Real Fantasy Football Rankings: Defenders

Everton defender, Leighton Baines, is in the discussion for being the first defender off the board.

Everton defender, Leighton Baines, is in the discussion for being the first defender off the board.


Every year I debate whether to build my fantasy football team around defenders or attackers, and I usually end up trying to strike a balance – which works pretty well for me. Initially, when it comes to drafts the pool feels really shallow and if you miss out on the starters from the notoriously defensive teams then there will be the temptation to load up at other positions and grab some middle of the road defenders later. However, there can be decent talent found in the middle rounds, but if you’re willing there’s also the potential to make risky picks later on that could pay off huge rewards.


Elite: Kompany (Man City), Zabaleta (Man City), Baines (Everton), Coleman (Everton), Terry (Chelsea), Cahill (Chelsea), Koscielny (Arsenal), Shaw (Man Utd)

The Manchester City pair are expected to be stalwarts for their team again this year. Even if they bring in another centre back, Kompany will be a safe bet to start with Demichellis shaky at times and Nastasic still young and raw. Zabaleta was probably the best right back in the league at times last season and therefore I expect him to be their regular starter once again this season. He should get forward plenty once again and provide a few assists. The team should be one of the stingier in the league, so both should provide good points totals for clean sheets.

Shaw is an exciting young talent on a new, big name club. Can he live up to the hype?

Shaw is an exciting young talent on a new, big name club. Can he live up to the hype?

Baines and Coleman were the best full back pairing in the league last year and I fully expect them to be close once again this year. Both like to get forward and provide assists as well as being able to score the occasional goal, so they should provide a decent points haul over the season. The team tend to be one of the better ones when it comes to defensive records so they should provide a fair few clean sheets as well.

Terry and Cahill are the best central defensive partnership in the league right now and they have quality players all around them. They should keep a minimum of 10-15 clean sheets this season and both are capable of scoring the odd goal. These two will be top 10 defenders at the end of the season as long as they’re fit all year.

Koscielny was amazing last year and Arsenal have got a decent back line so I don’t expect them to ship many goals. He has scored two goals each of the last three seasons, so odds are he’ll probably score a couple again this year.

Shaw is the most contentious one of this group based on the preseason comments from his manager and the performances of Ashley Young in that left wide position. Shaw was awesome last year for Southampton and United paid a lot for him, meaning I expect him to start the season if he’s in shape. When he starts I expect him to provide plenty of assists, and in LvG’s formation there should be a fair few clean sheets as well.


Near Elite: Ivanovic (Chelsea), Mertesacker (Arsenal), Debuchy (Arsenal), Luis (Chelsea), Lovren (Liverpool), Vertonghen (Tottenham), Walker (Tottenham)

Ivanovic was amazing last year and would be an elite defender for me if it wasn’t for the worry that Azpilicueta is right behind him waiting for a mistake.  Ivanovic bombs forward with surprising speed for a big man and can cross a mean ball so should have a chance for plenty of assists this year. He’s also likely to score the odd goal as an added bonus.

Ivanovic makes for a great number one defender

Ivanovic makes for a great number one defender

Mertesacker had a great campaign last year but he looked shaky at times in the world cup and has missed a lot of preseason on holiday. He will slot back into the central position next to Koscielny, but that may not happen immediately. His perceived lack of pace concerns me enough to put him a tier below his partner.

Debuchy will step straight in at right back to replace Sagna and should have similar levels of success. Arsenal will be good defensively and he will get a few assists with crosses to gain a few more points.

There is no history in the Premier League for Luis and he isn’t even sure to start the way Azpilicueta played last year, but I do expect Jose to throw him in.

Lovren was the big money signing for Liverpool in their defence, and to me , that, combined with his performance last year, should make him sure of a starting position this season. Liverpool will be better defensively, so clean sheet points should help boost his total.

Vertonghen and Walker are the only two Tottenham defender’s I would write down in pen on my projected team sheet. Vertonghen is solid and can play anywhere across the back line, so he should play most games. Walker was missed greatly last year, so when he is fit he’ll start and that should lead to a few assists. The team will keep a few clean sheets but it won’t be on the level of some of the other big teams.


Solid Number Two’s: Skrtel (Liverpool), Jagielka (Everton), Kolarov (Man City), Gibbs (Arsenal), Davies (Tottenham)

I have Skrtel as my other centre back for Liverpool based on last year, and if he can score the quantity of goals he scored last year then he could be a great pick up even if he plays less regularly.

