2020 NFL Fantasy Football Defense Projections & Rankings: Patriots #1
Now that the 2019 NFL regular and fantasy seasons are over it is time to start looking ahead for the 2020 fantasy season. In 2019, the New England Patriots defense dominated their opponents early and often this season. Scoring 20+ fantasy points 5 times this season, making a case for the value a great fantasy defense can have for your roster. Quiet often fantasy defenses are one of, if not the last fantasy position to be selected. However, finding a fantasy defense as good as the New England Patriots can be an extremely valuable asset to have on your fantasy team. The Patriots defense scored more fantasy points this season than many skill position players such as Cooper Kupp, Julio Jones, DeAndre Hopkins, Saquan Barkley, and Alvin Kamara. An impressive feat for a position that many don’t think of at all when it comes to their fantasy draft strategies. Below you will find the fantasy projections for every defense next season including their stats from this past season and their fantasy output for 2019. For weekly updates, see our fantasy football rankings pages that cover all the players you need to consider for your draft. All NFL team stats referenced can be found on our stats website.
1. New England Patriots
One of the most impressive and valuable fantasy assets of the 2019 season was the New England Patriots defense and special teams. Scoring a total of 225 fantasy points over the course of 2019, much credit can be credited to Stephon Gilmore and the rest of the Patriots secondary. Creating takeaways and shutting down the opposing offenses number 1 weapon has been their philosophy for years and was executed to perfection this year. Sitting at or near the top of every defensive category with little personnel turnover this offseason keeps the New England Patriots at the top of the food chain for the 2020 fantasy season.
2. Baltimore Ravens
A late bloomer of a defense on the season, the Ravens made some moves at the mid-season mark before the trade deadline. Marcus Peters traded from the Rams became one of the Ravens best playmakers on defense. Another defense that is sitting near the top of every statistical category after getting better during the trade deadline. The Ravens will be another top defense next season with little turnover in terms of personnel.
3. San Francisco 49ers
A straight up suffocating defense with one of the best defensive lines in the NFL. Rookie Nick Bosa dominated ever since stepping on the field making an immediate impact. Nearly all of their defensive linemen are former first round picks, helping out the secondary which is a solid unit itself. The 49ers will likely be needing to help out the secondary, specifically the cornerback position, during this offseason and are going to continue to dominate and lean heavily on their defensive line to help them out.
4. Buffalo Bills
Allowing the second-fewest points, 3rd fewest total yards, and creating the 14th most turnovers in 2019. The Bills were no surprise to be a great defense this season. Ending the 2019 season as the 6th best fantasy defense, the Bills star cornerback Tre-Davious White was a key piece to this defense. Having the shutdown ability and limiting the opposing offense greatly aided the Bills defense. The Bills defense is the reason they have made it to the playoffs, keeping every game low scoring to give their offense a chance. Expect the Bills defense to continue dominating next season.
5. Los Angeles Rams
One of the defenses that could take off next season and be the top defense in fantasy football. Trading for star corner Jalen Ramsey before the trade deadline, the Rams have secured one of, if not the best shutdown corners in the NFL. Depending on what moves they make this offseason and what they do to control their cap space going into 2020, the Rams could take over the #1 fantasy defense spot next season with such an elite talent at the corner position similar to the way the Patriots did this season with Stephon Gilmore. Already having a solid rush defense and pass defense in 2019, the Rams could make some great improvements through the draft and bolster that defense.
6. Pittsburgh Steelers
The Pittsburgh Steelers made one of the best mid-season trades in recent memory. Trading for former Miami Dolphins safety Minkah Fitzpatrick who made an immediate impact on the Steelers defense. One of his best traits coming out of college was his leadership ability. Leading the Steelers to be a playoff threat even with their second and third-string quarterback in. The Steelers quickly rose to the top of the defensive statistical categories. Becoming one of the most feared secondaries in the NFL and one of the best against opposing fantasy wide receivers. Allowing the 3rd fewest passing yards, 8th lowest yards per completion, 5th lowest yards per attempt, and the 15th fewest passing touchdowns. Where the Steelers defense shined was in the turnover department. Leading the NFL in turnovers with 20 interceptions and 18 fumbles, for a total of 38 turnovers which is where defenses make their points. The Steelers are a great defense that deserves a ton of respect.
7. New Orleans Saints
Yet another team with a fantastic talent at the cornerback position. Marshon Lattimore is a shutdown corner with a ton of talent and a bright future ahead of him. After a tough start to the season for the secondary, the Saints defense put things together. The Saints also dominated at the line of scrimmage, allowing the 4th fewest rushing yards, and a yards per carry of 4.2 yards per carry. The Saints have also allowed the 13th most passing yards, 14th lowest yards per completion, 10th lowest yards per attempt, with the 11th most takeaways in the NFL. If the Saints can get some safety help or some more help at corner from the draft or free agency, the Saints will be a scary defense to face in 2020.
8. Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles have been one of the most banged up teams in the NFL. Losing players at just about every single position on the roster. The Eagles started off the season with none of their starters at corner having to start no name players. However, as the season continued, the Eagles got healthier and gained their secondary players back which helped immensely. The Eagles went from on the the best matchups for fantasy wide receivers to being more of a middle of the pack by the end of the season. Young players like Sydney Jones, Rasul Douglas, Avonte Maddox, and Ronald Darby have all been making great improvements to their game. Giving opposing wide receivers a run for their money, limiting players like Amari Cooper to disappointing fantasy game late in the season. With the young group of corners developing well, and Philadelphia’s elite run defense, allowing 3rd fewest rushing yards this season, the one part of the Eagles defense which was lacking was the turnovers, having the 14th fewest turnovers in the NFL. Going forward the Eagles should be able to make some moves to bolster that defense and try to improve and dominate their opponents.
9. New York Jets
One of the biggest offseason players before the 2019 season, signing players like C.J. Moseley, to contacts, drafting [3rd overall pick] in the 2019 Draft. This Jets team was being predicted to turn things around quickly. Unfortunately, the team did not, but the defense somewhat lived up to the hype. Allowing the 2nd fewest rushing yards, tied with the Buccaneers for the lowest yards per carry (3.3 yards), the 17th fewest passing yards, 13th lowest yards per completion, and the 13th lowest yards per attempts in the NFL. The Jets lacked in the turnover department, having the 16th fewest turnovers this season. An important part of the fantasy defense, turnovers are their money makers. If the Jets defense can continue to play as well as it did this season, and the offense can fix its issues they will finally be the playoff threat they were promised to be this season.
10. Green Bay Packers
Remember how I was saying how turnovers are where defenses make their money? Well that’s what kept the Packers in contention this season. Even though the Packers were an average to below average defense this season, in both rushing and passing statistics. This young secondary is filled with a bunch of playmakers. Having the 3rd most interceptions in the NFL and the 7th most turnovers in the NFL. This young Packers defense is looking to be promising and will most likely be a sleeper defense that will surprise a lot of fantasy players next season. A low risk and very high reward defense to draft in your next fantasy draft for the 2020 season, I cannot recommend them enough.
11. Chicago Bears
One of the tougher opponents to travel to this season. The Bears suffered some loss to injuries early on in the season which hurt this defense. No longer being a scary run defense to face in 2019. The secondary was still a great unit as a whole. Allowing 9th fewest passing yards, 4th fewest passing touchdowns, 7th lowest yards per completion, and the 8th lowest yards per attmpet in the NFL in 2019. However, injuries are only temporary, and this defense will be back to healthy for the beginning of the 2020 NFL season. Expect the Bears to continue to be a great defense that you can rely on nearly week in and week out for 2020.
12. Minnesota Vikings
Formerly one of the scariest defenses to face in the NFL, that façade has since faded over the past 2 years. The secondary is no longer as elite as it used to be. The Vikings, having their offense set up for the next few years should focus on bolstering that secondary, especially the cornerback position. Xavier Rhodes is no longer the shutdown type of corner he used to be. I expect the Vikings to address this need as their defense was one of the best matchups for opposing fantasy wide receivers. Having a middle of the pack defense in terms of both rushing and passing. The Vikings should have a heavily focused defensive draft to help out Kirk Cousins and his limitations. The coaching of the Vikings is still one of the best units in the NFL, instilling confidence that they will get this defense back to being an elite group very soon.
13. Kansas City Chiefs
Leading off the beginning of the streaming tier, or the teams that shouldn’t necessarily be drafted but should be a matchup-based decision for 2020 is one of the most improved units of 2019. The Kansas City Chiefs developed this defense, namely their secondary, beautifully. Still having a weakness against the run, they have greatly improved their passing defense. Allowing the 7th most rushing yards and the 5th highest yards per carry (4.9 yards) along with the 16th most rushing touchdowns. The running game has been their main weakness of 2019. Coming from being one of the best matchups you could ask for against opposing fantasy wide receivers to be a somewhat sketchy matchup this season. The Kansas City Chiefs will continue to develop their defense, with a little help from the draft and free agency this defense could be all around scary.
