Fantasy draft season is beginning to heat up and training camp battles are getting underway across the NFL. As we learn which linebackers are taking nickel snaps and what rookies are getting first team reps, I’ve gathered the collective opinions of the PFF IDP Fantasy staff to help you know who to target and who to avoid for your 2012 season.
On a positional basis the IDP team has voted for their favorite stud at each position, as well as a creeper (a good player expect to improve slightly), a sleeper and a someone who they feel is being over-drafted or will be a bust. Our selections are based on a balanced IDP scoring system, as used in the PFF IDP Projections and the IDP ADP data from the #Mocking One Out draftmaster series.
|Jeff||Ndamukong Suh||Marcell Dareus||Fletcher Cox||Gerald McCoy|
|Ross||Haloti Ngata||Marcell Dareus||Kyle Williams||Ndamukong Suh|
|Mike W||Ahtyba Rubin||Gerald McCoy||Sione Puha||Ndamukong Suh|
|Daniel C||Geno Atkins||Jason Jones||Jurrell Casey||Vince Wilfork|
|Nate||Geno Atkins||Jurrell Casey||Terrence Cody||Tommy Kelly|
|Kevin||Haloti Ngata||Marcell Dareus||Gerald McCoy||Ndamukong Suh|
|Eric||Geno Atkins||Marcell Dareus||Kyle Williams||Ndamukong Suh|
|Brian G||Ahtyba Rubin||Nick Fairly||Marcell Dareus||Vince Wilfork|
|Matt||Haloti Ngata||Marcell Dareus||Kyle Williams||Ndamukong Suh|
Last year the clear trend was for Ndamukong Suh (DT1) to be the stud selection, but a year on after seeing his sack total drop from ten to four, the confidence in making him the unquestioned #1 defensive tackle has waned. Only Jeff Ratcliffe feels confident enough to name Suh as his stud, while five of the nine staffers rank him as being over-drafted. The problem with drafting Suh in redraft leagues is that he is often taken on average in the 13th round, a full four rounds before the second DT off the board (Haloti Ngata). While we don’t have a bad word to say about Suh as he’s still a top IDP asset, value based drafting says it’s a bad move to take him so early in your draft when there is legit scoring talent elsewhere.
One player that the staff has high hopes is Geno Atkins (DT5) who was PFF’s second best graded NT/DT last year at +29.3. Atkins was an excellent pass-rusher last season, leading all DTs in sacks (8), hits (15) and hurries (26) and will look to build on that again in 2012 in his third pro season. Marcell Dareus (DT3) also won mentions from five staffers, including a duel selection from IDP Editors, Miles and Ratcliffe. Dareus was quietly productive last season (six sacks, thirty-one pressures, forty-two total tackles) and will be asked to play more D-End this year. The Bills D-Line will also be bolstered by the addition of Mario Williams and return from injury of 2010 DT1 (and x3 sleeper selection), Kyle Williams (undrafted). Brian Gagnon discussed Dareus’ potential on the revamped line just last month.
|Jeff||Jason Pierre-Paul||Cameron Wake||Kamerion Wimbley||Osi Umenyiora|
|Ross||Jason Pierre-Paul||Cameron Wake||Justin Smith||Osi Umenyiora|
|Mike W||Jared Allen||Adrian Clayborn||Carlos Dunlap||Jason Pierre-Paul|
|Daniel C||Jason Pierre-Paul||Mario Williams||Cameron Wake||Calais Campbell|
|Nate||Trent Cole||Cameron Wake||Kamerion Wimbley||Chris Long|
|Kevin||Trent Cole||Jabaal Sheard||Carlos Dunlap||Jason Pierre-Paul|
|Eric||Jared Allen||Cameron Wake||Robert Quinn||JJ Watt|
|Brian G||Jason Pierre-Paul||Cameron Jordan||Adrian Clayborn||JJ Watt|
|Matt||Jason Pierre-Paul||Cameron Wake||Carlos Dunlap||JJ Watt|
There are some obvious consensus choices here at defensive end and it’s not really a surprise that Jason Pierre-Paul (DE1) dominated the stud nominations. A physical freak that combines sacks and turnovers with a top-line tackle frequency, it’s hard to get away from him as the “must-own” DE. IDP draft strategy is moving towards a DE-first mentality, and it’s because of this owners are willing to make that move early for JPP, whose IDP ADP is an incredible 4.07. This prompted Kevin Greenstein (and Mike Woellert) to list him as his over-drafted pick saying, “I think he’s really good, but he’s often the first IDP off the board, and I don’t think he’s THAT good. Relative to his draft position, he falls into the “Suh” category, where a similarly good player is typically available 3-4 rounds later (like Cole).”
