IDP Roundtable – Rankings
Our trio of IDP experts disagree on where to rank Jason Pierre-Paul, Audie Cole, and Jamie Collins. In this roundtable discussion, they discuss the thought process behind their rankings.
IDP Roundtable – Rankings
No two fantasy analysts think alike. A quick glance at our consensus rankings supports this point. But how exactly do we arrive at our rankings for particular players?
The other day, I started an email chain with Ross Miles and Nate Hodges regarding some of the disparities in our IDP rankings. This roundtable discussion really pulls back the curtain and shows the thought process behind the rankings.
You both have Jason Pierre-Paul extremely high in your rankings. Ross has him No. 4 and Nate has him No. 5. I’m by far the lowest at No. 13. Don’t get me wrong. I love his ceiling, but his play over the last two seasons gives me pause. Convince me why I’m off-base and have Pierre-Paul ranked too low.
There are several reasons I have JPP ranked at No. 4, highest of the three of us.
I feel injuries have been a major contributing factor to his poorer play over the last two seasons and am willing to give him the benefit of doubt, at least in my pre-season rankings. This is partly due to his exceptional speed/size and explosiveness he showed in his first couple of seasons. His upside is No. 1 DE.
I’m also a proponent of tier-based rankings, and this year’s DE crop looks distinctly shallow at the top. Watt is no longer the clear No. 1 in the new system, and Quinn now is 1A to Watt as 1. Chandler Jones stands out as the “best of the rest” with his high tackle floor and double-digit sack potential so is my No. 3. I think have it pretty close between No. 4 – 8 (JPP, Wake, Hardy, Ware, Mario), a slight gap to another closely matched bunch of No. 9 – 13 (Ninkovich, Dunlap, Charles Johnson, Ansah, Campbell). Of that No. 4 – 8 tier there are some age concerns, health concerns, eligibility concerns (Hardy suspension?) and with the boom/bust scoring expected from the likes of Wake and Mario, I’d rather take the gamble on the highest upside player I have in that grouping.
Another part of it is the, “I want people to know I still rate JPP highly” factor. FantasyPros rankings are essentially a series of Player A vs Player B matchups, and by being one of the highest guys in the industry in a player such as JPP, means if I’m right, I’ll be rewarded in the scoring of my rankings vs everyone else. I also don’t want to be a fence sitter. Strong opinions = clicks.
A lot of that is sound, though it’s tough to argue Watt isn’t the clear No. 1 when essentially every expert in the industry has him ranked there. If there was any debate, we’d expect to see him lower from a few rankers.
As for that second tier, an argument can certainly be made for Hardy being a clear-cut better option than the other four names you specify. His higher tackle floor means for more week-to-week consistency at a notoriously inconsistent position.
While I agree that injuries have derailed Pierre-Paul over the last two seasons, what’s the specific evidence that shows us this will be the year? Through OTAs and minicamp, there wasn’t much more than the occasional “I feel better than I ever have” report. We’ve come to expect that sort of talk out of players at this time of year, but the proof is ultimately in the pudding.
Nate, am I way off here? Shed some light on your Pierre-Paul ranking.
My thoughts are similar to Ross’s in that the players behind him all have issues as well. It seems that the DE pool has weakened over the last couple of years with more teams going 3-4. Not as many 4-3 stud pass rushers that can also tackle consistently and play a lot of snaps.
So I guess for me it’s not that I really see him as that good this year it’s that I just have a hard time moving others ahead of him. I’ll be thinking and re-thinking the rankings though over the next week and I’m sure they’ll be some movement.
Another player we seem to disagree on is Audie Cole. You guys both have Cole ranked at No. 29, whereas I have him outside my Top 50.
Talk me off the ledge and tell me why I shouldn’t be concerned that Jasper Brinkley was running with the first-team defense in offseason activities. Given where you both have Cole ranked, you’re both assuming he’s an every-down linebacker this season. What makes you guys so confident?
I don’t have any confidence in Jasper Brinkley as an every-down linebacker. I studied him in college and he just doesn’t project as an NFL player in coverage. He’s too slow and should be permanently labeled as a thumper.
Last season he started and played over 50 snaps in just three games. In those three alone he posted a whopping –6.5 number just in pass coverage. He simply can’t cover. So I don’t care where he’s lining up in base packages, I think you’ll see Cole playing passing down snaps and we all know teams are in the subpackages more than ever these days. Also, Anthony Barr should replace a defensive end on sure passing downs and not take up one of the linebacker positions assuming he develops as expected.
In short, I’ve seen Jasper Brinkley play. He’s 29 and well established as a two-down thumper. Think a poor man’s Brandon Spikes. In Audie Cole I see a lot more upside and possibility. He didn’t get on the field as a rookie, and was only really given a fair crack of the whip as a starter at the end of last year, when he was both good and bad.
