Fantasy football position rankings: Defense and special teams

There are just two weekends left before the NFL starts the regular season. Thousands of fantasy football leagues will be drafting soon. Through Saturday I’ll share my rankings for each position. I started with quarterbacks Tuesday, followed by running backs Wednesdaywide receivers Thursday and tight ends Friday. We’ll close out with defense rankings. This year I’ve added tiers to better help you prepare for your draft.

RELATED: Fantasy football rankings: Top 250.

Defense and special teams

Tier 1

Not much has changed for the top two teams in this tier, so they should be very good once again. The Jaguars had the best pass defense in the league and the Vikings gave up the least amount of points. Additions to the defensive backfield and in the trenches can help the Rams take a step forward. The defending Super Bowl champs led the league in rushing yards allowed per game. They’ve had some changes up front, but they should remain solid.

1. Jacksonville Jaguars
2. Minnesota Vikings
3. Los Angeles Rams
4. Philadelphia Eagles

Tier 2

The pass rush of the Chargers is enough to make fantasy owners excited about drafting them in the 11th round. That pass rush coupled with a good defensive backfield is a recipe for creating turnovers. The first surprise in these rankings is the Saints at No. 6. They aren’t the same Saints you’re used to, sacking the quarterback 42 times (tied for 7th in NFL) while making 20 interceptions (3rd) last season.

5. Los Angeles Chargers
6. New Orleans Saints
7. Denver Broncos
8. Houston Texans
9. Baltimore Ravens

Tier 3

The Cardinals have last season’s sack leader in Chandler Jones. He led the league with 17 of the Cardinals’ 37 sacks. They forced 18 fumbles and intercepted 15 passes while allowing 22.6 points per game. The points allowed doesn’t sound outstanding, but the offense was in shambles without David Johnson and Carson Palmer. Johnson is back and Sam Bradford, though an injury risk, should be a decent steward of the offense. That could help the Cardinals’ defense stay fresh for longer.

10. Arizona Cardinals
11. Carolina Panthers
12. New England Patriots
13. Pittsburgh Steelers
14. Atlanta Falcons
15. Chicago Bears
16. Seattle Seahawks

Contact Cat Vasquez at 512-445-3677. Email cvasquez@statesman.com. Twitter @AAS_Cat.

Fantasy football position rankings: Tight ends

There are just two weekends left before the NFL starts the regular season. Thousands of fantasy football leagues will be drafting soon. Through Saturday I’ll share my rankings for each position. I started with quarterbacks Tuesday, followed by running backs Wednesday and wide receivers Thursday. Tight ends are next with defenses to follow. This year I’ve added tiers to better help you prepare for your draft.

RELATED: Fantasy football rankings: Top 250.

Tight ends

Tier 1

No surprise at the top of this tier, but Rob Gronkowski isn’t in a tier of his own anymore. Zach Ertz was outstanding last year, catching 74 passes for 824 yards and eight touchdowns. That made for three straight years of at least 74 receptions and 816 yards for the sixth-year tight end. Ertz has the edge over Travis Kelce for me since the Chiefs will have a new quarterback in Pat Mahomes. Kelce will still have a big year, but I don’t think he tops 1,000 yards like he has in the last two seasons.

1. Rob Gronkowski, NE
2. Zach Ertz, PHI
3. Travis Kelce, KC

Tier 2

I still like Evan Engram even though he’s not the only reliable target in New York anymore. Last season he had to lead the way with Odell Beckham Jr., Brandon Marshall and Sterling Shepard all missing time. Engram led the team with 64 receptions and was second on the squad with 722 yards while scoring a team-best six times. Something you rarely see is a rookie tight end having a lot of fantasy production. Engram was able to do that and then some. Also in this group is Jimmy Graham, who could be special if he stays healthy. Aaron Rodgers hasn’t used the tight end effectively but he’s never had a tight end like Graham. I have to also mention Trey Burton, who looks to be a big part of the Bears offense. With a second-year quarterback and a shaky wide receiver corps, Burton should lead the passing attack.

4. Evan Engram, NYG
5. Jimmy Graham, GB
6. Greg Olsen, CAR
7. Trey Burton, CHI

Tier 3

Delanie Walker has been so solid for the last four years, gaining at least 800 yards while catching at least 63 passes in each of those seasons. Someone in this group who I’m high on is Ricky Seals-Jones. I’m out on a bit of an island (pun intended) on this one, but I think he has a lot of upside. He would be nearly free in drafts so you don’t have to draft him as your starter. In 2016, when Sam Bradford played 15 games for the Vikings, Kyle Rudolph caught 83 passes for 840 yards and seven touchdowns. Bradford could help Seals-Jones have that kind of production.

8. Delanie Walker, TEN
9. Kyle Rudolph, MIN
10. Ricky Seals-Jones, ARI
11. Jared Cook, OAK
12. Jordan Reed, WAS

Tier 4

I nearly had Jordan Reed and George Kittle swapped, but the talent of Reed is a little too much to overcome. If he can stay healthy, and it’s always a huge if, then he’s still definitely a TE1. Kittle, depending on his chemistry with Jimmy Garoppolo, could take the next step after a solid rookie season in which he caught 43 passes and gained 515 yards. David Njoku, another second-year tight end, could be productive with Tyrod Taylor tossing him the ball in Cleveland. Also in this tier is Tyler Eifert, who really should be in a higher tier based on talent. Injuries and having to play with Andy Dalton has him as a bye week sub in my opinion.

13. George Kittle, SF
14. David Njoku, CLE
15. O.J. Howard, TB
16. Jack Doyle, IND
17. Benjamin Watson, NO
18. Tyler Eifert, CIN
19. Charles Clay, BUF

Tier 5

There are a lot questions surrounding the Colts offense, mostly due to the play of Andrew Luck, a bad offensive line and the rest of the backfield. But I also think there’s a question of which Colts tight end will be more productive. Eric Ebron has the size and talent you want in a tight end but he just hasn’t delivered. Someone who could surprise in this group is Austin Hooper of the Falcons, but it depends on how successful the offense is. Hooper was the third most targeted receiver for Atlanta last season, but the team added Calvin Ridley in the draft.

20. Eric Ebron, IND
21. Austin Hooper, ATL
22. Cameron Brate, TB
23. Luke Willson, DET
24. Austin Seferian-Jenkins, JAC

Tier 6

For the most part these guys are going to be replacements during bye weeks, but Hayden Hurst could end up having some value. He should start for the Ravens, but I can’t rank a pass catcher from Baltimore very highly.

25. Vance McDonald, PIT
26. Stephen Anderson, HOU
27. Vernon Davis, WAS
28. Hayden Hurst, BAL

Contact Cat Vasquez at 512-445-3677. Email cvasquez@statesman.com. Twitter @AAS_Cat.