By Jeff Paur
Senior Fantasy Writer
Realtime Fantasy Sports

Def / STs:

The big thing with the defense/special teams position is knowing your rules. Some leagues really reward defenses for sacks, turnovers and points allowed while others just give points for touchdowns scored by your defense/special teams. This is quite a different approach, so before ranking or picking a defense during your draft, know what your league favors. Your rules will dictate the value the position in your league.

With that said, the 49ers are our top selection this season after a second straight monster season and most of those key guys returning in 2013. But after them, we have several solid choices. The Broncos, Seahawks, Bears and Steelers should have solid seasons and are capable of finishing near the top of most leagues in defense/special teams scoring.

And there are a couple different approaches to taking a defense. If you want to use a mid-round pick on a defense/special teams, take the 49ers or Steelers or whoever you have rated high. But if you want to wait until the later rounds, grab two defenses you think you can platoon based on matchups. This is a good strategy to use if you want to wait a while before taking a defense and use that mid-round pick on another position. Getting two teams like the Rams and Redskins could do just as well as taking the 49ers with a higher pick. It is just something to think about heading into your draft. Platoon options can work well with this position.

Updated: 02/26/14
 #1  Seattle Seahawks$2  SeattleBye: 12 
 #2  San Francisco 49ers$3  San FranciscoBye: 9 
Player News:
The 49ers continue to have one of the top rated defenses/special teams in all of football. Their defense ranked third overall last season and allowed 17.1 points per game, which was the second best total in all of football. San Francisco was fourth against both the pass and run, showing dominance against both units. The 49ers do well in getting after the quarterback and creating turnovers. Their sack total of 38 wasn't off the charts last season but Aldon Smith was having a record breaking season before limping to the end of the season. If he can stay healthy, the sack potential of this unit is off the charts. Ahmad Brooks and Justin Smith provide a nice pass rush in addition to Aldon Smith, having double-digit sack potential. The secondary was good last season but could be even better if Nnamdi Asomugha can return to past form. He'll be the No. 3 cornerback but has the potential to play much better than that. The special teams also have potential with LaMichael James getting much of the work in both return games. He is a home-run threat with the ball in his hands and made a lot of plays last season when given the chance. Fantasy Outlook: The 49ers should be one of the first defense/special teams taken. This unit has it all - sack and interception potential, low yardage and point totals and above-average special teams play. You can't do much better than this unit come draft day.
 #3  Carolina Panthers CarolinaBye: 4 
 #4  Kansas City Chiefs Kansas CityBye: 10 
 #5  Denver Broncos$2  DenverBye: 9 
 #6  St. Louis Rams$1  St LouisBye: 11 
 #7  New England Patriots$1  New EnglandBye: 10 
Player News:
The Patriots defense had their struggles last season, ranking 25th overall while allowing 20.7 points per game. The good news was New England limited the points some despite allowing big yardage totals. It was a bend but don't break defense many weeks. The big struggles for the defense came against the pass, ranking 29th overall. The secondary did cause some turnovers, getting 20 interceptions but also allowed some big plays. With the secondary struggling, many teams didn't take to the run too often, helping that ranking. The Patriots were ninth against the rush. The addition of rookie defensive end Chandler Jones hopes to help the pass rush, a unit which was up and down last year. Rob Ninkovich does pretty well at the other pass rushing spot, racking up eight sacks last year. The secondary needs cornerbacks Aqib Talib and Alfonzo Dennard to make improvements next season if this unit hopes to improve much on last season. The duo has plenty of ability but need to show more consistency. The special teams aren't too impressive but the addition of Leon Washington could be a little boost to the return game. Washington has a history of producing well in this role but might be past his prime. Fantasy Outlook: The Patriots always seem to do pretty well in scoring for fantasy teams. They are opportunistic and get after the quarterback pretty well. This is a unit that seems to find the end zone a little more than your average defense. We like them as a top-10 fantasy defense. Just don't expect great numbers when it comes to yards and points allowed.
 #8  Cincinnati Bengals$2  CincinnatiBye: 12 
 #9  Chicago Bears$2  ChicagoBye: 8 
Player News:
The Bears remain very productive for fantasy teams. Chicago has as much touchdown potential on defense/special teams as any unit in the league. The defense always seems to produce a few scores and the special teams is always dangerous because of return man Devin Hester. The defense remains, though, ranking fifth overall last year. They are getting younger at many spots and the new blood is playing well, especially guys like Major Wright, Chris Conte and Corey Wootton. The Bears are equally solid against the pass and rush, ranking eighth in both categories last year. The line will produce solid sack totals and the secondary led the league in interceptions last year (24). Hester has lost a little as a return man but still remains plenty productive. He is capable of a touchdown every time he touches the ball. Fantasy Outlook: The Bears are a top-five fantasy defense/special teams and you can make a case for taking them first overall at the position. This unit provides a little bit of everything - sacks, interceptions and touchdowns. If you take the Bears, you'll be set at the position for the entire season.
 #10  Buffalo Bills BuffaloBye: 12 
 #11  Arizona Cardinals$1  ArizonaBye: 9 
 #12  Dallas Cowboys$1  DallasBye: 11 
Player News:
The Cowboys took a step backwards defensively, struggling in the 3-4 scheme. Dallas ranked just 19th defensively and allowed 25 points per game. This led to many changes this offseason, most notable moving back to a 4-3 alignment. The Cowboys certainly have the talent to turn things around on this side of the ball. Dallas has two of the best pass-rushing ends in the game in Anthony Spencer and DeMarcus Ware. These guys have huge sack potential but need to play more consistent than last season. The pass defense needs to be more consistent. Cornerbacks Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne have ability and potential but the tendency to give up the big play. They'll need to be more consistent if the defense hopes to take a step forward this season. The special teams is alright with Dwayne Harris and Lance Dunbar handling much of the return duties. These guys aren't elite at their position but capable of good things. Fantasy Outlook: This is a fantasy defense with top-five potential. The Cowboys are a good buy-low candidate. They have huge sack potential and should improve on their point and yards allowed totals from lasts season. The secondary is the big concern but could be helped if the pass rush causes all sorts of havoc, which is possible.
 #13  New York Jets New York JetsBye: 10 
Player News:
The Jets defense didn't play near the levels of past seasons. New York did rank eighth overall defensively, but allowed 23.4 points per game. This unit had plenty of struggles as they just seemed to get old. The Jets get an infusion of younger talent this season, though, with three rookies expected to start. Sheldon Richardson will start at defensive tackle and Quinton Coples and Demario Davis should start at linebacker. This three youngsters will hopefully provide a boost for the defense, which still has plenty of talent and upside. The Jets biggest issue last season was stopping the run, ranking 26th against the rush. The addition of Richardson should help the rush defense but the linebackers will need to improve their play as well. The pass defense won't have Darrelle Revis for the first time in a long time, so the secondary has some concerns for the coming season. The Jets drafted cornerback Dee Milliner in hopes of finding a new top corner, though. The special teams unit is just alright with Joe McKnight and Jeremy Kerley handling the return duties. Kerley might have a little more upside of the two right now. He is an emerging playmaker in this offense. Fantasy Outlook: The Jets are a defense/special teams going in the wrong direction. They are still worth some spot starts but don't expect great sack totals or many touchdowns from the special teams unit. Don't draft them based on past production. This is more of a spot starter for fantasy teams.
 #14  Baltimore Ravens BaltimoreBye: 8 
Player News:
The Ravens had a dip in production last season, ranking 17th defensively and allowed 21.5 points per game. The points per game numbers weren't too bad, which helped led to a good season for the team. The Ravens were about the same against the pass (17th) and rush (20th), so improvement can be made in all areas this season. The big loss for the defense is linebacker Ray Lewis, who was the leader of the unit. His play did slip a little last season, though, so getting younger might not be a bad thing for the defense. The Ravens added linebackers Elvis Dumervil and rookie Arthur Brown in hopes of shoring up the defense. Both additions should be positives for the Ravens. The secondary wasn't quite as sharp last season but still has some good players, including cornerback Lardarius Webb and safety Michael Huff. The depth behind these guys needs to play more consistent, though. Jacoby Jones is the top return man for the special teams and does a real good job in this area. He is an above-average return man capable of making many big plays. Fantasy Outlook: This unit isn't quite a fantasy starter anymore but a spot play. The Ravens still have some sack potential but the secondary doesn't create a lot of turnovers. The special teams is pretty solid, though, so that helps. But the yards and points allowed won't be among the league leaders. We wouldn't be surprised if they are better than last season but not by a whole lot.
 #15  Washington Redskins WashingtonBye: 5 
 #16  Philadelphia Eagles PhiladelphiaBye: 12 
Player News:
The Eagles were middle of the pack defensively last season, ranking 15th overall but allowed a whopping 27.8 points per game. Needless to say, this unit had plenty of struggles last year, especially when it came to allowing the big play. The pass defense was just fine, ranking eighth, but the rush defense had issues, allowing 126.3 yards per game, which ranked 23rd overall. The linebackers just didn't make many plays for the Eagles, leading to a lot of struggles stopping the run. Newly acquired Conner Barwin and rookie Mychal Kendricks will be heavily counted on to help this unit. The pass defense was good last season but is a bit of a concern this year after losing some players. Right now, Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher are slated to start. This is a bit of a downgrade from last season. The special teams is just so so with Damarius Johnson and Brandon Boykin expecting to get much of the work in the return games. Fantasy Outlook: The Eagles aren't an elite fantasy defense/special teams anymore. They still have some sack potential and will do pretty well in limiting yards but there is some concern in other areas. The pass defense could be worse and you have to wonder if the rush defense will be a whole lot better than last year. This unit is more of a spot starter than anything.
 #17  Cleveland Browns ClevelandBye: 10 
 #18  Houston Texans$1  HoustonBye: 8 
Player News:
The Texans defense took it's game to a new level last season, ranking seventh overall. The team was especially good against the rush, holding teams to 97.5-rushing yards per game. The pass defense wasn't quite as good, ranking 16th overall but still respectable in the pass-first NFL. The Texans have plenty of young talent on the defensive side of the ball and should continue to get better. J.J. Watt is the leader, though, and had 21.5 sacks last season. He is just coming into his own and will be a dominant player for years to come. And second-year linebacker Whitney Mercilus is another emerging talent that provides another solid pass rusher and run stopper. The big area of concern remains the secondary but the addition of safety Ed Reed, if healthy, could be a big boost for this unit. Reed can be a difference maker but needs to get back to health if he hopes to help the team. Keshawn Martin is expected to remain the top return man for the team. Martin did well in this area last year, providing above-average return yards for the Texans. Fantasy Outlook: The Texans are becoming a solid starter for fantasy teams at defense/special teams. This unit has huge sack potential because of Watt and seems to have a knack for finding the end zone. And if Reed can get healthy and play near his old level, the defense could play even better than last season.
 #19  New York Giants New York GiantsBye: 9 
Player News:
The Giants had an awful year defensively last season, ranking 31st overall. The good news was they allowed 21.5 points per game, which wasn't too bad considering all the yards they allowed. But either way, it was a really poor showing for a normally good defense. The Giants had plenty of injuries along the line and the secondary, though. New York needs defensive ends Jason Pierre-Paul and Justin Tuck playing at the level they are capable, a level than can be very good. The secondary also needs cornerbacks Prince Amukamara to take his game to a new level. He has all sorts of talent but hasn't emerged yet as that elite cornerback. The special teams has a lot of upside and potential with David Wilson and Reuben Randle handling the return duties. Both these guys are explosive and big-play threat with the ball in their hands. Fantasy Outlook: The Giants have a lot of talent on the defense side of the ball and we expect them to play better from day one this season. They are a legit starter for fantasy teams, mainly because of their top sack potential and return game. The Giants aren't an elite unit but just outside that group in our eyes.
 #20  Green Bay Packers$2  Green BayBye: 4 
Player News:
The offense gets much of the love for the Packers but the defense is above average. This unit ranked 11th overall last season. The Packers had one of the better sack totals in the league, getting 47 sacks. Green Bay gets teams to play from behind, though, which helps generate more sack opportunities. We expect more of the same this season. Outside linebacker Clay Matthews is one of the better pass rushers off the edge in all of football. The rush defense can be a little shaky at times, though, ranking 17th against the run last season. The addition of rookie defensive lineman Datone Jones is a step in the right direction in shoring up this unit. The special teams is very good with Randall Cobb handling the return duties. Cobb is a top playmaker and is a home-run threat with the ball in his hands. He can do some big-time damage on special teams. Fantasy Outlook: The Packers always seem to do well in producing some touchdowns defensively on special teams, making them a solid fantasy starter. This is a top-five unit capable of high sack totals and above-average interception potential.
