Seven IDP prospects changing schemes in 2012
Mario Williams stole headlines when he signed a six-year, $96 million contract with the Bills this past offseason. But he won’t be the only defensive player that will have to adjust to a new city and a new scheme in 2012.
Below are seven IDP prospects that will be changing uniforms and/or schemes for the upcoming season, and what you can expect in terms of their production.
Mario Williams, DE, Bills
The Bills plan to use Williams primarily as their left defensive end, which benefits fantasy owners in a couple of ways. Offenses prefer to run the ball to the right and with Williams playing on that side, he could set a career high in tackles this season. He also won’t have to worry about dropping into coverage after GM Buddy Nix stated that the Bills have no interest in using him as an outside linebacker. Thus, he can concentrate on rushing the quarterback, which obviously increases his chances to rack up sacks. But the key to whether or not Williams posts monster numbers this season depends on Chris Kelsay and Mark Anderson’s ability to create pressure from the right end position. If the same Anderson that was so effective last year in New England shows up in Buffalo, then Williams will be worth the investment for fantasy owners. If all offenses have to do is double Williams to neutralize Buffalo’s pass rush then “Super Mario’s” numbers will look rather average come December.
Roman Harper, S, Saints
Harper racked up 95 tackles and 7.5 sacks last year, which is why he’s often ranked in the top 5 when it comes to defensive back IDP rankings. But Gregg Williams is no longer in New Orleans and neither is his aggressive (and often reckless) playcalling. New defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo also likes to bring the heat but he mostly relies on his front four to pressure the quarterback. Thus, Harper could see his sack number plummet this year as Spags plays primarily zone in the secondary. Granted, Harper could see a slight increase in his pass deflection numbers but his IDP worth was tied to his ability to provide sacks. With his blitz opportunities limited under Spags, there will be safer options than Harper when it comes to filling the IDP position this year.
Mark Barron, S, Buccaneers
Drafting rookies is usually a losing proposition for fantasy owners. They’re production is unpredictable and their opportunities are often limited as coaches try not to rush their development. But if you’re searching for a rookie that could make an impact from Day 1, look no farther than Barron. The great thing about defensive players who played for Nick Saban at Alabama is that they’re usually NFL-ready. Barron, who will play strong safety in Tampa, is no exception. He’s a candidate to rack up 100-plus tackles playing behind the Buccaneers’ weak front seven and seeing as how his coverage skills are better than average, he should chip in a few interceptions as well. While New England’s Chandler Jones and New York’s Quinton Coples are intriguing prospects, it doesn’t get better than Barron when it comes to rookie IDP targets.
Sean Weatherspoon, LB, Falcons
Weatherspoon put himself on the map last year while racking up 115 tackles, four sacks, and one forced fumble, which is impressive considering he played in Mike Smith and Brian VanGorder’s conservative scheme. Now that Mike Nolan has replaced VanGorder as defensive coordinator, Weatherspoon could be in store for a huge season. ‘Spoon will remain on the outside when the Falcons line up in their 4-3 front but will shift inside when the gets into its nickel defense (which will be often now that Nolan is the coordinator and following the trade for Asante Samuel). That means he’ll have plenty of opportunities to not only rack up 100-plus tackles again, but also post higher interception and pass defense numbers as well. If Nolan also turns him loose on blitzes, Weatherspoon could be an IDP sleeper.
Chris Long, DE, Rams
Long is already on the radar of IDP owners because he set a career high with 13 sacks in 2011 and has seen his sack total rise in each of his last four seasons. But Long becomes even more intriguing when his new head coach comes out and says that he wants his defense to break the NFL sack record this season. With Jeff Fisher now in St. Louis, there’s absolutely no reason to believe that Long’s sack numbers will dip in 2012. Granted, Fisher does emphasize stopping the run more than former head coach Steve Spagnuolo. But with monsters Kendall Langford and Michael Brockers taking up space in the middle and tackling machine James Laurinaitis manning the MIKE position, Fisher has plenty of run-stuffers on his defense. Long will once again be able to do what he does best, which is zeroing in on the quarterback and providing the Rams with a consistent pass rush.
Brandon Carr, CB, Cowboys
Carr won’t have much trouble transitioning from Romeo Crennel’s scheme to Rob Ryan’s defense but it’s doubtful he’ll be worth a look in IDP leagues. His tackling numbers have dropped each year he’s been in the league and while he’s coming off a season in which he posted a career-high in interceptions with four, he isn’t likely to see a lot of passes fly his way if rookie Morris Claiborne is manning the other side. Claiborne is a talented prospect but veteran quarterbacks aren’t going to shy away from throwing to the kid’s side, at least not until he proves that he belongs in the starting lineup.
Curtis Lofton, MLB, Saints
Don’t expect a dip in production from Lofton, who joins the Saints after four years in Atlanta. Lofton remains a solid tackler capable of matching the 147 takedowns that he produced in 2011. He gets knocked for his pass coverage skills but that area of his game has improved dramatically since entering the league in 2008. He’ll never post more than two sacks or two interceptions in a given year but for leagues that award one point per tackle, you can do much worse than Lofton, who has never missed a game in his four-year career.