Projected Post-Draft IDP Camp Battles, Pt. 1
When playing in a deep IDP league, there are basically three different strategies that most employ when figuring out who to select. The first is to simply treat your defensive players like your offensive players. Employing this strategy means that you determine when the IDPs will start coming off of the board and you get the ones you want accordingly. Those who used this strategy were the ones who ended up with NaVorro Bowman last season.
The second strategy is to load up on defensive players early, ensuring that you get who you want. That can potentially hurt your offense, since you won’t end up with as much depth on that side of the ball. The guys who employed this strategy are the guys who ended up drafting J.J. Watt way too early last season.
The final strategy is to pick your IDPs last. To successfully draft this way, you must keep up with training camp battles. This will help you draft the rookies that other owners do not know about as well as the players who will eventually exceed expectations and win jobs that they were not expected to win. The guys who utilized this strategy are the guys who ended up drafting Kiko Alonso last season.
If you employ strategy number three or some mixture of two and three, you are my target audience. This article will take an early look at the IDPs taken in the 2014 NFL Draft who seem to have a chance to be fantasy-relevant at some point this season. It will also examine what impact the rookie could have on any other player on his team’s roster – specifically those players who were probably used at some point in deeper leagues last season. This first article will concentrate on linebackers, while a second article will deal with the other defensive positions.
Leading up to the draft, rumors were swirling as to where South Carolina’s do-everything linebacker Jadeveon Clowney would end up. IDP fans were hopeful that the rumors of Clowney ending up in Atlanta by way of trade would come to fruition. While Clowney probably would have been double-teamed as soon as he got off of the bus if he were a Falcon, at least he would have been primarily a defensive end in a 4-3. Unfortunately, Clowney was selected first overall in the draft by the Texans. So while he will contribute to what looks to be a very imposing front seven in Houston under defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel, in most fantasy leagues, Clowney will be designated as a linebacker. That should severely limit him in most scoring systems.
The next defensive player went off of the board when Oakland selected pass rusher extraordinaire Khalil Mack with the No. 5 overall pick in the draft. Early reports have Mack penciled in as a base SAM who would then kick down to defensive end in the sub-packages (like how Denver uses Von Miller). But if you prefer to roster sure tacklers over up-and-down sack artists, another guy to watch in Oakland may be Sio Moore. Moore was Oakland’s SAM last season when he was PFF’s eighth rated (+8.6) 4-3 outside linebacker. If Moore has to flip over to the WILL in the base to accommodate Mack and continues to play like he did last season, he should have more tackles this season. Last season’s WILL, Kevin Burnett, seems to be the odd man out for now.
Minnesota selected UCLA DE Anthony Barr with the No. 9 overall pick of the draft. Just like Clowney in Houston and Mack in Oakland, Barr is slated to play the SAM in his team’s base defense with a move to the end position in sub-packages. But unlike Clowney and Mack, Barr may have trouble being anything more than the No. 3 end rusher in Minnesota. Merely being in the rotation to rush the passer may not be enough to attain the numbers that you would need to play him consistently.
New Minnesota head coach Mike Zimmer is planning on using Barr in a variety of ways, but until he becomes that guy, he is probably not a player that you would want in your starting lineup early in the fantasy season. Not unless he has the defensive lineman designation in your league. What his addition also does is create a logjam. Last season’s SAM Chad Greenway (-19.4) was useful in deeper fantasy leagues due to his ability to accumulate solo tackles, but he graded out negatively both in coverage and against the run. Greenway is not ideally suited to move to the WILL to accommodate the rookie, and Barr was not known as a great run defender in college, so he isn’t exactly a great fit for the WILL either. One of them will either have to move or be relegated to sub-packages.
Pittsburgh selected Ohio State LB Ryan Shazier with the No. 15 overall pick in the draft. Shazier is noted for his speed and reportedly will take over Lawrence Timmons‘ weak side inside linebacker position with Timmons being moved to the strong side linebacker position. If Shazier can hold onto the job and become a three-down player, he could become the top rookie IDP. This could also result in Timmons being moved all around the field to rush the passer from different spots, which could make him more of a week-to-week, hit-or-miss type player.
Baltimore selected ILB C.J. Mosley with the No. 17 overall pick in the draft. In the right situation, Mosley could have been the top rookie IDP. In Baltimore, he will have to compete for the starting job with last year’s second round pick Arthur Brown. The loser of the competition will almost assuredly become the nickel linebacker. Daryl Smith is expected to be the other starting inside linebacker, but if the Ravens are planning on Mosley and Brown becoming their long term inside linebackers, can Smith’s job be safe all season? It is not yet clear if there is a safe pick at ILB on the Baltimore roster.
Atlanta once again hurt IDP players by not being able to trade back into the first round to select Dee Ford. Kansas City ended up selecting the pass rusher with the No. 23 overall pick of the draft. Not only will the linebacker designation limit Ford’s IDP value, but he is on a roster with both the No. 1 — Justin Houston (+32.8) — and the No. 6 — Tamba Hali (+22.7) — 3-4 outside linebackers in PFF’s rankings from last season. Ford is being mentioned as the future replacement for Hali, so if Ford is able to play at Hali’s level at any point during the season, it could dip into Hali’s playing time.
Philadelphia selected Louisville OLB Marcus Smith with the No. 26 overall pick in the draft. The Eagles seem to be hoping that Smith will be the future replacement for Trent Cole, but for this season, Smith may never be a three-down player.
Detroit selected BYU linebacker Kyle Van Noy with the No. 40 overall pick in the draft. He is expected to immediately take snaps at the SAM. His path to three-down territory looks a bit cloudier as the projected MIKE Stephen Tulloch (+14.7) and the projected WILL DeAndre Levy (+8.7) seem entrenched as three-down players.
Cleveland selected Iowa ILB Christian Kirksey with the No. 71 overall pick in the draft. Speedy and athletic, he is expected to eventually beat out Craig Robertson (-18.1) for the weak side inside linebacker position.
San Francisco selected ILB Chris Borland with the No. 77 overall pick in the draft. Considered a good tackler, he may get some early playing time because NaVorro Bowman is expected to begin the season on the PUP list.
Jacksonville selected Florida State linebacker Telvin Smith with the No. 144 overall pick in the draft. His playmaking ability and cover skills could put him in play for three-down duty at the WILL. This would mean that the winner of the competition at the SAM between Dekoda Watson and Geno Hayes may only play in the base.
Denver has tried to acquire a middle linebacker this offseason but hasn’t had any success. They struck out in free agency and were not able to move up in the draft to select Mosley. Denver selected LSU linebacker Lamin Barrow with the No. 156 overall pick in the draft, and he is currently better suited to play the WILL. But the WILL is where Danny Trevathan (+6.1) resides, and Barrow would seem to need a year before he would be ready for the challenge of playing the MIKE. Even if Barrow were to win a starting job somewhere, it’s hard to see a path for him to stay on the field in sub-packages right now.
Ashe started his writing career at the now-defunct CNNSI in Atlanta. He moved on to CNN Domestic where he joined his first fantasy football league. He writes about sports and politics when he isn’t checking the waiver wire.