13 Rookie Defensive Linemen To Target In IDP Leagues
Much like the rookie linebackers I recently wrote about, there are some first-year defensive linemen that have found themselves in advantageous positions to produce in the 2016 fantasy season. In my second of three IDP rookie articles, I’ll look at this year's defensive line class. The DL spot is quickly becoming a position to target early because today’s teams are looking to pressure the QB more than ever, so I will let you in on which rushers to target for IDP success in re-draft and dynasty leagues.
Joey Bosa, DE, San Diego Chargers
There were some groans from us IDP’ers that Bosa landed in a 3-4 and would kick to OLB, but that doesn’t appear to be the case. Melvin Ingram and Jerry Attaochu are still listed as OLBs, while MyFantasyLeague has Bosa designated as a DE. I would’ve still preferred that he land on a team that runs a 4-3, but it looks like Bosa will slot in as the Chargers’ DE in base and subpackages.
Bosa’s sacks decreased in 2015, but he still generated 14 QB hurries and 16 tackles for a loss at his final season at Ohio State. He saw consistent double-teams as opposing offensive lines game planned for him, but back in 2014, Bosa produced 13.5 sacks and 21 tackles for a loss. He is pro-ready, so even though he’s in a 3-4, he’ll adapt thanks to his ability to get off the ball and push around offensive tackles.
Not only is Bosa a big-time pass rusher, but he’s also stout against the run. In re-draft leagues, Bosa should be a DL4 and will be a solid match-up play against weaker offensive lines. In dynasty leagues, he’ll be the top DL off the board.
DeForest Buckner, DE, San Francisco 49’ers
I thought Buckner would land in Baltimore, but the Bay isn’t bad either. With the 49ers’ lack of weapons on defense, Buckner will be atop the depth chart after he was immediately signed to a four-deal upon being the 7th overall pick.
As a 38-game starter, Buckner notched 18 sacks and 36 tackles for a loss and was a force for Oregon’s defense. He has an NFL-ready body, he’s flexible, and he can move his hips with fluidity. He will not stop until he hears the whistle or until he gets to the QB. He’s also a solid tackler and will be an asset in balanced or tackle-heavy formats after recording 164 tackles in 2014 and 2015.
Bucker is 6-foot-7 and has length that’s going help him reach success at the NFL level, and he has been compared to two-time Pro Bowler Calais Campbell. You could make an argument that Bucker should be taken ahead of Bosa.
Adolphus Washington, DE, Buffalo Bills
Mario Williams took his diminishing skills down to South Beach, leaving an opening on Buffalo’s defensive line. Washington projects as a five-tech and will line up opposite Kyle Williams in base with Marcel Dareus sandwiched between them.
We’ll see how Washington’s length and athleticism translate at the pro level. He does get off the ball quickly and moves fast on his feet, flustering offensive linemen. Washington’s ability to change direction will be advantageous. He’s a solid tackler, so he projects well in balanced and tackle-heavy formats after recording 97 tackles and 17.5 tackles for a loss in his last two seasons with Ohio State.
GM Doug Whaley has already stated that Washington will be the Week 1 starter. Not only will the rookie third-rounder line up opposite Williams in base, but he should also kick inside for sub packages. Washington should be one of the top three rookie linemen taken in drafts.
Jonathan Bullard, DE, Chicago Bears
Bullard is another three-tech defensive tackle (like Washington) that should end up kicking out to defensive end, and according to GM Ryan Pace, that’s exactly where Bullard will play. Bullard will line up opposite Akiem Hicks and should fill a need for the Bears at pass rusher.
Bullard is quick off the snap and his instincts help him get to where the ball is going. He is able to be very disruptive because he has great hands and can hit gaps. During his senior year at Florida, Bullard notched 66 tackles (17.5 for a loss), 6.5 sacks, and 6 hurries. Bullard’s bull rush is what will allow him to be a solid NFL pro.
To go along with his pass rush tenacity, Bullard is also a stout run defender, and there’s a lot to like about him, both this year and going forward. Pace views him as the team’s 3-4 end, so Bullard should be a starter from the beginning who will also get a chance in sub packages. I like Bullard as a top-five DL in dynasty leagues and as someone that can round out your roster in deeper re-draft leagues.
Noah Spence, DE, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Spence has battled drug issues in the past, but that didn’t keep the Buccaneers from taking him 39th overall in the 2nd round of the Draft. Spence dominated at Eastern Kentucky, winning first-team All-Big Ten honors showing he can withstand tough competition.
If Spence can keep out of trouble, there’s a chance he could be a double-digit sack specialist. He’s a solid athlete and plays with a relentless motor, and coaches will like that he doesn’t take plays off. He’s versatile in that he can play standing or with his hand in the dirt. He finished with 11.5 sacks and 22.5 tackles for a loss with EKU last year and the hope is he’ll continue that production in the pros. He projects as a rotational pass rusher and will likely share snaps with William Gholston. Keep an eye on training camp to see if Spence can carve out a starting role.
Defensive Tackle Leagues
If you play in leagues where defensive tackles are required, here are a few targets.
Sheldon Rankins, DT, New Orleans Saints
The Saints are shuffling their line around, and even with Nick Fairley in tow, Rankins has a chance to shine on the interior. A straight beast for Louisville in his junior and senior seasons, Rankins recorded 111 tackles (26.5 for a loss) and 14 sacks. He will be a starter and a three-down player from the get-go. It looks like he’ll be a DT2 in re-draft and one of the first tackles off the board in dynasty.
A’Shawn Robinson, DT, Detroit Lions
Robinson should be in the mix for snaps as Detroit tries to rebuild their interior defensive line. He won’t accumulate sacks, but should be a solid run-stuffer and accumulate tackles. He’s versatile enough to play both inside and outside, but looks ticketed for a role on the interior.
Kenny Clark, DT, Green Bay Packers
Unfortunately for Clark, he won’t be able to participate in OTAs until June, when UCLA’s academic year is over. He’ll be a bit behind, but that shouldn’t hold him back from establishing himself as an impact player. He should mainly be a target in dynasty leagues, as he has solid players both alongside and behind him, but he should get some tackles.
Bronson Kaufusi, DE, Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens know how to pick their defenders. Kaufusi has length, and in his 3.5 seasons at BYU, he notched 26.5 sacks and 44 tackles for a loss. He’s NFL-ready and has a chance to play this year, competing for snaps with Carl Davis, Matt Judon and Lawrence Guy. Keep Kaufisi on your radar not just in dynasty, but in re-draft formats as well.
Charles Tapper, DE, Dallas Cowboys
Dallas let Greg Hardy go in free agency and Demarcus Lawrence will serve a four-game suspension to start the season, so the team has a gaping hole on the line and a need for sacks. Tapper will slot in on the right side, and while he may not blossom until 2017, don’t sleep on him in 2016.
Robert Nkemdiche, DE, Arizona Cardinals
Nkemdiche could move up the depth charts as camp goes on, but as of now, he’ll battle for snaps as a rotational end. While he may not contribute in 2016, there’s a chance 2017 will be his time with Frostee Rucker becoming a free agent.
Javon Hargrave, DL, Pittsburgh Steelers
Hargrave had a good Combine but there are questions about the competition he faced while at South Carolina State. In his defense, he does have good instincts and plays until the whistle ends. He’ll have a chance to compete for significant snaps next year.
Jihad Ward, DE, Oakland Raiders
Ward has the versatility to the play both the edge and the interior. He has a chance to produce on a limited basis in 2016, but 2017 will be his chance to compete for a starting job and earn significant snaps.
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