If you’re looking at these 2021 fantasy defense rankings, you likely still have D/ST as a category in your league. We’re not going to complain because we need the page views, but, just between us…why? Don’t you know fantasy football is all about offense? Who wants to have a stud WR go against their defense? And who enjoys scouring the waiver wire every week for the best matchups and top sleepers? Worse, how frustrating is it to have multiple roster spots devoted to fantasy’s most volatile position?
Alright, enough questions. You come here looking for answers, and we’ll do our best to provide them. Just know that this position is more matchup-dependent than any other, and whichever D/ST you draft likely won’t last the entire season on your team. That’s why you shouldn’t invest too high of a draft pick in a D/ST, and it’s also why it never hurts to draft based on a team’s first few games as opposed to their season-long projections.
The rankings below are based on the full season, but we’ve highlighted several teams with what look like favorable early-season schedules. Getting what you can from those teams and dumping them before they face a top offense is generally a good strategy. However, we know most owners don’t draft that way, instead looking for a D/ST they can set and forget. Most of the usual suspects are near the top, with the Ravens, Buccaneers, Steelers, Patriots, and Rams making up our top five. You’ll likely find those five teams near the top of all rankings, but our order is a bit different than the consensus.
Miami, Indianapolis, and Washington were surprise top-10 fantasy defenses last year, and we expect them to continue playing well this season. Of course, the likelihood that all of last season’s top-10 D/STs will once again finish in the top 10 is slim, but these three teams have the talent to continue putting up solid stats. Conversely, San Francisco, Minnesota, and Denver are all prime bounce-back candidates after disappointing in ’20, with a reversal of injury luck being the biggest factor.
“Luck” is really the key word when it comes to fantasy defenses, whether it’s injury luck, turnover luck, or matchup luck. Heading into the season, you can’t really predict these things, which is why we’ll once again encourage you to not overdraft a D/ST, no matter how highly we or another fantasy site might have them ranked. Getting offensive depth is still more important, and fooling yourself into thinking you have a “sure thing” at defense is only going to lead to disappointment.
Someone has to be the first person to draft a defense in your league, so if everyone’s waiting, there’s no shame in breaking that seal — but there’s also no reason to reach. Defense can still help win championships, even in fantasy, but chances are, it won’t be the defense you draft.
Well continue to adjust these D/ST rankings and provide further analysis until Week 1, so check back for updates!
2021 Fantasy Defense Rankings
Rankings based on Yahoo default scoring settings
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