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Greetings! If you are reading this, it likely means you are one of my favorite types of fantasy players. You care about the defensive side of the ball and play in a league in which individual defensive players (IDPs) are utilized. Once considered a niche format, IDP continues to grow, as evidenced by the increased demand for content. Even Bovada recently offering prop bets for individual defensive players. As the great Sigmund Bloom recently put it, “IDPs’ time is coming eventually…”
As we prepare for draft season, this article will endeavor to help you get ready by aiding you in identifying a few later-round and sleeper targets at each position. All of these are players that will not be premium scorers but will give you serviceable production so that you can focus your early draft capital on offensive skill position players. Scoring tends to be different from league to league, but for the purposes of this article, we will assume a 12-team league, use MyFantasyLeague.com for position designations, and use the defensive scoring system found here. The important highlights of this scoring system:
- DEs and DTs net 2.5 points per tackle as opposed to EDGEs/LBs netting 1.5 points per tackle and defensive backs netting 2 points per tackle.
- DEs, DTs, and defensive backs net one point per assist as opposed to EDGEs/LBs netting .75 points per assist.
- DEs and DTs net 7 points per sack while all other positions net 6 points per sack.
Maurice Hurst, OAK
Current ADP: 267
Reasoning: Hurst acquitted himself nicely in his rookie year on a unit that simply was not good by placing 31st in this scoring format. We can expect a better finish this year. With better supporting talent added through the draft, namely pass rusher Clelin Ferrell, the Raiders are slated to improve their pass rush, which in turn may help Hurst generate pressures, hits, and sacks.
Expectations: 30-35 tackles, 7-10 assists, 5-7 sacks
Quinnen Williams, NYJ
Current ADP: 300
Reasoning: It’s difficult to expect much of rookies at defensive tackle, but Williams is no ordinary rookie. He is truly an impact player at his position, one who will immediately create disruption on the interior of his line. Quality linemates in Leonard Williams and Henry Anderson, along with the scheme changes brought in by Gregg Williams, will make his ceiling outcome possible.
Expectations: 30-35 tackles, 20-25 assists, 4-6 sacks
Gerald McCoy, CAR
Current ADP: 332
Reasoning: McCoy was the victim of both injury and playing on a very injured team last season. He found a new home in Carolina this offseason and by all counts is fitting in well with his new teammates. Carolina is switching to more of a 3-4 base scheme but will have plenty of 4-3 looks to keep opposing offenses off-balance. The Panthers have a strong interior with Dontari Poe and Kawann Short as linemates. That means defenses can’t key on any one of the three to double team without consequences. McCoy has been one of the best in the game at generating interior pressure and we should expect him to get back to that this year.
Expectations: 20-25 tackles, 10-15 assists, 4-6 sacks
Carlos Dunlap, CIN
Current ADP: 280
Reasoning: Dunlap’s advanced age is pushing down his value, but this 30-year-old player has plenty left in the tank and remains one of the best defensive ends in the league in terms of technical soundness. There is also consternation about his fit in the new Lou Anarumo scheme, but there should not be. The Bengals will run a base 4-3 with 3-4 hybrid looks, so very little will change for Dunlap. With Carl Lawson and Sam Hubbard also providing pressure, Dunlap won’t get double-teamed very often.
Everson Griffen, MIN
Current ADP: 282
Reasoning: Griffen suffered from a mental health problem that caused him to miss much of last season. By all accounts, he is feeling more like himself as he prepares for the 2019 season. Before that point, Griffen had been a consistent producer at the position with a great supporting end in Danielle Hunter. Hunter is now in the lead, but that could actually play in Griffen’s favor as offenses expend extra blocking resources on Hunter’s end. Expect Griffen to rebound significantly this year.
Expectations: 35-40 tackles, 15-20 assists, 10-12 sacks
Nick Bosa, SF
Current ADP: 329
Reasoning: After disappointing production from its strong-side defensive ends for the past several years, the 49ers finally got it right by adding arguably the best one in the 2019 draft class. Nick Bosa may very well be better than his brother. Remember what kind of impact Joey Bosa had in his rookie year? It’s conceivable that the younger brother could yield similar production, especially with an above-average supporting cast in Dee Ford, Arik Armstead, and DeForrest Buckner.
