Top 5 Rookie Defensive Linemen to Target in IDP Leagues
While it's been almost a month since the NFL Draft, positions and spots on the depth chart are already starting to shake out. For those following the defensive side of the ball, a few big names dropped out of the first round, but many of the defenders found themselves in positions to produce right away, or at the very least, have a chance for that opportunity.
In the third of three IDP rookie articles, I will look at the defensive line class of 2015. I will let you know which of these rushers you should target for IDP success in redraft and dynasty leagues.
1. Vic Beasley, DE/OLB, Atlanta Falcons: Beasley is another hybrid whose IDP fate is in the hands of his position designation. The Falcons, another team starved for edge rushers, definitely got their guy, however, it's up in the air as to whether he'll play OLB or DE (which would be better for his 2015 IDP success). Not only will he benefit from snaps from the outset, but will get to learn from one of the best defensive minds in Dan Quinn. Now, there's speculation he'll play SAM and rush from the edge, but I'm not buying it for now. I do think he's going to play the end position. Keep an eye on the offseason movement and news. The Falcons website lists him as an OLB, but I want to see where he lines up.
Beasley finished his career as Clemson's all-time sack leader and was also a disrupter in opponents’ backfield, contributing 52 tackles for a loss. He has plus speed and moves thanks to a great first step. In addition to his sacks, he produced 29 pressures and 11 defended passes, so he knows how to get his hands up if he can get to the QB. In reading between the lines from the Atlanta Journal Constitution, like Fowler, he'll man the Leo and will be given the task to pressure the likes of Drew Brees and Cam Newton.
4for4 initial projection: 40 tackles/8.5 sacks/8 tackles for loss
2. Leonard Williams, DE, New York Jets: Williams fell to the Jets at 6th overall and they have now assembled one of the most formidable defensive lines in the AFC. Even though Williams lands on a team with Sheldon Richardson and Muhammad Wilkerson, the Jets didn't use a first round pick to have him sit. He'll be heavily used in the rotation and should see plenty of time opposite Wilkerson. He could also shift inside on some assignments. The only thing you'll want to monitor is his shoulder, as it's been a bit of a problem.
Williams was a beast in his 2014 season for USC, compiling 80 tackles (9.5 for a loss) and seven sacks. He has everything a defensive coordinator could want in a linemen; length, athleticism and pure power. He's as versatile as they come, as he's lined up everywhere on the defense and can play wherever he's needed. Once he starts moving, he's a downhill boulder that can't be stopped and hits gaps with his plus moves. He can be safely targeted in both redraft and dynasty leagues in 2015.
4for4 initial projection: 55 tackles/7 sacks/6 tackles for loss
3. Owa Odighizuwa, DE, New York Giants: He'll have a chance to compete for the outside spot opposite Jason Pierre-Paul this training camp. Even though Robert Ayers improved as a pass rusher, he's coming off a horrible pectoral injury. JPP hasn't been the pinnacle of health either. JPP is not participating in volunteer workouts, so Owa has a chance to shine this off-season.
Odighizuwa is lean and bounced back from a lost 2013 season to produce six sacks and 11 tackles for loss in 2014. He's a strong and deceptively quick rusher for his size and strong at the attack point in part to his quick hands. He'll need to improve on the edge, but I think Steve Spagnuolo will coach him up. I do think he'll be given the chance to play and contribute as a pass rusher. I don't think it was abilities that caused him to slide. I look at him as a sleeper DL3/4 in redraft leagues, but don't be afraid to bolster your DL depth in dynasty leagues and rookie drafts with him.
4for4initial projection: 34 tackles/6.5 sacks/6 tackles for loss
4. Mario Edwards, DE, Oakland Raiders: Outside of Justin Tuck, the Raiders have no one that can get to the QB, which is why they made Edwards the 35th pick overall. He is joining a young, up and coming defense that saw quick success with Khalil Mack and a rising Sio Moore. He'll get work with a solid defensive mind in Jack Del Rio and contribute to a defense that managed just 22 sacks last season.
Edwards can play in either a 3-4 or 4-3, so the landing spot in Oakland isn't a concern, as Oakland should continue to run multiple fronts. He's a versatile defender and finished his FSU career with 23 tackles for a loss and eight sacks. His upper body strength will prove useful against opposing tackles and can toss them aside. He'll need to be coached up, as he has the tendency to lollygag and not give it 100%. I look at him as bench depth right now and someone who could be had on waivers for depth. If he shows a strong camp, he'll be draftable at the tail end of deeper leagues. Keep him on your watch lists.
4fo4 initial projection: 41 tackles/6.5 sacks/8 tackles for loss
5. Randy Gregory, DE/OLB, Dallas Cowboys: I am adding him here since his position designation is still up in the air. If he's listed as DE, then he gets the green light. The Cowboys couldn't pass him up at 60th overall amid the character concerns. Gregory was a top-10 prospect, but his knuckle-headedness caused him to drop. He'll join a defensive line of DeMarcus Lawrence and Greg Hardy, who is set to miss 10 games. For 2015, Gregory is in a decent spot to produce quickly. What I like already is that he's requested structures in his contract to help keep him out of trouble.
He finished his 2014 season with seven sacks, despite missing two games, totalling 67 yards in losses. He also contributed 10 tackles for loss and 16 QB hurries. He's a competitor on the line when it comes to getting to the QB and stopping the run and can chase ball-carriers on the edge. The Cowobys got a steal, and Gregory provides an immediate upgrade over Jeremy Mincey. He's raw, but his physical stature will help. His IDP value hinges on his position designation. If he's a DE, I'd target him as a DL3 with DL2 upside. If he gets the LB tag, he'll only have value in deeper, big play scoring formats.
4for4 initial projection: 45 tackles/8.5 sacks/9 tackles for loss
Dante Fowler, OLB/DE, Jacksonville Jaguars: Fowler to the Jags was a bit of surprise, considering their need for offensive weapons to contribute to the growth of Blake Bortles. As an IDP guy, I couldn't be more thrilled with Fowler's landing spot. The concern for Fowler was his IDP designation as either an OLB or DE. Those questions were answered when DL coach, Todd Walsh, said he was going to be their 'Leo' defensive end and let him thrive in one position. However, the Jags luck turned tragic, when during 11-on-11 drills, Fowler tore his ACL and was deemed out for the year. It's a tough blow for a Jags defense that's desperate for a pass rush.
Fowler was a beast at Florida, compiling 15 tackles for a loss and 17 QB hurries, converting 8.5 for sacks. While he still could be considered raw, he has great length and has great moves. His versatility is an asset, but it's good to know he'll stick at one position. However, for redraft leaguers, he can be safely avoided as it appears he's missing the entire 2015 season. For those in dynasty leagues, Fowler could fall because of the injury, so grab him and place him on your taxi squad/injured reserve, hope his rehab goes well and he's able to return in 2016 at 100%.
For those in leagues where Defensive Tackles are required, here are some targets:
1. Malcom Brown, New England Patriots
2. Michael Bennett, Jacksonville Jaguars (if he carves out a role)
3. Eddie Goldman, Chicago Bears
4. Danny Shelton, Cleveland Browns
5. Grady Jarrett, Atlanta Falcons (deeper leagues stash)
Let me know your thoughts on these guys or if you have questions on any other linemen, follow me on Twitter @Mike_Woellert. Always up for talking IDP.