By Sammy Bissett. As we prepare for the upcoming 2016 fantasy football season, TheFantasyGreek.com fantasy football analyst Sammy Bissett breaks down this season’s Top 10 fantasy defenses in 2016. Get your benchmark for evaluating all other rankings right here. For a deeper analysis of each Top 10 defense, plus the next six, get this year’s 2016 Fantasy Football draft guide available at Amazon.com.
1. Cardinals. The Cardinals added incredible talent, Defensive End Robert Nckemdiche through the draft and Patriots pass rushing stud, Chandler Jones. Defensive stalwart Patrick Peterson patrols an uber talented secondary with the talented Justin Bethel opposite him. The player to watch in this group is Tyrann Mathieu. His season was cut short last year, but his coverage against slot receivers was among the best, and the Cardinals’ 19 interceptions backed up the hype. It doesn’t hurt that the Cardinals replaced Rashad Johnson with speedy Tyvon Branch formerly of the Chiefs.
2. Broncos. It helps Von Miller has been re-signed to a six-year, $114.5 million contract extension. The twenty-seven turnovers the Broncos defensive unit had last season was good enough for seventh overall, but their thirty-one giveaways hurt with 23 in interceptions. While the takeaways might dip just a little bit, the run first approach the Broncos are looking to instill should significantly drop their turnovers and help give their defense more rest. The front seven must remain dominant for the secondary ranking to remain one of the league’s best, remaining a Top 10 fantasy defense in 2016.
3. Texans. After an abysmal start to the 2015 season, the Texans defense went on a tear, finishing the season leading the league in passes defended (90), tied for eleventh in fumble recoveries (11), tied for thirteenth in interceptions (14), and registering the fifth most sacks (45) in the league. From Week 8 to Week 17, the Texans defense was the No. 1 DST in fantasy football because they also allowed 10 or fewer points in six of their last nine games.
4. Seahawks. This tried and true number one defense in previous seasons stepped back in 2015 despite consistently producing good defensive numbers. Consistency is nice, but roster turnover hurts their ranking going into 2016. Losing linebacker Bruce Irvin and defensive lineman Brandon Mebane hurts a team whose sack total and sack percentage has fallen over the past three seasons. This is still a good defense which ranked first in points allowed and second in yards per game allowed.
5. Panthers. It’s safe to say the loss of 2015 shut-down corner Josh Norman will hurt. However, the Panthers still have the best linebacker combination with Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis. The defensive line received a much needed boost with adding Vernon Butler in the draft. The front seven makes the Panthers a Top 10 option, but the secondary went from above average to one of the most questionable groups in the league. This alone leads to the conclusion that their league leading 24 interceptions from last season falls to between 15 to 18 for 2016.
6. Bengals. The Bengals finished with the sixth most takeaways with 28 and they resigned their best secondary players while other were replaced with young, promising players including talented cornerback William Jackson III, linebacker Nick Vigil, and beefy nose tackle Andrew Billings. Linebacker Karlos Dansby is a solid addition and should help a defensive unit whose pass rush greatly improved from their 2014 league-worst sack total of 20.0 to the their tenth best total of 42.0 sacks in 2015. The Bengals must likely rely on at least one rookie or one young defensive back to go with their veterans at corner.
7. Vikings. A TFG sleeper in 2015, there is no reason for the Vikings DST to be rated as low as twelve or lower this off-season. Undrafted in 2015, the Vikings DST isn’t very sexy at any position group but still finished seventh in sacks (43), seventeenth in interceptions (13), and thirteenth in yards allowed per game (344 yards). What should be attractive to you as a fantasy owner is that they allowed a fifth best 18.9 points per game allowed. Coupled with a plus-five turnover margin with 22 takeaways, it says the offense doesn’t put the defense in terrible positions. The Vikings are a Top 10 fantasy defense in 2016.
8. Chiefs. Coming off of a stellar 2016, defensive campaign the 2016 Chiefs were left trying to find someone to replace starting CB Sean Smith who they could couple with stud rookie Marcus Peters (8 interceptions). At least on paper, Phillip Gaines is expected to replace Smith but he saw little playing time in 2015 as his seasons ended early due to an ACL injury. The Chiefs drafted CB Keivarae Russell in the third round and CB Eric Murray in the fourth round, just in case. Rookie DT Chris Jones joins a front seven which totaled 47 sacks (fourth most) in 2015. In other areas of the defense, the Chiefs still boast plenty of studs.
9. Patriots. There were skeptics of the Patriots, particularly their secondary, before the 2015 season began. However, the trio of Malcolm Butler, Logan Ryan, and Devin McCourty turned out to be an impressive group. Adding second round pick Cyrus Jones to the mix provides depth to this group that must play well with what has happened to the front seven this off-season. With the addition of Chris Long, the linebacker group makes for a very capable core. The defensive line is the main concern. But, the depth and veteran makeup should make for a potent pass rushing attack.
10. Rams. It’s surprising that you can go from an assumed elite DST option one year, and then an underrated option the next year. The Rams finished the 2015 season ranked as the twelfth best defense, which given their 7-9 record might surprise people. The truth is the Rams came away with a turnover in all but two of their games last season. The Rams lost several top players this off-season which might be too much to overcome. But, their defensive line will cause a ton of havoc one again, making them relevant in all fantasy football formats and a border-line Top 10 fantasy defense in 2016.
Top 10 Fantasy Defenses in 2016