Cameron Wake’s (DE15) move to DE in the new Miami defensive scheme also has owners salivating with two of the industry’s most accurate IDP rankers, Miles and Ratcliffe, both agreeing he takes a step forward this year, an opinion agreed with by three other staffers. Despite a drop in sacks last year to just nine (from sixteen), Wake recorded twenty-two more combined hits and hurries last year, so can be expected to be a fantasy force again in 2012.
Two players that earned multiple selections as sleepers were Carlos Dunlap (DE18) and Kamerion Wimbley (DE25). Dunlap has some of the most impressive pass-rush pressure percentages in the league based on his production on a per snap basis, and it’s a common opinion among us stat geeks here at PFF that of given the opportunity he could easily be a double-digit sack artist. Wimbley is a pass-rushing specialist, like Wake, who is moving from OLB to DE, who is projected to be an under the radar DE2 in all scoring formats.
|Jeff||Desmond Bishop||Colin McCarthy||Erin Henderson||James Anderson|
|Ross||Daryl Washington||Lawrence Timmons||Karlos Dansby||James Anderson|
|Mike W||Brian Cushing||Perry Riley||Kevin Burnett||DeMarcus Ware|
|Daniel C||Derrick Johnson||DeMeco Ryans||Lavonte David||Curtis Lofton|
|Nate||Desmond Bishop||Colin McCarthy||David Harris||Lawrence Timmons|
|Kevin||Patrick Willis||DeMeco Ryans||Sean Weatherspoon||Curtis Lofton|
|Eric||Patrick Willis||Brian Cushing||Kevin Burnett||James Anderson|
|Brian G||Sean Weatherspoon||Mason Foster||Erin Henderson||Bart Scott|
|Matt||Desmond Bishop||Brian Cushing||Luke Kuechly||James Anderson|
Jeff, Mike and I discussed our thoughts on the #1 fantasy linebacker back in late February, and it seems by looking at the varied selections here, there is still a lack of clarity at the position. Desmond Bishop (LB4) and Patrick Willis (LB1) are the most popular choices, but for my reasoning on why I like Daryl Washington (LB8) in 2012, check out the above linked article. Colin McCarthy (LB9), Brian Cushing (LB19) and DeMeco Ryans (LB26) are all popular creepers, although you could argue that Ryans is more of a sleeper while being drafted as LB26. McCarthy will be an every-down linebacker from Week 1 this season, while Ryans trade to the Eagles puts him back as an MLB in a 4-3 system (read move fantasy spin on DeMeco Ryans here). Cushing is one of the most versatile linebackers in the league and can produce fantasy points in all phases of a game.
My own selection of Karlos Dansby (LB30) is mainly due to the scheme change in Miami that will use him as a MLB in the new 4-3. He will be able to me more aggressive in stuffing the run and should increase his tackle frequency, racking up more fantasy points per game. Also, looking back through the fantasy history books, back in the 2008 season Dansby was the top scoring LB using the PFF scoring system. He’s more than capable of LB1 numbers when given the chance and 2012 could be that chance.
The addition of Luke Kuechly (LB29) to the Panthers LB corps is expected to result in the loss of sub-package downs for James Anderson (LB28), leading to four nominations as a fantasy bust this year. Both Jeff and I agree that he is barely worth a roster spot unless you play in the deepest of leagues.
|Jeff||Jason McCourty||DeAngelo Hall||Alterraun Verner||Kyle Arrington|
|Ross||Terrell Thomas||Joe Haden||Alterraun Verner||Patrick Peterson|
|Mike W||Charles Tillman||Jimmy Smith||Greg Toler||Patrick Peterson|
|Daniel C||Charles Tillman||Cortland Finnegan||Jimmy Smith||Lardarius Webb|
|Nate||Jason McCourty||Brandon Browner||Aaron Williams||Terrell Thomas|
|Kevin||Lardarius Webb||Jimmy Smith||Devin McCourty||Brandon Browner|
|Eric||Charles Woodson||Terrell Thomas||Antoine Winfield||Patrick Peterson|
|Brian G||Charles Woodson||Patrick Robinson||Jimmy Smith||Asante Samuel|
|Matt||Charles Tillman||Lardarius Webb||Jimmy Smith||Terrell Thomas|
The most difficult IDP position to predict on a year to year basis, often the best way to succeed with your fantasy corners is to find value in sleepers and creepers. We all know that Charles Tillman (CB2) and Charles Woodson (CB4) have been perennial fantasy studs, but finding this year’s Jason McCourty (CB3) is what helps you win fantasy championships.
