Fantasy Football: Week 1 Defense/Special Teams guide

Some tips for your fantasy lineups to start the 2023 NFL season.

Pittsburgh Steelers v Baltimore Ravens
Pittsburgh Steelers v Baltimore Ravens / Michael Owens/GettyImages

While the defense/special teams spot on a fantasy roster isn't a big deal to most fantasy owners, it is something that more veteran players can use to get a slight edge over the rest of the league. It's easy to try and draft one of the top-ranked defenses, such as the 49ers, and hope they do at least somewhat well each week. However, the more nuanced approach to the position is streaming each week based on matchups. With that being said, given this is a Week 1 guide, it's important to talk about what defenses to draft first before going into waivers. Here are some defenses to target and some defenses to avoid drafting for Week 1.

Do Draft

1. Baltimore Ravens - 68.1 percent owned (ESPN)

The Ravens are a great defense to draft, as their ADP on ESPN isn't too high (162.7), they are projected 8.4 points, and they play rookie QB CJ Stroud in week one. What holds them back is that at 68.1 percent ownership, while they go late in drafts, they are more often than not picked, so they aren't the easiest defense to draft. Also, they play the Bengals in Week 2, so you will need to grab a new defense. However, if you plan on streaming defenses anyway, then all that matters is that Week 1 matchup. Essentially, if you have a higher pick in the second-to-last round, you are more likely to get the Ravens D/ST and their sweet Week 1 matchup. Otherwise, you might have to turn to some alternatives.

2. Washington Commanders - 42.2 percent owned (ESPN)

The Commanders are a similarly great option, as they face the Kyler Murray-less Arizona Cardinals in Week 1. At a slightly lower ADP and ownership than the Ravens, they are more likely to be available later in drafts, making them a slightly worse but more easily acquirable option than the Ravens. The Commanders have an okay matchup in Week 2 against the Broncos, and bad matchups Week 3 and 4 against the Bills and Eagles, respectively, so long term they aren't the best option, but once again, if the strategy is to stream defenses each week, then they are a fantastic option. More savvy owners might snag them, however, so another alternative is good to have.

3. Jacksonville Jaguars - 13.2 percent owned (ESPN)

The Jaguars are a heavily overlooked option right now on ESPN, as they not only have a good Week 1 matchup against the Colts, who are currently in disarray with Jonathan Taylor's situation, but they have good matchups for multiple weeks. Other than Week 2, where they face the Chiefs, they face the Texans in Week 3, the Falcons in London in Week 4, the Colts again in Week 6, the Saints in Week 7, and the Steelers in Week 8 before they have their bye week in Week 9.

From a long-term streaming perspective, they are a fantastic option to draft and are often going undrafted, so they are easy to draft in one of the last two rounds. Potentially stacking them with a team that has a good matchup in Weeks 2 and 5 would be an extremely savvy move that could provide a huge advantage early in the season.

Don't Draft

1. New England Patriots - 71.5 percent owned (ESPN)

While the Patriots' D/ST has a reputation for being great in fantasy, I would avoid drafting them. Their ADP currently sits at 145.8, which in a traditional 12-team, 16-round draft, means you would need to get them late in the 12th round or early in the 13th round most likely. Given their Week 1 matchup is the Philadelphia Eagles, you aren't going to want to play them in Week 1, so I don't see much point in drafting them that early. Let someone else in your league reach on them, get annoyed they are struggling early in the season and then drop them, so you can pick them up once their matchups improve.

Looking at their schedule, they don't have a great matchup until Week 9 against the Commanders, so it is really hard to feel good about drafting them at all. Despite their reputation, I would avoid the Pats D/ST altogether.

2. New York Jets - 80.3 percent owned (ESPN)

The Jets have a lot of hype heading into this year with a new-look team, but that doesn't mean you should be super excited about drafting their defense. They face the Buffalo Bills in Week 1, and beyond the Patriots in Week 3, don't really face any bad offenses early on. Their current ADP on ESPN is 135.2, which is even higher than the Patriots.

Overall, if your plan is to stream defenses each week, drafting the Jets makes no sense really. Let someone else in your league fall for the hype, and re-evaluate their defense and special teams units later on in the season to see if they are worth picking up once they inevitably get dropped after struggling with tougher matchups. Yet another AFC East D/ST I would avoid altogether.

3. Buffalo Bills - 97.2 percent owned (ESPN)

A third AFC East team makes this list, as they face the new and improved Aaron Rodgers-led offense of the New York Jets in Week 1. They have pretty good matchups after Week 1, so if you do decide to draft them, you should have a Week 1 alternative ready (maybe one of the ones mentioned before) but with an ADP of 106, that just doesn't feel worth it.

Arguably no defense, no matter how good their matchups are, is worth that price, so that is why I am avoiding them. The 49ers D/ST are the only defense with a higher ADP (82) but they don't make this list because they at least have great matchups early on. With the AFC East being as good as it's ever been this coming season, it's hard to feel comfortable drafting any defense from the division given they play each team twice a year.

Next. Value Picks. Go against the experts' advice with these players. dark

Final Analysis

The above analysis was for the draft. If for some reason you decided not to follow the above advice in your draft, you still have the waiver wire to help make up for it. With that in mind, here are defenses you should be looking to pick up that have a decent to great chance of being available.

<50% owned - Washington Commanders (42.2 percent owned)
Projection: 8.4; Opponent: Arizona Cardinals

<25% owned - Jacksonville Jaguars (13.2 percent owned)
Projection: 7.2; Opponent: @Indianapolis Colts

<10% owned - Atlanta Falcons (5.4 percent owned) or Minnesota Vikings (3.5% Owned)
Projection: 7.0, 6.8; Opponent: Carolina Panthers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers