colts added DeForest Buckner this offseason and will have a much more competent offense supporting them.


For access to DST rankings 13-25 and stat projections, please click here and become a TDN Premium member.

Written By:

Jaime Eisner

Managing Editor

Managing Editor of The Draft Network. He’s a former editor for Sports Illustrated, FanRag Sports and Arizona Sports. He’s the co-host of the TDN Fantasy Podcast and has an extensive background covering fantasy sports and sports betting.

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