Unless you are a fantasy drafter that likes to try and grab a perceived elite defense early, you are most likely grabbing one with your last pick or two. Defense is not the most significant position for fantasy football. Most drafters will merely take the defense that they consider good and call it a day. People do not usually research a teams defense like they would any other fantasy position, but why not look at the early season schedule of teams? The position is one I believe you should stream throughout the season. Most of the time, the top 5 defenses never return their draft value. Instead of wasting a pick on a perceived set it and forget it defense, why not pick one up that many may not be thinking about? I am going to list the top 9 defenses that are being taken in drafts. I will then provide you with defenses that have good early season matchups that you can take with one of your last 2 picks. You will most likely need to stream the position at some point during the season anyway. If you can grab one with an easy start, you will provide yourself a little more time to plan for the future.
The Top 9 Defenses being Drafted:
Los Angeles Rams
Los Angeles Chargers
These defenses are the ones being taken ahead of round 14 in standard 15 round drafts in 12 team leagues. All represent reliable options, but they could cost you valuable roster depth at their current value. I understand everyone wants to take the Bears defense. However, they are going to cost you an 8th round pick on average. They have a fairly easy early season schedule, but they play the Packers in week 1 on Thursday night football. Not the ideal opponent to start against. The rest of the field ranges from 9th round picks to 13th round picks. All of these rounds have valuable depth pieces for your roster, and you are bypassing them by taking a defense.
Defenses With Easy Early Season Schedules:
Here are a few defense that will cost you a 14th or 15th round pick that have favorable matchups within the first few weeks of the season. While some of them may not be the best defenses all around, they do have favorable matchups. Let’s take a look.
Kansas City Chiefs:
Schedule: Week 1 @ Jacksonville, Week 2 @ Oakland, Week 3 Vs. Ravens
While the Chiefs are under no circumstances a great defense, their opening season schedule is pretty favorable. None of the teams they play early on are projected to be a top offense this season. 2 road games to start the season is unideal, but playing against Jacksonville and Oakland is nearly the best case scenario. Jacksonville may have a better QB in Nick Foles, but no one expects the offense to set the world on fire. There are very few receiving options in Jacksonville and Dede Westbrook will not be the man to put up 3 TD’s on the Chiefs. Fournette could be tough to stop, but if the Chiefs find a way to score early and often, the Jags will have to throw more often. Oakland’s offense is either going to be very good or very bad. Antonio Brown has given the team nothing but problems barely practicing with Derek Carr this offseason. Josh Jacobs should be a breath of fresh air for the offense, but the team could fall behind early to Mahomes and the explosive Chiefs. Turnovers could be the name of the game here if they can pressure Carr. The Ravens offense is going to be run heavy, but the Chiefs should score enough to force them to throw. Lamar Jackson has looked improved this offseason, but he has a week receiving core. They may be unable to put enough points on the board to catch up to the Chiefs. Jackson has been turnover prone as well, so there could be points galore for the Chiefs defense.
Schedule: Week 1 @ NY Jets, Week 2 @NY Giants, Week 3 Vs. Cincinnati, Week 4 Vs. New England, Week 5 @ Tennessee
The Bill defense is projected to do fairly well this season. Their schedule is favorable for a majority of the year, but there are a few early games where they could struggle. Week 1 @ the Jets and Week 4 vs. the Patriots are not the most ideal matchups. The Jets offense should be considerably improved this season. However, the Bills almost always give them problems defensively. The Buffalo pass rush is good enough to pressure Sam Darnold and their secondary lead by Tre’Davious White should be able handle their receiver core. Bell is the big question mark here. The Jets at long last have a top of the line RB this year, and he could help put the team in favorable scoring positions often. The Patriots consistently give the Bills issues, but thankfully they will be at home in week 4. The Bills usually fair much better in their home games against the Pats. The Patriots receiving core may give them issues, but they no longer have to account for Rob Gronkowski. The Patriots offensive line is a bit banged up as well, so they may be able to get to Brady easier than usual. Other than these 2 games, the Bills defense should thrive. The Giants offense should give the Bills little resistance. The Bengals will most assuredly be missing A.J. Green even in week 3. The Titans offense scares no one with Marcus Mariota leading the charge. All of these teams have QB’s that are prone to turnovers and the Bills pass rush should bring the pressure. None of these teams offensive lines are very good. The sack total could be high for Buffalo early on in the season. They are one of the teams that you could keep for the first 5 weeks and be fine.
New England Patriots:
Schedule: Week 1 Vs. Pittsburgh, Week 2 @ Miami, Week 3 Vs. NY Jets, Week 4 @ Buffalo, Week 5 @ Washington, Week 6 Vs. NY Giants
The Patriots most pressing issue is playing the Steelers week 1. The game could be pretty high scoring, so their defense isn’t the greatest option. If your ok with this, then the Patriots defense will be a great acquisition. Miami will offer little resistance for the Patriots defense. The Jets matchup isn’t the greatest, but the Patriots usually scheme the opposing teams best player out of the game. Bell should not be much of an issue. Week 4 against the Bills should be a fairly easy contest. The game may not be high scoring as the Bills defense should hold the Patriots to around 20 or so points. No one is expecting a shootout between the 2 teams especially in Buffalo. Josh Allen was not the most accurate QB last season either, so turnovers could definitely happen in this contest. Washington may have the worst offense in the NFL this season. The Patriots should be able to handle them with relative ease. The Giants matchup seems like an easy contest as well. Saquon Barkley could give the team problems, but even with Golden Tate back by this point, their passing attack isn’t threatening. Pressure to the aging Eli Manning or rookie QB Daniel Jones should result in an Interception or 2. All in all, the Patriots look like they have a chance at going 6-0 in the early part of the season. Picking up their defense may not be the worst idea.
