2014 Fantasy Football DEF Rankings For Every Team
Having a strong fantasy defense is a huge asset for your fantasy football team. On the other hand, making the wrong choice can completely dismantle all the hard work you put into the rest of your roster. Don’t let that work go to waste by first checking in with our team-by-team ranking of the best defenses in the NFL.
1. Seattle Seahawks
2013 statistics: 44 sacks, 28 Int, 4 TD
They were dominant last year. Seattle led the league in multiple categories, including fewest yards allowed, fewest passing yards allowed, lowest red zone efficiency and lowest QB rating. Most of the same squad is back in 2014, sure to continue the Legion of Boom’s reign atop the league.
2. Carolina Panthers
2013 statistics: 60 sacks, 20 Int, 4 TD
Carolina’s biggest attribute was stopping the run and getting to the quarterback. Captain Munnerlyn and Mike Mitchell aren’t with the team this season, but they’re not worried about a less-than-desirable secondary this season. They had the same problem in 2013 and they ended up just fine.
3. San Francisco 49ers
2013 statistics: 38 sacks, 18 Int, 5 TD
The 49ers defense is still a force, and the engineers of their defense — linebackers Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman — are still leading the way. Uncertain production at the corners and safety won’t hinder their overall fantasy production.
4. St. Louis Rams
2013 statistics: 53 sacks, 14 Int, 6 TD
New defensive coordinator Gregg Williams likes to blitz, a lot. Robert Quinn accumulated 19 sacks last year and should be in store for more of the same in 2014. Chris Long and Alex Carrington should get more chances to grab the quarterback for a loss, as well.
5. Arizona Cardinals
2013 statistics: 47 sacks, 20 Int, 5 TD
Arizona doesn’t have much of a pass rush, but they led the league in rushing yards allowed per game (84.4 yards). Some questions remain in the secondary, but shut-down corner Patrick Peterson will take care of opposing team’s top targets.
6. Cincinnati Bengals
2013 statistics: 43 sacks, 20 Int, 7 TD
Defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer left the organization, which boasted the no. 5 rush defense from a year ago. Defensive tackle Geno Atkins will hopefully return to his All-Pro form following a torn ACL. A secondary including both Terrance Newman and Adam Jones (yes, Pacman is still playing) could be vulnerable to the big play.
7. Denver Broncos
2013 statistics: 41 sacks, 17 Int, 5 TD
The Broncos made some wholesale changes to their defense, getting rid of Champ Bailey, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Shaun Phillips and Robert Ayers. In their absence, they signed DeMarcus Ware, T.J. Ward and Aqib Talib. If Denver scores at the rate they did last season, it could open up to the defense giving up some unnecessary points in garbage time.
8. New England Patriots
2013 statistics: 48 sacks, 17 Int, 3 TD
The Pats get a huge boost by the returns of Vince Wilfork and Jerod Mayo from IR, as well as replacing Aqib Talib with Darrelle Revis. Improved coverage down the field could help the defensive line get more sack opportunities. Having Wilfork and Mayo back in the mix should drastically improve their run defense, as well.
9. Chicago Bears
2013 statistics: 31 sacks, 19 Int, 7 TD
After allowing over 2,500 rushing yards last season as a unit, the front office decided to completely revamp the defensive line. They brought in Jared Allen, Lamarr Houston and Willie Young, which should help shift things in Chicago’s favor. The secondary wasn’t fixed much, but the organization is looking for the Panthers-effect — a tremendous front line with great pass-rushing ability to have a positive trickle-down on the linebackers and secondary.
10. Kansas City Chiefs
2013 statistics: 47 sacks, 21 Int, 11 TD
It wasn’t shocking to see the Chiefs struggle in the second half once Justin Houston and Tamba Hall got injured. Both should be ready to go for Week 1. Unfortunately, there isn’t a whole lot of depth throughout the defensive side of the ball. Kansas City will need to stay mostly healthy to remain successful.
