Top IDP Free Agents
Free agency is just around the corner and many teams will be looking to immediately upgrade their defenses. As you’ll see, this year’s class is a bit top-heavy, so the bidding should be fast and furious.
For fantasy purposes, changing these players’ surroundings creates the possibility of removing them from the same scheme that made them so successful. It’s also possible that some of these players will never hit free agency, which would, at the very least, keep their fantasy stock where it currently stands. But for now, we’ll assume they hit the open market.
I broke out the positions based on typical IDP positions, so you won’t see terms like “edge rusher” since most IDP leagues don’t currently use it. So we stick with traditional defensive lineman, linebackers (inside and outside) and defensive backs. I included their age at the beginning of the 2015 season and their cumulative Pro Football Focus ratings the past three years. Here are the results:
|DL||Age||Total PFF Rating||2014||2013||2012|
|Hughes||27||24.5||9.7||19.9 (LB)||-5.1 (LB)|
As far as defensive ends go, it’s a two-horse race between Panthers end Greg Hardy and Giants end Jason Pierre-Paul. And while each have their respective baggage (Hardy is facing a suspension due to a domestic abuse charge that has been dropped; Pierre-Paul is two years removed from back surgery), both can be a difference-maker on the defensive line and can easily provide a double-digit sack season for your fantasy team.
Jerry Hughes will be a great consolation prize for any team that doesn’t land one of the aforementioned. The first-rounder seemed like a bust before thriving in Buffalo and posting back-to-back 9.5 seasons. He’s now ready to cash in.
Da’Quan Bowers is not a sexy pick but he’s the youngest free agent available and should be able to restart his career somewhere.
Ndamukong Suh gets a place on this list despite being a defensive tackle, a position traditionally not fantasy-football friendly. However, he’s so dominant on the interior that he is still able to average seven sacks a season and provide good fantasy value in addition to superior real-life value.
|OLB||Age||Total PFF Rating||2014||2013||2012|
The cream of the free agency crop is linebacker Justin Houston. Houston has graded out as the top outside linebacker the last two years according to Pro Football Focus ratings, even accomplishing that feat in 2013 despite missing a quarter of the season. Houston has a good chance to be franchise tagged and not even hit the open market, but whether it’s in Kansas City or somewhere else, Houston will break the bank.
Behind Houston is solid depth at the position including two defensive ends-turned-linebackers, Brandon Graham and Pernell McPhee. After converting from defensive end in 2013, Graham grew into the position and was the fifth-best outside linebacker according to Pro Football Focus, while McPhee ranked second in Pro Football Focus Pass Rushing Productivity (sacks,hits and hurries relative to snaps).
Brian Orakpo has the talent to be in at the top of this class but three pectoral injuries will prevent that. Now 29, Orakpo will be a cheaper option for some team looking to gain an impact rusher.
Jason Worilds burst on the scene in 2013 and had the rare distinction to be transition-tagged by Pittsburgh before turning in another solid season in 2014. Only 27 with a lot of tread left on the tires, Worilds should be able to cash in.
|ILB||Age||Total PFF Rating||2014||2013||2012|
Brandon Spikes leads a rather weak crop of inside linebackers. Spikes only played on a rotational basis this season but was still an effective run-stopper. However, he’ll be hard-pressed to find a team that will keep him on the field all three downs, so his fantasy appeal is limited.
Perhaps the best talent of the group belongs to Rolando McClain who revived his career in Dallas last season. Despite missing the 2013 season, he still graded out as the second-best inside linebacker available, according to Pro Football Focus. However, multiple head injuries will give prospective teams pause, along with a pending four-game fine for violating the league substance abuse policy.
Behind Spikes and McClain, there’s simply not a lot of talent. Nate Irving racked up 44 tackles through just half the season before suffering an ACL injury, while both David Harris and Mason Foster have cumulative negative Pro Football Focus grades over the last three years. This is not the year to fill your defense in the middle of the field.
|DB||Age||Total PFF Rating||2014||2013||2012|
As you can see, it’s Devin McCourty and everyone else. And with McCourty a good candidate for the franchise tag, it could leave the secondary as the worst position to fill in free agency this year.
Behind McCourty are a few young players, Rahim Moore and Da’Norris Searcy, that could be an improvement for some teams, but will by no means break the bank. Behind them are veterans Dawan Landry and Antrel Rolle, both of which should see no more than one-year deals, but could still turn in 100-tackle seasons.