14. Cleveland Browns
One of the most overhyped teams going into 2019, with many professional analysts even saying that they will be making a Superbowl run. The Cleveland Browns have been mismanaged by Freddie Kitchens and John Dorsey [Fact check john Dorsey as former GM of browns]. Even with this mismanagement, the talent as able to somewhat shine through. The Browns still have fantastic talent littered throughout their roster, just not on the O-line. Myles Garrett and Denzel Ward are the leaders of this defense. Having a solid pass defense this season along with the 9th most interceptions in the NFL. The area of improvement the Browns should focus on, besides the o-line, is the rush defense. Allowing the 3rd most rushing yards in the NFL this season, the Browns new Head Coach, which is undecided as of this time, will be smart to fill these major holes on the team. However, even with these holes, the Browns defense still have some great potential and fantastic talent littered throughout their roster and with a competent head coach will be able to live up to the hype.
15. Tennessee Titans
The Tennessee Titans have been one of the sneakiest teams of 2019. Having a sneaky elite running back in Derrick Henry, one of the most surprising quarterbacks of the year in Ryan Tannehill. This sneaky good offense is mirrored with a sneaky good defense. Allowing the 12th fewest rushing yards with the 7th lowest yards per carry at 4.0 yards per carry. The secondary however was lacking, sitting down in the bottom of the passing stats. Allowing the 9th most passing yards (just below the Oakland Raiders), 18th fewest yards per completion, 16th most passing touchdowns, and the 8th fewest yards per attempt. Making up for the passing deficiencies with being a top 12 team in turnovers in the NFL. Like many of the teams in this tier, the Titans will be a solid defense. Having their good weeks and their bad. Finding a good matchup will be the reasoning behind rostering the Titans in 2020.
16. Seattle Seahawks
Having one of the worst defenses in the NFL in 2019, the Seahawks saving grace on defense has been their turnovers. Allowing the 6th most passing yards, 12th most yards per completion, and the 11th most yards per attempt in the NFL. Their rush defense, allowing the 11th most rushing yards, 4th highest yards per attempt (4.9 yards) and the 3rd most rushing touchdowns. This lackluster of a defense would normally be followed by a losing record. However, the Seahawks have been a master at getting turnovers. Having the 3rd most turnovers in the NFL at 32 with 16 interceptions and 16 fumbles. Having so many turnovers saved this team, being the sole reason, they are not on the avoid portion of this ranking.
17. Denver Broncos
A solid unit in each statistical category for fantasy football. The only downfall the Broncos defense has as a fantasy asset is their lack of turnovers. Creating the 8th fewest turnovers with 10 interceptions and 7 fumbles. Besides the lack of turnovers, the Broncos have had a great defense. Allowing the 11th fewest passing yards and 16th fewest rushing yards in 2019. A very talented defense with potential to continue to be the great defense that brought them to the Superbowl. However, until the offense is able to compete this defense is a matchup dependent one.
18. Atlanta Falcons
Similar to the 2018 season, the Falcons started off solid but then suffered an obscene amount injuries to their defense. The injury concerns make this Falcons defense makes judging this defense very tough. However, after their bye week this season and play calling was transferred to another coach. The Falcons defense seemed to have life breathed back into them, finally challenging opponents and giving the offense a chance to get ahead. This seemed like a whole new Falcons secondary in the second half of the season, making them a streaming option for 2020.
19. Indianapolis Colts
The Colts defense struggled against opposing wide receivers this season. Allowing the 10th most passing yards, 9th most passing touchdowns, 23rd lowest yards per completion, 12th highest yards per attempt, and the 10th most turnovers in the NFL with 15 interceptions and 8 fumbles. The bright spot of this defense was the rushing defense. Only allowing 7th fewest rushing yards, the 9th lowest yards per carry of 4.1 yards, and the 3rd fewest rushing touchdowns. The Colts need plenty of help in their secondary. With this weakness in the passing game but strength in the run game, the Colts are best used in certain matchups.
20. Dallas Cowboys
It seems like cap space has been one of the biggest issues for the Cowboys over the past few years. Trying to pay all the stars on the team is difficult. Considering having to pay Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliot, Demarcus Lawrence, and Byron Jones over the past year. Prescott and Jones still have yet to reach their contract agreements, leaving the Cowboys to decide who to pay. Jones is set to be a free agent after the season, being their top talent in the secondary is a big blow if he is to leave after this disappointing season. Being a good defense this season, losing such a key piece and having coaching changes could change a lot for this Cowboys team, leaving them as a streaming defense for 2020.
21. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Buccaneers defense has been polar opposite for the 2019 season. Having the top run defense in the league, but also having one of the worst passing defenses in the league. Allowing the 3rd most passing yards. This large range of differences can be explained through the game script of their games this season. Facing the most passing attempts in the league by 50 attempts and seeing the 4th fewest rushing attempts this season due to the Buccaneers high flying offense. Other than the total passing yards, the Buccaneers passing defense is more middle of the pack in other statistical categories. Having the 5th most turnovers in 2019, the Buccaneers will continue to be a good defense in 2020, especially if the game script evens out more for them.