11. Buffalo Bills
2013 statistics: 56 sacks, 23 Int, 3 TD
Jim Schwartz was brought in as the team’s new defensive coordinator and will be instituting a 4-3 defense, just a year after they switched to the 3-4. Buffalo’s 56 sacks were second in the league, and Schwartz’s “let ‘em loose” philosophy should get them back to that level again in 2014.
12. Houston Texans
2013 statistics: 32 sacks, 7 Int, 2 TD
Houston already boasts one of the best defensive players in J.J. Watt, and brought in Jadeveon Clowney with the top overall pick in May’s draft. They failed to meet expectations last season in their secondary and outside linebacker corps, and have brought it in defensive guru Romeo Crennel to fix things up.
13. New York Jets
2013 statistics: 41 sacks, 13 Int, 2 TD
New York has a great defensive line in Muhammad Wilkerson, Damon Harrison and Sheldon Richardson, but that’s about it. The linebackers and secondary are both suspect, and they’re hoping an injection of a rookie will help the secondary. Despite the linebackers having a hard time getting to the QB, they still posted 41 sacks as a team in 2013.
14. Cleveland Browns
2013 statistics: 40 sacks, 14 Int, 5 TD
Talk about inconsistency — the Browns ranked toward the top of the league in yards per carry allowed and yards per pass attempt allowed, but still gave up 25.4 points per game, one of the highest in football. They drafted cornerback Justin Gilbert in May, along with signing Karlos Dansby and Donte Whitner to shore up the linebackers and secondary, respectively.
15. Baltimore Ravens
2013 statistics: 40 sacks, 16 Int, 3 TD
Still adjusting to life without Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, the Ravens will have a tough time being an effective defense. Terrell Suggs and Haloti Ngata lead a young group, but many holes remain. Not having a lot of cap space to play with makes it harder to inject the roster with some new talent.
16. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
2013 statistics: 35 sacks, 21 Int, 3 TD
The hiring of defensive-minded head coach Lovie Smith should give Tampa a boost, but it’s undetermined how good it will actually be. They haven’t finished in the top-15 of the league in sacks since 2007. Smith has his work cut out for him.
17. Green Bay Packers
2013 statistics: 44 sacks, 11 Int, 3 TD
Moving B.J. Raji back to his natural position of nose tackle and having a healthy Clay Matthews are big boosts here. They’ve also brought in Julius Peppers, but he’s clearly a short-term solution as he enters his age-34 season. There are a lot of “ifs” here for Green Bay, but the only way for them to be a successful defense is if they don’t get ravaged by injuries again.
18. Philadelphia Eagles
2013 statistics: 37 sacks, 19 Int, 2 TD
A bad performing defense from last year didn’t really get any better heading into 2014. They allowed 289.8 passing yards per game last season — the worst in the league. Expect a lot of shootouts when Philly is playing every week thanks in part to their high-powered offense.
19. Indianapolis Colts
2013 statistics: 42 sacks, 15 Int, 2 TD
Indy’s defense was inconsistent in 2013, playing very well against good teams, but laying eggs against teams they should’ve handled easily. Robert Mathis led the NFL with 19 sacks last season, but the Colts will be without him for the first four games because of a suspension. They ranked 26th in the league in rushing yards allowed and signed Arthur Jones to help rectify the situation, but that probably won’t be enough.
20. Pittsburgh Steelers
2013 statistics: 34 sacks, 10 Int, 4 TD
Pittsburgh has been pretty much cleaning their defensive house, with Troy Polamalu and Ike Taylor the only incumbent players still around when their unit was one of the league’s best. They’ve brought in a lot of young players, and questions remain as to how they will adjust to one another.
21. New Orleans Saints
2013 statistics: 49 sacks, 12 Int, 0 TD
Rob Ryan swapped the defensive line to an aggressive 3-4 formation and it definitely helped their performance against pass. Unfortunately, they still ranked in the bottom-five of the league with regard to rushing yards per carry, and they’ve struggled to find any consistency in that part of their game.