Jagielka missed chunks of the season with injury last year but when he’s fit he’s an awesome centre back capable of scoring the odd goal.

Kolarov would be higher if I could be sure he’ll play every game because he is a full back capable of a number of goals and assists in a very defensive team.

Gibbs will start at left back for Arsenal, but I am not sure he will provide many goals or assists so that limits his potential elite value.

Davies is likely to start at left back for Tottenham after a really good season last year, but I can’t be certain enough of that to put him any higher.


The LvG Tier (All Manchester United): Evans, Smalling, Jones, Rafael 

What will Louis van Gaal mean for United's back line?

What will the Louis van Gaal hire mean for United’s back line?

Basically the system LvG incorporates means there should be a strong defensive unit that will benefit all of these players, and makes them all potentially number two options at a reasonably cheap price. The only problem with that is LvG has been clear in his interest for other defenders, so some of these players may lose their jobs.


Risk/Reward Number Three’s: Demichellis (Man City), Azpilicueta (Chelsea), Clichy (Man City), Sagna (Man City), Dawson (Tottenham), Rose (Tottenham), Flanagan (Liverpool), Sakho (Liverpool)

It looks more and more like Demichellis will be a backup, but if something falls through with Mangala he could put up another solid year in numbers.

I’ve mentioned Azpilicueta enough in this article for you to know what he’s about. Clichy is a real talent but unless he steps ahead of Kolarov, he could put up big zeroes for you on many weeks. Sagna has to do the impossible and usurp Zabaleta but injuries happen and Sagna could be one of the best in the game if he gets the chance.

There’s are a lot of cooks in the Tottenham kitchen. Dawson is the centre back I was expecting to start with Vertonghen, but instead they’re looking at bringing in another option. Rose’s chance of starting slipped with the arrival of Davies, but he can play further forward and can score the odd stunner.

Flanagan is a really good full back but Liverpool seems to love Johnson. Flanagan is the better player and could be really good for the value of all Liverpool defenders if he can get the nod at right back. Sakho looked out of it at times last year but he has a tip end pedigree meaning Rogers is likely to give him his chance, and if he grabs it he could be a solid fantasy option.


Solid Number Three’s: Fonte (Southampton), Caulker (QPR), Ward (Crystal Palace)

Fonte’s value will be detracted by the destruction of his team around him, otherwise I would look at him as a number two.

Caulker was awesome last year and QPR need a big centre back to stand up and be counted this season, and he should be that guy.

Ward showed talent last season and while I expect Palace struggle a little this season, I anticipate big things from him once again with assists covering any loss in defensive points.


Low end Number Three’s/Flex Plays: Johnson (Liverpool), Cameron (Stoke), Shawcross (Stoke), Pieters (Stoke), Bertrand (Southampton), Clyne (Southampton), Stones (Everton), Davies (Hull), Vlaar (Aston Villa), Janmaat (Newcastle), Williams (Swansea)

Johnson can get forward but his defensive ability worries me.

If Stones gets regular playing time, watch out.

If Stones gets regular playing time, watch out.

The stoke defence will be solid, so all three of those players should put up decent numbers.

Bertrand is likely to start at left back with Shaw gone,  and with Clyne will staying at right back, Southampton won’t be a complete disaster zone.

If Stones starts neither Everton or you will regret having him on your team, but he may need another year.

Davies is the man in charge at Hull and can score the odd goal as well.

Vlaar was quality in the World Cup but Villa have very little worth mentioning around him, so clean sheets will be hard to come by.

Janmaat, on the surface, appears to be a great signing for Newcastle, but they seem to be so unlucky with defensive injuries that I’m scared what they may have around him come Christmas.

Williams will lead like the warrior he is, but he needs a solid partner and to build a relationship with a new goalkeeper.


Flex Plays/Bench: Oviedo (Everton), Trippler (Burnley), Lescott (West Brom), Cresswell (West Ham), Delaney (Crystal Palace), Rosenior (Hull), O’Shea (Sunderland), Chico (Swansea), Rangel (Swansea), McAuley (West Brom), Olsson (West Brom), Demel (West Ham)


Defence is the most difficult position to predict as week to week they’re often  boom or bust based on clean sheets. The best tactic is to try and draft three or four guys who will play every week; one who plays for a defensively solid team and two who play for teams that don’t let in more than two goals regularly. After that it’s just a case of avoiding pitfalls and grabbing upside which is where the risk reward guys come in. They’re worth having on your bench just in case the guy ahead of them gets injured.



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