Second-Year IDP Studs
Last year’s crop of individual defensive player (IDP) rookies was loaded with fantasy football contributors. Now it’s time to separate who will take the next step or stagnate in their sophomore season.
Stephon Gilmore – CB, Buffalo Bills
The Bills selected cornerback Stephon Gilmore 10th overall in the 2012 NFL Draft. As a rookie, the South Carolina product was reliable and durable, starting all 16 games. He played 1,082 out of a possible 1,115 snaps. As with any top-10 pick, Buffalo hopes they’ve found an impact player for years to come. Overall his 2012 statistics landed him as a CB2 (around 20th) in most league formats.
Here’s a look at Gilmore’s 2012 statistics along with 2013 projections from PFF Fantasy’s Jeff Ratcliffe:
In 2013, Gilmore will again play a high volume of snaps and will be targeted more frequently since Aaron Williams has moved to safety. He was thrown at 87 times, which ranked him 30th in the league for corners. That number is low compared to the number of snaps he played. He was ninth in tackle efficiency among players who played 50 percent of snaps, but third in tackle efficiency while in coverage. Therefore, with increased “thrown at” numbers, Gilmore’s tackles will rise as well.
It’s very hard to project big plays from secondary players. In 2012, Gilmore posted CB2 numbers with only one interception and two forced fumbles. With his already solid tackle numbers set to increase, add a few more big plays and you’ve got yourself a second-year stud. It also won’t hurt that the home stat crew in Buffalo has given out the most combined tackles and assists over the last five years. 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 was taken by the Eagles with the 14th pick in the second round of the 2012 draft. He experienced a very inconsistent year from both a NFL perspective and IDP fantasy football perspective. Although he posted seven or more total tackles in four games, he failed to reach four in three others. Playing mostly on the strong side of the Eagles 4-3 defense, he only added one sack leading to a rather disappointing rookie year for fantasy football owners.
Take a look at his 2012 numbers and compare them to his projections for 2013:
Why the projected jump? As with many IDP breakout players, the scheme change in Philadelphia is occurring at just the right time for Kendricks. In 2013, he will bump inside in the Eagles new 3-4. He actually played a relatively high number of snaps in 2012 (955). However, he was buried playing the strong side, not able to consistently get to the ball carrier to record the type of tackle numbers you would like to see out of your IDP linebackers.
Kendricks graded out very weak against the run but did improve late in the year. He was very average in the pass rush, so it’s a good decision by the Eagles’ staff to change his role. On the inside he’ll be able to make more of an impact for the Philadelphia defense and fantasy owners alike. Last season, when playing on the weak side in three games, he posted positive grades and higher fantasy football numbers. This is a better indication of how he’ll project in 2013. If he adds a few big plays, he’ll be a stud.
Chandler Jones – DE, New England Patriots
The Patriots drafted Jones with the 21st pick overall in the 2012 draft. Tabbed to play the “elephant” role in Bill Belichick’s defense, fantasy owners had high expectations. After double-digit games in five of New England’s first eight games, Jones tailed off as he battled ankle injuries late in the season.
Here are his 2012 statistics and 2013 projections:
Jones was a monster through the first eight games of 2012. He played nearly all the snaps, racked up 18 solos, 15 assists, three forced fumbles, and all five of his season sacks. His cumulative Pro Football Focus grade for the first eight games was an astonishing +14.3. But then he began having ankle issues and he finished the season at +9.
Jones was able to avoid ankle surgery this offseason, which is great news for a player that was unblockable when healthy in 2012. He should be ready to go for training camp. If he’s healthy, eight sacks will be closer to his floor than ceiling in 2013.
Harrison Smith – FS, Minnesota Vikings
Minnesota selected Harrison Smith with the 29th pick overall in 2012. He was an every-week starter for the Vikings beginning in Week 1 and turned in a remarkable PFF grade of +10.9 as a rookie. Smith produced top-five IDP numbers as well and turned out to be a value pick for dynasty and redraft owners alike.
Here’s a look at his impressive 2012 campaign and a look ahead at 2013 projections:
Smith showed in 2012 that he can score with the top safeties in the league even from the less-than-ideal free safety position. He is an extremely physical and instinctive player. Smith graded out as the sixth-best safety last season in coverage, displaying his knack for playing the pass well – both pre-throw and while the ball’s in the air.
Smith wasn’t as effective against the run in his rookie season. Overall he posted a negative grade. However, in the final six games he only posted one negative grade (-0.3) in the run game, showing improvement in that area. There was similar improvement in his fantasy football production. He went for double digits in the final five fantasy football weeks following the Vikings’ bye. Smith’s 2012 numbers were inflated a bit by his two defensive touchdowns, but as long as his consistent tackle numbers remain, he’ll be a second-year stud.
Luke Kuechly – LB, Carolina Panthers
Kuechly was drafted by the Panthers with the ninth-overall pick in 2012, establishing extremely high expectations in both the NFL and fantasy football IDP leagues. He began the season playing early downs as the weak-side linebacker in Carolina’s 4-3 scheme. But in Week 5 he started in the middle and didn’t miss a snap the rest of the season. Kuechly finished as a top-three linebacker in virtually all IDP scoring formats.
Here’s a look at his stats from 2012 and his 2013 projections:
In 2012, Kuechly only posted three solo tackles and six assists in the first two games. That means he had 99 solo stops in 14 games. That’s a torrid pace, over seven per game. He was 10th in tackle efficiency. Last season he only played 790 snaps. Almost every other top-10 linebacker played more than 1,000 snaps. As the every-down middle linebacker for the entire season, Kuechly’s snaps will increase. 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.
In this year’s draft, Carolina selected Star Lotulelei (14th overall) and Kawann Short (44th overall) with their first two picks. 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.