IDP Breakdown – Week 1 Edition
Jeff Ratcliffe goes game-by-game and gives you the IDP lowdown for Week 1.
IDP Breakdown – Week 1 Edition
You wouldn’t know it from his ADP, but Brad Jones is the Packers’ lone every-down inside linebacker. Sure, he was a general disappointment last season, but how quickly we forget that Jones was a rock solid LB2 as a three-down ‘backer in 2012. If he’s somehow still available in your league, pick him up. Don’t wait until after Week 1, because the secret will be out. And if you’re going to grab him, you might as well start him against one of the league’s most run-heavy offenses. … It will be interesting to see exactly how the Packers use Julius Peppers. He’s slated for the “Elephant” role in Dom Capers’ defense, which means he’s likely classified as a linebacker in your league. … Likewise, I’ll also be keeping a close eye on the safeties. It’s likely we’ll see more of Morgan Burnett in the box. He’s locked in as a DB1.
Ah, Seattle. They’re incredibly fun to watch, yet frustrating from an IDP standpoint. In the counterintuitive world of fantasy football, good defenses often hurt individual player value. Take Bobby Wagner for example. There’s no denying his abilities on the field, but his IDP value often takes a hit because of the Seahawks’ prowess on the field. Don’t get me wrong. He’s still and LB1, but his ceiling doesn’t rival the elite fantasy options. … It’s time to see if the rubber meets the road for Cliff Avril. With Chris Clemons now in Jacksonville, Avril stands to play more snaps. Whether he actually will is yet to be determined. The Seahawks tend to deploy a heavy rotation along the defensive line, so Avril’s snaps still have the chance to be limited. However, if he’s in there for 70-75 percent of the snaps, Avril will be squarely on the DL2 radar.
You may not realize that Johnathan Cyprien posted triple-digit tackles in his rookie season. Take a look. It’s true. While he certainly looked like a rookie at times last season, Cyprien was a strong fantasy asset, and he’s a player who is ready to take the next step. He’ll get things going in a fantastic matchup against Chip Kelly’s up-tempo offense. Last season, the Eagles gave up the most tackles to safeties on a per game basis. The matchup is juicy, and Cyprien is locked in as a DB1 this week. … We’ll be keeping an eye on the Jacksonville linebackers. Rookie Telvin Smith isn’t a starter, but he’s been coming on the field in the subpackages. I suspect it’s only a matter of time before he starts. … Likewise, it’s also important to monitor the Jags’ LEO position. They’ll likely start with a rotation between Chris Clemons and Andre Branch. Those in dynasty circles know Branch well, and there’s reason for optimism after he posted five sacks in the Jags’ final seven games last season.
DeMeco Ryans led the Eagles in tackles last season, but he’s not going to repeat. The smart money is on Mychal Kendricks to not only lead the team, but to emerge as one of the league’s better fantasy linebackers. Kendricks has looked like he’s been shot out of a cannon this preseason, and no longer looks like the game is too fast for him. Get ready for a breakout season. … The situation to keep an eye on in Philly is at safety. We’ve seen even pedestrian talents put up quality fantasy numbers here, so there’s certainly value to be had. At this point, it’s really up in the air as to which player will be the guy. Malcolm Jenkins is the favorite, but he’s never been a consistent option in the past. We’ll have to see if either Nate Allen or Earl Wolff can materialize at the strong safety position.
New Orleans @ Atlanta
It’s always exiting at this time of year to see if our preseason predictions come to fruition. One of those prognostications is that Kenny Vaccaro will emerge as an elite fantasy safety. The conditions are ripe in New Orleans for a breakout season, and he gets a good Week 1 matchup to get things rolling. … Kudos to The League for not only mentioning IDP in this week’s season opener (where they hold their fantasy draft at a funeral), but also for having both Cameron Jordan and Jordan Cameron on the show. Of course, Jordan is coming off a breakout year of his own where he posted double-digit sacks. He’s a high-ceiling fantasy option at the back-end of the DL1 tier.
Things could be ugly for the Falcons defense this year, as they’ll go into battle without their top defender, Sean Weatherspoon. However, this does open things up for Paul Worrilow to become a strong IDP asset. Worrilow flashed a high ceiling last season, and should rack up the tackles this season. Don’t sweat it too much it he doesn’t come storming out of the gate. The Saints’ pass-heavy approach doesn’t always bode well for opposing linebacker value.
