Unless you own one of the studs, the defensive lineman position is by far the most unappealing in all of fantasy football. We still need to show them some love, so we take a look at historical data for the DL’s.
Chances are most fantasy owners carry one or zero DL backups. As a result, linemen need to qualify no lower than a DL#3 in order to be roster-able. I gave four players who had an average rank between 49-59 DL#3 status. They were Carlos Dunlap, Jason Jones, Chris Long, and the late Gaines Adams. These guys were closer to the 48th ranked rookie lineman as opposed to the next best rookie lineman (ranked 68th). Cut them some slack; lineman need all the help they can get.
Click the link below to the Excel report.
>>> Rookie DL Production <<<
Percentages for a 16-team league, starting 2 DLs
“Starters” were players ranked in the Top 32 at the end of the season.
“Backups” were players worthy of contributing to your fantasy team in a limited capacity.
“Rosterable” were players worthy of belonging on a fantasy roster.
“Minimal Contribution” were players on waivers who could be useful in case of emergencies (ex: injuries, byes, poor match-up).
“No Contribution” were players who could be found on waivers.
Rookie Production, 2010: 47 Defensive Linemen
2% chance of drafting a starter (1 player)
- 2% chance of drafting a DL#1 (1 player)
- 0% chance of drafting a DL#2 (0 players)
6% chance of drafting a backup (3 players)
6% chance of minimal contribution in rookie season (3 players)
85% chance of no contribution in rookie season (40 players)
Rookie Production, 2006 – 2010: 203 Defensive Linemen
2% chance of drafting a starter (4 players)
- 1% chance of drafting a DL#1 (2 players)
- 1% chance of drafting a DL#2 (2 players)
3% chance of drafting a backup (7 players)
9% chance of minimal contribution in rookie season (19 players)
85% chance of no contribution in rookie season (173 players)
Defensive Linemen drafted in the first round, 2006 – 2010: 34
9% chance of drafting a starter (3 players)
- 6% chance of drafting a DL#1 (2 players)
- 3% chance of drafting a DL#2 (1 player)
12% chance of drafting a backup (4 players)
18% chance of minimal contribution in rookie season (6 players)
62% chance of no contribution in rookie season (21 players)
Defensive Linemen drafted after the first round, 2006 – 2009: 169
1% chance of drafting a starter (1 player)
- 0% chance of drafting a DL#1 (0 players)
- 1% chance of drafting a DL#2 (1 player)
2% chance of drafting a backup (3 players)
8% chance of minimal contribution in rookie season (13 players)
90% chance of no contribution in rookie season (152 players)
The 2010 foursome of Ndamu(King)Kong Suh, Lamarr Houston, Jason Pierre-Paul, and Carlos Dunlap led the best rookie class since 2006’s Tambi Hali, Mark Anderson, Mathias Kiwanuka, and Mario Williams. In between, 2007-09 was terrible for rookie linemen, which killed the overall percentages.
Speaking of Mark Anderson, what was more improbable, a fifth round rookie DL becoming a fantasy starter or his disappearance from football relevance?
Some gigantic first round rookie busts over the past five years: Vernon Gholston, Derrick Harvey, Jamaal Anderson, Aaron Maybin, Derrick Morgan, Jarvis Moss, and Lawrence Jackson.
The New York Jets drafted two defensive linemen in the past five years, which is the fewest in the NFL. Three teams tied for the most with 10, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, St. Louis Rams, and Cincinnati Bengals.
Rookie Production, 2010, ProFootballFocus Premium Stats Highlights:
“The goal of our detailed grading process is to gauge how players execute their roles over the course of a game by looking at the performance of each individual on each play.” Click here for more on the grading process.
Ndamukong Suh DET: 16 GP, 997 snaps (ranked #1 for players who qualify at DT/NT), 6 “plus” games, 6 “even” games, 4 “minus” games, 27th rated Interior Lineman by PFF.
Not all those snaps came from the inside. Detroit coaches positioned him all over the line similar to what the New York Giants do with Justin Tuck. He received 45 snaps at End or Linebacker, which comes out to approximately 3 snaps per game. His overall PFF rating wasn’t anything special, but his final stats were tremendous (48 Solos, 17 Assists, 10 Sacks, 1 FR, 1 FF, 1 Int, 3 PD, 1 TD). He’s a fixture on the Lions’ line for the next decade, and he should be drafted as a fantasy starter.
