Patriots Sign Jabaal Sheard
Sheard was a favorite in IDP circles when he entered the league, and he showed a lot of initial promise, racking up 15.5 sacks over his first two seasons. However, the Browns’ shift to a 3-4 relegated Sheard to the fantasy doldrums of the edge rushing situational outside linebacker. He’s been in fantasy purgatory ever since.
The Browns are now left with Barkevious Mingo and Paul Kruger on the outside. With Sheard out of the rotation, both players should see significant snaps in 2015. Mingo is dealing with offseason shoulder surgery, but reports say he’ll be good to go by training camp. Entering his third season, we’ve yet to see the former first-rounder unleashed in an every-down role. His fantasy prospects are appealing, but at this point it’s tough to project Mingo as anything more than a risk/reward LB3 in balanced scoring leagues.
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In New England, Sheard essentially takes the place of Akeem Ayers, who recently signed with the Rams. Ayers joined New England following a mid-season trade to fill in for the injured Chandler Jones. Ayers shifted to situation duties after Jones returned and saw just a handful of snaps in the Patriots’ playoff run. With Jones and Rob Ninkovich still on the roster, Sheard is likely to fill a similar role.
Of course, there is the potential that we see more 4-3 out of the Patriots with Sheard serving as a defensive end. There are some who believe Sheard’s ability to both rush the passer and set the edge means he can play all three downs. This would be an absolute best case scenario for the 25-year-old edge defender, as he’d almost certainly get classified as a defensive lineman on fantasy commissioner sites.
For now, Sheard’s fantasy value is very much up in the air. Keep him on your IDP watch list and be prepared to pounce if word breaks that the Pats intend to use a 4-3 base defense in 2015.
Jeff Ratcliffe is the Assistant Managing Editor and resident IDP maven of PFF Fantasy.