The players that we think are most likely fill that category includes two former CB1s in Cortland Finnegan (CB10), Alterraun Verner (CB21) and Ravens sophomore Jimmy Smith (undrafted). Finnegan signed for the Rams to reunite with Jeff Fisher, a move which I reviewed from a fantasy perspective during free agency, while Mike tabbed Verner as a potential IDP breakout in June. Jimmy Smith didn’t make too much impact as a rookie last year as he only played 337 snaps, not getting on the field until Week 8 after a high ankle sprain. However, he’s been working as a starter according to beat writer reports and will partner rising star Lardarius Webb (CB6), meaning opposing quarterbacks will be more inclined to throw in his direction than challenge PFF’s 4th best graded CB (+14.4).
Terrell Thomas (CB8) is dividing opinion among the staff, as while I have him as my stud and Eric calls him a creeper, Nate and Matt think he is being over-drafted. As this is my article, I’ll make my case for why I think he’ll be one of the top CBs this season. Thomas is returning from a season ending injury in 2011, but in 2010 he was the top scoring CB, and in 2009 he only finished behind Charles Woodson, who had nine interceptions (three for touchdown) that season. I think that teams will want to test Thomas early and often, giving him opportunities to make plays. He’s never been an elite talent, he’s just been a productive fantasy player, and that’s what matters here.
One player who did not come out of the nominations favourably was Patrick Peterson (CB1). Being drafted four rounds before the next selected cornerback makes him a certain fantasy bust in my book, unless he has a kick-return season that beats Devin Hester’s records. His value in IDP leagues came almost exclusively from his return ability and combined with the hype generated during the 2011 draft he is being selected far earlier than he should. He’s a low-end CB1 based on what we have seen so far, so buyer beware.
|Jeff||Tyvon Branch||Bernard Pollard||Jordan Babineaux||LaRon Landry|
|Ross||Eric Berry||Antoine Bethea||William Moore||Troy Polamalu|
|Mike W||Morgan Burnett||Bernard Pollard||Malcolm Jenkins||Troy Polamalu|
|Daniel C||Eric Berry||Quintin Mikell||Harrison Smith||Troy Polamalu|
|Nate||Tyvon Branch||George Wilson||T.J. Ward||Antrel Rolle|
|Kevin||Jairus Byrd||Charles Godfrey||T.J. Ward||LaRon Landry|
|Eric||Tyvon Branch||Antrel Rolle||Dashon Goldson||Jairus Byrd|
|Brian G||Eric Berry||Antoine Bethea||Malcolm Jenkins||Roman Harper|
|Matt||Eric Berry||Bernard Pollard||T.J.Ward||Troy Polamalu|
It’s clear to our panel that there are two DBs above all else you want to own in 2012; Eric Berry (S1) and Tyvon Branch (S3), although Berry is going two and a half rounds before Branch in our IDP ADP data. Berry does carry some risk after missing all of 2011 with a torn left ACL, but the promise of an in-the-box role on the Chiefs defense leaves many IDP pundits predicting big things. Branch has broken the 100 total tackle barrier in each of the last three seasons and added sacks, interceptions and forced fumbles to boot, making him a very solid alternative to Berry.
Bernard Pollard (S15) didn’t start in Baltimore until Week 4, but for the two seasons previously he had reached 100 total tackles. Often over-looked as he can be a one-dimensional points producer, Pollard should find himself back as a S1 as a sixteen game starter. Antoine Bethea (S12) has a similar lower profile because his points mainly come from tackles, but on a rebuilding team with a rookie QB, I expect Bethea to challenge for top-five DB honors this year.
Another player affected by injury last season was T.J. Ward (S16), only playing eight games. He was one of the most sought after DBs last season following 123 total tackles as a rookie, but is now somewhat a forgotten man. Although the presence of D’Qwell Jackson in the middle for the Browns does limit Ward’s potential production he’s still got the upside to be a S1.
Troy Polamalu (S10) is the player singled out most frequently as being over-drafted, earning four nominations. Although a fantastic player in real terms, Polamalu has only played sixteen games in two of the last six years, and his tackle frequency has varied during his career. He’s a risky pick as a S1 and there are better value options elsewhere.
Questions and comments are always welcome via Twitter – @PFF_RossMiles.