Expectations: 30-35 tackles, 10-15 assists, 7-10 sacks
Devin Bush, PIT
Current ADP: 257
Reasoning: Folks don’t always know what to expect of rookie linebackers. Also, when you consider the production we’ve seen out of the mish-mash of players that Pittsburgh has tried to use to approximate Ryan Shazier’s role, it adds to the doubt. Yet we need not be afraid, because Bush is an athletically gifted player that can perform up to those lofty standards. Head coach Mike Tomlin has been pleased with what he’s seen of Bush so far. We can expect Bush to have the full-time job over Mark Barron and to start immediately.
Expectations: 70-80 tackles, 40-50 assists, 1-2 sacks
Rashaan Evans, TEN
Current ADP: 325
Reasoning: Evans didn’t blow it up as a rookie as we thought he might, but we did see the light come on for him later in the year. With Wesley Woodyard hitting the end of his career, we should anticipate Evans’ snaps to pick up significantly in the base defense. Evans even has better than average utility as a pass rusher and we can expect the Titans to use it more this year now that they are without edge rushers Brian Orakpo and Derrick Morgan. That will be a nice bump for leagues that have bigger sack bonuses.
Expectations: 80-90 tackles, 40-50 assists, 2-4 sacks
Quincy Williams, JAX
Current ADP: 357
Reasoning: Telvin Smith Sr is sitting this year out and third-round rookie Williams will earn one of the two starting inside spots, most likely the weakside linebacker job. Williams has been showing impressively at training camp, earning the praise of his head coach as possibly the fastest player on the field. If things go bad with the offense once again, that’s even better for Williams, who will have more tackle opportunity.
Expectations: 80-90 tackles, 25-30 assists, 1-2 sacks
Jonathan Joseph, HOU
Current ADP: 414
Reasoning: Joseph has been the main corner in Houston for a long time, but with the addition of Bradley Roby, Joseph will become the secondary corner. Joseph has slowed down considerably as he has aged, but he’ll be targeted more frequently than he has been in quite a few years.
Expectations: 45-50 tackles, 10-15 assists, 0 sacks, 1-2 interceptions
DeAndre Baker, NYG
Current ADP: 657
Expectations: 60-70 tackles, 5-10 assists, 0 sacks, 1-2 interceptions
Byron Murphy, ARI
Current ADP: 684
Reasoning: Rookie? Check. Will have plenty of snaps on a bad defense to earn plenty of tackle opportunity? Check. Starting across from a quality corner in Patrick Peterson? Check.
Expectations: 60-70 tackles, 5-10 assists, 0 sacks, 2-3 interceptions
Jordan Whitehead, TB
Current ADP: 365
Reasoning: Todd Bowles is once again back to being a defensive coordinator and we know that his strong safeties have a track record of production. Whitehead is expected to be given the full-time strong safety role with Justin Evans playing the free safety role. The defense is far from where it needs to be in regard to personnel, which should create ample tackle opportunity for this year.
Expectations: 70-80 tackles, 20-25 assists, 1 sack, 1-2 interceptions
Jonathan Abram, OAK
Current ADP: 368
Reasoning: Abram was the best box safety in the class and head of a team that should be on the field plenty during his rookie year. The opportunity will be there, especially with a weaker linebacker group ahead of him.
Expectations: 70-80 tackles, 25-30 assists, 1 sack, 1-2 interceptions
Eric Reid, CAR
Current ADP: 382
Reasoning: Reid performed well for the team as a free agent addition and was on pace to record over 100 total tackles if he had played a full sixteen games. He’ll only have newly signed Tre Boston to compete with for tackles, who will probably be of similar impact to Mike Adams at this stage in his career.
Expectations: 70-80 tackles, 25-30 assists, 2 sacks, 1-2 interceptions