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Best Defense Sleepers for Fantasy Football Drafts in 2021
What makes a good fantasy football defense? It depends on your league scoring, but for most leagues, it comes down to sacks, turnovers, and points allowed per game.
If your fantasy team defense can do all three of those things, they could put up good numbers for you throughout the season.
This list is for people who want to grab players of other positions of the earlier rounds and prefer to grab a defense late in their draft. Defenses that will be gone by the last couple rounds of fantasy drafts include the Los Angeles Rams, Pittsburgh Steelers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Baltimore Ravens, and the Washington Football Team.
There are still quality units found late in drafts, however. Let’s see which teams make up the best fantasy football defense sleepers for 2021.
New England Patriots
Bill Belichick seems to get it done every single year. His defense has been rock solid over the past three seasons.
Just see how his defenses have done in terms of points allowed in that span.
- 2018: 7th
- 2019: 1st
- 2020: 7th
They also get back their best linebacker in Dont’a Hightower, who was an opt-out last year due to COVID-19.
They have arguably the best corner in the NFL in Stephon Gilmore, who can shut down any opposing team’s number one option. They also have Jonathan Jones, Devin McCourty, and Jalen Mills. That makes up for one of the best secondaries in the NFL. They were tied for the league lead in interceptions with 18, and it would be no surprise to see them at the top of that category again this season.
Their linebacking core is solid with Dont’a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy, and new addition Matthew Judon.
They also added nose tackle Davon Godchaux to pair with Lawrence Guy to stop the run in between the tackles. They also drafted Christian Barmore, so running it up the middle will be difficult against these players.
Their pass rush is their only area in which they don’t dominate. That hurts their potential for fantasy points, but they will still be a top 10 defense.
You can expect to get good numbers out of the Patriots defense this season, and they won’t cost as high of a draft pick as the other fantasy defenses.
The Cardinals are a team that does not struggle in the sack category. They already were tied for 4th in the league in 2020 with 48 sacks, and then they added J.J Watt.
Watt and Chandler Jones will be menaces to block, and they will terrorize offensive lines.
There are some good linebackers in Arizona as well, with Jordan Hicks, Isaiah Simmons, and 2021 first-round draft pick Zaven Collins.
The Cardinals lost their star cornerback Patrick Peterson when he signed a one-year deal with the Vikings, but they added Malcolm Butler. They will need their other corners like Byron Murphy, Darqueze Dennard, and Robert Alford to help fill a Patrick Peterson-sized void.
They also have Budda Baker, who is one of the best free safeties in the league.
The Cardinals are more dangerous than ever defensively, and it just may help make them an intriguing option beyond fantasy football in 2021.
This team will get a lot of sacks this season, and hopefully that can also add to more turnovers. They are a sneaky good defense to pick this year and are a good bet to beat out their 10th place fantasy finish last season.
The Dolphins surprised a lot of people when they went 10-6 last season. A lot of the credit should go to their defense, which allowed the 6th fewest points in the entire NFL last season and ranked as fantasy’s 4th best D/ST.
They have a very talented secondary behind one of the best cornerbacks in the league, Xavien Howard. Howard’s name has been thrown around in trade rumors recently, but if he stays, he will be with Byron Jones, Jason McCourty, Eric Rowe, and Noah Igbinoghene.
That is a very good secondary, and they should be able to put up solid interception numbers this season. They also were tied for most interceptions in league with 18, along with the Patriots, Steelers, and Saints.
They were also good in the sack category with the 10th most sacks in the league, tied with the Packers with 41 total sacks.
Their balance keeps them in the top half of the league, according to Michael Wynn’s 2021 NFL defense power rankings.
They added defensive end, Jaelen Phillips, in the first round and safety Jevon Holland early in the second round.
They should be in for another great defensive season and are a great fantasy draft pick in the final rounds of your draft.
The Broncos ranked 22nd in fantasy defense/special teams in 2020, but they are in for a bounce-back year. Their star pass rusher, Von Miller, missed the entirety of 2020 and is back for his last year on his contract.
