Fantasy Football 2014 Preview: Ranking The Top 10 Defense/Special Teams

by NESN Staff

August 20, 2014

Richard Sherman, Michael CrabtreeThink fantasy defenses don’t matter? In 2013, the Seattle Seahawks’ defense scored more fantasy points than Adrian Peterson in ESPN standard scoring leagues.

Defenses like last year’s Seahawks unit don’t come around often, obviously, but you get the point. Having a defense that can consistently give you 10-plus points per game is a huge plus.

Seattle is an obvious top choice, but the rest of the top 10 might surprise you. Points allowed certainly aren’t the end-all, be-all for fantasy defenses. A unit that can generate sacks and turnovers arguably is more valuable than one that just keeps points off the board.

That makes picking a productive defense pretty tricky. One word of advice — if they’re in the NFC West, take them.

1. Seattle Seahawks (Bye week: 4)
It’s hard to expect the Seahawks to match their 2013 production, but if there’s any defense worth taking in the middle rounds, it’s Seattle. The Legion of Boom will continue to generate turnovers, and a relatively intact front seven will get after the QB in earnest.

2. Carolina Panthers (12)
The Panthers nearly matched the Seahawks last year, and despite the loss of Captain Munnerlyn in the secondary, this Luke Kuechly-led defense still has plenty of firepower produce points in bunches.

3. St. Louis Rams (4)
The Rams are a defense on the rise. They don’t exactly keep points off the board, but Robert Quinn and Chris Long are capable of putting up huge sack numbers. If it continues to generate sacks and turnovers on a consistent basis, St. Louis is an elite defense.

4. San Francisco 49ers (8)
The 49ers could be in the top three, but the potential loss of Aldon Smith for multiple games is a big blow. Patrick Willis and NaVarro Bowman still make San Francisco a top-tier defense, but don’t extend yourself if a defense like St. Louis is still on the board.

5. Cincinnati Bengals (4)
The departure of coordinator Mike Zimmer drops the Bengals’ value slightly, but the pieces still are there. Geno Atkins should boost Cincinnati’s sack numbers, and it finished in the top five in interceptions (20) in 2013.

6. Denver Broncos (4)
On paper, the Broncos are among the league’s most dangerous defenses. Aqib Talib, T.J. Ward, DeMarcus Ware and a healthy Von Miller should give a big spike to Denver’s sack and turnover numbers, vaulting them into the top 10.

7. New England Patriots (10)
If it stays healthy, this unit could do big things. Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner shore up a shaky secondary, while the presence of Jerod Mayo and Vince Wilfork also should provide a boost. The Patriots always have a great turnover ratio, too.

8. Arizona Cardinals (4)
You read that right — all four NFC West teams have top-10 defenses. The division’s “worst” defense has ranked in the top 10 in scoring in seven of the last eight seasons, and a secondary with Patrick Peterson, Antonio Cromartie and Tyrann Mathieu shouldn’t change that.

9. Kansas City Chiefs (6)
The Chiefs were ridiculous in the first half of 2013, scoring 20 or more fantasy points in four of their first six games. Most of the usual suspects are back, but that production appears to be an aberration. Expect a drop-off in 2014.

10. Buffalo Bills (9)
Buffalo wasn’t the most consistent defense last year, but it did finish second in the NFL in sacks. New coordinator Jim Schwartz should make the Bills a top-10 fantasy defense with Mario Williams and Brandon Spikes at his disposal.

Need to print a Positional Rankings Cheat Sheet for draft day? Here you go.

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