Los Angeles Chargers:
Schedule: Week 1 Vs. Indianapolis, Week 2 @ Detroit, Week 3 Vs. Houston, Week 4 @ Dolphins, Week 5 @ Denver
The Chargers have 2 great matchups to open the season. The Colts have just lost Andrew Luck to retirement. While I believe Jacoby Brissett will be a worthy fill in, the Colts are no longer the juggernaut offense many thought they were. Brissett could struggle out of the gates and going up a stout Chargers pass rush is not the most ideal start. He could be hitting the turf often and the Chargers secondary may benefit with an Interception or 2. Detroit is another solid matchup. The offense looked like a shell of its former self last year after trading Golden Tate. While the team looks relatively healthy, the Chargers defense could absolutely hold them to a low score. Going up against another sub-par offensive line with their pass rush should help things along so the upside for sacks and tackles for loss is high. The most pressing issue is the matchup with Houston. You can easily drop the Chargers for the week 3 matchup, but if you can withstand this contest with the Texans then you will get 2 more favorable matchups. The game against Miami could be one of the defenses best weeks. Fitzpatrick and Rosen have both looked shaky in the preseason. The Dolphins offensive line is not the greatest. Bosa and Ingram should be able to tear into the whatever QB is under center. Both QB’s have been turnover prone in the past. This is a strong matchup for the Chargers. The Denver matchup is another great one. Both defenses are in the top half of the league meaning this could be a low scoring affair. A good knock down drag out brawl could signify good things for a fantasy defense.
Week 1 Fill in Defenses:
Maybe you want to stream the position week in and week out. This is a great strategy as long as there is a good rotation of defenses on your waiver wire each week. If you are looking for a good defense to stream in week 1, why not take a look at any of these 3 teams.
Philadelphia Eagles: Home Vs. The Washington Redskins
The Eagles defense is deep along the front 7 and they will get a cake matchup against one of the worst perceived offenses in the league. Case Keenum has been named the week 1 starter for the Redskins. He is a check down master who is going to experience a long day against the Eagles heavy pass rush. There are zero receiving threats for the Redskins so even a weaker Eagles secondary should have a relatively easy outing. Sacks could come early and often for the Eagles and there is bound to be a turnover or 2. They are a safe bet to finish inside the top 10 in week 1.
Seattle Seahawks: Home Vs. The Cincinnati Bengals
The Seahawks defense is a far cry from the Legion of Boom of years past. However, they are going up a fairly banged up Bengals offense in week 1. While the new HC Zac Taylor is supposed to be the next young offensive guru, his team may struggle against a middle of the road Seahawks defense. WR A.J. Green will be out to start the season meaning the only significant receiving threat for the team will be Tyler Boyd. Boyd played better with Green healthy last season meaning he may struggle against the Seahawks Cornerbacks. The Bengals offensive line has been decimated by injuries early this offseason as well. They are going to struggle protecting veteran QB Andy Dalton. Seattle will likely look to grind this one out with the running game meaning that their defense should be a safe bet to start in week 1.
Detroit Lions: @ The Arizona Cardinals
The Lions defense was not great last season. Even though HC Matt Patricia was an exceptional defensive coordinator with the Patriots for years, the Lions struggled in his first year in 2018. However, the defensive line has been much improved and the secondary is lead by one of the top corners in the league, Darius Slay. A heavy pass rush on rookie QB Kyler Murray should do wonders for the Lions week 1. The improved defensive line should be able to contain David Johnson for the most part. Focusing on taking him out of the game early may be the strategy for Detroit. Forcing the rookie to take shots downfield could prove to be fruitful for the Lions in week 1. Even with new HC Kliff Kingsbury, the Cardinals offense is not a frightening one. I know it may seem weird to rely on the Lions defense after last season, but the matchup is too good to ignore.
There you have it! There are defenses that are either going in the last round of fantasy drafts or that are being undrafted that deserve some consideration. Streaming the position is the smartest strategy to employ even early on in the season. Doing just a small amount of research on a position that most ignore can go a long way for early season success.
So what do you think? Let us know and be sure to share and follow us on our social media pages to stay up to date on when we upload! What are your thoughts? Let us know and be sure to share and follow us on our social media pages to stay up to date on when we upload! We are Finish First Fantasy on Facebook, @Finish1Fantasy on Twitter, and we are @finishfirstfantasy on Instagram. Click on the link below to sign up for our newsletter for the latest publications on our site, special discounts, and membership rewards!
By Ryan Larrison, Contributor, Fantasy Football for the People