They also added Kyle Fuller, who is a familiar face to head coach Vic Fangio, when Fangio and Fuller were on the Bears together. The Bears had an incredible year defensively in 2018, and a lot of the credit goes to their defensive coordinator at the time Vic Fangio.
Miller and Bradley Chubb will be one of the best pass-rushing duos in the entire league, and they can rack up the Broncos sack total.
They also have an impressive secondary, outside of the already mentioned Kyle Fuller. Fuller joins Justin Simmons, Bryce Callahan, and Kareem Jackson.
Oh, and they added one of the best corners in the draft in Patrick Surtain II.
This group of players should lead the Broncos’ defense back within the 15th rank, maybe even higher.
New York Jets
The Jets defense is going to be a focal point for their new head coach, Robert Saleh. Saleh was at the forefront of the 49ers’ success defensively, and now he brings that to the Jets.
PFF ranked the Jets’ defensive line 7th best in the league coming into this season, with Quinnen Williams at the front of it.
Saleh brings in an aggressive mindset and hard-nosed philosophy, too.
They also added Vinny Curry, Sheldon Rankins, and Carl Lawson, making them a solid defensive line in the 2021 season.
They also have C.J Mosley, Marcus Maye, and LaMarcus Joyner to round out the rest of their defense.
Saleh can have this unit play better than people think. He has led the 49ers to some of the best defenses in the league in the past couple of years, why not the Jets now?
New York Giants
The other New York defense is here too. They ranked 13th in the league last year for fantasy and were 9th in points allowed. They were also tied for 12th in sacks.
Their defense is highlighted by their elite secondary, which consists of James Bradberry, Jabrill Peppers, Adoree Jackson, Logan Ryan, and Xavier McKinney.
They added Azeez Ojulari in the second round of the NFL draft, and he’s instantly one of the top NFL rookies to watch in 2021.
They also have Leonard Williams on the defensive line, while Blake Martinez is another solid player in their linebacking core.
They have good players at every level of their defense, and they should be a solid fantasy defense this year again.
The Bills have a lot of talent on their defense, and they ranked 8th in the league in fantasy rankings last year.
They’ve honestly been a viable fantasy defense for some time now. Check out their overall ranking over the last three seasons.
- 2020: 8th
- 2019: 12th
- 2018: 15th
They’ve been pretty useful, and they’re clearly only getting better.
Buffalo has a killer secondary, highlighted by one of the best cornerbacks in the league in Tre’Davious White. Joining White in the secondary is top-end safeties, Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde. These three secondary players make up for a dominant coverage team and had the 7th most interceptions in the league last year.
They also have a great linebacking core with Tremaine Edmunds, Matt Milano, and A.J Klein.
They drafted two defensive ends with their first two selections in the 2021 NFL Draft. They picked Gregory Rousseau in the first round and Carlos Basham Jr. in the second round. Both of those young players will learn as much as they can behind Jerry Hughes.
They also have some nice interior defensive lineman in Star Lotulelei and Ed Oliver.
The Bills have some serious talent on their defense, and they are a great pick for fantasy this year. Especially when everyone thinks the Bills’ strength is their offense.
Other Fantasy Defense Sleepers for 2021
- Minnesota Vikings (Round 14)
- Chicago Bears (Round 15)
- Los Angeles Chargers (Round 15)
All three of these defenses can be had in round 14 or later, yet the Bears were an elite unit prior to last season, and L.A. has gobs of talent for new coach Brandon Staley to work with.
Minnesota was awful last year, but they look better going into 2021, and defensive wizard Mike Zimmer can never be counted out.
Every year there is a surprise fantasy defense. Looking at recent performances can be a good reference, but it comes down to execution. These teams all have talented rosters on defense and could be that breakout defense.
They aren’t going to be drafted as high as the top-ranked defense, which means you get them at a great price.
All of these units could be fantastic fantasy football defense sleepers in 2021. It’s up to you which ones you target, however. For more help ahead of your fantasy drafts, check out some additional content below.