The defense vs. position rankings are here to give you a look into the top defenses in the league against each position last season, while also providing a look ahead at what to expect this year.
Be sure to check out the other parts in this series:
Defense vs. Position Rankings: 32 – 21
32. Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles’ overmatched secondary struggled all season, allowing 12.7 receptions and 196 yards per game to opposing receivers. Playing in a division where a defense has to face receivers like Dez Bryant and Odell Beckham Jr. twice a year certainly didn’t help but the fact is starting corners Brandon Boykin and Cary Williams played poorly all season. Chip Kelly took notice and revamped his secondary in the offseason, replacing Williams and Boykin with Byron Maxwell, Walter Thurmond and rookie Eric Rowe. The Eagles’ defense should be better against receivers in 2015 but not to the point where daily fantasy players need to shy away from them.
31. Washington Redskins
Like the Eagles, Washington’s defense has the unfortunate luck of playing in the NFC East. That means they got Bryant, Beckham and instead of Garcon, Jeremy Maclin last year. The Redskins also had the worst rated starting cornerback in the NFL last season according to Pro Football Focus in David Amerson. He was a receiver’s best friend, allowing quarterbacks to have a rating of 140.2 when throwing at him and giving up 10 touchdowns. Washington signed Chris Culliver to replace Amerson in the starting lineup and traded for safety Dashon Goldson in hopes of improving a pass defense that gave up 176 yards per game and an NFL-worst 23 touchdown to receivers in 2014. It’s going to be an uphill climb.
30. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tampa Bay was bad at a lot of things in 2014 and defending wide receivers was one of them. The Buccaneers’ defense allowed 12.6 receptions and 171.8 yards per game to receivers last season. High-priced free agent signing cornerback Alterraun Verner didn’t play up to expectations and Goldson continued to struggle so badly that he was dealt to Washington. With receivers like DeAndre Hopkins, Odell Beckham Jr., Dez Bryant, T.Y Hilton, Alshon Jeffery, Brandin Cooks (twice), Roddy White (twice) and Julio Jones (twice) on the schedule this year, daily fantasy players will have plenty of opportunities to cash in against the Bucs’ defense.
29. Houston Texans
The Texans’ front seven terrorized opposing quarterbacks but when they got the ball out, receivers had their way with Houston’s secondary. The Texans allowed a gaudy 14.3 receptions per game to receivers. D.J. Swearinger led the league in trash talking but he was one of the NFL’s worst safeties in coverage. He was released this offseason. Johnathan Joseph and Kareem Jackson are a good starting tandem at corner but the Texans had no depth behind them, so Houston selected Kevin Johnson in Round 1 to play in the slot. The Texans’ defense is a likely candidate to improve versus receivers in 2015. Daily fantasy players should adjust accordingly.
28. Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens had a strong defense in 2014 but its Achilles heel was clearly the secondary. Baltimore allowed 191.3 yards and an NFL-high 14.8 receptions per game to receivers. Corner Ladarius Webb really struggled, allowing quarterbacks to have a rating of 109.6 when throwing his way. Baltimore did have to face A.J. Green and Antonio Brown twice but overall last year’s schedule wasn’t particularly stud receiver-heavy, so the numbers are more a reflection of the play of Baltimore’s secondary. Somehow the Ravens’ secondary coach, Steve Spagnuolo, got a promotion to defensive coordinator of the New York Giants. The Ravens signed corners Kendrick Lewis and Kyle Arrington this offseason but even if they’re slightly improved against receivers, daily fantasy players will still make out most weeks.
27. New Orleans Saints
Rob Ryan’s aggressive scheme didn’t work last year as the Saints allowed 172.4 yards and 12.5 receptions per game to opposing receivers. New Orleans also gave up 20 touchdowns to receivers in 2014. While the Saints’ defense was a mess last year, they did face a murderer’s row of receivers in Dez Bryant, Calvin Johnson, Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, A.J. Green, Antonio Brown, Alshon Jeffery, Brandon Marshall, and Julio Jones. The good news for New Orleans is the schedule eases up a bit in 2015 but receivers like Bryant, Jones and Megatron will still reward fantasy players when facing the Saints’ defense.
26. Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons have a lot of work to do on the defensive side of the ball and you can put playing better against receivers on the list. Atlanta allowed 196 yards and 12.8 receptions a game last season to receivers. A front seven that recorded just 23 sacks certainly didn’t help but the secondary didn’t perform well either. Dan Quinn is the new head coach after serving as the defensive coordinator in Seattle. The Falcons’ defense will improve under Quinn but Atlanta’s secondary isn’t exactly the Legion of Boom, so daily fantasy players can continue to start receivers with confidence.
25. St. Louis Rams
The Rams are building a dominant front seven but they still have some work to do on the back end, especially at safety. T.J. McDonald and Rodney McLeod are average NFL starters and can both be exploited in coverage. St. Louis’ defense allowed 174.6 yards and 13.8 receptions per game last season to receivers. While the Rams didn’t make many changes to their secondary, expect them to improve in this category as their overall defense continues to get better. Although, a schedule that features Antonio Brown, A.J. Green, Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, Alshon Jeffery, Mike Evans and Calvin Johnson won’t make it easy.
24. Green Bay Packers
Thanks to starting corners Tramon Williams and Sam Shields, the Packers only allowed 145 yards to opposing receivers in 2014. However, they also allowed 11.6 receptions and 22 touchdowns. The 11.6 receptions aren’t surprising because Green Bay had the lead in many games and played softer coverage in the fourth quarter. The Packers also play in the NFC North and had to face Calvin Johnson, Golden Tate, Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery a total of four times last season. The 22 touchdowns is the statistic that has Green Bay this far down the list and the one the Packers would like to improve on in 2015. Losing Williams to the Cleveland Browns won’t help them accomplish that goal.
23. Miami Dolphins
Miami allowed 12.9 receptions and 158.4 yards per game to receivers last year. Brent Grimes has emerged into a premier cornerback but the rest of the Dolphins’ secondary was average in 2014. Miami did face the Giants, Cowboys, Eagles, Colts and Patriots (twice) but their schedule evened out with games against the Titans, Jaguars, Redskins, Bills (twice) and Jets (twice). The addition of Ndamukong Suh will help improve Miami’s defense across the board but daily fantasy players should still feel comfortable using receivers against the Dolphins.
22. Chicago Bears
The Bears’ secondary really struggled at times in 2014, as age and injuries took its toll on one of the league’s top units. Long-time corner Charles Tillman was relegated to two games and is now in Carolina, while safety Chris Conte was beaten often in coverage and is now in Tampa Bay. One bright spot was rookie Kyle Fuller, who played well in his first season at cornerback. The Bears gave up 12.4 receptions and 175.6 yards per game last year to receivers. Improvement is expected under John Fox but not enough to scare off daily fantasy players.
21. Pittsburgh Steelers
The Steelers’ secondary is going through a major transition after struggling last season. Long-time standouts safety Troy Polamalu and corner Ike Taylor decided to retire after the 2014 season. Bother players were injured last year but were liabilities in coverage when they did play. Legendary defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau is gone and being replaced by Keith Butler. The Steelers hope getting younger and faster in the secondary will net better results after allowing receivers to rack up 179 yards and 12.6 receptions against them last season. They get a receiver-friendly schedule in 2015, so improvement in this area is a possibility.
Defense vs. Position Rankings: 20 – 11
20. New York Jets
The Jets were tough against the run in 2014 but Rex Ryan had to find ways to protect a secondary that lacked talent. The corner position was so bad that Antonio Allen had to move over from safety. The result was a Jets’ defense gave up 173.4 yards and 12.6 receptions to receivers last season. Secondary play shouldn’t be a problem in 2015. Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie are returning to New York and Buster Skrine was signed from Cleveland to play slot corner. With all the new talent in the secondary and Todd Bowles as the new head coach, daily fantasy players should expect the Jets’ defensive numbers against receivers to improve significantly this season.
