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Fantasy football 2023: Defense/special teams rankings and tiers

Welcome to the 2023 NFL fantasy football season. I'm taking our traditional fantasy rankings one step further and arranging them into tiers to help prepare you to dominate your drafts. Tiers give you a better idea of player values and will allow you to construct a more well-rounded roster.

This format also gives me cover for when, say, you get heated about Justin Fields being ranked ahead of Jalen Hurts. I can be all, "Hey, they are in the same tier." Seriously, the value is similar. I'll die on this hill. But enough about that. Let's continue with defense/special teams!

I know kickers and defenses are the two most maligned positions in fantasy football. A lot of you will stream both, or worse, try to regulate them out of fantasy altogether. But here are some tiers for those of you who see the value in these positions and want to take advantage of it this year.

Tier 1

New York Jets

The 49ers will be replacing DeMeco Ryans (now the Texans head coach) with new DC Steve Wilks, and they are still expected to be one of the top fantasy producers in the category. It would be nice for them to get reigning Defensive Player of the Year Nick Bosa back in camp, though. ... The Eagles also lost their defensive coordinator, with Sean Desai replacing Jonathan Gannon (Cardinals HC). There is something to be said about the Super Bowl hangover for the losing team, but GM Howie Roseman has constructed quite the roster, with Jalen Carter -- a player some considered to be the top talent in the 2023 NFL Draft -- joining the group. ... Some people continue to sleep on the Jets in all aspects, but I really do believe it's a mistake. ... The Broncos could also surprise a lot of people, but they are very good on defense. Their Week 1 matchup is against the Raiders with a Week 2 game against Sam Howell and the Commanders.

Tier 2

Buffalo Bills

The Patriots were the top defense in fantasy last season. However, they open this season against the reigning NFC champion Eagles and then play the Dolphins. It's a Bill Belichick defense, and you would like to think it's matchup-proof. But the Patriots have a brutal schedule this year. ... The Ravens' defense is always a solid pick, and the addition of Roquan Smith last season really made a huge impact. ... The Saints are a really nice fantasy draft choice based on the matchups to start the season. They open with the Titans, Panthers and Packers. The quarterbacks in the NFC South have potential, but carry some question marks, too. New Orleans is one defense I seem to find at the end of my drafts or on the waiver wire early on because a lot of fantasy enthusiasts are focusing on other teams.

Tier 3

Miami Dolphins

The Dolphins really interest me, even though they are expected to be without Jalen Ramsey for the majority of the season. I love that Vic Fangio is there to call the defense. That's a huge upgrade for them. They do play the Chargers, Broncos and Bills in three of the first four games -- teams that could pose a challenge -- which is why I have them in this tier.

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