Bills, Buccaneers, and Broncos all among the top 5

When it comes to setting rankings and drafting any position in fantasy football, the defense can prove to be one of the trickiest. The variability in defensive performance year-to-year and even week-to-week can make the position a somewhat poisoned chalice. Therefore, a number of different strategies for how to approach the position have developed. For those who want to draft a ride-it-out defense for fantasy in 2022, here are our consensus rankings for the upcoming season.

1. Buffalo Bills
2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
3. San Francisco 49ers
4. Denver Broncos
5. Indianapolis Colts
6. New England Patriots
7. New Orleans Saints
8. Los Angeles Rams
9. Dallas Cowboys
10. Los Angeles Chargers

11-20

11. Baltimore Ravens
12. Kansas City Chiefs
13. Green Bay Packers
14. Miami Dolphins
15. Cleveland Browns
16. Pittsburgh Steelers
17. Tennessee Titans
18. Arizona Cardinals
19. Philadelphia Eagles
20. Cincinnati Bengals

21-32

21. Minnesota Vikings
22. Carolina Panthers
23. New York Giants
24. Washington Commanders
25. Chicago Bears
26. Las Vegas Raiders
27. Detroit Lions
28. New York Jets
29. Seattle Seahawks
30. Jacksonville Jaguars
31. Houston Texans
32. Atlanta Falcons

Which fantasy defense rankings vary the most in 2022 from last year’s finishing positions?

The Chargers and Ravens are the two biggest risers among defenses in terms of their ranking in 2022 compared to their 2021 fantasy points finish. The Chargers finished 27th last year but have made considerable upgrades this offseason. JC Jackson was the big free agent acquisition, while Khalil Mack arrived via trade. The additions of both Sebastian Joseph-Day and Austin Johnson have provided considerable upside upfront, and this defense could be a force to be reckoned with in 2022.

Meanwhile, the Ravens’ additions may seem limited, although Marcus Williams and Michael Pierce are solid acquisitions, but the key for them is the combination of health and depth. Baltimore’s defense was beset by injuries last year and will hope for more luck in 2022. However, they also added depth to several positions. Kyle Hamilton is a valuable utility piece, and Jalyn Armor-Davis and Damarion Williams add intriguing talent to the secondary.

The other two big risers this year are the 49ers and the Broncos. Both made intriguing additions that could see them finish as top-five fantasy defenses this year after being in the middle of the pack last season.

The Cowboys and Dolphins could struggle to match the highs of 2021

The Dolphins and Cowboys being two of the five biggest fallers in the rankings is less an indictment on their talents but more a signal of how hard it is to compete as a top-five fantasy defense. A big part of that is the points they added through defensive touchdowns. While the average in the league was 1.8 defensive touchdowns, they scored six and five, respectively.

If they both regress back to the mean in that category, that would see drops of 25 and 19 fantasy points, respectively. That drop of 19 points for the Dolphins would see them fall close to a top-10 finish rather than top five. If the Cowboys also regress a little in interceptions after leading the league last year, they would also drop into that 5-to-10 region instead of being atop the tree.

Of course, both defenses could have strong years again, but caution should be advised against spending a high draft pick simply based on their finishes from last year.

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