Looking back into the 2019 season, we saw some historic performances at multiple positions. Defense was no different. The New England Patriots first half of the season was dominant. They were scoring more than some notable wide receivers and running backs. Towards the end of the year when the schedule tightened up, they started to regress just a bit. It was actually the Steelers who finished as the number one fantasy defense, as they led the league in sacks and also had four touchdowns. The 49ers, Vikings, and Ravens were other notable teams that finished inside the top ten. Tampa Bay was the third highest scoring defense, but it had a lot to do with their six touchdowns. Overall they were not a good defense. You can track our fantasy football rankings all year long for your draft and during the season.
2020 will be a year where some teams look to improve. Green Bay, Los Angeles Chargers, Buffalo, and the New York Jets were all projected for better seasons. Even though the Jets, Packers, and Bills were middle of the league, that fantasy upside wasn’t great. Some teams were also better real life defenses than they were fantasy defenses. The Bears failed to generate a lot of fantasy pints, but allowed the 4th fewest fantasy points per game. They ranked 23rd in fantasy points. Dallas and Denver also ranked inside the top ten in points allowed, but were 26th and 27th in fantasy points scored.
2020 Fantasy Team Defense Projected Stats & Fantasy Points
|RANK||TEAM||SACKS||FUM REC||INT||DEF TD||SAFETY||SP TD||FPTS||FPPG|
|San Francisco 49ers|
|New England Patriots|
|New Orleans Saints|
|Los Angeles Rams|
|Kansas City Chiefs|
|Green Bay Packers|
|Los Angeles Chargers|
|New York Jets|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers|
|New York Giants|
|Las Vegas Raiders|
What Makes A Good Fantasy Defense?
Fantasy defenses is much more about generating turnovers and sacks in comparison to allowing points. Now if you are in a league that weights points allowed and/or yards allowed heavily, then it is a mixture of both. Look at the Carolina Panthers from last year, they scored over 100 fantasy points despite allowing the second most points. A lot of this came down to the fact that they had the second most sacks per game, and also generated 14 interceptions. Teams that ranked inside the top five in sacks, were Pittsburgh, Carolina, San Francisco, New Orleans, and the Los Angeles Rams. Outside of Carolina, they all ranked inside the top eight in fantasy points.
Turnovers are always a tough stat to project, because you can look at Chicago last year who had 27 interceptions, and then had ten in 2019. Generally good defenses will find themselves with takeaways, as we have seen more in the last few seasons. Defensive touchdowns are as much random as anything, but special teams touchdowns you can generally look who returners are and project slightly more than teams who have below average returners. They are still pretty random, however.
Elite Fantasy Defenses
You will have to pay a round or two in redraft leagues for some of the top fantasy defenses, and a few extra bucks in auction leagues. Pittsburgh Steelers come in as the number one projected defense again. They ranked third in against the run and the pass last season. Pittsburgh also had a 9.7 adjusted sack rate. With a very good front seven, they traded a first round pick for Minkah Fitzpatrick. He added to names like Steve Nelson and Joe Haden, who all played extremely well last season. With names young names like T.J. Watt and Devin Bush, this is going to be a good defense for a long time.
The San Francisco 49ers were one of the top fantasy defenses in 2019, finishing 4th overall in points. This is coming off a 2018 season where they ranked 31st. It was a good mix of young and veteran talent. They had the second highest adjusted sack rate, and also had 48 sacks. The 49ers ranked 2nd against the pass, but they will need to add some depth for some aging names in the secondary. With most of the front seven returning, they are going to pack a punch yet again.
With Baltimore looking to add to their defense through the draft, I am looking for Baltimore to stay among the top tier defenses. They had a great year against the pass, but struggled against the run a bit ranking 19th. Luckily for them, the offense forced teams to throw the ball and play catchup. The Ravens will need to up their pass rush, ranking 18th in pass rush.
Repeating last year’s numbers will be tough, as they had five defensive touchdowns and 25 interceptions. Of course they ranked first against the pass with their shutdown cornerbacks. Stephon Gilmore and Jason McCourty were two of the best. Expect them to regress a bit, but I won’t be paying for their services at a premium price if the recency bias is baked into their ADP.
The Next Tier
Buffalo finished 16th in fantasy points last season, which doesn’t quite reflect them as a defense. They ranked inside the top half in pass rush, and had 44 sacks on the season. Buffalo also had one of the best secondaries, and ranked 5th against the pass, but 19th against the run. Overall a few more turnovers and sacks, and this team is going to finish among the top ten.
I expect the Bears to bounce back, after they struggled in terms of producing fantasy points. They still were a very good real life defense, and some of these numbers are due for positive regression. They ranked 8th against the pass, and 13th against the run. Having just nine fumble recoveries and ten interceptions. Not stellar numbers, but those should bounce back.
