IDP Bets for Breakout - Defensive Line
The defensive line position is among the most volatile in IDP. Your first instinct might be to spend an early-round pick on one of the elite linemen, and I can’t fault you for that. Here’s a few names to keep on your target list. If you do miss out on the elite guys, you can target these sleepers and enjoy solid production at a drastically reduced draft price.
Da’Quan Bowers, DE, TBB
After receiving a first-round grade, Bowers decided to forgo his senior year and enter the NFL draft. Heading into the draft, it became known that Bowers was dealing with a knee injury with the severity ranging from “not an issue” to “serious issue”.
The Bucs were cautious with Bowers in his rookie year, though he did appear in all 16 games. He wasn’t rushed into an every-down role as he appeared in 505 defensive snaps. From a pass-rushing standpoint, he got to the quarterback for 18 hurries and 24 total QB pressures (two sacks) and was getting to the quarterback on just over 10% of his pass rush snaps.
Heading into 2012, Bowers was ready to improve upon a decent rookie year. However, he suffered a torn Achilles in offseason workouts putting the season in doubt. He did make it onto the field, but just as a pass rush specialist role, appearing in 276 snaps. He got to the quarterback just under 10% of those snaps and was able to record three sacks and his lack of tackles can be attributed to the fact to his limited run snaps.
Heading into 2013, the felony gun charges he was facing were dropped stemming from an incident at New York’s LaGuardia airport. Bowers has declared himself 100% healthy, and the Bucs showed their confidence in him by allowing Michael Bennett to walk in free agency. Bowers has said he expects to be dominant and anything less than double-digit sacks is a failure. Coach Greg Schiano’s scheme should allow him to be successful and get those sacks and pressures, while Gerald McCoy and Adrian Clayborn are also expected to draw attention.
I hate qualifying statements, but as long as Bowers is healthy in 2013, he should be able to appear in a full 16 games, log over 800 defensive snaps and not have an issue recording 10-plus sacks. I feel more comfortable with Bowers as a DL3 but he has the upside to provide DL2 numbers this season.
Muhammad Wilkerson, DE, NYJ
It’s not very common for a defensive end that plays in a 3-4 scheme has an impact for his team and in IDP leagues. But, Wilkerson is primed for just that following two solid seasons as a pro. Entering the draft, he was considered an elite prospect and ideal 3-4 end. The only concern was his size and his ability to hold up as a three-down player.
As a rookie, he graded out positively in just over 600 snaps and produced just 15 total QB pressures (three sacks) on 300 pass rush snaps, but showed his dominance against the run. He ranked fifth among 3-4 DE in run stopping percentage, producing 28 stops in his 290 runs snaps and compiled 49 total tackles (35 solo) which led to a solid 8.1% tackle frequency. In 2012, he exceeded expectations as he improved upon his pass rushing efficiency. He nearly tripled his total pressures (37) and recorded five sacks. Upon improving his attack on the quarterback, he remained dominant against the run, finishing third among 3-4 DE in run stop percentage and produced 69 tackles in 930 snaps.
What can Wilkerson do for an encore in 2013? The Jets added Sheldon Richardson in the draft and he’s been lining up everywhere during OTAs. OLB Quinton Coples should improve as a pass rusher, leading to more attention from the opposing offense and Antwan Barnes was an under-rated addition. Wlkerson is in great shape and is expected to be one of the leaders of the defense. This will translate to IDP success in 2013, as he will finish within the 11-14 sack range with 50+ tackles, giving him solid DL2 value.
Corey Liuget/Kendall Reyes, DE, SDC
I’m including both of these guys because they’re on the rise and have a chance to form a Batman and Robin type tandem. Liuget bounced back in 2012 after a poor rookie year in which he appeared in 461 defensive snaps, compiling just 19 tackles and a sack on 11 total QB pressures. Liuget improved all facets of his game in 2012, tripling his QB pressures, from 11 to 33 and recorded seven sacks while compiling 51 tackles in 733 defensive snaps.
Reyes is a nice target in deeper leagues and IDP-only leagues. He had a solid rookie year, appearing in 547 defensive snaps and five sacks on 33 total QB pressures. As a rookie, he was getting to the quarterback in almost 10% of his pass rush snaps. His sacks could come in bunches, but there is no doubt that he should be able to get to the quarterback.
Both players are 3-4 ends, so their production could be inconsistent on a week-to-week basis. They should see quite a few one-on-one opportunities, providing plenty of chances to see clear paths to the quarterback. Liuget has value as a DL3, as he double-digit sack upside. Reyes, as mentioned, is a deeper league target. After racking up seven sacks as a rookie, I don’t have any reason to believe that he can’t increase that number. Target Reyes as a DL4/5 as he makes for a decent match-up play or bye week replacement.
Mike Woellert is a Senior Writer for Pro Football Focus Fantasy. Follow Mike on Twitter @PFF_MWoellert