2017 IDP Rankings Breakdown
My initial IDP rankings for the 2017 season have been released. These are by no means final; they'll be impacted by injuries and training camp battles throughout the offseason. Hopefully, these rankings will help establish a baseline and foundation for early drafters.
So, without further ado, the breakdown of my rankings and tiers within each position.
Tier 1 (1-5)
The linebacker position continues to undergo a transition to players with a more complete run and pass defense skill set at the expense of one-dimensional guys. NFL offenses are becoming more complex and airing out the ball downfield, which is forcing opposing defenses to run nickel packages more often, and finding LBs good enough to not leave the field on passing downs is key.
After missing seven games in 2016, I have Luke Kuechly returning to the top of the perch among linebackers in 2017. Kuechly was on pace for 170 tackles, thanks to a 17-percent tackle rate, before concussions ended his season. He'll still have those concerns in 2017, but you can't predict injuries, and there's no denying his production. He is the quarterback of the Panther defense and a tackle machine.
Bobby Wagner and Kwon Alexander are the next two in this tier. Wagner established a career-high in tackles with 168 on a 15.7-percent tackle rate thanks to the generous tackle scorers in Seattle -- 82 of those were assisted. Wagner provides big play upside and has posted 14 career sacks (4.5 in 2016). Alexander dominated opposing offenses to the tune of 108 solo tackles and has taken the torch from Lavonte David as the tackle machine of the Bucs defense. Alexander also established an elite 14.2-percent tackle rate in 1,023 snaps. If you don't get Kuechly, Wagner and Alexander are also fine LB1s.
Alec Ogletree and Navorro Bowman round out the first tier. If you happened to read last season's breakdown and rankings, you would've read how much I liked Ogletree coming off injury. He didn't disappoint, notching 98 solo tackles (136 total) while starting all 16 games. Bowman suffered a freak Achilles' injury which ended his season after four games, but was produced a 14.5-percent tackle rate in 252 snaps. He should be ready for 2017 and could return the best value in IDP -- his current MFL ADP has him being drafted as the 20th LB off the board.
Tier 2 (6-20)
This tier is represents about 14 other linebackers who can be drafted as your LB1. C.J. Mosley should return to form as the Ravens' top tackler after getting outproduced by breakout Zachary Orr. Orr retired in the offseason, so Mosley should have the majority of tackle opportunities to himself. Mosley still managed 92 tackles, but after averaging 134 tackles in his first two seasons, he saw a major dip thanks in 2016 to Orr. I'm anticipating a bounce back and Mosley's current ADP reflects that as well.
Zach Brown signed with Washington as a free agent and I don't see a reason why he shouldn't establish himself as a starter on the inside. Brown notched a career-high in tackles with 143, which led to an elite 14.6-percent tackle rate and should be able to continue his momentum in 2017.
Sean Lee has played in 29 of a possible 32 games over the last two seasons and has averaged 137 tackles and a 15.3-percent tackle rate.
If Ryan Shazier can put together a full season, he's one of my favorite LBs to finish in the top five. Lawrence Timmons left for South Beach and Shazier has the opportunity to lead the defense in tackles. In 1,438 career snaps, Shazier has recorded a 12.1-percent tackle rate and has the upside to hit the 14-percent mark this season.
Eric Kendricks is another LB I think will make a leap in 2017. He's established himself as Minnesota's every-down middle linebacker.
Lavonte David can still be an LB1, however, I'd feel more comfortable drafting him as your LB2.
Reuben Foster had some concerns about drug use and medicals, causing him to nearly fall out of the first round of the NFL draft. Apparently, he should be good to for 2017 and is going to be a strong tackler opposite Navorro Bowman. He should be the first rookie off the board in re-draft leagues.
I expected Denzell Perryman to make a leap in 2016, but it didn't happen. Instead, it was rookie Jatavis Brown who stole the show. Brown established himself as an every-down LB in Week 4 last season, but did miss some games due to injury. He did manage to produce a 13.3% tackle rate. I'm projecting him to be on the field for 900-plus snaps, so 120 total tackles is a real possibility.
