A good fantasy defense can give your lineup a boost week in and week out. There are rare exceptions that are dominant fantasy assets, but most of the time you are left to hold your nose and start the least offensive option. However, in a tight league, the difference between victory and defeat can be a reliable defense. Fantasy defense rankings are tricky because there are so many variables to consider, but a few things are indicators of fantasy success.
Looking for a team with an advantageous schedule can be the best indicator of success. The 2019 Patriots had a Charmin soft schedule and capitalized on that with takeaways and pick-sixes at an epic rate. Similarly, defenses that can create pressure without blitzing are also at an advantage. Anytime a defense can hurry a quarterback they reduce their effectiveness and create sacks and turnovers. Lastly, teams that can keep their opponents out of the endzone are incredibly valuable because most leagues give points based upon points against. Stats like turnovers tend to be flukey and more likely to regress so they factor in less.
With all that prep being laid out, here are your definitive 2020 fantasy defense rankings.
|Los Angeles Chargers
|San Francisco 49ers
|New Orleans Saints
|Los Angeles Rams
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers
|Green Bay Packers
|Washington Football Team
|New England Patriots
|Kansas City Chiefs
|New York Jets
|Las Vegas Raiders
|New York Giants
Draft, Set, and Forget Tier
This top tier is dominated by three teams with easy schedules and one team with an otherworldly pass rush. The big surprise at the top has to be the Los Angeles Chargers, up 12 spots from their average ranking on Fantasy Pros. Do not be surprised by this jump for several reasons. Firstly, the Chargers have eight positive matchups over the course of the season, and that does not include two games against the potentially hapless Raiders. Secondly, they have a remarkably talented pass rush in Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram. If both of them play 16 games, this defense will be a force.
Even with challenging early matchups against the Chiefs and Saints, the last eleven weeks of the season include teams like the Jets, Jacksonville, and juicy matchups against Vegas and Denver in semi-final and championship weeks. The undeniable talent and ability to bring pressure without having to blitz, lowest blitz percentage, and 12th in pressure percentage, means they are due for some positive turnover regression. The Chargers have the schedule and talent to be a great option on defense this year. Consider drafting them before the last two rounds to capitalize on their value.
The other teams in this tier all produced top-12 seasons in 2019 and are due to continue their production. Buffalo has a revamped defensive line and better depth in the secondary to continue to stifle opponents through the air. Add in a schedule with only one bad matchup, Kansas City in Week 6, the Bills are primed for a strong year. The 49ers and Ravens were DST03 and DST04 last year and are primed to repeat with many of their defensive playmakers returning and enough favorable matchups to not be a draft after-thought. All three of these defenses have the ability to swing weeks in your direction so do not be afraid to spend a pick before the last two rounds on them.
Should be Good, but Watch Waivers
This tier is filled with two blitz-happy teams in Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh. Last year the Steelers, 1st, and the Bucs, 7th, used frequent blitzing to get home and sack the quarterback. Their high-pressure rates and a high rate of turnovers are a direct result of that. A high blitz-rate is exactly what is keeping these two teams out of the “Set and Forget” tier. Turnovers, like touchdowns, are flukey. A ball bounces just right to be intercepted or a player hits a ball-carrier at just the right angle to force a fumble, their high turnover numbers are due for a regression.
Add in a difficulty schedule for Tampa of two games against New Orleans, hosting Kansas city, and playing Atlanta in the semi-finals, and they are a defense to draft, but be mindful of rough matchups. The Steelers have some good matchups, Giants, Titans, and Broncos, but have just as many difficult matchups, Baltimore twice comes to mind. Both defenses are valuable to draft but are not in that top-tier.
Last year the Washington Football Team could be a defense that could control some games. Then that Washington offense would take the field and completely undo all the good work done by the defense. With Ron Rivera and Chase Young in town, look for this defense to take big strides. Especially in terms of pressuring the quarterback and creating turnover-opportunities. If the offense can maintain some ball control and keep opposing offenses off the field, this unit could finish towards the top of the fantasy defense rankings.
Although the New England Patriots started 2019 on fire, they quickly came back to earth. Once they got out of their epically easy schedule at the start of the season they cooled down quite a bit. From Week 10-16 last year they finished as DST15. Although they may capture some moments of their magic last year, they are not the force they were in the first nine weeks last year.
Kansas City will be a great defense to own in the early part of the season, outside of games against Houston and Baltimore. When they get to their Bye Week start looking to move off of them. Three of their last five matchups are against Tampa, New Orleans, and Atlanta. Kansas City will be in shootouts which will hurt them in the fantasy defense rankings.
One Week Fill-ins
Teams like the Broncos and Titans all have the capability to be stingy and fantasy relevant this year. However, they both have difficult schedules. It is a big red flag when a defense has more bad matchups than good. While the Titans may have a favorable early schedule, it gets tough in the late season and playoffs. The Broncos meanwhile have nearly no favorable matchups, the Vegas games are tossups. Feel free to stream these defenses, but do not count on them all season.
Avoid like the Plague
Carolina has a first-year head coach and is just starting a rebuild. If, and this is the biggest “IF” ever, they look competent and Washington looks bad offensively, they are a great late-season stash with a juicy championship matchup against the WFT. Atlanta finished as DST22 last year and the NFC South got better so just pass on them.