The NFL Draft is now over and the next big event for football fans is likely their very own fantasy football drafts. The Game Haus will have rankings by both Joe DiTullio and Braxton Angle, as well as composite rankings, coming out over the coming weeks. The rankings are for standard leagues. These will be adjusted when the season gets closer, but it’s never too early to look ahead. Here are Joe’s defense and special teams rankings:
DEF/ST rankings: 1-10
1. Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jacksonville Jaguars were the only fantasy defense to reach 200 points in 2017, finishing with 203. They only had two games on the season without a turnover forced and in many games had multiple turnovers. Like any defense, they have their bad games, but those were offset with eleven games in double-digit scoring. With most of the defense back and good players on every level of the defense, the Jaguars should be the first defense selected in fantasy drafts.
2. Los Angeles Rams
The Rams ranked third last season but made some key offseason acquisitions to move up to the second spot here. Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib, both are great corners and should be able to shut down the opposition, if they can stay on the field and not get too heated. Ndamukong Suh joins Aaron Donald to provide two elite defensive linemen on the same team. While they are relatively weak at linebacker, defensive coordinator Wade Phillips should make the most of the great talent he has on the roster.
3. Los Angeles Chargers
There are two good defenses in Los Angeles. The Chargers were ranked fifth last season and clearly focused on adding to their defense via the draft this season. Derwin James will be an impact player at safety, while the other players will provide good depth. Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa combine for good pass rushing, while the secondary of James, Jahleel Addae, Casey Hayward, Jason Verrett and Desmond King will make it tough to move the ball.
4. Philadelphia Eagles
They ranked fourth last year and added some key players, making the Eagles ready to go for 2018. Their defensive line rotation is so good that they simply can’t fit all of their good players on the field. They even added Michael Bennett to the fold this offseason. Philadelphia will love having Jordan Hicks back to help the linebackers after he suffered a season-ending injury last year. The secondary is good in its own right, but they really don’t have to keep their coverage too long with that pass-rush.
5. Baltimore Ravens
Baltimore finished second in fantasy points in 2017 but will likely see some regression in 2018. They won’t get as many games this season to have big outings. Last year they got 20 point outings against the Bengals, the Bears, the Dolphins, the Packers (without Aaron Rodgers) and the Browns. The teams they do play on that list this year should be better and they may not be so lucky with the rest of their schedule. Many of their players are on the back-ends of their careers including Terrell Suggs, Eric Weddle and Brandon Carr. They still have solid younger players, including star linebacker C.J. Mosley, but if the veterans’ play falters, the whole defense will take a slight step back.
6. Minnesota Vikings
The Vikings have a good defense but ranked 14th in fantasy scoring last season. They should bounce back to form this season though with the number of talented players on that side of the ball. Sheldon Richardson was added to the fold on the defensive line that already has some great players. He should help improve their run defense, with the talented pass rushers and secondary will make it hard to throw. They should be owned most weeks in fantasy this season.
7. Denver Broncos
While their defense wasn’t great last season, ranking 20th in the league, but there a couple of reasons to watch for some improvement this season. Bradley Chubb was selected with the Broncos’ first-round pick and should get some production in his rookie season. The signing of Case Keenum will help the defense in many ways, as they won’t have to face short fields after turnovers and three and outs.
8. Chicago Bears
They ranked ninth in fantasy points last year and should get better. Chicago drafted Roquan Smith, the linebacker out of Georgia, with their first-round pick. He is a three-down player and will make an impact immediately. Their young safeties, Adrian Amos and Eddie Jackson help to create turnovers and sometimes score. With a solid front seven and corners as well, the Bears should be a top 10 fantasy defense yet again.
9. Detroit Lions
The Lions were surprisingly good for a fantasy football defense last season, ranking sixth. They do have some holes on defense that were not adequately addressed in the offseason though, which means they likely will not have as successful of a season. What they do have is a solid player on the defensive line (Ziggy Ansah) and two in the secondary (Darius Slay and Glover Quin). Those players will need some more help but are a good start for 2018.
10. New Orleans Saints
While the Lions’ defense was surprisingly good, no one thought the Saints’ defense would be anywhere close to where they finished last year. They finished seventh in fantasy scoring and helped take some of the burden off of Drew Brees and the offense. With Marcus Williams and Marshon Lattimore having great rookie seasons, the secondary is a strength. Demario Davis can lead the linebacking core, while Cameron Jordan and Marcus Davenport can get after the passer.
DEF/ST rankings: 10-15
11. Pittsburgh Steelers
Pittsburgh may not have one of their best defenses but they were able to rank 11th last year. They do have to deal with the loss of Ryan Shazier, who had the scary injury against the Bengals in early December. Their inside linebackers will struggle, but they have good pass rushers and a solid defensive line. Drafting Terrell Edmunds helped fill a need at safety and the main corners stay the same from last season.
12. Seattle Seahawks
The Seahawks will have a new look next season with the defense being far from the Legion of Boom just a few years back. They can still be solid fantasy play though. Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor return at the back end of the defense. Byron Maxwell and super sophomore Shaquill Griffin will man the corner positions and will also be decent. Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright and Frank Clark need to lead the front end of the defense with Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett being gone.
13. New England Patriots
New England never seems to have the greatest players on defense and still plays solidly. They finished 13th last season but no longer have Matt Patricia to run the defense. They did sign Adrian Clayborn and acquired Danny Shelton, so their line should be significantly better. Malcolm Butler was replaced by Jason McCourty at the corner position.
14. Kansas City Chiefs
Patrick Mahomes will start on offense, which should put the defense on the field a bit more than last season. Kendall Fuller was acquired via the Alex Smith trade and he is the only good corner on the roster. Eric Berry returns again at safety, just like Justin Houston at edge rusher. Houston isn’t the same player he once was but will have to produce. Derrick Nnadi was drafted to play nose tackle and shore up the run defense.
15. Washington Redskins
The Redskins seem to be drafting a lot of Alabama defensive players and it has worked. They were solid last year when Jonathan Allen played but were horrible against the run when he didn’t. With him healthy and Da’Ron Payne added to the fold, the Redskins run defense should be vastly improved. Ryan Kerrigan can get after the passer, while the secondary plays their typical zone defense that Josh Norman excels at.