He could be a three-down player, although he needs to win the job. If Cole does lock down a three-down MLB role in camp he’ll be even higher in my rankings – at the bottom of the LB2s.
That’s all fair, but this isn’t necessarily an indictment of Brinkley. Given both of your evaluations of Brinkley, neither one of you are alarmed that he was playing ahead of Cole? Doesn’t that raise more questions about Cole’s play than it does endorse Brinkley’s?
To be fair, neither one of you seem sold that Cole is locked into an every-down gig, yet you both have him ranked above much better bets for three downs like C.J. Mosley, Brad Jones, Manti Te’o, Ryan Shazier, and Nick Roach. I’d much rather take my chances on these guys. Since we only have a four-game sample size and there’s already questions about his role, is Cole really worth the gamble?
Good point about Brinkley. But what we saw last season is that if Brinkley isn’t the guy or is injured, they’ll probably have to turn to Cole. Of course, this is a new staff and I don’t disagree that Cole is a risk especially at this time.
But as Ross mentioned the upside is huge if he can win the three-down Mike job. IDP owners need to balance their high floor and high ceiling picks when looking at these mid tier linebackers. Cole is definitely a risk/reward pick before we begin to see how things are shaking out in training camp.
With Cole we have that sample size at least, which we don’t for the rookies Mosely and Shazier, so that is in Cole’s favor in my book. There are still plenty of unanswered questions about Te’o, while Jones and Roach haven’t exactly lit it up in their own rights.
I’d class these guys in that upside LB3 tier, and of the bunch, Cole is that exciting mixture of potential with the aforementioned sample size of solid tackle frequency. To me that’s a safer gamble, if that makes sense?
But with such a small sample size, IDP owners need to be concerned that they’re setting themselves up to have the next Colin McCarthy on their hands with Cole.
Let’s move to another player who we seem to have all over the place in our rankings – Jamie Collins. I’ve been quite vocal with my thoughts on Collins and back this up with my No. 26 overall ranking. Ross, you have Collins at No 66, and Nate doesn’t even have him ranked.
This guy displayed such a unique skill set last season where he seemed equally comfortable rushing the passer and in coverage. He really seems primed to be 2014’s breakout IDP. From the looks of your rankings (or lack there of), you guys aren’t buying the hype. So what’s your evaluation of Collins?
Collins is a player I need to spend some more time evaluating from both a film and data perspective. My main concern with him is how he will be used and how often he gets on the field. Bill Belichick makes me wary of Patriots players sometimes, and has an element of the Shanahannigans about him.
It hasn’t been easy to get to grips with the Patriots linebacker corps from a fantasy perspective, and even though we now consider Jerod Mayo an LB1, a scheme change and role change a few years back played havoc with IDP analysts evaluations. Need I mention Spikes vs Hightower?
Collins is a player I’m sure I’ll be moving up in my rankings as soon as I feel I have a better handle on not only his own potential, but also his role on the defense as camp, OTAs and the pre-season rolls on.
I lumped Collins into the OLB/DE hybrid category coming out of school which is generally not the type of players you want on your IDP roster if they are indeed classified as a linebacker in your specific league. This is why he isn’t included in my rankings at the moment.
However, he did perform very well in the playoffs a year ago and showed an ability to tackle as well as get after the passer. So, he’s a player that I’m sure will crack the rankings as I expand them throughout the preseason process. How high he climbs will be determined by reports from training camp and my own preseason film evaluation.
It seems there are more of these types of players coming into the league. They are big, athletic pass rushers but are quick enough to still play in space and post solid tackle frequency numbers which results in better fantasy football production. It’s something to keep in mind as you evaluate the linebacker position and compare raw statistics with your league’s scoring.
Nate makes some excellent points about these hybrid players who get designated as a LB, and perhaps I’m a little bias against them. I’ve always been a strong believer in getting consistent, predictable scoring from my IDPs and then focusing on big upside and boom/bust offensive players. If my IDPs set a baseline score each week I have a platform of points to build off, and this mentality is reflected in my rankings, especially at linebacker.
I agree on the hybrid players, but from what I saw last season, Collins isn’t one of them. Perhaps we were all a bit off in our evaluation of him. Sure, he’s big, but he’s not Dion Jordan. Collins is 6’3″ 250lbs. That’s the same weight as Jerod Mayo, though Collins does have two more inches on him.
Still, his film from last season doesn’t make him out to be a hybrid rush outside linebacker. Instead, has the look of a traditional three-down linebacker. If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, isn’t it a duck?
I think it is and this duck is going to be on all of my IDP squads this season.
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.