2018 Outlook: The Jaguars' defense burst onto the scene in 2017, and you're not excused if you didn't see it coming. The unit was -- and still is -- loaded with talent, including stars Calais Campbell, Jalen Ramsey, Telvin Smith, Malik Jackson and A.J. Bouye. The Jaguars' D/ST was, by far, tops in fantasy last year. The unit scored a league-high eight touchdowns and finished no lower than fourth in interceptions, forced fumbles, sacks, yards allowed and points allowed. All of the top options are back as offseason departures Paul Posluszny and Aaron Colvin were both situational players last year. Expect another dominant season from this stacked defense in 2018.
2018 Outlook: The Eagles' D/ST ranked third in fantasy points last season -- its third top-six finish over the past four campaigns. The unit paced the league with six blocked kicks and ranked in the top five in interceptions, tackles for loss, yards allowed, points allowed and touchdowns. The Eagles have had a knack for big plays in recent years, ranking among the top four in touchdowns in each of the past four seasons. Rotational players Vinny Curry, Patrick Robinson and Beau Allen are gone, but Michael Bennett and Haloti Ngata were added and Jordan Hicks and Sidney Jones are back to full health. Expect another top-five campaign from this loaded unit.
2018 Outlook: In terms of adding star power, the Rams made about as much noise as you can during the offseason. Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib were added and give the team arguably the league's best one-two punch at corner. Ndamukong Suh was signed and joins Aaron Donald and Michael Brockers to create one of the all-time great interior line trios. Add terrific safety duo Lamarcus Joyner and John Johnson to the mix and the Rams' defense is quickly one of the league's best on paper, even with some questions at linebacker. The Rams' D/ST ranked fourth in fantasy points in Wade Phillips' first season in 2017, and the injection of top-end talent should allow a step forward in 2018.
2018 Outlook: Minnesota's defense has been one of the league's best over the past few years, which fueled the team's D/ST unit to score the most fantasy points in 2016. Though the Vikings allowed league lows in yards (4,415) and points (252) last season, their D/ST managed only a No. 11 finish. Minnesota failed to make impact plays, ranking no better than No. 13 in any other key category. The Vikings scored only one D/ST touchdown and ranked near the middle of the pack with 14 interceptions and 37 sacks. The good news is that the defense remains stacked. Harrison Smith, Andrew Sendejo, Xavier Rhodes, Everson Griffen, Danielle Hunter, Linval Joseph, Eric Kendricks and Anthony Barr return and Sheldon Richardson was added up front. This remains a starting-caliber fantasy unit.
2018 Outlook: Houston was ravaged by injuries last year and the D/ST ended up No. 26 in fantasy points, but note that the unit sat fourth through Week 4 (J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus both went down for the season in Week 5). Houston's D/ST entered 2017 having finished eighth or better four of the previous six seasons. Watt and Mercilus are back, as are Jadeveon Clowney and Benardrick McKinney. Aaron Colvin, Tyrann Mathieu and rookie Justin Reid were added to improve the secondary. The Texans entered 2017 having finished 11th or better in points and yards allowed five of the previous six seasons. Houston has one of the league's top defenses on paper and makes for a strong bounce-back candidate in 2018.
2018 Outlook: Another year, another solid fantasy campaign from the Ravens' defense. Baltimore's D/ST trailed only the Jaguars in fantasy points and top-10 fantasy weeks last season. The Ravens paced the NFL in interceptions for the second consecutive year, and their D/ST has now finished seventh or better three of the past four seasons. After minimal offseason turnover, Baltimore's defense will return nearly 97 percent of its snaps from 2017. That includes Michael Pierce and Brandon Williams up front, Terrell Suggs on the edge, C.J. Mosley at linebacker, Jimmy Smith and 2017 first-round pick Marlon Humphrey at corner and Eric Weddle and Tony Jefferson at safety. This is a high-floor unit with talent at all levels primed for another strong fantasy season.
2018 Outlook: The Patriots' D/ST was nothing short of atrocious early last season (last in fantasy through Week 6), but it didn't take long to improve drastically (sixth from Week 6 on). The unit ended up No. 18 overall but finished no lower than 10th the previous five seasons. Malcolm Butler is gone but the unit is much improved on paper this year thanks to the additions of Danny Shelton, Adrian Clayborn and Jason McCourty as well as the return of Dont'a Hightower and Derek Rivers from injury. New England also added Cordarrelle Patterson, who has five kick return touchdowns since entering the league in 2013 (no one else has more than two). Plan on a return to the top 10 for New England's D/ST in 2018.
2018 Outlook: Overshadowed by the Chargers' kicker follies last season was an outstanding defensive campaign. The unit surrendered only 272 points, which was third best in the league. The Chargers' D/ST ranked sixth in interceptions and touchdowns and finished fifth in sacks and fantasy points. San Diego didn't make any splash free-agent additions, but they get Denzel Perryman and Jason Verrett back from injury and replaced Tre Boston with first-round pick Derwin James. Los Angeles remains stacked with an outstanding edge-rush duo in Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa, as well as a loaded secondary that includes Casey Hayward, Jahleel Addae, Trevor Williams and Desmond King. The Chargers' D/ST has a strong shot at its third straight top-10 fantasy campaign.