Minnesota @ St. Louis
Mike Zimmer at the helm for the Vikings gets me excited. We saw what he did in his tenure in Cincinnati, and he has the right pieces in place to emulate that production in Minnesota. While we generally know what to expect out of Chad Greenway and Harrison Smith, there are plenty of uncertainties in Minnesota. With Jared Allen out of the mix, a lot of folks have assumed that Everson Griffen will be his replacement. This is only partially true. Griffen will play end in the base defense, but will likely kick to defensive tackle in the subpackages with rookie Anthony Barr playing at the end position. This sort of role has proven very productive for the likes of Justin Tuck in the past, so Griffen still offers a lot of upside. … We also need to keep an eye on the middle linebacker position. Jasper Brinkley will likely start, but he has a short leash and doesn’t figure to play three downs. There’s still a chance Audie Cole or even Michael Mauti find their way into an every-down role.
Sure, the offense is reeling after Sam Bradford’s season-ending injury, but this defense is going to be fun to watch. You’re starting pretty much every piece of this unit if you own them. However, the player I’ll be keeping the closest eye on is T.J. McDonald. New DC Gregg Williams’ system tends to feature the strong safety, and proved very lucrative for Roman Harper’s stat lines back in New Orleans. McDonald could be poised to burst onto the IDP scene this season.
Cleveland @ Pittsburgh
Things will be a little different this year in Cleveland with Mike Pettine in at head coach. Pettine brings with him his aggressive Ryan family inspired hybrid front defense, which certainly bodes positively for the Browns D/ST. But you’re not here for advice on team defense. Karlos Dansby is coming off a monster season in which he posted Top 5 linebacker numbers in most fantasy leagues. Don’t expect much of a drop off in Cleveland, as he gets a favorable stats crew and an every-down role. Likewise, Donte Whitner is new in town, and should be on your IDP radar. He has the potential to produce borderline DB1 numbers. … The Browns upgraded their linebacker situation with Christian Kirskey in the May’s draft, though it appears like Kirksey will initially rotate with Craig Robertson. Kirksey should be on your shortlist, however, as he’s likely to assume an every-down job sooner rather than later. By the way, that role in the Pettine offense is the one that made Kiko Alonso and IDP stud last season.
Speaking of rookie linebackers, hopefully you got an opportunity to watch Ryan Shazier in the preseason, because this guy is as advertised. His speed and dynamic playmaking ability will prove to be a fantasy asset immediately. His presence certainly downgrades Lawrence Timmons a bit, but there’s still plenty of room for both players to produce viable IDP numbers. They’ll do just fine against what promises to be a run-heavy Cleveland team. … We also need to keep an eye on Mike Mitchell in this one. He’s never been able to keep a full-time gig in his career, but Mitchell has dynamic ability and gets the role that was quite productive for Ryan Clark.
Oakland @ NY Jets
It’s tough to like the Raiders chances as a team this season, but there’s a lot to like on the defensive side of the ball in Oakland. Justin Tuck came over from the Giants after he was all but unblockable at the end of last season. He’ll play end along with LaMarr Woodley, who is a sneaky IDP option. Of course, the Raiders also drafted Khalil Mack, who will play strong side linebacker in the base and likely kick to end in the subpackages. Some believed Mack was the most polished edge rusher in this year’s class. We’ll have to see what the Raiders do at the weak side linebacker spot. It looks like Sio Moore is okay after a scary neck injury in the preseason. He appears to have beaten out Miles Burris, but we’ll have to keep an eye on what Oakland does here. Moore will offer a lot of upside if he gets an every-down gig.
There’s not as much to get excited about with the Jets IDPs. Sure, my fellow Temple Owl Muhammad Wilkerson is very good, and you know that. Likewise, Sheldon Richardson offers a high floor for those in tackle-heavy leagues. But the player who is perhaps the most intriguing is rookie Calvin Pryor. He was aggressive at the point of attack in the preseason, and the game doesn’t seem too big for him. Pryor will get an every-down role to start the season and looks to be a viable DB2 option in Week 1 despite the less than desirable matchup.
Jeff Ratcliffe | Director of Fantasy
Jeff Ratcliffe is the Director of Fantasy at Pro Football Focus. He produces all of our projections and is 2016's second-most-accurate ranker in the fantasy industry. Jeff also is the host of our show on SiriusXM fantasy sports radio and is one of the main hosts of our Fantasy Slant podcast.