Fantasy: The Top 20 defenders for 2018

Reid, Mike and Blayne sit down with Tim and Parker to talk about all things Eastern Conference. Before the previews start, they also have a good discussion about the new player auto-switch system. Is it good for casual players or bad? Listen to find out. They wrap up with a preview of every Eastern Conference team. IT’s a little longer than before, but Tim and Parker have a lot of great info!


For the past two MLS Fantasy seasons, we’ve seen changes to how defenders earned points. In 2018, I’m happy to say that nothing has changed, and we can start being more confident is our expectations for point generation. To determine my rankings, I looked at 2017 points per 90 minutes played, and three of the stats that are most closely related to players with top scores: minutes played, clean sheets and recoveries.

Totally Worth It

Player Team Price
1. Ike Opara SKC $6.0
2. Justin Morrow TOR $6.0
3. Leandro Gonzalez Pirez ATL $6.0
4. Graham Zusi SKC $6.0
5. Matt Besler SKC $6.0

​Six million dollars is the most you’ll pay at the start of the season for a defender, and every player in my top five is worth it. While some may think three players from a single team in that field is ridiculous, Sporting Kansas City had the best defense in 2017 by far! Opara is a beast in every point generating category and tops my list going into 2017. Morrow and Zusi are two of the top wingbacks in the league and Zusi would have been a top-ten defender had he been categorized correctly. Besler rounds out the list mostly due to his age.

Gonzalez Pirez at No. 3 may seem low for 2017’s top point-earning defender, but hear me out. Atlanta United had a sweetheart schedule at the end of 2017 and all those home games helped their fantasy defenders perform better than expected goals numbers would suggest. Still, this late season production was not enough to give him a top five points per 90.

Almost Perfect

Matt Hedges, left, and Walker Zimmerman playing last March when they were FC Dallas teammates | USA Today Sports Images

Player Team Price
6. Walker Zimmerman LAFC $5.5
7. Johan Kappelhof CHI $5.5
8. Alexander Callens NYC $5.5
9. Roman Torres SEA $5.5
10. Matt Hedges DAL $5.5
11. Justen Glad RSL $5.5
12. Kendal Waston VAN $6.0

If you’re not willing to pay the full six million for a defender, but still want someone of quality, this is a good group to start with. Each of these players has a history of solid defensive performances but also at least one downside. The most common, as in the case for Kappelhof, is that their 2017 points were too dependent on clean sheets. This stat is just too inconsistent. You also have some players, like Torres, who are getting older or had inconsistency issues like Hedges in 2017. That may make a fantasy manager pause to see a see some results before investing even $5.5 million.

Budget Options

New York Red Bulls' defender Kemar Lawrence | USA Today Sports Images

Player Team Price
13. Daniel Steres LA $4.5
14. Aaron Long NY $5.0
15. Kemar Lawrence NY $5.0
16. Grant Lillard CHI $5.0

Some people only like to use the term “budget” when you find a player who is $4.5 million or less, but I think that a $5 million player is also worthy of this consideration. These players are often boom or bust, new, backups or part of a questionable defense. Inevitably several also become starters and that can go a long way to helping you have a useful bench.

You can also look to D.C. United and Orlando City SC for some additional budget options, but these are four of my current favorites.

Promising Newcomers

Player Team Price
17. Gregory van der Wiel TOR $5.5
18. Anton Tinnerholm NYC $5.0
19. Julio Cascante POR $5.5
20. Milton Valenzuela CLB $5.0

It’s hard to guess how new players will adapt to the league, or how team form/communication will react to their addition of a new player. New arrivals usually have lower prices, though, and that’s a bonus for starting defenders. These final four new players have an excellent change at being starters and could score points above what their price range may imply.

These are my top defender picks for the start of the 2018 season. Is there anyone you think should be here? If so, share your favorites in the comments below.

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