2016 Fantasy Football Defense Rankings: In Defense of Bad Defenses

By on August 17, 2016
2016 fantasy football defense rankings Photo Credit: PDA Photo

There’s just something about a set of 2016 Fantasy Football defense rankings that has you a little unsure, comparatively speaking, of course.

In other words, even though we regularly get burned by highly ranked players at other positions, like running backs and wide receivers, we get bent out of shape way more over those players because we spend such high picks on them.

But with Fantasy Defense/Special Teams, we spend later picks, usually in the final few rounds, so when they come up dressed as turds, we’re not as upset. This is relatively similar to how we feel about highly ranked kickers. We’re mad they disappointed us, but we’re also fine with cutting them loose by Week 5 if they aren’t producing and we’re into the bye weeks.

Unfortunately, unlike every other position, schedule matchups make a big difference for Fantasy Defenses, specifically in the early part of the season.

In other words, you could very well draft a Top 10 Fantasy Defense that has a rough schedule against offenses like the Packers, Patriots, Steelers and Saints, and you’d likely end up tossing them aside after a few weeks.

Let’s take a look at last season for a great example!

If you drafted J.J. Watt’s Houston Texans Fantasy Defense last year, you probably fell under this category! The Texans DST had an ADP of 9.11 – they were the third Fantasy D/ST drafted in most Fantasy leagues last year.

Unfortunately, they faced the Chiefs, Panthers and Falcons offenses (and the Buccaneers) in the first four games. The first three teams on that list averaged 33 points against Houston, and by the end of Week 4, the Texans DST was ranked dead last in Fantasy points,

But from Weeks 5-17, the rest of the NFL regular season, the Texans D/ST snapped back to reality and they were ranked fourth among all Fantasy Defenses. That brutal four-week stretch in the beginning kept them from being a Top 12 ranked D/ST by season’s end. (They were greatly helped by an eight-sack, four-turnover, one-TD week against the Jaguars!)

Obviously, all of this depends on your Fantasy scoring system, so some great Fantasy Defenses in one league might just be mediocre Fantasy Defenses in another.

Assessing Upcoming 2016 NFL Schedules

But while we’re talking about schedules, I thought it would be interesting to point out a couple Fantasy Defenses  that have tough starts to the year, but great schedules thereafter:

Broncos D/ST

 

The Broncos defense starts off with the second-toughest stretch of any team against tough offenses like the Panthers, Colts, Bengals, Buccaneers and Falcons in the first five weeks of the season. But then they have the 11th-best schedule for a Fantasy D/ST in the next five weeks, and the best schedule in Fantasy for Weeks 11 through 15.

This matters greatly because the Broncos are the first Fantasy DST off the board in most drafts. There’s a good chance their Fantasy owners will be greatly dissatisfied come Week 6, so consider working up a trade proposal by then!

Steelers D/ST

The Steelers Fantasy Defense is a similar story, but in a much different situation, since they are among the last Fantasy D/STs getting drafted as starters, ranking 11th in ADP at the position.

Their tough early schedule (Redskins, Bengals, Eagles, Chiefs and Jets) gives them the fifth-toughest Fantasy D/ST schedule – but then things get much better in Weeks 6-10, where they have the fifth-best schedule. But in the latter half of the season, Weeks 11-15, the tough matchups return, ranking their schedule 20th-best for Fantasy Defenses. That’s probably enough to have me avoid the Steelers D/ST in the draft – but consider them as a waiver-wire option in the middle weeks.

Preseason Updates

Throughout the 2016 NFL Preseason, players will get hurt and depth charts will shift, so we’ll be updating our 2016 Fantasy Defense rankings regularly. Here are some reasons for changes in some of our rankings.

It’s going to take a major injury to a major star to really shove any of the top Fantasy defenses down a few notches, and it’s very unlikely you’ll see a defense come from the back of the pack into the top 10 just because of their preseason play.

Here are some major injuries to keep track of:

  • Rob Ninkovich, New England: Arm injury has him questionable for the start of the season.
  • Danny Trevathan, Chicago: Knee injury has him probable for Week 1.
  • Darrelle Revis, N.Y. Jets: His wrist injury isn’t expected to keep him out of the season opener.
  • Muhammad Wilkerson, N.Y. Jets: Same goes for Wilkerson’s leg injury.

Here are some major defensive players that are holding out:

  • Joey Bosa, DE, San Diego

2016 Fantasy Football Defense Rankings

These Fantasy rankings are based on standard scoring systems that reward points for sacks, turnovers, points and yardage allowed.

 

What we talked about at the beginning of this discussion on 2016 Fantasy Football Defense rankings should really convince you that taking a defense earlier than the final few rounds of your draft is probably unwise. The position has tons of volatility, and the 2016 Fantasy Defense rankings should help you understand which defenses are worth taking with a late pick.

SCFE 2016 Fantasy Football Rankings

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David Gonos

David Gonos has been writing about Fantasy Sports online since 2000 – and playing Fantasy Sports since 1989. He has drafted both Curt Warner and Kurt Warner, along with Big Unit and Big Papi. A veteran of hundreds of drafts in the past 15 years alone, Gonos is closely acquainted with sleepers, breakouts and busts – as he has drafted many of all three. He was a Senior Fantasy Writer for CBSSports.com for five years, and he has been columnist on SI.com and FanDuel.com, while also getting published on MLB.com, NFL.com, FoxSports.com and USAToday.com.
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