When it comes to selecting a defense/special teams unit in fantasy football, you could go in a number of different directions.
The general rule of thumb is to wait until one of the final two rounds of your draft to pick a D/ST unit. You would select a D/ST in one round and your kicker in the other.
Another strategy is selecting the D/ST with the easiest schedule to open the season, then streaming the position via the waiver wire throughout the year based on matchups.
The latter requires paying close attention to schedules, but both strategies can work well if executed properly. What you definitely don't want to do is hold on to a lackluster D/ST unit that bogs down the rest of your fantasy team throughout the season.
To avoid that scenario, try to take one of our top 10 D/STs below:
1. Buffalo Bills (Bye Week: 7)
The Bills already boasted one of the best defenses in the NFL before improving the unit this offseason. The acquisition of veteran linebacker Von Miller helps them rise to the top of the rankings, along with the additions of Jordan Phillips, Shaq Lawson, DaQuan Jones, and Tim Settle to bolster the defensive line. Buffalo also returns its terrific safety tandem of Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde, plus cornerback Tre’Davious White should add plenty of fantasy points from interceptions if he's healthy.
2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Bye Week: 11)
The Bucs should have arguably the best defensive line in the league again in 2022. The biggest worry for Tampa is the glaring weakness at cornerback, but the pass rush is good enough to give you consistent production throughout the fantasy season.
3. Indianapolis Colts (Bye Week: 14)
The Colts lost defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus but added some talent during the offseason. They signed former New England Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore, who should significantly boost the secondary if healthy. Yannick Ngakoue, DeForest Buckner, Kwity Paye and Dayo Odeyingbo will give Indy a solid pass rush in 2022. All-Pro safety Shaquill Leonard (formerly known as Darius Leonard) once again anchors the group, which should be a solid under-the-radar option for fantasy owners this season.
4. San Francisco 49ers (Bye Week: 9)
Outside of a questionable secondary, the 49ers defense looks like one of the best in the league heading into the new campaign. The defensive line is an embarrassment of riches with Nick Bosa alongside Arik Armstead, Javon Kinlaw, Kerry Hyder Jr. and rookie Drake Jackson. If cornerbacks Charvarius Ward and Jason Verrett play to their potential, this could be among the best units in fantasy football for 2022.
5. Los Angeles Rams (Bye Week: 7)
The Rams have two of the best players -- not just defensive players -- in the league with Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey returning for 2022. Those two superstars alone will make Rams D/ST owners happy next season. Overall, this is a reliable group that will have its ups and downs, but can be rostered all season long.
6. Dallas Cowboys (Bye Week: 9)
The Cowboys D/ST should put up plenty of fantasy points again with ballhawk Trevon Diggs, Defensive Rookie of the Year Micah Parsons, and a healthy DeMarcus Lawrence. Regression is a possibility, especially with Randy Gregory gone, but Dallas should be one of the most sought-after defenses in your league.
7. New Orleans Saints (Bye Week: 14)
The Saints defense was a force in 2021, allowing the lowest yards per rush (3.7) and fourth-lowest average quarterback rating (81.7). They should see similar success in 2022 with a strong front seven and a promising secondary.
8. Denver Broncos (Bye Week: 9)
Denver's D/ST disappointed last season but there's reason to be optimistic in this unit this time around. For starters, second-year cornerback Patrick Surtain Jr. is a stud. Then there's Randy Gregory, who was added to a Broncos pass rush that includes Bradley Chubb and rookie Nik Bonitto. The much-improved offense should take plenty of pressure off the defense, so that's certainly something to factor into the equation as well.
9. New England Patriots (Bye Week: 10)
This may be a bit too optimistic given the lack of talent on the defensive side of the ball, but the Patriots D/ST somehow finds a way to finish in the top 10 in points year after year. We see that trend continuing in 2022, even with cornerback J.C. Jackson leaving in free agency.
10. Los Angeles Chargers (Bye Week: 8)
L.A.'s run defense was a disaster in 2021. That should improve with veteran linebacker Khalil Mack now in the fold. The secondary should be even better as well with J.C. Jackson signing in free agency. If all goes according to plan, this unit will be an absolute steal for fantasy owners.
Editor’s Note: Get an edge on draft day with our 2022 Football Draft Guide powered by Rotoworld that’s packed with hundreds of player profiles, expert rankings, projections, mock drafts, sleepers, busts and much more. And don't forget to use promo code DRAFTGUIDE to gain access to it all for just $5 for the first month. Click here to learn more!