Welcome to my 2019 fantasy football positional rankings series. This week SI has rolled out my projected rankings for each position.
In general, it’s a viable strategy to stream positions that have only one starting position. That is especially true when it comes to kickers and D/STs, given the high variability in week-to-week output.
Taking that strategy a step further, it’s reasonable not to draft a kicker or defense at all, especially if your draft is many weeks before the season begins.
Eventually you’ll need to pick up a defense and kicker to insert in your Week 1 lineup, but assuming that your league settings allow owners to drop and add before the season begins, using these two roster spots for additional upside running backs or wide receivers could be smart.
As the preseason plays out, unsettled position battles will become clearer, players will assume larger season-long roles in the wake of injuries, etc. Bypassing a kicker and/or defense in your draft allows you an extra shot at procuring one of these potential benefactors.
If you take the more traditional route and select a defense and kicker in your draft, the ideal spot to draft one—and only one—is within the final three rounds. In terms of sequencing, I’ll always draft my team defense before I draft my kicker.
Note: Auction values assume a $200 budget, 12-team league size and half-PPR scoring.
With that said, below are write-ups for my top 15 fantasy defenses for the 2019 NFL season, followed by a chart listing my top 15 fantasy kickers.
Note: Rankings updated on August 21.
1. Chicago Bears (Bye: 6, Auction: $2)
The Bears were the top-scoring fantasy defense by a wide margin last season. One of four teams to generate 50-plus sacks, they also led the league in interceptions (27). Given the variability of fantasy defenses from year to year, however, I’d be reluctant to spend the draft-day cost (top-100 ADP) necessary to get fantasy’s top D/ST.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars (Bye: 10, Auction $1)
In terms of fantasy points scored, the 2017 Jaguars were even better than the 2018 Bears. While the Jags ranked fifth in total defense last year, they finished in the bottom half in both sacks (37) and interceptions (11) and outside the top-12 fantasy defenses. Given their talent on the defensive side of the ball and transition to a less-turnover-prone quarterback, they have the potential to bounce back in 2019.
3. Los Angeles Chargers (Bye: 12, Auction $1)
Not only do the Chargers have a dynamic duo (Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram) up front, but they have one of the league’s best secondaries with Derwin James, Casey Hayward and Desmond King.
4. Los Angeles Rams (Bye: 9, Auction $1)
One of two teams to finish as a top-five fantasy defense in back-to-back years, it all begins with NFL Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald upfront. Donald led the NFL in sacks (20.5) with half of the team’s 41 last season. Will another player step up in 2019?
5. Minnesota Vikings (Bye: 12, Auction $1)
Since Mike Zimmer took over in 2014, the Vikings rank third in the NFL in scoring defense (19.3/G) and fourth in sacks (212). They’re always a safe bet to finish near the top of the league in defensive fantasy scoring.
6. Baltimore Ravens (Bye: 8, Auction $1)
While the Ravens have one of the best defenses in the league, they also get one of the best matchups in Week 1 as well, as they open against the Dolphins. Based on current odds and the game’s 37-point over/under, the Dolphins (+4.5) have the lowest implied total (16.25) for Week 1.
7. Houston Texans (Bye: 10, Auction $1)
The Texans have one of the best trios of pass-rushers with J.J. Watt, Jadeveon Clowney and Whitney Mercilus.
8. Denver Broncos (Bye: 10, Auction $1)
Few teams, if any, have a better pair of edge rushers than Denver’s dynamic duo of Von Miller and Bradley Chubb. Miller (14.5) and Chubb (12.0) were one of three pairs of teammates to record double-digit sacks last season.
9. Philadelphia Eagles (Bye: 10, Auction $1)
The Eagles D/ST has a top-four fantasy strength of schedule in 2019. Philadelphia has only four matchups all season against opposing offenses that ranked 17th through 32nd in defensive fantasy points allowed last year. Stated differently, they have 12 favorable matchups (on paper) out of their 16 games.
10. New England Patriots (Bye: 10, Auction $1)
There is good reason to have faith in Bill Belichick & Co. fielding a good fantasy defense, as they have historically performed better than what their talent level would otherwise suggest. Here are their year-end numbers over the past six seasons: 4 (2018), 11 (2017), 5 (2016), 11 (2015), 6 (2014) and 8 (2013).
11. New Orleans Saints (Bye: 9, Auction $1)
One of the best teams in the league, their defense will have an opportunity to play with the lead often, which will allow for more opportunities for sacks and interceptions. New Orleans ranks top-five in both sacks (91) and passes intercepted (32) over the past two seasons combined.
12. Buffalo Bills (Bye: 6, Auction $1)
The Bills have a young and improving defense that thrives on generating turnovers. Only the Bears, Rams and Chiefs have generated more turnovers than the Bills over the past two seasons.
13. Cleveland Browns (Bye: 7, Auction $1)
As much attention as the offense gets with Baker Mayfield and Odell Beckham Jr., the Browns have lots of defensive talent led by defensive end Myles Garrett and cornerback Denzel Ward. An ascending team that will play with more leads, Garrett, Ward & Co. should have more opportunities to record sacks and interceptions, respectively.
14. Pittsburgh Steelers (Bye: 7, Auction $0)
The Steelers tied the Chiefs for the league lead in sacks (52) last season and finished as a top-12 defense in 2018. Using a top-10 pick on Devin Bush gives their defense a major upgrade at a position of need.
15. Dallas Cowboys (Bye: 8, Auction $0)
The Cowboys have one of the best linebacking corps in the NFL, led by Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith, to go along with one of the league’s best edge rushers in Demarcus Lawrence. In terms of schedule, the Cowboys open the season against three offenses that should struggle—the Giants, Redskins and Dolphins—with two of those games at home.
FANTASY KICKER RANKINGS
The table below lists my top 15 fantasy kickers for 2019:
Los Angeles Rams
Kansas City Chiefs
New England Patriots
New Orleans Saints
San Francisco 49ers
Green Bay Packers
Los Angeles Chargers
Kevin Hanson joins SI for the 2019 season. His fantasy rankings have placed him in the Top 20 in each of the past two seasons among all the industry experts tracked by FantasyPros.com, and he has been in the Top 25 in six of the past eight years.