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.

Updated Week 7 Fantasy Football rankings

Week 7 starts today and there have been a few injury updates ahead of the action. Leonard Fournette isn’t expected to play, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport. I moved Fournette down on my rankings, but make sure there’s not a game time surprise before you sit him. Here are the rest of my updated Week 7 fantasy football rankings by position.

RELATED: Fantasy football: Who to start — and sit — in Week 7

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

Fantasy football: Week 4 rankings

Are you hanging in there? I’m pulling for you all. Just a reminder that an 0-3 start in fantasy football isn’t the same as it is in the NFL. You’ve still got a decent chance to make the playoffs. Don’t give up and stay engaged. With that said, here are my Week 4 fantasy football rankings by position.

Fantasy football Week 1 updated rankings and injury updates

The 2017 fantasy football season started Thursday but things really get rolling the first Sunday of the season. You should make a final check of our week 1 rankings at the bottom of the page. Also stay updated on injuries heading into the week with these NFL insiders.

After seeing this tweet I’ve downgraded Beckham Jr., thinking even if he plays then he won’t be as effective as he’d be at 100 percent. Be sure to have him in your flex spot if you have other options playing Sunday night or Monday. That way you can swap in other positions, not just wide receivers, if he can’t play.

I’ve been high on Crowder ever since DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon left Washington. Looks like he’ll be good to go Sunday.

In running back news, looks like Leonard Fournette should definitely get the full load to start his career. Eddie Lacy gets a slight bump up if Rawls is held out.

Looks like Cam Newton and rookie wide receiver Curtis Samuel are good to go. Newton should have a good week facing the 49ers. Samuel is a wait-and-see type of player.

Check out this week’s rankings below. You can click each position to see rankings for those positions.

Our fantasy tight end rankings: Whose are best?

There are just two weekends left before the NFL starts the regular season. Thousands of fantasy football leagues will be drafting this weekend. For the next few days reigning 3-peat Office Football League champ Rich Tijerina and I will share our rankings for each position side-by-side. We’ve ranked quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers. Up next are tight ends followed by defenses. At the end of this list are a few questions regarding where we ranked the tight ends. Ranks in bold are discussed at the bottom.

1. Tijerina—Rob Gronkowski; Vasquez—Rob Gronkowski

2. Tijerina—Greg Olsen; Vasquez—Jordan Reed

3. Tijerina—Travis Kelce; Vasquez—Travis Kelce

4. Tijerina—Jimmy Graham; Vasquez—Greg Olsen

5. Tijerina—Martellus Bennett; Vasquez—Jimmy Graham

6. Tijerina—Jordan Reed; Vasquez—Tyler Eifert

7. Tijerina—Delanie Walker; Vasquez—Kyle Rudolph

8. Tijerina—Zach Ertz; Vasquez—Zach Ertz

9. Tijerina—Kyle Rudolph; Vasquez—Hunter Henry

10. Tijerina—Hunter Henry; Vasquez—Eric Ebron

11. Tijerina—Tyler Eifert; Vasquez—Martellus Bennett

12. Tijerina—Jason Witten; Vasquez—Delanie Walker

13. Tijerina—Jack Doyle; Vasquez—Jack Doyle

14. Tijerina—Cameron Brate; Vasquez—Coby Fleener

15. Tijerina—Eric Ebron; Vasquez—Jason Witten

16. Tijerina—Coby Fleener; Vasquez—Charles Clay

17. Tijerina—Evan Engram; Vasquez—Antonio Gates

18. Tijerina—Austin Hooper; Vasquez—Benjamin Watson

19. Tijerina—Jesse James; Vasquez—Jesse James

20. Tijerina—Julius Thomas; Vasquez—Austin Hooper

Three questions about these rankings:

Indianapolis Colts tight end Jack Doyle catches a pass during a preseason NFL football game against the Dallas Cowboys on Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Sarah Warnock)
Indianapolis Colts tight end Jack Doyle catches a pass during a preseason NFL football game against the Dallas Cowboys on Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Sarah Warnock)

Who outside of your top 12 has the best opportunity to outperform their current ranking?

Tijerina: Cameron Brate, at 14. O.J. Howard will probably go before Brate on draft day, but those two both will put up good numbers. Rookies are usually fantasy wildcards; Howard has been hit or miss this preseason though he did get a couple of red zone targets last week. Brate’s been steady throughout and knows the offense.

Vasquez: Jack Doyle can inch his way into the top 12 by the end of the year. Dwayne Allen isn’t on the team anymore so things should open up for Doyle. Hopefully Andrew Luck doesn’t miss more than a game so that Doyle can put up TE1 numbers during the season. I expect him to catch more than five touchdowns this year.

O.J. Howard #80 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is tackled by Tashaun Gipson #39 of the Jacksonville Jaguars during a preseason game at EverBank Field on August 17, 2017 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
O.J. Howard #80 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is tackled by Tashaun Gipson #39 of the Jacksonville Jaguars during a preseason game at EverBank Field on August 17, 2017 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

Will a rookie be relevant for fantasy by the end of the year? Which one?

Tijerina: Relevant? O.J. Howard and Evan Engram. Either would be suitable backups with upside. But they also both have roster issues to contend with when it comes to red-zone targets. I don’t think David Njoku does much this year. Keep an eye on possible sleeper George Kittle, who only has Vance McDonald ahead of him on the 49ers’ depth chart; the fifth-rounder scored on a nice 29-yard catch and run in his first preseason game.

Vasquez: Rookie tight ends don’t typically produce in fantasy football, but if anyone can this season, I’d bet on O.J. Howard of Tampa Bay. He’s finding his way onto the field with Cameron Brate at the same time. That makes things interesting, but it’s hard to be relevant when you’re sharing targets with the other tight end on the team.

