2017 fantasy football rankings: Defense/Special Teams

Continuing our series of position rankings for the upcoming 2017 fantasy football season, we’ll take a look at the top 12 defenses before ranking kickers next week. We’ve ranked the quarterbacks 1-32running backs from 1-36, wide receivers 1-36 and the tight ends 1-24. Kickers will be ranked 1-12.

Defense wins championships. You’ve heard it time and again. But is it true in fantasy football? While it may be less of a factor than in real football, the starting position is one that can’t be ignored. Make sure you don’t take a top-tier defense until at least late in the ninth round. You can definitely find something serviceable in the 14th.

1. Seattle Seahawks—The performance of the Seahawks defense this season is very contingent on the health of Earl Thomas and if Seattle can play well at the cornerback spot opposite Richard Sherman. You have to like them playing the 49ers and Rams twice.

2. Denver Broncos—They tried to address their run stopping issues last season by adding some beef in the trenches. They added two 300-plus pound veterans and signed another undrafted rookie free agent. Von Miller is at his peak right now and that pass rush is huge for defensive scoring potential in fantasy.

3. Houston Texans—If J.J. Watt comes back from his back surgery at even 85 percent of his usual production, the Texans’ defense should be really good. Jadeveon Clowney is finally looking like the player they drafted and the defensive front is looking as stout as ever. Throw in two games against the Jaguars and things look good for them.

4. Arizona Cardinals—There are some question marks, but the talent in the secondary and a stout rush defense make for a nice defensive scoring floor.

5. New England Patriots—They get to play the Jets, Bills and Dolphins twice apiece and Bill Belichick is a rare defensive guru who finds ways to disrupt what teams want to do offensively. Not to take credit from current defensive coordinator, Matt Patricia, who shut down the Falcons in the second half of the most recent Super Bowl.

6. Carolina Panthers—The Panthers took a step back in 2016 after losing Josh Norman to the Redskins. They should see some improvement as their second-year cornerback James Bradberry was rated as the top rookie at his position last year, according to Pro Football Focus. They’ve added Julius Peppers, Mike Adams and Captain Munnerlyn to shore things up.

7. Kansas City Chiefs

8. Minnesota Vikings

9. Los Angeles Rams

10. Pittsburgh Steelers

11. Baltimore Ravens

12. Cincinnati Bengals