Tier 3 (21-35)
The majority of this tier should be your group of second and third LBs. I expected Denzell Perryman to make a leap in 2016, but it didn't happen. Instead, it was rookie Jatavis Brown who stole the show. Brown established himself as an every-down LB in Week 4 last season, but did miss some games due to injury. He did manage to produce a 13.3% tackle rate. I'm projecting him to be on the field for 900-plus snaps, so 120 total tackles is a real possibility.
Vince Williams took advantage of his snaps last season and produced a 4:1 solo-to-assist tackle ratio and a 14.9-percent tackle rate in 268 snaps. He's going to slot into the ILB spot next to Ryan Shazier, so 900 snaps is likely this season. I'm expecting a slight regression in the tackle rate, but he's a solid LB2 target. Even a dip to 12-percent, still projects him to record 108 tackles.
The LB I'm targeting from this tier is Myles Jack. Jack only appeared in 239 snaps as a rookie, but he's moving to the middle and I'm expecting him to play every down. The writing is on the wall for Paul Posluszny, who has moved to the strong side and could come off the field in nickel packages.
Nigel Bradham is also someone who gets overlooked. He turned in a solid campaign with Philly, producing 98 tackles and two sacks.
Jerrell Freeman will be looking for his fifth campaign of 100-plus tackles in his last six seasons. Since 2012, he's recorded a 13.6-percent tackle rate on over 4,000 snaps. Danny Trevathan is expected to land on the PUP, so with just Nick Kwiatkoski alongside him, I'm expecting Freeman to swallow up a whole lot of tackle opportunities in the first six weeks of the season.
I like me some old-man value in this tier with Derrick Johnson. He's been a perennial top tier LB for the last few seasons and his current ADP shows he's being drafted as the 47th LB. I like that kind of value, as he's being drafted behind guys like Chandler Jones, Preston Brown, Denzell Perryman and Shaq Thompson. KC didn't address LB in the draft, only selecting Ukeme Eligwe in the fifth round. As long as Johnson is healthy and on the field, I don't doubt another 100-tackle campaign is in the cards.
I've got Jarrad Davis as my second rookie here. He's been named the MIKE linebacker in Detroit, so a three-down role is almost certain.
Tier 4 (36-50)
Here's where you'll find your sleepers and LB3/4 fillers if you're in deeper leagues. Thomas Davis is the bionic man. Since 2012, Davis has appeared in 78 of 80 games, while producing an 11.8-percent tackle rate and 105-plus tackles in each season.
B.J. Goodson is a second-year breakout candidate who should be start at middle linebacker. Goodson received just 13 defensive snaps last year and was mostly used on special teams. The Giants brass is really high on the kid heading into his sophomore campaign.
A.J. Klein signed with the Saints in the offseason, and he'll be entrenched at MIKE. Klein should be an LB4 target, as he's made some spot starts for Luke Kuechly over the last few seasons, posting an 11.5-percent tackle rate in 668 snaps. I'm still not sure what Stephone Anthony did to piss off the coaches in New Orleans. Anthony had promise, but after appearing in 990 snaps as a rookie, he received just 133 in 2016. I'm hoping Mike Nolan can use his influence to help the NO coaches realize Anthony is better than Klein.
Reggie Ragland missed his entire rookie year and he's going to be overlooked. He's close to being in the third tier, but there are still other guys I'll roll the dice on before him. The upside is there, however, especially with Zach Brown leaving to Washington. Ragland has been cleared to return from his ACL tear he suffered in training camp last year and appears ready to get snaps at middle linebacker.
Kamalei Correa should be on your target list. Zachary Orr retired, leaving the ILB spot opposite C.J. Mosley, and the Ravens are confident he'll win the job.
Sean Spence will likely be the starting ILB in Indianapolis. There's a hole with the departure of D'Qwell Jackson, and I think Spence could be the one who swallows up the opportunities. Spence managed a near-10-percent tackle rate on 504 snaps, so if he's able to hit the 1,000 mark and increase that rate to 11 or 12 percent, 110-plus tackles isn't out of the question. Edwin Jackson is another ILB with a shot at volume with Jackson gone, but I prefer Spence over Jackson.
Tier 5 (51-60)
Blake Martinez should be the starting ILB opposite Jake Ryan. Cory James intrigues me here. He started five games and produced a 10.4-percent tackle rate in 375 snaps. He should line up opposite Jelani Jenkins in their 3-4 base. Jenkins is another name to consider.
