IDP Dynasty Stock Watch - April
Spring is in the air and we’re inching closer to the triumphant return of football! We’ve concluded a very busy free agent period that saw a lot of players change teams. Some moves will work out while others won’t. Let’s look at who you should be targeting in your dynasty leagues for the upcoming season (and beyond) in an all-free agent edition of IDP dynasty stock watch.
Daryl Smith – LB – Baltimore Ravens – Smith was a revelation in 2013 after signing with the Ravens on a one-year deal. Initially brought in to mentor second-round pick Arthur Brown, Smith ended up with the starting job and first crack at replacing Hall of Famer Ray Lewis in the middle. All he did was set career highs with 123 tackles and five sacks. Pass coverage was Smith’s strong suit, by far, where he ranked in the top 10 among all linebackers and fourth among inside linebackers in PFF’s opposing caught percentage. He was just the replacement the Ravens were looking for after Lewis retired and for his service, the Ravens rewarded him this offseason with a four-year, $16 million deal.
Smith is now 32, however, and while he’s always been a serviceable linebacker, it would be hard to imagine Smith duplicating his stellar 2013 season. A year older and already 142 games into his career, Smith’s chances of physically keeping up the pace are not high and certainly not for the next few years. There’s also the presence of the second-year man Brown, who the Ravens hope can take the mantle from Smith long-term. Smith was certainly a value last year but shouldn’t be counted on to anchor your dynasty team.
Antoine Bethea – S – San Francisco 49ers – Signing a four-year, $21 million deal with the 49ers, Bethea will replace Donte Whitner in San Francisco’s secondary and be asked to complement second-year safety Eric Reid. Bethea will provide experience and run support after grading out in the top 20 among all safeties in run coverage last year. Fantasy-wise, Bethea’s been a reliable DB1/2 thanks to his extremely consistent number of tackles. Acting as the backbone of a sub-par Colts defense, Bethea was often the last stop for opposing offenses that made it through the Colts front seven, with over 100 tackles in each of the last four years.
However, Bethea won’t be relied on nearly as much as he was in Indy. The 49ers’ defense is consistently ranked in the top five, largely thanks to a talented group of linebackers who rarely let any ball carriers past them. In his three years in the same position in the 49ers defense, Whitner never had more than 82 tackles in a season. Furthermore, Bethea will be entering his age-30 season. Now would be an ideal time to get some value out of Bethea in your dynasty league.
Everson Griffen – DL – Minnesota Vikings – The Vikings have said goodbye to a lot of veterans this offseason and no one should benefit more than Griffen. The four-year veteran has played behind All-Pro Jared Allen the last few years but is in line to start in 2014 after Minnesota re-signed him to a five-year deal worth $42.5 million with $20 million guaranteed. Meanwhile, the Vikings let Allen walk to division rival Chicago, and now Griffen is expected to take over Allen’s spot on the right side immediately.
Griffen has seen his most action the last two years while playing behind Allen and returning veteran Brian Robison. Even though he wasn’t a starter, Griffen still managed to rate out as Pro Football Focus’ 36th best 4-3 end in 2012 and improved to 19th in 2013. And while he managed just 5.5 sacks in 2013, he was 13th among 4-3 ends in quarterback hurries, tied with the likes of Seattle’s Michael Bennett and New England’s Chandler Jones. New coach Mike Zimmer will keep the same 4-3 alignment the Vikings operated out of last year, which means Griffen can hit the ground running when training camp opens. Still just 26, Griffen is a breakout candidate in IDP leagues.
Jason Worilds – LB – Pittsburgh Steelers – Heading into the 2014 offseason, the Steelers had three outside linebackers for only two positions. Second year ‘backer Jarvis Jones wasn’t going anywhere after being drafted in the first round just last year. That left the decision between incumbent LaMarr Woodley and rising star Jason Worilds. In the end it was the 29-year old Woodley, set to count $13.5 million against the cap and battling injuries the last three years, that was shown the door. The Steelers then used the transition tag to keep Worilds in Pittsburgh in 2014 while a long-term deal is hammered out.
This scenario was unfathomable this time last year. Woodley was the All-Pro veteran and de facto leader of the Pittsburgh defense. Worilds was a rotational pass rusher heading into his walk year with barely a resume to cash in. But after Woodley battled injuries (again), Worilds finally exhibited some of the potential the Steelers saw when they drafted him out of Virginia Tech in the 2nd round of the 2010 draft.
Even though he played behind Woodley for the first five games of the 2013 season, Worilds still rated out as Pro Football Focus’ 12th best 3-4 outside linebacker and led all linebackers with an incredible 21 quarterback hits. He always had the ability to get to the quarterback but 2013 was the first time the ability and opportunity came together. Now that the Steelers have seen what’s possible, Worilds will be given every opportunity to build on that in 2014.