19. Carolina Panthers
The Panthers’ defense has been one of the NFL’s best over the last two seasons but if it has one area that can be exploited, it’s the secondary. Receivers caught 13.3 receptions per game and 17 touchdowns against Carolina’s defense in 2014. As good as the Panthers’ front seven is, the secondary is average all the way around. If quarterbacks have time in the pocket, receivers can get open and do damage against Carolina’s corners and safeties. The Panthers signed Charles Tillman this offseason but he’s not the elite cornerback he was in the past with Chicago. Carolina has games against the Saints, Falcons, Colts, Packers, Eagles and Giants, so some elite receivers will get their chance to test its secondary.
18. Arizona Cardinals
One would think a defense that had Cromartie and Patrick Peterson starting at cornerback would have been tougher on receivers but that wasn’t the case with the Cardinal in 2014. Peterson struggled, especially against elite receivers. Julio Jones ripped him for 10 catches, 189 yards and a touchdown. Peterson announced this offseason that he was diagnosed with diabetes last year and it impacted his play, so that’s something to monitor. Cromartie is gone and the schedule features the Alshon Jeffery, Calvin Johnson, Antonio Brown, A.J. Green, Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb. The Cardinals allowed 13.2 receptions per game last year but only 12 touchdowns. The latter number could increase in 2015.
17. Jacksonville Jaguars
Jacksonville allowed 165 yards and 11.6 receptions per game to opposing receivers in 2014. Those numbers probably would have been worse if offenses weren’t busy running the ball down the Jaguars’ throat most weeks. Jacksonville’s pass defense did show improvement last season though by allowing just 13 touchdowns to receivers. That’s not bad for a defense that faced the Patriots, Ravens, Chargers, Falcons, Saints and Colts (twice). Daily fantasy players shouldn’t avoid receivers facing Jacksonville but the Jaguars’ pass defense is improving and tougher than perceived.
16. Cleveland Browns
A team that featured Joe Haden at one corner, Buster Skrine in the slot and Donte Whitner at safety should rank higher at defending receivers. The problem for Cleveland is its defense was so weak at the corner opposite Hayden that opposing receivers had a field day. Rookie Justin Gilbert was a disaster, so the Browns went out and signed Williams away from the Packers this offseason hoping to improve on a defense that allowed 12.6 receptions to receivers last year. Even with a schedule that features a lot of premier receivers, fantasy players should expect improvement from the Browns’ defense versus the position in 2015.
15. Tennessee Titans
Like Jacksonville, the Titans’ numbers against receivers are a little skewed because their rush defense was so bad last year, running back was the position that benefitted the most. Tennessee allowed 13.1 receptions and 171.2 yards per game to receivers in 2014. Corner Jason McCourty is a good player and the Titans bolstered their secondary in the offseason by signing cornerback Perrish Cox and safety Da’Norris Searcy. Daily fantasy players will have to monitor Tennessee’s rush defense because if that’s not improved, receivers could continue to take a backseat to top-tier running backs when teams play the Titans.
14. San Diego Chargers
The Chargers’ defense gave up 143 yards and 11.1 receptions per game to receivers in 2014. The numbers aren’t terrible but San Diego didn’t play an overly tough slate of receivers last season either. That will change this year when the Chargers’ defense goes up against Calvin Johnson, A.J. Green, Antonio Brown, Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, Alshon Jeffery, Emmanuel Sanders (twice) and Demaryius Thomas (twice). San Diego signed corner Patrick Robinson this offseason and it needs its secondary to play better overall in 2015 against a much tougher schedule of passing offenses.
