All this week the Washington Post has been rolling out its fantasy football rankings by position, concluding Friday with the top 20 defenses. Gene Wang offers his best bets at the position for 2014.
Top 20 Defenses
1. Seattle Seahawks: As if CB Richard Sherman didn’t make it clear, the Super Bowl champions pride themselves on hard-hitting defense, and that attitude showed with the fewest points (14.4) and yards per game (273.6) in 2013.
2. Carolina Panthers: Thanks to DE Greg Hardy’s 15 sacks, the Panthers led the league in that category (60) and were on Seattle’s heels in fewest points (15.1) and yards per play (4.9).
3. Kansas City Chiefs: All-Pro S Eric Berry returned two interceptions for touchdowns for the Chiefs, who finished first in defensive touchdowns (seven) and tied for third in interceptions (21).
4. San Francisco 49ers: Even with All-Pro LB NaVarro Bowman out indefinitely, the 49ers have plenty of other playmakers to remain firmly in the top five among fantasy defenses.
5. Denver Broncos: As if the Broncos’ offense wasn’t tough enough, Denver added sack machine DeMarcus Ware and CB Aqib Talib during the offseason to bolster a defense that could become one of the NFL’s best.
6. St. Louis Rams: Thanks to one of the most formidable front sevens in the NFL, St. Louis had 53 sacks, the third most in the league, and only two defenses scored more touchdowns than the Rams’ 5.
7. Arizona Cardinals: The Cardinals collected 20 interceptions, which were ranked fifth in the league, scored five defensive touchdowns and had 47 sacks (tied for sixth).
8. Houston Texans: DE J.J. Watt may be the best defensive player in the league, but the Texans added even more firepower by drafting DE Jadeveon Clowney with the No. 1 overall pick.
9. Cincinnati Bengals: The Bengals ranked second in yards per play (4.7), third in yards per game (305.5) and fifth in points (19.1), but former defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer is now the head coach in Minnesota.
10. New England Patriots: Coach Bill Belichick’s bunch ranked 10th in points per game (21.1) but gave up way too many yards (373.1, seventh most). The additions of CBs Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner should help in that regard.
11. New Orleans Saints: In his first season as defensive coordinator, Rob Ryan oversaw a unit that finished fourth in terms of fewest points (19) and yards (305.7). Acquiring FS Jairus Byrd is a huge upgrade.
12. Baltimore Ravens: Baltimore used its first three draft picks on defensive players, including filling a glaring need at free safety with Florida State’s Terrence Brooks in the third round.
13. Detroit Lions: One of the biggest questions in training camp is if DT Ndamukong Suh’s future is with the Lions. The club announced it has tabled contract discussions until after the season.
14. Chicago Bears: A franchise that long has been associated with defense was horrible there last season. Acquiring DEs Jared Allen, Lamarr Houston and Willie Young improves at least the front seven.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers: For the first time since Mike Tomlin became coach in 2007, the Steelers finished outside the top 10 in run defense. They signed DT Cam Thomas and drafted DE Stephon Tuitt to try to get back there.
16. Buffalo Bills: Mario Williams (13 sacks), Kyle Williams (10 1/2) and Jerry Hughes (10) became the first trio with double-digit sacks since 2000, but the loss of FS Jairus Byrd can’t be overstated.
17. Green Bay Packers: Green Bay added another marquee pass rusher in DE Julius Peppers to join LB Clay Matthews. The Packers used two of their first three draft picks on defense, including S Ha’Sean Clinton-Dix at No. 21 overall.
18. Philadelphia Eagles: The transition from a 4-3 to 3-4 defense was hardly smooth, but defensive coordinator Billy Davis has said he is pleased with the unit’s comfort level so far in camp.
19. New York Giants: Losing DE Justin Tuck to the Raiders was a blow, but the Giants signed free agent Robert Ayers from the Broncos to play behind pass rushing specialists Jason Pierre-Paul and Mathias Kiwanuka.
20. Cleveland Browns: First-year coach Mike Pettine was the defensive coordinator for the Bills and Jets, and his current group has potential with S Donte Whitner and LB Karlos Dansby.