Report Card: Rookie IDPs
Two second-year middle linebackers had nice weekends. Luke Kuechly took home Defensive Player of the Year honors, while Bobby Wagner won the Super Bowl as part of the “Legion of Boom” Seattle defense. Both players made instant impacts for IDP owners as part of a strong 2012 rookie class.
This past draft season wasn’t as kind to owners who took the IDP plunge early in their dynasty rookie drafts. The jury is still out on many players, but it’s never too early to learn from the past as we head into the 2014 draft season.
The following grades are for 2013 value only:
Arthur Brown BAL LB
Brown was thought to be Ray Lewis’ immediate replacement when the Ravens selected him with the 24th pick in the second round of last April’s draft. Most fantasy football experts, myself included, had him as the top rookie linebacker. I observed one fantasy owner select him with the seventh pick in a dynasty rookie draft with the comment, “I passed on Kuechly last year, not going to make the same mistake.”
Selecting any IDP seventh is usually a mistake, pending league format of course. But this owner didn’t make the same mistake as Brown was a complete bust in his first season. He played 211 snaps despite appearing in 14 games. He should at least win a starting job in 2014, but big IDP numbers may never come. There’s a lesson here: many times IDPs seem like a “safe” pick compared to offensive players. While that may be the case at times, IDPs can still bust and offensive players present more upside especially early in rookie drafts.
Johnathan Cyprien JAC S
Cyprien was the first pick of the second round and on every IDP owner’s radar regardless of draft format. In dynasty rookie drafts, he was many times the top defensive back off the board, while also being snatched up in redraft leagues as well.
The former FIU star played over 1,000 snaps in 2013 and finished as a top 12 safety in most scoring formats. He graded out very poorly early in the year but improved as the season wore on. The lesson here may be that situation and play style are very important when looking at potential IDP selections. Cyprien was my top rookie safety in part because I felt he’d play in the box often and be on the field a ton for the woeful Jags. I was right on both accounts.
Kiko Alonso BUF LB
Alonso was spectacular for IDP owners this year and the best rookie defensive player to own in 2013. He had just enough question marks about durability,skill set and role to bump him down draft boards. Alonso and Alec Ogletree are both examples of drafting rookies with upside.
Alec Ogletree STL LB
Ogletree was the second linebacker on my rookie IDP big board last year after he was drafted late in the first round by the Rams. I wrote his rookie profile and referenced his “elite upside.” While he didn’t reach elite levels in his rookie season, Ogletree displayed his athletic ability to run and chase racking up 91 solo tackles. He finished as a LB1 in most formats, posting fairly consistent numbers late in the year. From an NFL perspective he graded out all over the map so there should be even more room for improvement in 2014.
Dion Jordan MIA DE
Jordan, like Brown at linebacker was a complete bust in his rookie season. The Dolphins traded up to select Jordan as the number three pick. Despite this pedigree, he never rose above situational pass rusher in the Miami scheme. With Cameron Wake and Olivier Vernon both playing at a high level he’ll have trouble playing enough snaps to be an IDP producer in 2014 as well.
Ezekial Ansah DET DE
Ansah was my top IDP at defensive end last draft season and showed more promise than Jordan but still failed to produce for owners as a rookie. The lesson here is that defensive end is still one of the toughest positional transitions in the league.
Sheldon Richardson NYJ DE
Richardson won Defensive Rookie of the Year and was an excellent value in fantasy rookie drafts. The former Missouri defensive tackle excelled at defensive end in Rex Ryan’s 3-4 scheme. Our own Jeff Ratcliffe pointed out on my radio show recently that the defensive line IDP landscape is changing as we’re seeing more 3-4 ends and even defensive tackles produce at high levels for fantasy owners. Take note as you prepare for 2114 drafts.
Dee Milliner NYJ CB
Milliner played 747 snaps for the Jets but was never a defensive back that you could consider starting in your IDP league. Corners just don’t give you any value. Wait, wait, wait at this position.
Other Players of Note:
Kenny Vaccarro C
Manti Te’o F
Matt Elam D
Jon Bostic C-
Kevin Minter F
Datone Jones F
Sio Moore C
Star Lotulelei C
Eric Reid B-
Desmond Trufant C
Nate Hodges is a lead writer for PFF Fantasy and radio host for Tennessee Sports Radio (Sundays at 11 a.m. eastern). Listen at TNsportsradio.com. His work can also be found at TopTierFootball.com. You can follow him on Twitter – @NateNFL