As you prep for your fantasy draft, I have a request to make of you. No matter the temptation, DO NOT DRAFT A DEFENSE IN THE FIRST 11 ROUNDS OF YOUR DRAFT!
I’m sorry I yelled, but seriously, don’t do it. Nevermind the fact that over the last 18 years, no #1 fantasy defense has repeated, sorry Bears fans. Nevermind that only five of the top 12 drafted DEF/ST in 2018 actually finished in the Top-12. Nevermind that you could’ve played my Stream of the Week every week last year and finished with points equivalent to the #7 DEF/ST, only three fewer points per game than Chicago. My request today is all about matchups, the only thing you really need to focus on with fantasy DEF/ST.
Looking at the matchups of JAX, LAR, LAC, and MIN, all going in the top-6 and before the 13th Round, you see opponents like Carolina, New Orleans, Indianapolis, Houston, Atlanta, Green Bay, Kansas City. These are not the offenses you want to be facing off against to start the season.
On Monday’s episode of The Fantasy Footballers Podcast, host Jason Moore mentioned that the only time he really focuses on early season strength of schedule is when picking his fantasy DEF/ST. He is really good at this. Be like Jason. Ideally, if your league allows it, don’t draft a defense at all. Pick up depth at RB and WR and wait out the preseason for injuries and trade offers. But if you must, draft your defense late and focus on the defenses with favorable opening schedules.
Dallas Cowboys (ADP – 13.07)
Opening Schedule (vs NYG, @ WAS, vs MIA)
Dallas benefits from playing in a division with two offenses that may end up both being bottom-5 come season’s end. They also start the season against both of them. First is a home matchup against a Giants offense that is depleted outside of Saquon Barkley and still led by Eli Manning (for now) and then they travel to Washington to play the Case Keenum-led Redskins. Outside of Jordan Reed and an aged Adrian Peterson, there is very little proven talent in this Washington offense, Their 3rd game is another solid matchup against Miami. Turnovers are a big part of fantasy defense and you don’t find many better matchups for turnovers than Ryan Fitzpatrick. Dallas should have a great pass rush, solid LB play, and a serviceable secondary. I won’t be surprised if the Cowboys are the #1 fantasy defense after the first three weeks.
Cleveland Browns (ADP – 13.10)
Opening Schedule (vs TEN, @ NYJ)
The talk of the offseason has been what the Browns have added to their offense but their defense should be better than solid too. They already have elite talents in Myles Garret and Denzel Ward, then they add Sheldon Richardson, Olivier Vernon, and Greedy Williams. If their LBs play well, this will be a top defense in 2019. Tennessee could easily find themselves among the bottom-5 offenses after 2019 concludes and should be playing from behind most of Week 1. The Browns should get after Mariota all day and make things hard for that running game. The passing game will shoot itself in the foot and Cleveland should be Week 1’s #1 DEF. In Week 2, they travel to NY to play the Jets. While the Jets are improved, two things increase confidence in the Browns: 1. Sam Darnold will throw interceptions. 2. Adam Gase’s offense has proven very beatable.
Baltimore Ravens (ADP – 12.02)
Opening Schedule (@ MIA, vs AZ)
Baltimore starts the season against Fitzpatrick and Miami. The Ravens ability to control the clock on offense and Fitzpatrick’s ability to throw interceptions makes me think this will be a low-scoring, lopsided game in favor of Baltimore. After that, the Ravens get a home match-up against the Cardinals. If you’re going to see a rookie QB struggle, it’s usually early in the season and John Harbaugh will likely have a great gameplan for Kyler Murray. The Ravens have one of the best secondaries in the NFL and should have a lot of INTs after the season’s first two weeks.
Buffalo Bills (ADP – 15.01)
Opening Schedule (@ NYJ, @ NYG, vs CIN)
Buffalo’s offense will be very run-heavy and that will help keep their defense in control in a lot of games. The Bills won’t have to leave New York for any of their first 4 games and the first 3 of those games are against shaky offenses. Buffalo should benefit from turnovers against the Jets, a general lack of firepower against the Giants, and just a completely depleted offense against Cincinnati.
Kansas City Chiefs (ADP – FREE)
Opening Schedule (@ JAX, @ OAK)
The Chiefs defense is talented at just about every position and gets 2 transitioning teams to start the season. Both games are on the road, so not exactly ideal but the Chiefs have something working in their favor: the Kansas City offense. Neither Jacksonville nor Oakland will be able to keep up with Mahomes and Co and that is going to put the newly acquired Frank Clark and the rest the Chiefs defense in a lot of favorable situations.
Philadelphia Eagles (ADP – 14.10)
Opening Schedule (vs WAS)
Going with Philadelphia as your DEF/ST essentially commits you to streaming defense this season, which is completely fine. While you want no part of the Eagles defense when they visit the Falcons in Week 2, Week 1 brings on a very juicy matchup to start the season, my favorite to be 2019’s worst offense, the Washington Redskins. Washington has very little at WR, more questions than answers at RB, Case Keenum as a starting QB, and Jordan Reed. I like Jordan Reed. I do not like the Redskins, especially not in Week 1.
New England Patriots: Tough to start the Patriots in Week 1 against the Steelers but then they have six games that look like a fantasy defense dream from Week 2-7. They will faceoff against MIA, BUF, NYJ twice, WAS, and NYG. If they are available after the Steelers game, grab them quickly.
Indianapolis Colts: Colts start the season against the Chargers and Titans. While I love the matchup against the Titans, the Chargers matchup is so/so, especially if Melvin Gordon is playing. If he is not, you could do worse than the Colts for your first two weeks.