Update: Removed Preston Brown from ranks. I'm taking a stand on Brown and I just don't want him if he's playing SAM. Looking at current ADP, Brown is being drafted as an LB38, ahead of KJ Wright, Justin Houston, Devondre Campbell and Kevin Minter. That works for me, so let your leaguemates look at Brown's numbers from last season. Just smile and laugh to yourself if you're able to nab KJ Wright as an LB42.
I added Jaylon Smith. I like what I've been hearing about his availability for the season. I want to be ahead of my league on this guy.
Tier 1 (1-5)
I've got five ends who I consider elite and in the first tier. I think J.J. Watt will return to the top of the mountain this season, although I still don't like the fact he's dealing with back problems. Something was off as he produced just a 10-percent pressure rate in the first three weeks of last season.
Joey Bosa gets a big boost with San Diego transitioning to a base 4-3; he'll now play defensive end. At OLB as a rookie, Bosa produced nearly an 18-percent QB pressure rate and was an immediate disrupter. If he converts a few more pressure into sacks, he could flirt with 15 this season.
Carlos Dunlap has recorded 30 sacks in the last three seasons; double-digits this season is not out of the question. He also produces a solid amount of tackles, averaging 57 over last three seasons.
Tier 2 (6-20)
I've expanded this tier a bit, but most of the lineman in this tier can be considered DL1/2 depending on your league size and how many you start. Michael Bennett is the picture of consistency, but with his five missed games, he produced his lowest amount of sacks since 2011. He still generated a 14-percent pressure rate, and I'm projecting him to reach the double-digit mark in sacks.
I might be higher than most on DeForest Buckner. His sacks came in bunches, but still hard not to like his upside and a 7.3-percent tackle rate at the end position. Another plus is that he appeared in over 1,000 snaps as a rookie.
Calais Campbell finds himself on the southeast part of the country. In Jacksonville, he has a simple role: get to the ball carrier or QB. He'll be 31 once the season starts, but still provides a solid floor. Expect eight sacks and 60 tackles.
I think Jurrell Casey will make a jump to top-15 scoring DL this season. In 2016, he produced nearly a 12-percent QB pressure rate. If he can replicate the pressure rate, eight sacks is within reach.
Ezekiel Ansah is the guy I'm targeting in this tier. Let recency bias impact other drafters' thinking. Ansah recorded 30.5 sacks in his first three seasons, but it was reported he was dealing with injuries throughout last season. He has double-digit sack upside and is in the conversation as a top-5 DL.
I also like Noah Spence within this tier. I'd like to see Spence get more tackle opportunities, as he finished with just 23. He produced a 10.5-percent pressure rate and if he progresses to the next level in development, he could flirt with seven to eight sacks.
Tier 3 (21-35)
This tier is where you'll draft most of your DL2. I really like Frank Clark out of this tier. Clark generated nearly a 14-percent pressure rate, resulting in 10 sacks in 2016. Seattle's friendly scoring should also keep his tackle numbers up.
The first rookie, Myles Garrett, appears in this tier, as does sophomore lineman Emmanuel Ogbah. Ogbah makes the move from 3-4 OLB to 4-3 DE, which gives him more fantasy appeal; he's prime candidate for a breakout second season. Post bye-week, Ogbah had a strong finish, recording 2.5 sacks and 12 tackles in the last four games of the '16 season.
Robert Ayers was a disrupter, generating a 15-percent pressure rate. He would've hit the double-digit sack mark had he not missed four games. If you look at weeks 10-17, he was a stud.
Trey Flowers is another end who's poised for a breakout campaign. He managed a 10-percent QB pressure rate and also notched 45 tackles. Bill Belichick values his contributions against the run, so it's possible he hits the 60-tackle mark this season.
Even though the Cowboys drafted Taco Charlton, I don't have a problem taking flier on Benson Mayowa. I think the Cowboys liked what they saw out of him during the last five games of the season, where he produced four sacks and 15 tackles, including five for a loss. Target Mayowa as a DL3/4.