The Chiefs and Saints both produced strong numbers, finishing inside the top ten. New Orleans had a dominant pass rush, and also had three defensive touchdowns which helped their cause as well. The Saints ranked as the 9th best pass rush, and also were excellent against the run. Overall they need to improve their secondary a bit, which would take them to another level. As for the Chiefs, Frank Clark is going to be franchise tagged, which helps the Chiefs for at least another year. They ranked as the 10th best pass rush, and were excellent against the pass, ranking 6th. Against the run it was a different story, where they ranked 29th. Much like Baltimore they forced teams to throw the ball against them.
A team that has been steadily building on the defensive side is the Indianapolis Colts. Already with one of the best linebackers in the game, Darius Leonard is a big time anchor in the middle of that lineup. The Colts were able to get the quarterback 41 times last season, and will be looking to add an edge rusher this offseason. They have a few picks within the top 50 and also plenty of cash to spend in free agency if they decide to do so. This should be a year they really beef up the defense.
The Colts were middle of the league in points allowed last season, but held opposing offenses to just 97 rushing yards per game. This was good for the seventh fewest. They also had an opportunistic special teams, which ended up with two touchdowns. Ranking 15th in adjusted sack rate, if they can make that jump, I would expect this team to be extremely strong.
While we don’t know the exact dates yet, the Colts will have a decent division schedule where Houston is the more potent offense that they face, yet they have played them well the last few games. Indy will play Cincinnati, Chicago, Cleveland, New York Jets, and the Raiders who give them plus chances for upside in those weeks.
Bounce Back Defenses
I mentioned Chicago already, but there are a few other teams that will look to bounce back and have the talent to do so. The Jets finished 15th, and had to deal with an inept offense most of the year that didn’t make it easy on them. New York ranked second against the run, and 18th against the pass. Jamal Adams is one of the best safeties in the game, and Brian Poole played well. I like their upside with C.J. Mosley returning, as he missed just about the entire season. This still projects to be a division with offenses to take opposing defenses against.
Denver was a much better real life defense, and they have already added to the secondary with A.J. Bouye. The Broncos had the 11th best pass rush, with Bradley Chubb and Von Miller leading on the outside. They ranked 14th against the pass and 16th against the run. Outside of playing the Chiefs twice in the division, they will have the Raiders and Chargers twice. Their out of division schedule is not bad at all. They face Carolina, Buffalo, Tampa Bay, Miami, New York, and Tennessee as some easier game.
The Chargers finished dead last in fantasy points, even behind the Bengals and Dolphins. It was a very disappointing year for the pass rush, especially with the names they have on the line. Derwin James also missed most of the year. Desmond King struggled after a strong 2018 season. This still is a good secondary and front seven, and overall the talent is too high for another finish like this.
Deep Sleeper Pick
Let’s go one step further after the Colts and talk about the Washington Redskins. They are linked with Chase Young, who is the best edge rusher in this draft. This is already a team that had 46 sacks last season, finishing 10th in the league. They finished the season with the fourth best adjusted sack rate, and that should even go up adding Young. The pass defense certainly struggled, which Landon Collins and Josh Norman, that is a bit surprising. Quinton Dunbar did play well. Now if those names return to their usual play in addition to Dunbar continuing his hot play, the Redskins have something here.
Defenses On The Fence
There are a few names that will need some evaluating over the offseason. Green Bay started out strong, but then hit a wall midway through the season. They were awful on the ground, ranking 23rd. The positive was that they ranked 12th in pass rush, and ended up with 17 interceptions. Green Bay’s linebacking core still needs to improve in 2020. If Philadelphia can put together some names in the secondary, then they will have a decent year. They really struggled against the pass, but the run game was solid. The pass rush could also improve as they ranked 16th in the league. A few more pieces to the Eagles and Packers over the offseason, they will be a value in redraft and auction leagues.
Cleveland underperformed as a whole, and while the offense took most of the blame, the defense wasn’t bad either. Myles Garrett was suspended halfway through the year, and he was having an excellent season. Denzel Ward and Greedy Williams struggled to stay healthy most of the year. This is still a defense with a lot of upside, and I am willing to gamble on them early in the season. The run defense is going to desperately need to improve, ranking 30th last season.
There were a few teams like Seattle, Tampa Bay, and Carolina who were better fantasy defenses. Tampa Bay had six defensive touchdowns which is always fluky to repeat. They did have 47 sacks however, as Barrett really brought the heat. Their run game was strong, but it didn’t matter much with the secondary still bleeding points. Seattle and Carolina both had two of the worst run defenses in the league, and will be losing key guys over the offseason.
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