2023 Fantasy Football Defense Rankings

Ranking all 32 DST options heading into 2023 Fantasy Football Draft Season

Aaron Donald

2023 Fantasy Football Defense Rankings

Although they’ve been phased out of many formats, plenty of leagues still employ a DST. Because of that rarity, finding reliable defense rankings is difficult. Here are my 2023 Fantasy Football Defense Rankings to consider for the fantasy football playoffs.

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1. Philadelphia Eagles

The first two levels of the Eagles’ defense have star power, depth, and upside. They need a couple of young players to emerge to help their off-season losses. Their pass rush helps close the passing window for their talented cornerbacks. Philadelphia has questions at safety and potentially one linebacking spot. In the fantasy market, their defense ranks second behind the 49ers. If they can repeat this pass rush, the Eagles’ defense could be even better in 2023.

2. San Francisco 49ers

The defensive line sets the tone for the 49ers, highlighted by the play of Nick Bosa and Javon Hargrave. They also have a top player at the second and third levels of their defense. I expect a bump in sacks while holding offenses to low points. The 49ers are the top-ranked defense in the fantasy market in mid-August.

3. Dallas Cowboys

The secondary of this defense should create plenty of turnovers in 2023 if Dallas continues to fire on all cylinders in the pass rush. Micah Parsons sets the tone at the line of scrimmage, while the Cowboys have other players who will get after the quarterback. If Dallas slows down the run and their linebacking corps develops, they will be one of the better defenses in the league. 

4. New England Patriots

Last year, New England pressured the quarterback (54 sacks) and created interceptions (19). However, their defense did give up passing yards (3,681 – 17th) and passing touchdowns (28). The Patriots gain their edge at the second and third levels, highlighted by the play of LB Matthew Judon (28 sacks over 34 with NE). They face three potent offenses over six games in the AFC East, inviting some questionable starts. New England had the top fantasy defense in 2022 (third in 2021).

5. New York Jets

The Jets’ defense significantly improved last season, thanks to some career seasons and coaching. In addition, the Jets added the complementary pieces needed to achieve a higher outcome. New York hopes DE Jermaine Johnson improves in his second season after getting drafted 26th overall in 2022 while also adding LB Will McDonald in the first round (15th) this season. As a result, I expect the Jets to have a top-five fantasy defense in 2023.

6. Washington Commanders

If DE Chase Young can reach his potential, Washington will continue to show growth on the defensive side of the ball. Their defensive line is loaded with talent, with an improving secondary. The second level of the defense only needs to fill the run lanes and add some value to the pass rush. In the high-stakes fantasy market in June, the Commanders’ defense ranks 14th. I see a top-10 fantasy defense with playable value in multiple games in 2023.

7. Kansas City Chiefs

The fantasy focus will be on the mighty Chiefs’ offense. But they have done an excellent job rebuilding their defense over the past two seasons. Kansas City will play from the lead in almost every game, giving their pass rush a chance to attack on many plays. They will let offenses grind out yards on the ground when the game score favors a faster-moving clock.  Their defense will create more turnover in 2023 while allowing fewer points. The Chiefs’ defense ranks 11th in August, which I view as a buying opportunity.

8. Miami Dolphins

Unfortunately for the Dolphins, they already lost CB Jalen Ramsey for a good portion of 2023 with a left knee injury that required surgery. Miami added CB Eli Apple in late July to help bridge the gap. I expect a better pass rush, thanks to the addition of DE Bradley Chubb and the development of LB Jaelan Phillips. The Dolphins improved vs. the run last year while allowing 6.4 yards per pass attempt. Their lower ranking (27th) in passing yards allowed (3,992) came from facing the second-most in pass attempts (624).

9. Baltimore Ravens

The improvement in the pass rush last year and a high floor in run support bodes well for Baltimore having a top-10 fantasy defense this season. Offenses with stud wideouts will create coverage problems if their pass rush can’t close the passing window. In the early draft season in the high-stakes market, the Ravens are the eighth defense selected.

10. Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers’ defense has an impact player at all three levels. Closing the passing window will be crucial to their secondary slowing down top wideouts. Pittsburgh needs Benton to emerge and Highsmith to repeat his breakthrough success to push higher up the defensive rankings. They will be drafted as a top-10 fantasy defense while needing to be micromanaged throughout the season.

11. Buffalo Bills

Over the past three seasons, the Bills’ defense finished 7th, 7th, and 5th in fantasy points while ranking highly each year in pass coverage.  I sense regression in their play while losing LB Tremaine Edmunds in the offseason. I question the value of their defensive line vs. the run, and their starting safeties are getting older. Buffalo appears to have the worst defense in their division heading into 2023.

12. New Orleans Saints

New Orleans played well defensively over the past three seasons, and they have the talent to continue on the same path. There are some questions at linebacker, but the Saints make up for that would strength at the defensive end position and in their secondary. They ranked 12th in the fantasy market in 2023  after finishing eighth in fantasy scoring in 2022.

13. Jacksonville Jaguars

Their defensive line lacks edge players, limiting their pass rush and success slowing down the run. Without more sacks and turnovers, the Jaguars’ defense has questionable value in the fantasy market. They rank seventh in early drafts, falling in line with the final defensive standing in fantasy points in 2022.

14.  Denver Broncos

I don’t see an edge on the defensive line vs. the run, requiring Denver to fill the holes with two high-volume tackling linebackers. The pass rush has questions in most spots in their front seven. The Broncos have two to three winning pieces in their secondary that would be helped by a shorter passing window. In the fantasy market, this defense projects to rank outside the top 12 while offering some matchup value.

15.  Los Angeles Chargers

Los Angeles must clean up their run defense to be competitive in the postseason. Their pass rush has potential, and the second level of their defense should be better in 2023. Their secondary has three winning pieces if the Chargers can shorten the passing window on more plays. They should work as a second defense with possible rotational value in the fantasy market. Derius Doss should upgrade the return game.

16. Green Bay Packers

The 2023 additions in this year’s draft class should help Green Bay regain its lost value against the run while adding more sacks. Their defense ranks 19th in the high-stakes fantasy market. I expect them to outperform their ranking while offering matchup value in 2023.circa

17. New York Giants

The Giants’ defense has a stud on the defensive line and two developing pass-rushing linebackers on the outside. If New York can shorten the passing window this year, it will help their improving secondary. I view them as a backup fantasy defense with some matchup value.

18. Cincinnati Bengals

I sense regression in this defense due to the questions at the safety position and questionable pass rush. The Bengals will have risk vs. the run up the middle out of the gate. Cincinnati is the 18th defense drafted in August.

19. Tampa Buccaneers

Tampa Bay has a competitive player at most defensive positions. They need to play better vs. the run. An increase in the pass rush should be a given if Shaquil Barrett is healthy and some of their young talented players develop as expected. I view the Bucs as a backup fantasy defense with some matchup value.

20. Cleveland Browns

I’m not excited about the direction of Cleveland’s defense. They will have some games where their system matches up well. But offenses should be able to run on them and take advantage of their weakness at the second level. The Browns rank as a midtier backup fantasy defense with some potential matchup value.

21. Minnesota Vikings

Compared to 2022, the Vikings’ defense should be better in the secondary if Lewis Cine seizes a starting job and one of their young cornerbacks steps up to handle a starting gig. I see a below-par defensive line with three assets on the first two levels of their defense – Marcus Davenport, Danielle Hunter, and Jordan Hicks. In the end, the Vikings’ defense ranks below the league average, with only occasional matchup value in the fantasy market.

22. Los Angeles Rams

I liked some of the Rams’ additions in their year’s draft class, but they didn’t address their shortfall in the secondary. Aaron Donald remains a beast. Plus, Los Angeles will get after the quarterback in some games. I expect their young players to improve, but their mistakes will lead to some high-scoring games against good passing offenses. This defense is on my fade list for 2023.