13. San Francisco 49ers
A 49ers’ secondary that allowed 11.2 receptions and 150.4 yards per game will look different this season after corners Chris Culliver and Perish Cox left in free agency. Of course, they aren’t the only players San Francisco has to replace on its defense. The 49ers lost three starters – defensive end Justin Smith and linebackers Patrick Willis and Chris Borland – to early retirements. Daily fantasy players should expect San Francisco’s defense to take a step back in 2015, so receivers like Antonio Brown, Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, Odell Beckham Jr., Roddy White, Julio Jones, Alshon Jeffery, A.J. Green and Calvin Johnson will be worth inserting into your lineups.
12. New York Giants
The Giants spent a lot of money to upgrade their secondary last offseason by bringing in corners Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Walter Thurmond. It paid off as New York held opposing receivers to a respectable 11.1 receptions and 157.3 yards per game. Those numbers are even more impressive when you consider the Giants’ defense had to deal with Calvin Johnson, Julio Jones, T.Y. Hilton, Jeremy Maclin (twice) and Dez Bryant (twice). Thurmond is gone but the Giants drafted Landon Collins to help upgrade the safety position. New York’s secondary should once again pose a problem for receivers this season.
11. Minnesota Vikings
Mike Zimmer has a reputation for getting the most out of his defensive backs and his first season in Minnesota was no different. Corner Xavier Rhodes improved under Zimmer, while Captain Munnerlyn exceled in the slot. Minnesota selected corner Trae Waynes in the first round of the draft. He’ll join a secondary that held receivers to 11.8 receptions and 143.6 yards per game last year. The Vikings defense is improving under Zimmer, so daily fantasy players will want to take that under advisement when picking their lineups.
Defense vs. Position Rankings: 10 – 1
10. Detroit Lions
The Lions’ defense only allowed 152 yards per game to opposing receivers last season but daily fantasy players did get points by the 12.9 receptions Detroit gave up. The Lions don’t have any superstars in their secondary but they held up pretty well against a schedule that featured the Saints, Patriots, Falcons, Bears (twice) and Packers (twice). Detroit’s secondary had the benefit of playing behind one of the NFL’s best defensive lines in 2014. While the unit is still talented, it lost Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley. Still, Detroit returns its entire secondary, so daily fantasy players shouldn’t expect much of a decline from the Lions’ defense in this category.
9. Buffalo Bills
The Bills’ front seven led the NFL with 54 sacks and constantly put pressure on opposing quarterbacks. That helped limit receivers to 157 yards and 12.8 receptions per game. Buffalo has talent in its secondary with corner Stephen Gilmore and safety Aaron Williams. This unit should only get better with Rex Ryan taking over as the Bills head coach. Buffalo’s defense has one of the toughest receiver schedules in the NFL with games against the Colts, Giants, Cowboys, Bengals, Eagles Chiefs and Patriots (twice). However, with Ryan and the Bills’ talent on defense, daily fantasy players should expect the Bills to be one of the stingiest pass defenses in the NFL this season.
8. Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs’ secondary was surprisingly tough on receivers despite stud safety Eric Berry only playing six games because of an ankle injury and then finding out in December he has Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Even without its leader, Kansas City’s secondary held receivers to 156.8 yards per game and just 13 touchdowns. The Chiefs did allow 13 receptions per game, a number they would like to improve on. That’s why Kansas City used a first-round pick to grab talented cornerback Marcus Peters. Berry’s status is uncertain but Peters and fellow corner Sean Smith will have their hands full against a schedule that features Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, A.J. Green, Alshon Jeffery, Antonio Brown, Calvin Johnson, Keenan Allen (twice), Emmanuel Sanders (twice) and Demaryius Thomas (twice). Yikes.