Tier 4 (36-45)
How the mighty have fallen. I had Aaron Donald as a Tier 2 DL in 2016, but his move from interior in a 4-3 base to an end in an new 3-4 has me off of him as a top DL. If I can get him as a DL4, I'm fine with that. Lorenzo Alexander moves to DE, but call me skeptical about a guy who only had nine career sacks leading up to the 2016 season, then all of the sudden exploded for 12.5 at age 33. I'll let someone else overpay.
A couple of DT-required league targets I like are Sheldon Rankins and Danny Shelton. Rankins enters his second season with a lot of promise after an injury-marred rookie campaign. Shelton gets the scheme-move bump, as he moves from a 3-4 nose to an interior tackle in a Gregg Williams's 4-3 base.
Tier 1 (1-5)
Landon Collins has emerged as my favorite DB and someone I'd even consider with one of my early IDP picks. I ranked Collins as my DB6 in 2015 and DB3 last season. Only one more place to go for him. He produces like an LB, because he basically is. He plays the near the box and makes up for the lack of play making LBs in the Giants' second level. Last season, he finished with 100 solos and has recorded a 10.8-percent tackle rate, which is elite for the DB position.
Even with Deion Jones in the fold, Keanu Neal still has the upside to finish among the top DBs. Neal finished with 104 tackles and also forced five fumbles -- he's a threat to steal the ball from the carrier.
Sorry, but I love Jamal Adams and have no issues with taking him as my DB1. As of this writing. MFL ADP has him the 6th DB taken. I like his situation playing behind average linebackers. I think he has a Landon Collins-type impact this season.
Tier 2 (6-15)
Jabrill Peppers is the second rookie to make the top 10. I love the opportunity Peppers has in front of him. He should slot in immediately at strong safety and Gregg Williams will use him all over the field. It wouldn't surprise me to see him second on the Browns in tackles. He'll also provide a points bonus in leagues that give return yards.
Jonathan Cyprien makes a move to a Titans team that has average linebacker play. He will have a chance to contribute right away. He cut down on his missed tackles and finished with 97 solo tackles last season. Since 2013, he has produced a 10.9-percent tackle rate and should reach his fifth straight campaign of 100-plus tackles.
Karl Joseph started in nine games as a rookie for the Raiders and produced a 10.1-percent tackle rate in 592 snaps. I'm expecting a big jump from him in 2017.
Antonie Bethea represents old-man value in this tier. Bethea still recorded 100 tackles in his age-32 season. Keep in mind he played most of the season behind a linebacking group missing Navorro Bowman. The Cardinals like their safety usage and it's not unreasonable to think Bethea could record 90 tackles.
The DB I'm targeting in this tier is Clayton Geathers. A neck injury forced him out in 2016, but in 560 snaps, he was producing a 10.4-percent tackle rate and was on pace for a 100-tackle season. With the Colts still weak at LB, Geathers is a candidate to play the S/LB hybrid role. Let's hope he can remain on the field, because with his role in the defense, he has upside to finish among the top DBs.
Tier 3 (16-29)
The DB position is so deep and volatile, the Tier 3 guys can be DB2 targets as well. You might be shaking your head at Eric Reid's ranking; yeah, Jacquiski Tartt is still in town, but I have a feeling San Francisco may want to see out of their fifth-year safety. Jimmie Ward could move back to CB and Reid could play more in the box.
I also like Jahleel Addae in this tier. In eight games, he produced a 6:1 solo-to-assist ratio and a 9.8-percent tackle rate. Had he played an entire season, he could've hit the 90-tackle mark. He plays well against the run and in coverage, so he should be on the field for every snap.
Tier 4 (30-35)
I'll be adding more DBs to the ranks, but so far, I like Su'a Cravens here. There's a possibility I move him up a few tiers. He's moved to SS and according to the Redskins, will be working out with Landon Collins and Ryan Clark. In 295 snaps in 2016, still managed to produce an 11.5-percent tackle rate. There's a lot to like about this kid.
Two guys I could be adding to the rankings who you should keep your eye on: Xavier Woods and Kavon Frazier. The Cowboys lost Barry Church to the Jaguars, and even though Jeff Heath is slated to start at SS, Woods and Frazier could provide some competition. Frazier was dealing with a stress fracture in his foot last season. Woods has athleticism and speed, but is a bit small with some girth to him. Woods is a ball hawk, producing 14 INTs in three seasons. He's also a good tackler.