23. Carolina Panthers

The Panthers have a questionable defensive line while lining up in a 3-4 formation on most plays. Carolina has strength up the middle of their defense at the second and third levels. However, their cornerbacks have a lot to prove. Burns leads the pass rush, but they need another player to step on the other side of the field. On the fantasy side, the Panthers’ defense is a below-par option with only occasional matchup value.

24. Detroit Lions

The Lions’ defense will improve this year. But there is still plenty of work to do, starting with stopping the run. I see three stars (Hutchinson, Campbell, and Branch) suggesting a second defense in the fantasy market with matchup value. However, Dan Campbell is an excellent coach who will get the most out of his players. 

25. Seattle Seahawks

The return of Bobby Wagner and Jamal Adams points to Seattle regaining some of their last value vs. the run. Their defensive line is in transition, and they have some questions at cornerback. This defense will get some sacks and turnovers, leading to a backup option in the fantasy with some matchup value. 

26. Indianapolis Colts

Indianapolis is transitioning at the cornerback position, inviting many mistakes and multiple changes as the season progresses. S Julian Blackman has a history of being an asset against the run. But he will give up some big plays in the passing game. This defense has much to prove this season while lacking depth of impact players. Finally, in the fantasy market, they rank as a low-end backup option with occasional backup value.

27. Atlanta Falcons

The Falcons tried to band-aide their weakness on defense via free agency and a trade. But there isn’t an impact player on the roster. However, they will improve in some areas while needing a missing pass rush to become relevant in the real world and the fantasy market. At best, a matchup defense while being challenging to time.

28. Tennessee Titans

Tennessee only has two top players on their defense unless Harold Landry regains his previous form. Subsequently, half of their secondary has risk, creating too many down weeks and plays for their pass defense. Their run defense ranked highly in back-to-back seasons, but the nose tackle position and two inside linebackers suggest regression. 

29. Arizona Cardinals

This defense has competitive players in their secondary. But a ton of tackles by their safeties and cornerbacks suggest weakness at linebacker. I don’t see any star players with plenty of questions at defensive tackle and linebacker. This defense will be found in the free-agent pool in all fantasy formats.

30. Chicago Bears

The Bears’ defense should improve against the run while remaining below the league average. However, I don’t see enough sacks or turnovers to help in any way in the fantasy market.

31. Las Vegas Raiders

I see more risk than reward on the defensive side of the ball for the Raiders. They finished 31st in fantasy points (72.00) in 2022, and I don’t see much changing this year. Also, their best hope is a bump in sacks and pressure by their top defensive ends, possibly creating more turnovers.

32. Houston Texans

There is no reason to chase Houston’s defense in the fantasy market. They will struggle against the run and getting offenses off the field. Although bringing in a solid defensive mind in DeMeco Ryans should help, as will No. 3 overall pick Will Anderson, the Texans still have a long way to go. 


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About Shawn Childs 970 Articles
Shawn Childs has been a high stakes Fantasy baseball and football player since 2004 where he had success in his first season (three titles and $25,000 in winnings). In early years of the high stakes market in Fantasy baseball, he was ahead of the curve in player evaluation, draft value, and free agent bidding setting up four top-five finishes in the National Fantasy Baseball Championship. He has four AL-only Auction titles, one NL-only title, and five Main Event titles plus an overall title in 2012 at RTFBC (netted $10,000). This success led to an induction into the NFBC Baseball Hall of Fame. His success in the high stakes market led to a career in providing Fantasy Baseball and Fantasy Football content. On the football side, he’s competed and won in all different formats – auctions, draft championship, main events, and high-dollar leagues. He won 2nd place overall in the 2014 Most Accurate Salary Cap Expert contest at FantasyPros. As a dual-sport player, it was natural to transition to the daily games where he is a “swing for the fences type of guy.” Childs has appeared in one FanDuel NFL Live Final and one DraftKings NFL Live Final, a season-ending tournament which led to a couple of chances to win over $1,000,000.