22. Los Angeles Chargers
One of the toughest secondaries for opposing wide receivers. Allowing the 5th fewest passing yards, 9th fewest passing touchdowns, 6th fewest yards per completion, and the 13th most yards per attempt. The Chargers also had a middle for the pack rush defense that could be exposed from time to time. Allowing the 15th most rushing yards, 11th most rushing touchdowns, and the 16th highest yards per attempt. The biggest downfall of this defense is the turnovers. Having the least amount of turnovers in the league with just 14 total (11 interceptions, 3 fumbles). The lack of turnovers hurt the Chargers’ defense fantasy value.
23. Washington Redskins
One of the worst teams in the NFL, the Redskins did have a solid defense but suffered from a completely incompetent offense and coaching staff. The new hire of Ron Rivera as head coach of the Redskins is a great coaching decision. Having a middle of the pack passing defense, allowing the 15th most passing yards, 3rd most passing touchdowns, 11th lowest yards per completion, and the 10th highest yards per passing attempt. The Redskins were exposed in the run game, allowing the 2nd most rushing yards, 7th highest yards per attempt, and the 13th most rushing touchdowns. The Redskins were middle of the pack for turnovers at 22 with 13 interceptions and 9 fumbles.
24. Jacksonville Jaguars
After losing star corner Jalen Ramsay, the Jaguars defense seemed to lose its mojo. Once Gardner Minshew was benched for Nick Foles, and then Foles failed, it seemed that the defense just gave up entirely. Ending the season as one of the worst rush defenses and a middle of the pack pass defense. This defense still has plenty of talent but could use some help in the draft. The Jaguars failed to create many takeaways, ending the season with the 10th fewest takeaways. This is a matchup dependent defense for the 2020 season.
25. Arizona Cardinals
The Cardinals ended the 2019 season near the bottom of every statistical category. Allowing the second most passing yards, 2nd most passing touchdowns, 9th most rushing yards, and the 12th highest yards per carry. Failing to create turnovers, having the 6th fewest in the NFL. The Cardinal will be a defense to avoid in 2020.
26. New York Giants
Another lackluster defense near the bottom of every category. Allowing the 5th most passing yards, 7th most passing touchdowns, 13th most rushing yards, and the 4th most rushing touchdowns. The Giants created the 4th fewest turnovers this season. Only getting 10 interceptions and 6 fumbles through 2019. This Giants defense will need a complete overhaul in order to be competent. Avoid the Giants defense in 2020.
27. Houston Texans
The Texans had one of the worst passing defenses in the NFL. Allowing the 4th most passing yards, 7th most yards per completion, and the 6th most passing touchdowns. One of the best matchups for fantasy wide receivers to face. The Texans rushing defense was lacking in 2019. Allowing the 8th most rushing yards, 6th highest yards per carry, and the 9th fewest rushing touchdowns. Without major moves this offseason, the Texans will be a defense to avoid in 2020.
28. Oakland Raiders
The Raiders defense was vulnerable in almost every facet. Allowing the 8th most passing yards, 3rd highest yards per completion, 2nd highest yards per attempt, and the 5th most passing touchdowns. Having an above average rush defense, allowing 8th fewest rushing yards, 5th lowest yards per carry, and the 9th most rushing touchdowns. Opposing teams took advantage of this awful pass defense, airing it out over and over again. The Raiders defense is best left off of your roster.
29. Carolina Panthers
The worst rushing defense in 2019, you couldn’t have asked for a better matchup than the Panthers. Allowing the 4th most rushing yards, highest yards per carry in the league, and the most rushing touchdowns. The Panthers passing defense was a solid group, middle of the pack defense. Losing their head coach is a big hit that will stunt this franchise for years. The Panthers defense is best to be avoided for the 2020 season.
30. Detroit Lions
The Lions have had one of the worst defenses for years now. A disappointing franchise that just can’t seem to get things right. Having the worst pass defense and a below average rush defense. The Lions defense is an asset to avoid for the 2020 season.
31. Miami Dolphins
The theorized tanking Dolphins started off as the worst team in the NFL. However, as the season progressed the team began to make strides in the right direction. This was truer on the offensive side than the defensive. The defense was still near the bottom at the end of the 2019 season in every statistical category. Trading away elite talents like Minkah Fitzpatrick is not going in the right direction. Avoid the Miami Dolphins defense in the 2020 season.
32. Cincinnati Bengals
Officially the worst team in the NFL, the Cincinnati Bengals have secured the number 1 overall draft pick. The defense was equally responsible for the downfall of this franchise. Having one of the worst pass and rush defenses in the NFL in all statistical categories. The Bengals need serious work in order to become a competent defense. Avoid them for the 2020 defense, there is no hope.
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