2018 Outlook: Denver's defense has been a fantasy force for a while now, but it appears the unit has fallen from elite status. After posting back-to-back top-two campaigns, the Broncos' D/ST fell to 13th in fantasy in 2017 -- its worst finish since 2011. The unit managed only four top-10 weeks (21 teams had more). The trade of star corner Aqib Talib breaks up the league's top cornerback trio, though the additions of fifth-overall pick Bradley Chubb and Su'a Cravens figure to help. Denver still has some star power in the form of Von Miller, Chris Harris Jr. and Derek Wolfe, but this isn't the dominant unit from a few years ago.
2018 Outlook: Carolina's D/ST finished No. 12 last season for the second season in a row and has now finished as a top-12 unit four of the past five campaigns. The unit managed nine top-nine fantasy weeks last year, which trailed only the Jaguars for most. The Panthers struggled for interceptions (10) for the first time in a while but ranked third in sacks (50, the team's third straight campaign in the top six of that category). Charles Johnson, Kurt Coleman, Daryl Worley and Star Lotulelei are gone and Ross Cockrell and Dontari Poe are in. There are certainly some weak spots, especially in the secondary and on the edge, but star power in the form of Luke Kuechly and Kawann Short should allow this unit to post fringe starting-caliber numbers.
2018 Outlook: The Saints' domination of the 2017 draft had big implications for the defense. After three straight years finishing 30th or worse in fantasy points, New Orleans' D/ST jumped to No. 10 in 2017. The unit paced the league with 99 passes defensed and ranked third in both interceptions (20) and forced fumbles (17). Stars Cameron Jordan, Sheldon Rankins, Marshon Lattimore and Marcus Williams return in 2018 and free-agent addition Demario Davis finally gives the team an impact middle linebacker. First-round pick Marcus Davenport plus Kurt Coleman and Patrick Robinson were also added to the mix. The Saints' defense should be even better in 2018.
2018 Outlook: Dallas' D/ST posted a No. 14 finish last season after finishing No. 17 in 2016. The Cowboys paced the NFL with 20 forced fumbles and ranked third with 109 tackles for loss. On the other hand, they managed only 10 interceptions (No. 24) and two touchdowns. Demarcus Lawrence and Sean Lee supply this unit with some top-end star power, but especially after the departures of Anthony Hitchens and Orlando Scandrick, there are clear voids and/or question marks on every level. In order to stay afloat in 2018, Dallas will need a lot from recent early-round picks Leighton Vander Esch, Maliek Collins, Taco Charlton, Jaylon Smith, Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis.
2018 Outlook: Washington's D/ST finished 20th last season but showed well in a few important categories. The unit intercepted 16 passes (No. 9 in the league) and generated 42 sacks (No. 7). On the other hand, Washington allowed 388 points (sixth most) and lost Trent Murphy, Bashaud Breeland, Will Compton and Junior Galette during the offseason. The Washington defense certainly has some top-end talent, including Ryan Kerrigan, Josh Norman, D.J. Swearinger and Zach Brown, but a lot will be needed from 2017 early-round picks Jonathan Allen, Ryan Anderson, Fabian Moreau and Montae Nicholson, as well as newcomers Da'Ron Payne, Orlando Scandrick and Pernell McPhee, if this defense is to take a leap forward in 2018.
2018 Outlook: The Cardinals' D/ST finished No. 15 last year and is the only unit that has finished in the top half of the league each of the past 11 years. That includes a pair of third-place finishes in 2015 and 2016. The Cardinals ranked first or second in the league in forced fumbles, sacks, tackles for loss and yards allowed in 2016, but fared worse in all four categories last season. Defensive coordinator James Bettcher is gone, as are Tyrann Mathieu, Karlos Dansby, Tramon Williams and Kareem Martin. New coach Steve Wilks ran a successful defense in Carolina, and he'll need to rely heavily on the likes of Patrick Peterson, Budda Baker and 2017 sack leader Chandler Jones in a unit top-heavy with talent.
2018 Outlook: Seattle has been a defensive powerhouse for some time, but after posting five consecutive top-five D/ST seasons, the unit has barely cracked the top 10 each of the past two campaigns. Last season, Seattle ranked close to the middle of the pack in nearly every relevant category, but bailed itself out a bit with five touchdowns. Seattle's defense got worse during the offseason as the team said goodbye to Richard Sherman, Michael Bennett and Sheldon Richardson and could be without injured Kam Chancellor and Cliff Avril. Bobby Wagner, Earl Thomas and Tyler Lockett (who ranks second with three return touchdowns since entering the league in 2015) are still around, but Seattle has some serious defensive holes and its D/ST is no longer a clear-cut starting unit in fantasy.