8 Breakout Defensive Linemen to Target in IDP Leagues
It's easy to tell everyone to draft JJ Watt or Aaron Donald for your IDP squad. It's when you progress in the draft that you need to identify those mid-to-late round sleepers and breakouts that can boost your squad over the rest of the league. I like to look for defenders that are set to take on more playing time in the way or more snaps, subpackage roles, and pressure rate. I look at 10 defensive linemen candidates that are primed for a break-out year.
Brandon Williams, DT, Baltimore Ravens
Williams is entering his fourth-year as Baltimore’s interior defensive linemen. He’s entering his contract year, so he has something to play for if he’s not given an extension before the season kicks off. He’s coming off a dominant 2015 and he’s on track to do bigger things in 2016.
Williams is shaping up to be a target in defensive-tackle leagues. Williams produced a near six-percent pressure rate, which resulted in two sacks in 2015, however, he’ll be an asset in tackle heavy formats. Williams produced a decent 7.3-percent tackle and notched 53 total tackles, which are decent numbers for an interior linemen. Williams is a border-line DT1 in DT-required leagues and is going overlooked in most drafts.
Danielle Hunter, DE, Minnesota Vikings
Hunter is one of my favorite break-out targets heading into 2016. In his rookie year, he had a situational role and outplayed incumbent Brian Robison. Hunter, even though he’s listed as the 3rd DE, should earn the starting job opposite Everson Griffen in 2016.
Hunter appeared in 392 defensive snaps and I really liked his metrics. Hunter produced a near 13-percent QB pressure rate, converting 16-percent of those pressures into sacks, leading to six QB takedowns, out producing Robison in all facets. I have him ranked as a DL36 and he’s safe to target as your 3rd DL in most formats.
Leonard Williams, DE, New York Jets
Williams is an interesting situation to begin the season. Sheldon Richardson is going to miss Week 1 and Muhammad Wilkerson’s contract situation as him pontificating a holdout. Williams had a big rookie year and there’s no reason to think he can’t improve in year two, as he’s feeling more comfortable in the defense and knows the playbook.
By all accounts, Williams had a huge year as a rookie and I don’t think he’s even hit is ceiling yet. Williams started in 15 games and appeared in 807 defensive snaps and produced a near 11-percent QB pressure rate. He’s shaping up to a decent DL2 in tackle heavy formats and if he can improve his sack conversion rate, there’s DL1 upside this year.
Ra’Sheed Hageman, DE, Atlanta Falcons
Hagemeann is entering his third year and is shifting outside in their base this season. His role in subpackages isn’t clear, however, he could kick inside. He’ll be playing opposite Adrian Clayborn and Vic Beasley will be moving to SAM, so hopefully, opposing defenses will pay attention to those two, allowing Hageman to get clean pressure.
Hopefully, this shift outside can boost his career, however, playing the interior you can’t count on or expect sacks (two in his first two seasons). Last season, playing inside, Hageman registered a near 10-percent QB pressure rate, so that’s something in his favor as he looks to get consistent pressure on the QB. He can be had for free in most drafts and rounds out as a DL5.
Arik Armstead, DE, San Francisco 49’ers
I’m really looking forward to watching Armstead’s growth this year, as I think he’s in for a big year. He was raw entering his rookie year and got some experience. He’s powerful and he’s now paired with his former teammate, DeForest Buckner. Armstead is entering the year projected as a starter.
Armstead logged 375 snaps over 16 games. He produced a 16-percent QB pressure rate, converting two pressures into sacks. I like him as target in big play scoring formats, where there’s a de-emphasis on tackles, as it looks like he could be unleashed this season.
Mario Edwards, DE, Oakland Raiders
Edwards is entering his second year with some question marks surrounding his health. He was dealing with a pretty scary neck injury that was close to career threatening. Good news is that he was cleared to play back in May and was participating in OTAs (more good news). Edwards had a solid rookie year and is looking build on that heading into 2016.
Edwards logged nearly 600 defensive snaps and looks to be the starting end and could kick inside in subpackages. Of all the Raider defensive linemen, he produced the most consistent pressure, getting to the QB on 8.3-percent of his rushes, which led to 2.5 sacks. He should be a solid player in tackle heavy formats, producing a near seven-percent tackle rate. I like Edwards as bench depth and I’m projecting 6-8 sacks this season.
Malcom Brown, DT, New England Patriots
Brown has the talent to emerge as one of the elite interior linemen in the league, and with the Pats jettisoning Dominique Easley, Brown has a chance to bust through that door. He’ll be paired with Terrance Knighton on the inside, and with opposing defenses focusing on Jabaal Sheard and even Rob Ninkovich, Brown can thrive this year as a key cog of the defense.
From Week 10 on, Brown appeared in more than 50-percent of the defensive snaps, recorded two sacks and notched four or more tackles in four of those games. Brown will be DT2 target in defensive tackle required leagues, producing a near 10-percent tackle rate on 506 defensive snaps.
Xavier Cooper, DE, Cleveland Browns
Cooper is going to slot in as starter now that Desmond Bryant appears to be lost for the season with a torn pectoral. The Browns did draft Carl Nassib to help with the pass rush. Cooper is in line to receive the first opportunity for snaps.
Cooper appeared in 363 defensive snaps as a rookie and recorded 1.5 sacks and 19 tackles in limited time on the field. If Cooper can carve out a role on the defensive line, he could get those pass rush opportunities, and in IDP, it's all about the opportunities and not necessarily talent.