22. New York Giants
2013 statistics: 34 sacks, 17 Int, 3 TD
After a dismal 0-6 start, New York’s defense picked it up in the middle of the season, but they were helped by facing inferior QBs. Free agent imports Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Walter Thurmond should help strengthen the secondary. The linebacking group is still an uncertainty, and the Giants are banking on Jason Pierre-Paul on being the pass-rushing monster he was in 2011 since they let Justin Tuck walk to Oakland.
23. Detroit Lions
2013 statistics: 33 sacks, 15 Int, 4 TD
It’s frustrating for fantasy players to see monsters like Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley be on a defense, yet not be part of a top-performing unit. They lacked discipline last year and had a mediocre secondary. There’s hope bringing in Jim Caldwell as head coach to keep players in check and progression from others will help them take a step forward.
24. Miami Dolphins
2013 statistics: 42 sacks, 18 Int, 2 TD
The Dolphins have put together a defense without a lot of trustworthy players. Cortland Finnegan netted $5.5 million guaranteed from them during the offseason. That alone should tell you how draft-worthy this unit is for your squad. Defensive end Cameron Wake is the only player on the line with true pass-rushing ability.
25. Tennessee Titans
2013 statistics: 36 sacks, 13 Int, 3 TD
Tennessee enters 2014 in transition with new DC Ray Horton. He’s shifting the 4-3 into a 3-4 scheme, which may take some time for the players to adjust. They lost Alterraun Verner to free agency, who led the league in interceptions last season.
26. Atlanta Falcons
2013 statistics: 32 sacks, 10 Int, 3 TD
The Falcons allowed the fifth-most points in the league last season (27.7). Despite making some moves this offseason, there are too many remaining question marks. Acquisitions have improved the D-line, but there is no depth at cornerback and their linebackers haven’t proved they can stay healthy for an entire season.
27. Oakland Raiders
2013 statistics: 39 sacks, 9 Int, 4 TD
Instead of keeping things the way they were, Oakland brought in a bunch of veteran players to improve the defense. Some include Justin Tuck, Carlos Rogers, LaMarr Woodley and Antonio Smith. They also selected Khalil Mack with the fifth pick of last May’s draft. They have one of the toughest schedules in the league this season, but could be worth a gamble for a bye-week filler depending on the matchup.
28. Jacksonville Jaguars
2013 statistics: 31 sacks, 11 Int, 2 TD
Head coach Gus Bradley is in his second year with Jacksonville after leaving the Seahawks and is trying his best to replicate his success from Seattle. They have some good young players in the secondary that could help the Jaguars put together a defense better than the last couple years, but it’s still a long journey before becoming one of the league’s best.
29. Washington Redskins
2013 statistics: 36 sacks, 16 Int, 5 TD
After allowing the most net yards per pass attempt in 2013 (last in the NFL), the Redskins didn’t do anything to improve the secondary. DeAngelo Hall, Brandon Meriweather and Ryan Clark are all back, making it seem like it will be more of the same in DC this year.
30. Minnesota Vikings
2013 statistics: 41 sacks, 12 Int, 4 TD
New head coach Mike Zimmer will try imparting his defensive knowledge on the team, but they still need upgrades in several places. They have the potential to be lethal up front on the defensive line, but the signings of Captain Munnerlyn and Derek Cox won’t do much to prevent teams from scoring through the air.
31. San Diego Chargers
2013 statistics: 35 sackes 11 Int, 1 TD
Making a huge drop from fourth in fantasy points in 2012 to 28th last season, the Chargers weren’t able to capitalize on mistakes by opponents. They found the end zone just once last year, whereas they did so seven times in ’12. The front seven is suspect with health and performance issues, while it’s undetermined whether Eric Weddle will have any legitimate CB help in the secondary.
32. Dallas Cowboys
2013 statistics: 34 sacks, 15 Int, 6 TD
Dallas was one of the worst defenses in the league last year, and their performance was the worst overall in franchise history. Since Jerry Jones isn’t the best at roster management, the team had to let go DeMarcus Ware and Jason Hatcher to create salary cap space. They’re a lot younger in 2014, but the struggles should continue.