 #21  Tampa Bay Buccaneers Tampa BayBye: 5 
 #22  Detroit Lions DetroitBye: 9 
Player News:
The Lions defense/special teams had a poor showing both for fantasy teams and NFL performance. The defense ranked 13th overall but allowed 27.3 points per game, which was one of the worst totals in the league. The Lions also had low sack (34) and interception totals (11). It was a disappointing showing for a talented group of players. Tackles Nick Fairley and Ndamukong Suh led the way for the defense. Both are solid pass rushers and do a great job stuffing the run. They need some help, though, most notably at linebacker. The Lions needs DeAndre Levy and Ashlee Palmer to step up their games a little more. The secondary is making strides with Chris Houston improving his play and rookie Darius Slay expected to start at the other cornerback spot. The special teams isn't too great, though. Mike Thomas seems likely to serve as the return man but he isn't anything great back there. Fantasy Outlook: The Lions could rebound some from last year but we wouldn't count on them as anything more than a spot starter for fantasy teams. This unit has some tack and turnover potential. We also think the yards and points allowed will improve some from last season but don't expect a huge jump forward.
 #23  New Orleans Saints New OrleansBye: 7 
 #24  Pittsburgh Steelers$2  PittsburghBye: 5 
Player News:
To some, it seemed the Steelers had a bit of a down year defensively last season. But that wasn't really the case. They ranked first overall, allowing the fewest yards in all of football. The Steelers did allow 19.6 points per game, which was up a little but still solid. The pass defense ranked first overall while the rush defense was second, proving to be very good against both styles of offense. Expect more of the same this year with this talented unit that is getting younger with players like Jason Worilds, Jarvis Jones and Ziggy Hood ready to emerge and take their games to a new level. The sack potential for the Steelers should go up with Worilds and Jones in the mix for a lot more playing time. The secondary remains strong with Ike Taylor leading the way. He is a shutdown corner that can help control a passing game. Troy Polamalu has a hard time staying healthy but can still play at a high level when he is on the field, making a difference in both the passing and rushing game. The special teams are alright with Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown likely handling the return duties. Both are capable of some big plays. Fantasy Outlook: Their fantasy numbers weren't very good last year, mainly because they rarely found the end zone. But don't get too down on Pittsburgh. They are still very capable of producing big for fantasy teams. The sack totals should be improved and we would expect a few more scores. And you can't forget the Steelers will do well in limited points and yards. This is a top-five fantasy unit that should be one of the first off the board come draft day.
 #25  Tennessee Titans TennesseeBye: 8 
 #26  Minnesota Vikings MinnesotaBye: 5 
Player News:
The Vikings continue to follow the trend of doing well against the rush (11th) but struggle against the pass (24th). The defense ranked middle of the pack defensively last season, coming in at 16. The Vikings have some potential, though, mostly because of defensive end Jared Allen, who is a sack machine. And the secondary has a chance to improve because of rookie cornerback Xavier Rhodes, who should find his way into the starting lineup immediately. Defensive tackle Kevin Williams is getting older but remains a top run stuffer. The special teams will have Marcus Sherels most likely handle the return duties. He had a punt return for a touchdown last season and seems to emerging as a return man. Fantasy Outlook: This is another defense/special teams unit that is best suited for spot start duty. They have some sack potential and will get a few turnovers but won't be great in terms of yards and points allowed. The Vikings could improve some from last season, though, with a little more younger talent getting playing time.
 #27  Oakland Raiders OaklandBye: 7 
 #28  Atlanta Falcons AtlantaBye: 6 
 #29  Indianapolis Colts IndianapolisBye: 8 
 #30  Miami Dolphins MiamiBye: 6 
 #31  San Diego Chargers San DiegoBye: 8 
 #32  Jacksonville Jaguars JacksonvilleBye: 9 

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