When most people think about defensive stocks, they think dividend-paying, stable large caps. That's fine, but many mid-cap stocks -- defined as a market cap between $1 billion and $10 billion here -- offer the same characteristics without being as high-profile.

I ran the CAPS Screener to look for defensive stocks in the mid-cap universe. Specific search parameters I ran included:

  • Market capitalization between $1 billion and $10 billion.
  • CAPS rating of four or five stars (out of five).
  • Price-to-earnings positive and less than 15.
  • Long-term debt-to-equity ratio of 1 or less (manageable debt levels to deal with trouble).
  • Current dividend yield between 2.5% and 6% (a reasonable dividend provides price support and income, while a high dividend can be unsustainable or a sign of trouble).
  • Earnings growth greater than 5% over the past three years.
  • Beta -- a measure of volatility relative to the market -- less than 1.0.

The screen returned 15 stocks across a number of sectors, including the following seven. 

Company Name

Debt-to-Equity Ratio

Dividend Yield

Beta
(3-Year)

PE (TTM)

CAPS Rating (out of 5)

Sector

Cleco (NYSE: CNL)

1.00

3.2%

0.41

12.4

*****

Utilities
Hanover Insurance Group (NYSE: THG)

0.35

3.2%

0.46

14.4

****

Financial
j2 Global Communications (Nasdaq: JCOM)

0

2.6%

0.77

13.6

****

Technology
Mattel (Nasdaq: MAT)

0.39

3.5%

0.98

13.5

****

Consumer Goods
Molson Coors Brewing (NYSE: TAP)

0.24

3%

0.73

11.9

*****

Consumer Goods
Rent-A-Center (Nasdaq: RCII)

0.48

2.5%

0.83

10.7

****

Services
Teleflex (NYSE: TFX)

0.49

2.5

0.73

10.3

****

Health Care

*Source:  Motley Fool Stock Screener. As of Sept. 5.

These stocks represent a variety of sectors and business models, but all share strong balance sheets, good dividend yields, less than market volatility, reasonable valuations, and high ratings from our CAPS community. I also checked out dividend-payout ratios, and Mattel's ratio of 66% was the only one over 50%.

Don't forget the mid-cap world when exploring for stable, dividend paying stocks. There are plenty of quality stocks outside large-cap land, including some well-known names. As a bonus, smaller companies don't have the coverage of the big names, so there's a better chance of finding an underfollowed bargain.

Like any screen, these results should be considered a starting point for further research and not an outright buy recommendation.

You can follow any of the stocks mentioned here using our free watchlist service, My Watchlist.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.