The climate of fantasy football is changing each year regarding team defense, and many leagues are moving away from the position. Sometimes in favor of IDP, other times without a replacement at all. While IDP certainly has its place, team defense is, and will likely remain, a staple of most fantasy leagues. It brings a wild-card element to the table and can swing fantasy matchups during the season.
This article will focus on the best team defenses for the 2021 season but let’s start with a significant caveat. In the vast majority of scoring systems, you should never draft a defense before the 13th round of your draft. Team defense is a weekly game. It would be best if you played the matchups, and rarely will a manager start the same team from Week 1 through the championship. Knowing this, do not spend much draft capital on them. If you can avoid it, do not draft one at all.
Pro Tip For Your Draft
Every major platform outside of ESPN will allow you to skip the defense position altogether. Instead, load up on running backs and wide receivers. Having extra players at these critical positions gives you injury insurance and trade bait heading into Week 1. Then, before the Sunday kickoff, drop your worst player or use that roster spot you opened up in trade and add the team defense with the best matchup,
This tip is sometimes resisted, but let me give you some interesting facts about team defenses last season. In 2020, the top team defense in fantasy was the Indianapolis Colts, followed closely by the Pittsburgh Steelers. Neither one of them finished more than 11 weeks in the top-12 of the position. That means that they were not worthy of a start in one out of every three games--and they were the best we had last year. To make matters worse, only five of the top-12 drafted defenses from last year finished the season in the Top 12.
Using those numbers, you have a less than 50% chance of drafting a top-12 defense. Then, they are playable in just 66% of their games, at best. Why waste the pick? My advice is to stream the position. Work your league waivers, play the best matchup every week, and you can build your own top team defense, giving yourself an edge.
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s look at the defenses most likely to finish in the Top 12 in 2021.
Cream of the Crop, still not worth a high draft pick
- Washington Football Team
- Baltimore Ravens
- Pittsburgh Steelers
These are the only three teams to consider in Round 13 if they are still on the board. Washington is one of the most talented defenses in the league from front to back. They will get after the quarterback with a great defensive line and linebackers and protect the backend with a solid secondary. In fantasy, success comes with sacks and turnovers, and Washington could lead the league in both categories when all is said and done.
Pittsburgh returns most of their #2 fantasy defense from last year and should be solid again. Their finish last year will likely cause their ADP to rise and make them an avoid. Baltimore lost some talent but replaced them with capable free agents and rookies. If they can figure things out quickly, they will be a top defense.
Draft Them If You Must, but only with one of your last two picks
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