Lamarr Houston OAK: 16 GP, 697 4-3 DE snaps (ranked #21), 4 “plus” games, 9 “even” games, 3 “minus” games, 26th rated 4-3 DE by PFF.
The Raiders already had a good-looking D-line with Richard Seymour, Tommy Kelly, and Matt Shaughnessy. Lamarr Houston quietly stepped into the mixed and had a very productive season. All four guys received a ton of snaps in 2010 (Kelly 859, Shaughnessy 649, Seymour 642). Houston is an ideal DL to target with one of your last Re-Draft draft picks if you miss out on the studs.
Brandon Graham: 13 GP, 482 4-3 DE snaps (ranked #40), 4 “plus” games, 8 “even” games, 1 “minus” game, 30th rated 4-3 DE by PFF.
Graham finished his year strong. In his last six games, he had four “plus” games and two “even” games. Unfortunately, a blown ACL in Week 14 ended his season early, and all signs point to Graham missing the beginning of 2011. He is a major risk for redraft leagues, but still a wise investment for Dynasty purposes.
Carlos Dunlap CIN: 12 GP, 287 4-3 DE snaps (ranked #63), 4 “plus” games, 7 “even” games, 1 “minus” game, 29th rated 4-3 DE by PFF.
Greg Hardy CAR: 15 GP, 395 4-3 DE snaps (ranked #49), 5 “plus” games, 7 “even” games, 3 “minus” games, 33rd rated 4-3 DE by PFF.
Jason Pierre-Paul NYG: 16 GP, 406 4-3 DE snaps (ranked #47), 4 “plus” games, 9 “even” games, 3 “minus” games, 39th rated 4-3 DE by PFF.
These three guys play for teams with decent-to-solid line depth, which will surely cap their snap potential. Like Houston, these players are good acquisitions late in your draft. Some owners will overdraft Dunlap, so don’t be bummed out when it happens. Second/third-tier DL’s are not worth the reach.
Defensive Linemen drafted in 2011: 42 (player, position, team, round drafted)
Adrian Clayborn DE TBB (1), Cameron Heyward DE PIT (1), Cameron Jordan DE NOS (1), Corey Liuget DT SDC (1), J.J. Watt DE HOU (1), Marcell Dareus DT BUF (1), Muhammad Wilkerson DE NYJ (1), Nick Fairley DT DET (1), Phil Taylor DT CLE (1), Robert Quinn DE STL (1), Da’Quan Bowers DE TBB (2), Jabaal Sheard DE CLE (2), Jarvis Jenkins DT WAS (2), Marvin Austin DT NYG (2), Stephen Paea DT CHI (2), Allen Bailey DE KCC (3), Drake Nevis DT IND (3), Jurrell Casey DT TEN (3), Kenrick Ellis DT NYJ (3), Sione Fua DT CAR (3), Terrell McClain DT CAR (3), Christian Ballard DT MIN (4), Sam Acho DE ARI (4), Karl Klug DE TEN (5), Pernell McPhee DE BAL (5), David Carter DT ARI (6), Jerrell Powe DT KCC (6), Markell Carter DE NEP (6), Rick Elmore DE GBP (6), Bruce Miller DE SFO (7), Cheta Ozougwu DE HOU (7), Christopher Neild DT WAS (7), Cliff Matthews DE ATL (7), De’Aundre Reed DE MIN (7), Frank Kearse DT MIA (7), Greg Romeus DE NOS (7), Jeremy Beal DE DEN (7), Lawrence Guy DT GBP (7), Lazarius Levingston DE SEA (7), Markus White DE WAS (7), MIchael Jasper DT BUF (7), Zach Clayton DT TEN (7)
If you’re superstitious, draft Robert Quinn. He wore number 42 in college and was given number 42 for the combine (57 invites, alphabetically 42). Forty-two linemen were drafted in 2011. He can’t wear 42 in the pros, but how about 42 solo tackles in 2011? Add the solos with some sacks and it would make for a nice rookie season. Adrian Clayborn and Cameron Jordan are the next likely to produce meaningful stats in their rookie season. None of the linemen selected after the first round should be drafted unless you have lots of roster room in Dynasty leagues.
Other articles in the Rookie Production series:
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