New York Giants tight end Evan Engram (88) is tripped up by Pittsburgh Steelers defensive back Brandon Dixon (35) during the second quarter of a preseason NFL football game, Friday, Aug. 11, 2017, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Should you even draft a backup tight end? Or is it OK to pull one with a good matchup off the waiver wire during your starter’s bye week?

Tijerina: It’s OK to go with one tight end — if that tight end is one of the first 12 on our lists. If you’re only going with one, make sure he’s a true TE1. You can manage byes or injuries with waivers. By the time you’re considering drafting a second tight end, you’re already in best-available mode in the later rounds. You have better odds hitting on a late-round shot on a receiver or running back than a tight end. It’s a numbers thing: More draftable receivers and backs in the fantasy pond than tight ends.

Vasquez: I go back and forth on this one. If I can get a tight end with upside, like an Evan Engram, then I’ll take a shot late. If the options just aren’t exciting after I’ve drafted a tight end, I’ll go for upside on a receiver or a running back. I would advise doing that during the draft and picking up a substitute tight end off the waiver wire when necessary.

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

2017 fantasy football position rankings: Quarterbacks

Over the next few weeks we’ll take an early look at our 2017 fantasy football position rankings. This week we’ll talk about the signal callers before turning our attention to running backs next week. We’ll rank the QBs from 1 to 32, the running backs from 1-36, the wide receivers 1-36 and the tight ends 1-24. Defenses and kickers will be ranked 1-12.

First up we’ve got the quarterbacks. You’ll notice Matt Ryan is still in the top-5, but he’s not the No. 1 quarterback like he was at the end of the 2016 season.

Quarterbacks

1. Aaron Rodgers, Packers—He still has Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb. Davante Adams is a rising star and the addition of Martellus Bennett should help Rodgers have the best season among QBs.

2. Tom Brady, Patriots—He’ll be 40 by the time the season starts but he seems to have a lot of tread left on the tires. The addition of Brandin Cooks and Mike Gillislee adds more weapons for the Super Bowl MVP.

3. Drew Brees, Saints—Probably one of the most underrated quarterbacks in the history of the NFL, Brees just seems to put up numbers with whatever talent he has on the roster. His home-away split is a factor, but he should still end up top-3.

 

Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints drives for a touchdown during the first half of a game against the Los Angeles Rams at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on November 27, 2016 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

4. Andrew Luck, Colts—All the guy needs is time in the pocket and he’ll feast. The Colts got some protection help in the draft so his production should improve over last year.

5. Matt Ryan, Falcons—Last year was a career year for Ryan, his tenth in the league. He lost his offensive guru in Kyle Shanahan, so I’m expecting a bit of a regression in numbers.

6. Russell Wilson, Seahawks—Wilson’s best seasons have been when he’s been able to run around and make plays with his legs. Last season he was hurt early in the year. If he’s healthy to start the season he’ll start strong and possibly play well wire to wire.

 

Quarterback Russell Wilson #3 of the Seattle Seahawks looks to pass against the New York Jets in the fourth quarter at MetLife Stadium on October 2, 2016 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

7. Derek Carr, Raiders—Carr was very solid last season and he seems on the verge of breaking into the top-5. He’s got Amari Cooper, Michael Crabtree and now Marshawn Lynch to help him out.

8. Jameis Winston, Buccaneers—A big winner after free agency and the draft was Winston. He got DeSean Jackson, a big-play threat, and O.J. Howard, a versatile rookie tight end, as new weapons.

9. Dak Prescott, Cowboys—You worry about a sophomore jinx, but with how poised he played last season he might be immune. He’ll have a full offseason to work with his receivers and you can’t forget about Zeke Elliott who can take a seemingly harmless screen pass 80 yards to the house.

Dak Prescott #4 of the Dallas Cowboys rushes in the first half against the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium on November 6, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

10. Philip Rivers, Chargers—If Keenan Allen can stay healthy, Rivers can be even better than last year. He finished in the top six in standard scoring last season with a bunch of nobodies catching passes. Now he has Mike Williams, the top receiver in the draft, as another option.

11. Kirk Cousins, Redskins—He was actually one of the best fantasy quarterbacks last season and nearly threw for 5,000 yards. Losing DeSean Jackson hurts, but Jamison Crowder is coming on and the Redskins added Terrelle Pryor.

12. Cam Newton, Panthers—He’s still in my top-12, but barely. The addition of Christian McCaffrey should help him. He’s just not an accurate quarterback and his value drops when he isn’t running, which is something he cut back on when he was getting punished weekly.

Cam Newton will have to utilize his running ability to keep his fantasy value high. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
Cam Newton will have to utilize his running ability to keep his fantasy value high. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

13. Marcus Mariota, Titans

14. Eli Manning, Giants

15. Andy Dalton, Bengals

16. Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers

17. Matthew Stafford, Lions

18. Carson Palmer, Cardinals

19. Alex Smith, Chiefs

20. Blake Bortles, Jaguars

21. Tyrod Taylor, Bills

22. Ryan Tannehill, Dolphins

23. Carson Wentz, Eagles

24. Joe Flacco, Ravens

25. Sam Bradford, Vikings

26. Trevor Siemian, Broncos

27. Josh McCown, Jets

28. Brian Hoyer, 49ers

29. Tom Savage or DeShaun Watson, Texans (will update as starter becomes clear)

30. Mike Glennon or Mitch Trubisky, Bears (will update as starter becomes clear)

31. Jared Goff, Rams

32. Cody Kessler, Browns