(CBS Local/CBS Baltimore)- Training camps have begun for some NFL teams, while the rest kick theirs off over the course of this week. As the players stretch and warm up for the coming season, fantasy owners begin their prep for their upcoming league drafts. After a several-month layoff with no football, it’s understandable if your knowledge isn’t what it should be. So, we’re here to help you get back up to speed, as you lay your plans for taking home that fantasy championship belt this season.
We have come to the final part of our preview series (sorry, no kickers), and that means a look at the defense/special teams units projected to be at the top of the league this season. This spot on your roster isn’t as important as the running backs or wide receivers, but it can still turn the tide of any weekly fantasy football contest in your favor.
1) Baltimore Ravens
Projected 2019 Stats- 18 INT, 10 Fumble Recoveries, 37.9 Sacks, 13.1 FPPG
The Ravens make a big leap up the fantasy boards here in the projections system after they finished 15th among defense and special teams units in 2018 with an average of just over six points per game. But, the team made some big moves this offseason, bringing in Earl Thomas to pair with Tony Jefferson at the back end of the secondary, along with pass rushers Pernell McPhee and Shane Ray to replace Terrell Suggs, who left in free agency.
2) Buffalo Bills
Projected 2019 Stats- 18 INT, 14 Fumble Recoveries, 40.8 Sacks, 11.8 FPPG
While the Bills struggled their way to another below .500 season, their defense/special teams unit finished in the bottom half of the league (19th) among fantasy defenses. They collected 16 interceptions, 11 fumbles and 36 sacks but allowed opponents to score 23.4 points per game, which dragged their fantasy totals down. But, they went out and added corners E.J. Gaines and Kevin Johnson in free agency before drafting defensive tackle Ed Oliver, linebacker Vosean Joseph and corner Jaquan Johnson in April. Gaines and Kevin Johnson help solidify the corner position, which really had Tredavious White as its sole reliable contributor. Adding Oliver is huge, as he was considered one of the best talents in the draft and expected to make an immediate impact for Sean McDermott.
3) Chicago Bears
Projected 2019 Stats- 16 INT, 13 Fumble Recoveries, 44.8 Sacks, 11.6 FPPG
The Bears were last year’s top defense thanks to their ridiculous 27 interceptions, 50 sacks and six defensive touchdowns. If we know anything, the turnover numbers are likely to regress towards the league average this year, which is exactly what the projections are expecting. It’s not that the Bears lost much defensive talent. The core of Khalil Mack, Eddie Jackson, Kyle Fuller, Akiem Hicks, Leonard Floyd, Roquan Smith and Danny Trevathan is all back. The team added slot corner Buster Skrine in free agency. It will be a top unit once again, but meeting or topping last year’s numbers will be hard.
4) Jacksonville Jaguars
Projected 2019 Stats- 18 INT, 11 Fumble Recoveries, 43.9 Sacks, 11.6 FPPG
The Jaguars defense held up its end of the bargain for the most part last season, allowing opponents just 19.8 points per game. But, with fewer interceptions and sacks than 2017, they weren’t the same world-beating defensive unit in fantasy (20th in FPPG). Now, the projections are hoping for a bounce back year. With Jalen Ramsey, AJ Bouye, and Ronnie Harrison patrolling the secondary, interceptions are always available. The defensive line lost Malik Jackson, but added draftee Josh Allen to pair with Yannick Ngakoue and Calais Campbell. The Jags defense looks strong again.
5) Minnesota Vikings
Projected 2019 Stats- 13 INT, 11 Fumble Recoveries, 55 Sacks, 11.4 FPPG
The Vikings got off to a rough start in 2018 before rebounding to finish eighth among defense and special teams units last season in fantasy points per game. The unit lost Andrew Sendejo in free agency but retained Anthony Barr. The rest of the group returns mostly intact. That consistency combined with Mike Zimmer and defensive coordinator George Edwards’ scheme should make for another top option among fantasy defenses this year.
6) New Orleans Saints
Projected 2019 Stats- 15 INT, 15 Fumble Recoveries, 37.7 Sacks, 11.3 FPPG
7) Los Angeles Chargers
Projected 2019 Stats-13 INT, 12 Fumble Recoveries, 43.1 Sacks, 11 FPPG
8) Dallas Cowboys
Projected 2019 Stats- 14 INT, 12 Fumble Recoveries, 41.1 Sacks, 10.9 FPPG
9) New England Patriots
Projected 2019 Stats- 17 INT, 12 Fumble Recoveries, 32 Sacks, 10.9 FPPG
10) Tennessee Titans
Projected 2019 Stats- 14 INT, 11 Fumble Recoveries, 38.8 Sacks, 10.6 FPPG.