2016 Preseason Rankings: Top 15 Defenses

by Ray Kuhn

Everyone knows the saying. “Defense Wins Championships”. That is incredibly evident in the NFL, as it is weighted the same as offense, but when we get to fantasy football that is not the case at all.  That doesn’t give you license to ignore defense however.

Please, and I really mean please, don’t go out and take Seattle or Arizona in Round 9 or 10 because you have them as the highest ranked defense (even though they aren’t). Sure you will get an advantage, but the advantage is not nearly as big as you think.  According to standard ESPN projections, Denver is projected with 142 points followed by Carolina at 123. There is then just a 12 point difference down to their 12th ranked defense, which is less than a point per week. Match-ups will come into play throughout the season and injuries happen.

Running backs and wide receivers with upside are far more valuable, and a defense should be one of your last few picks. However, you shouldn’t ignore defenses either. With that in mind, let’s take a look at how they rank entering the season:

  1. Denver Broncos
  2. Arizona Cardinals
  3. Houston Texans
  4. Seattle Seahawks
  5. New York Jets
  6. Los Angeles Rams
  7. Kansas City Chiefs
  8. Carolina Panthers
  9. New England Patriots
  10. Minnesota Vikings
  11. Cincinnati Bengals
  12. New York Giants
  13. Oakland Raiders
  14. Jacksonville Jaguars
  15. Buffalo Bills


  • Arizona has one of the best shutdown cornerbacks in the game in Patrick Peterson, and he is surrounded by talent. Tyvon Branch was imported to help in the secondary, with Chandler Jones and rookie Robert Nkemdiche brought in to help with the pass rush. The Cardinals should also get off to a good start as they face the Patriots (without Tom Brady), the Rams and the 49ers in the early part of the season.
  • The Jets have been strikingly consistent in recent times, and this season should be no different. While Damon Harrison switched locker rooms and signed with the Giants, the Jets should be just fine as Steve McLendon takes over his role. Muhammed Wilkerson is back and no worse for the wear after his broken leg to end last season, and he has a lot of help on the defensive line with Sheldon Richardson and an improving Leonard Williams. The linebacking corps, aside from veteran stalwart David Harris, is somewhat of a concern but the Jets are strong enough elsewhere that it shouldn’t be an issue.
  • The full impact remains to be seen, but the Panthers will be missing Josh Norman. While Carolina still has a ton of defensive talent, their secondary has taken a big hit as they also lost both Charles Tillman and Roman Harper. It’s hard to discount a defense led by Luke Kuechly, but the Panthers benefited from a lot of big plays and turnovers last season.
  • Talent. The Jaguars have a lot of it, both imported veterans and young players and I would look for them to make strides this season. After Dante Fowler missed last season and Myles Jack fell in the draft, the Jaguars have essentially three first round picks this season; Jalen Ramsey was drafted fifth. Ramsey will have help from veteran additions Prince Amukamara and Tashaun Gipson in the defensive backfield with Malik Jackson brought in to fortify the defensive line.
  • Last season was not a good debut in Buffalo for Rex Ryan and his defense. It was a long way down to 22 from being the first ranked defense the season prior, as the Bills were simply a mess. This is a make or break year for Ryan, and there is still enough talent here for there to be a rebound. It will be an uphill battle as Buffalo’s first and second round draft choices are injured to start the season.

Make sure to check out all of our updated preseason rankings:

2016 Preseason Rankings: Top 15 Kickers
2016 Preseason Rankings: Updated Top 20 Tight Ends

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