Report Card: Second-Year IDPs
Over the summer I highlighted five second-year studs and five second-year duds on the defensive side of the ball. Now that the NFL season is winding down, it’s time to learn from our fantasy success stories and more importantly, our failures.
Called ’em Duds
Demario Davis, LB, New York Jets
We’ll start with one of my better calls this offseason. Davis was one of the linebackers fantasy owners were hoping could have a breakout season. The inside linebacker did post 44 assists but fell way short of the 80 solo tackles many were projecting, despite not missing a game. The Jets’ scheme just wasn’t going to allow Davis to be a stud.
Key Quotes from the Offseason
“While I do think that Davis will have a much bigger role this season, I question whether it’s enough to justify such lofty expectations. No Jets linebacker has posted 80 solo tackles in a season the last three years.”
“Davis should end up posting solid numbers, but he won’t get the volume to truly break out in 2013.”
Zach Brown, LB, Tennessee Titans
Brown was another linebacker that left fantasy owners disappointed in 2013. He did have some good games, but only six combined solo tackles in weeks 15 and 16 didn’t help anyone win their IDP league championship. This quote pretty much nailed it.
“I expect Brown to put up solid full-season IDP numbers in 2013 and with his athleticism there’s a lot of upside. But his week-to-week inconsistency could leave owners wishing they hadn’t reached for his potential.”
Morris Claiborne, CB, Dallas Cowboys
Claiborne was injured half the year. But even when healthy he didn’t produce top-flight IDP numbers.
“Couple positive organized team activity (OTA) reports with the switch to a Tampa-2 scheme, and seasoned IDP owners are expecting a breakout season. While it could occur, I’d make sure I didn’t reach for a Tampa-2 corner who hasn’t graded out well against the run.”
Dont’a Hightower, LB, New England Patriots
Hightower did put up better tackle numbers this season and reached his projections in that department. But he made virtually no big plays, leaving fantasy owners with some real dud performances and limited upside. Hightower didn’t record an impact start until Week 7.
“Hightower should put up better numbers in year two, but don’t draft him counting on it.”
Andre Branch, DE, Jacksonville Jaguars
Branch did surpass my expectations but still wasn’t startable in IDP leagues.
“There’s optimism that in new head coach Gus Bradley’s defense Branch can take a big step forward. But it’s false hope. Branch is a bust.”
Called ’em Studs
Stephon Gilmore, CB, Buffalo Bills
I completely blew it here. Gilmore had a nice rookie season but missed the first five games of 2013 and was never the impact IDP player I thought he would be. This is one reason you should never, ever draft a corner even remotely early in IDP leagues.
“As a rookie, the South Carolina product was reliable and durable, starting all 16 games.”
“I wait as long as possible to draft cornerbacks, but when you do pull the trigger, Gilmore is a nice target.”
Mychal Kendricks, LB, Philadelphia Eagles
Kendricks didn’t reach astronomical solo tackle numbers in 2013. But his assists were right on his projection and his big plays rose tremendously in the Eagles revamped defense. He was much improved in his second year from a fantasy and real-life perspective. Kendricks was consistent, allowing IDP owners to plug him in lineups every week.
“On the inside he’ll be able to make more of an impact for the Philadelphia defense and fantasy owners alike.”
“If he adds a few big plays, he’ll be a stud.”
Chandler Jones, DE, New England Patriots
Jones stayed healthy = STUD.
“… a player that was unblockable when healthy in 2012.”
“If he’s healthy, eight sacks will be closer to his floor than ceiling in 2013.”
Harrison Smith, FS, Minnesota Vikings
Smith produced impact starts when he played but missed most of the year with turf toe. Out of the games he did play, only once did he fail to reach double-digit fantasy points.
“He went for double digits in the final five fantasy football weeks following the Vikings’ bye.”
Luke Kuechly, LB, Carolina Panthers
This was a pretty easy call. Kuechly was incredible in 2012 and everyone expected him to be a stud this past season. I get downgraded here since LUUUKE didn’t reach the level of production I thought he would in IDP leagues. I really thought the Panthers’ secondary would keep this defense on the field much more, allowing Kuechly to post monstrous numbers. The Carolina secondary, helped by a tenacious pass rush, actually played very well considering the talent level. As it turned out it was just a ho hum LB1 year for one of the best IDPs in the NFL.
“The Panthers’ secondary is also extremely weak and will struggle to get off the field on third down, another indicator of increased snaps, which translates to an increase in tackles and big-play opportunities.”
“While better defensive line play could take some tackle opportunities away from Kuechly, the fresh talent should occupy blockers, effectively allowing him to make even more plays at the point of attack. He is set up for a monster year and should be the first linebacker off the board regardless of format.”
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