7. Oakland Raiders
Raider’s fans didn’t have much to get excited about last season but a promising secondary was one of them. Oakland’s defense held opposing receivers to149 yards and 12.3 receptions per game, while allowing only 11 touchdowns on the season. Corner T.J. Carries was impressive as a rookie and safety Charles Woodson continues to make plays. Daily fantasy players likely won’t shy away from the Raiders’ defense, but they were one of the stingiest against receivers last season and are still improving. It’s something to keep in mind.
6. Dallas Cowboys
Defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli did a good job of maximizing his players in what many thought would be a bad Cowboys’ secondary last season. Often overmatched, Marinelli played a conservative scheme that kept receivers in front of his defensive backs. The result was allowing a surprising 11.8 receptions and 156.5 yards per game. The Cowboys’ defense also only allowed 10 touchdowns to receivers, which ranked second in the NFL. Dallas knew it still needed to add talent to its secondary, so the Cowboys selected corner Byron Jones in the first round of the NFL draft. Marinelli will have to do another great coaching job because the Cowboys will see Julio Jones, Roddy White, Brandin Cooks, Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, Julian Edelman and Odell Beckham Jr. (twice) in 2015.
5. Indianapolis Colts
The Colts’ defense allowed an impressive 10.1 receptions and 137 yards per game to receivers in 2014. The strong performance wasn’t just Indianapolis’ secondary playing well though. The Colts beats up on some bad passing teams last year; playing half of their games against the Browns, Texans, Jaguars, Titans and Redskins. The Colts’ defense also struggled against the run, so running backs had big fantasy days against them. Indianapolis’ defense is improving and they spent a lot of money on that side of the ball this offseason. However, the Colts’ offense is so explosive, look for teams to throw the ball a lot more against Indianapolis this year, allowing receivers to put up better fantasy numbers.
4. New England Patriots
The Patriots had Darrelle Revis and Devin McCourty in their secondary last year, so it’s not a surprise that they were tough on opposing receivers. New England gave up 10.9 receptions and 152 yards per game to receivers. Those are good numbers but they’re even more impressive when you factor in the Patriots’ defense had to face Calvin Johnson, A.J. Green, Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, Alshon Jeffery, Brandon Marshall, T.Y. Hilton and Keenan Allen. New England is likely to slide down the rankings this season with Revis and Brandon Browner gone. Fantasy players shouldn’t have the same hesitation to start receivers versus the Patriots’ defense as they did last year.
3. Cincinnati Bengals
The Bengals continued to play stout pass defense in 2014 even after Zimmer left for Minnesota. Paul Guenther took over as defensive coordinator and the unit didn’t skip a beat. Cincinnati’s defense gave up 12.6 receptions and 145.4 yards per game to receivers. The Bengals play good team defense. They finished this high despite first-round pick corner Darqueze Dennard missing the entire season. Adding Dennard to Leon Hall and Dre Kirkpatrick will give the Bengals more depth and versatility to match up with receivers. Daily fantasy players need to be aware of the Bengals success against receivers because it’s not likely to change in 2015.
2. Denver Broncos
The Broncos were focused on improving their pass defense last offseason and it worked. Denver paid big money for corner Aqib Talib and safety T.J. Ward. The two helped the Broncos’ defense hold receivers to 12.6 receptions and 132.3 yards per game. The yardage total is particularly impressive because teams fell behind Denver so often they were forced to throw the ball. Yet, Denver’s secondary did a good job of limiting receiver’s garbage fantasy points at the end of games. The Broncos’ secondary returns in tact this year and should again be one of the top fantasy defenses against receivers.
1. Seattle Seahawks
The best secondary in the NFL turned out to be the best fantasy defense versus receivers as well. The Legion of Boom held opposing receivers to just 9.9 receptions and 116 yards per game, while only allowing five passing touchdowns on the year. Those were all tops in the NFL. Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor all return to lead what should once again be the top secondary in the league. If there is one defense daily fantasy players should be weary of when picking receivers, it’s the Seahawks. No other defense came close to Seattle’s numbers against receivers last season.