There are some aspects of fantasy football that you just can’t predict.
That’s never been more true than when drafting a defense/special teams unit. While there are a few squads you can bank on to be dominant from week to week, for the most part, you just want your defense to create turnovers, not give up garbage-time touchdowns and find the end zone occasionally.
So, let’s take a look at the top defense/special teams units for the 2017 fantasy football season.
1. Denver Broncos (Bye Week: 5)
The Broncos have had one of the NFL’s best defenses over the past two seasons, and this year should be no different. Denver’s unit once again should be a turnover-creating machine, and with the likes of Von Miller, Chris Harris Jr. and Aqib Talib still leading the way, the Broncos are the sure-fire top defense once again.
2. Kansas City Chiefs (Bye Week: 10)
The Chiefs feasted on turnovers last season, ranking first in interceptions (18), defensive touchdowns (eight), pass deflections (100) and fumble recoveries (15). While Kansas City’s defense has gotten a little long in the tooth, it will rely on Eric Berry, Marcus Peters and Justin Houston to carry the load. Having Tyreek Hill as a returner makes the Chiefs extra appealing — once they get past their Week 1 game against the New England Patriots, of course.
3. Houston Texans (Bye Week: 7)
J.J. Watt returns to bolster a defense that allowed an NFL-low 4,821 yards last season. Watt will rejoin a loaded front seven that includes Jadeveon Clowney, Brian Cushing, Whitney Mercilus and Benardrick McKinney. Houston’s defense struggled to create turnovers last season, but the return of Watt should make this unit one of the better defenses in the league.
4. Seattle Seahawks (Bye Week: 6)
Seattle saw its interceptions dip in 2016, but the Seahawks still ranked third in the NFL in points allowed (292) and sacks (42). With the core of their defense still going strong, we expect more of the same from Seattle in 2017.
5. Minnesota Vikings (Bye Week: 9)
Add the Vikings’ defense to the list of great units to draft and then bench in Week 1. Minnesota ranked in the top six in fumble recoveries, sacks, yards allowed, points allowed and defensive touchdowns, but faces Aaron Rodgers at the Green Bay Packers to open the season.
6. Los Angeles Rams (Bye Week: 8)
The Rams’ defense is loaded with talent, and with Wade Phillips coming on board as the defensive coordinator, this unit is primed for a huge 2017. Aaron Donald, Alec Ogletree and Robert Quinn star in a fearsome front seven that makes L.A. worthy of a mid-round pick.
7. New England Patriots (Bye Week: 9)
The Patriots surrendered an NFL-low 250 points in 2016, and their defense got better with the additions of Stephon Gilmore, Kony Ealy, Lawrence Guy and David Harris. The combination of Malcolm Butler and Gilmore at cornerback should make New England’s secondary one of the best in the league.
8. Arizona Cardinals (Bye Week: 8)
This dominant defense lost Calais Campbell and Tony Jefferson, which takes the Cardinals down a notch. But Arizona still ranked first in forced fumbles, sacks and tackles for loss in 2016, and boast serious playmakers in Patrick Peterson, Chandler Jones and Tyrann Mathieu.
9. Carolina Panthers (Bye Week: 11)
Carolina’s defense almost assuredly will have a better year than it did in 2016. The Panthers surrendered the most points in the NFL, thanks in large part to shootouts with the New Orleans Saints, Atlanta Falcons, Oakland Raiders and Seattle Seahawks. Carolina added Julius Peppers and Captain Munnerlyn, so its defense should have a bounce-back year.
10. Jacksonville Jaguars (Bye Week: 8)
Jacksonville’s defense has all the pieces to take a huge step forward in 2017. The additions of Barry Church, A.J. Bouye and Campbell to a unit that already includes Jalen Ramsey, Malik Jackson, Telvin Smith and Paul Posluszny should make the Jags a worth-while pick.
11. Philadelphia Eagles (Bye Week: 10)
The Eagles’ defense benefited massively from finding the end zone five times in 2016. While cornerback is a concern, the additions of Timmy Jernigan, Chris Long and Derek Barnett should help Philadelphia maintain a decent fantasy defense.
12. New York Giants (Bye Week: 8)
New York ranked second in points allowed (284), fourth in interceptions (17), second in passes defended (97) and sixth in touchdowns (four) last season, and the Giants should have another productive defensive campaign behind Olivier Vernon, Landon Collins and Jason Pierre-Paul.
13. Tennessee Titans (Bye Week: 8)
The Titans have had a porous defense for the past few seasons, but they did rank sixth in sacks (40), and the acquisitions of Logan Ryan, Adoree’ Jackson and Johnathan Cyprien should vastly improve their secondary.
14. Baltimore Ravens (Bye Week: 10)
Baltimore’s normally vicious defense has come back down to earth in recent years, but they still were tied for first in interceptions (18) and blocked four kicks in 2016, which makes the Ravens a decent late pickup in your draft.
15. Miami Dolphins (Bye Week: 11)
Only three teams gave up more points than the Dolphins last year, but this defense has its fair share of playmakers — Cameron Wake, Kiko Alonso and Byron Maxwell to name a few — and ranked 6th in the AFC with 26 takeaways in 2016.
16. Pittsburgh Steelers
17. Los Angeles Chargers
18. Atlanta Falcons
19. San Francisco 49ers
20. Oakland Raiders
Thumbnail photo via Ron Chenoy/USA TODAY Sports Images
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