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2011 fantasy defense rankings (1-15)

Quarterbacks | Running backs | Wide receivers | Tight ends | Kickers | Linebackers | Defensive backs | Defensive linemen

Statistical projections are provided by EA Sports.

 

1. Green Bay Packers
(Auction: $3)
If you’re looking for consistent production among defenses, start with the Packers. The defending Super Bowl champions have finished no worse than seventh in fantasy points since 2006—a stretch that includes a second-place rank in 2009 and a third-place finish last season. The team thrived in 2010 under coordinator Dom Capers, finishing second in fewest points allowed, second in interceptions and tied for second in sacks. With a talented linebacker corps and a loaded secondary that includes veteran star Charles Woodson, the Packers should remain one of fantasy football’s elite defenses in 2011. Look for this unit to be one of the first ones selected in the late rounds in the majority of standard drafts. (Bye: Week 8)

2010 Projections
Yds allowed
Pts allowed
Int
Fum Rec
Sacks
TDs
3967
233
22
6
40
1


 

2. Philadelphia Eagles
(Auction: $3)
The Eagles tied for 12th in fantasy points among defenses last season. Furthermore, it was the first time in three years they failed to finish among the top five at the position. The team had only minimal statistical drops in sacks and interceptions, however, and was a mere 10 points from being a top-seven unit. With a favorable schedule and players such as defensive end Trent Cole and cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha in the mix, plus explosive return man DeSean Jackson on special teams, the Eagles should fly high enough to be considered an elite opton. Fantasy owners should expect this unit to be one of the first handful of defenses to be selected in the majority of standard leagues. (Bye: Week 7)

2010 Projections
Yds allowed
Pts allowed
Int
Fum Rec
Sacks
TDs
4150
247
28
6
35
0


 

3. Pittsburgh Steelers
(Auction: $3)
The Steel Curtain is coming off another productive season, finishing second in fantasy points on the strength of a league-leading 48 sacks. Many of them came from linebackers James Harrison (10.5) and LaMarr Woodley (10), who have stuffed the stat sheets with the help of legendary coordinator Dick LeBeau and his aggressive game plans. This unit also allowed the fewest points in the NFL in 2010 and had the fifth-most interceptions, led by safety Troy Polamalu’s seven picks. With LeBeau back for another season and countless talented players in the mix, there’s no reason the Steelers shouldn’t remain a solid unit. In fact, this will be the first defensive unit selected in countless fantasy drafts. (Bye: Week 11)

2010 Projections
Yds allowed
Pts allowed
Int
Fum Rec
Sacks
TDs
3581
211
9
4
48
3


 

4. New York Jets
(Auction: $3)
The Jets have one of the most talented and aggressive defenses in the league. Just ask their coach, Rex Ryan. His team finished in the top 10 in sacks, fumbles recovered and points allowed in 2010. Overall, Gang Green ranked fifth in fantasy points among defenses for a second consecutive year. The key to the defense is the presence of cornerback Darrelle Revis, whose top-notch cover skills cut the field virtually in half and allow Ryan to be aggressive with his blitz packages. While the Jets have some tough opponents on their 2011 schedule, they are too talented not to be considered an elite fantasy option. Look for Ryan's defense to be highly coveted in the late rounds in the majority of drafts. (Bye: Week 8)

2010 Projections
Yds allowed
Pts allowed
Int
Fum Rec
Sacks
TDs
4288
286
8
2
30
0


 

5. Chicago Bears
(Auction: $2)
The addition of star defensive end Julius Peppers in 2010 didn’t increase the Bears’ sack total—they actually had one more sack the previous season—but it clearly improved the unit’s overall effectiveness and fantasy value. The Bears finished fourth in fantasy points among defenses, which was a major upgrade over the previous year (23rd). They also allowed the fourth-fewest points in the NFL, which is a testament to the impact Peppers and linebacker Brian Urlacher made for this unit. With a talented linebacker corps led by Urlacher and a dynamic return man in Devin Hester, the Bears will continue to have major value from a fantasy perspective. Clearly, the new Monsters of the Midway are a No. 1 option. (Bye: Week 8)

2010 Projections
Yds allowed
Pts allowed
Int
Fum Rec
Sacks
TDs
3744
230
18
5
22
0


 

6. Baltimore Ravens
(Auction: $2)
The 2010 season was an absolute roller-coaster ride for the Ravens’ defense. Over the first seven games, Baltimore averaged a meager 5.3 fantasy points and was even released in countless fantasy leagues. But during the final nine games, the Ravens put up 10.8 points on average. In fact, only the Patriots scored more fantasy points among defenses during that time. While a few of the core members of this unit, such as linebacker Ray Lewis and safety Ed Reed, are getting a little long in the tooth, it’s hard to see the Ravens experiencing a major decline. And if rookie cornerback Jimmy Smith is as good as advertised, this unit could be even better. As usual, this defense will be one of the first selected in drafts. (Bye: Week 5)

2010 Projections
Yds allowed
Pts allowed
Int
Fum Rec
Sacks
TDs
3953
235
24
3
42
0


 

7. New England Patriots
(Auction: $2)
The Patriots’ offense typically gets most of the fantasy attention, but the team’s defense also made a significant impact in 2010. In fact, New England led the league in fantasy points on the strength of an NFL-best 25 interceptions, six defensive touchdowns and three return touchdowns. The unit fields up-and-coming superstars in linebacker Jerod Mayo and cornerback Devin McCourty, and also landed Albert Haynesworth and a rookie cornerback with upside in Ras-I Dowling in the 2011 NFL Draft. Fantasy owners beware, though: Since 2006, no defense that finished first in fantasy points has finished higher than 15th the following year. So while the Pats are a talented young group, there are no guarantees for 2011 success. (Bye: Week 7)

2010 Projections
Yds allowed
Pts allowed
Int
Fum Rec
Sacks
TDs
4072
257
24
5
40
0


 

8. San Diego Chargers
(Auction: $1)
The Chargers had the NFL’s top-rated defense last season (based on total yards). From a fantasy angle, though, the Bolts finished 10th among defenses and weren't nearly as dominant. With former coordinator Ron Rivera now the head man in Carolina, new coordinator Greg Manusky takes over the defensive reins. He’ll continue to run an aggressive 3-4 scheme -- that’s good news for linebacker Shaun Phillips, who should remain a dominant pass rusher and produce plenty of sacks for fantasy owners. San Diego might not emerge as a truly elite fantasy defense this season, but there’s no reason it can’t be a viable starting unit in leagues with 12-plus teams. The Bolts are well worth a late-round look in drafts. (Bye: Week 6)

2010 Projections
Yds allowed
Pts allowed
Int
Fum Rec
Sacks
TDs
4277
272
15
2
15
0


 

9. New Orleans Saints
(Auction: $1)
Proving that a first-place finish in fantasy points brings no guarantees for the following year, the Saints fell from No. 1 in 2009 to a far less impressive No. 15 last season. Despite giving up fewer points overall, New Orleans faltered because of a huge decrease in interception and touchdowns totals. The Saints do have playmakers, though, including linebacker Jonathan Vilma and defensive back Roman Harper, so owners should expect improvement this season. Consider this team a viable No. 1 fantasy defense in the late rounds.(Bye: Week 11)

2010 Projections
Yds allowed
Pts allowed
Int
Fum Rec
Sacks
TDs
4207
234
20
3
38
2


 

10. Atlanta Falcons
(Auction: $1)
For the first time since 2002, the Falcons finished in the top 10 in fantasy points among defenses last season. They were fifth in points allowed, fourth in interceptions and scored a very solid five touchdowns. With linebacker John Abraham still playing at a high level, the addition of DE Ray Edwards and an infusion of youth in the secondary, the Falcons should remain a quality option in fantasy leagues. Consider this unit a borderline No. 1 or 2 unit in the majority of leagues with standard scoring systems. (Bye: Week 8)

2010 Projections
Yds allowed
Pts allowed
Int
Fum Rec
Sacks
TDs
4495
294
11
5
17
0


 

11. Dallas Cowboys
(Auction: $1)
The Cowboys took a step backwards in 2010 (and a major one at that), ranking a dreadful 23rd in total defense, including 26th against the pass. But in fantasy leagues, they remained a low-end starting option based on their 12th-place finish at the position. There’s still a ton of talent on this team, led by linebacker DeMarcus Ware, and the addition of Rob Ryan as the new defensive coordinator should be a real positive. The Cowboys also have a dynamic return man in Dez Bryant, who returned two punts for touchdowns in his rookie season. With Ryan at the helm and Ware chasing down opposing quarterbacks on a regular basis, this unit has a chance to be much more productive this season. (Bye: Week 5)

2010 Projections
Yds allowed
Pts allowed
Int
Fum Rec
Sacks
TDs
3961
226
13
2
21
0


 

12. New York Giants
(Auction: $1)
The Giants’ defense rebounded from a terrible 2009 season, finishing ninth in fantasy points last year despite failing to score a single touchdown on defense or special teams. That's a telling statistic. The Giants averaged 4.3 scores in the previous three years, so fantasy owners can expect to see more points in that category in 2011. The line, led by DE Justin Tuck, helped Big Blue rank fifth in the NFL in sacks and first in fumble recoveries. The G-Men have secondary injuries to CBs Terrell Thomas and Prince Amukamara, though, so this unit could struggle at times. A top-12 unit in three of the last four years, the Giants are still worth a late-round draft choice. (Bye: Week 7)

2010 Projections
Yds allowed
Pts allowed
Int
Fum Rec
Sacks
TDs
4086
252
9
5
17
4


 

13. Arizona Cardinals
(Auction: $1)
When you think of the most consistent defenses in fantasy football, the Cardinals aren’t the first team that comes to mind. However, Arizona has finished no worse than 12th in four of the last five years and ranked sixth at the position in 2010. Couple that with the most favorable FPA rating among defenses, not to mention the addition of a potential superstar cornerback in rookie Patrick Peterson, and the Cardinals have a legitimate chance to be a top-10 unit in 2011. (Bye: Week 6)

2010 Projections
Yds allowed
Pts allowed
Int
Fum Rec
Sacks
TDs
4132
246
14
4
18
2


 

14. Detroit Lions
(Auction: $1)
Typically, the Lions’ defense doesn’t get much respect in fantasy circles. But in 2010, Detroit finished a respectable 11th in fantasy points. With rookie defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh making an impact, the Lions ranked sixth in the NFL in sacks and fourth in fumble recoveries. With rookie defensive end Nick Fairley now in the mix, the Lions could be a low-end starting option in the majority of fantasy leagues. At worst, this unit will have matchup-based starting value. (Bye: Week 9)

2010 Projections
Yds allowed
Pts allowed
Int
Fum Rec
Sacks
TDs
4175
267
18
1
25
0


 

15. Minnesota Vikings
(Auction: $1)
The Vikings didn’t finish in the top 10 in fantasy points among defenses last season for the first time since 2004, proving that even an elite unit is not guaranteed to be productive every year. This team still has a lot of talent, though, and finished strong once Leslie Frazier took over as the head coach. With talented players like defensive end Jared Allen and linebacker Chad Greenway in the mix, don’t be surprised if Minnesota becomes a top-10 fantasy defense again. (Bye: Week 9)

2010 Projections
Yds allowed
Pts allowed
Int
Fum Rec
Sacks
TDs
3995
244
9
4
19
0


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