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How to draft the defensive line position group has been the topic of many conversations over the past few years. Jumping out early and drafting stud defensive linemen was always a strong draft strategy. Defensive schemes have changed, playing much more base Dime and Nickel packages. What this has done is create a conundrum at the linebacker position.
The number of every-down linebackers is becoming few and far between. Sub-packages have limited many teams to just one three-down linebacker. In turn, this makes linebackers with high volume more scarce, making the position that much more important to hit on. The defensive line position is also deeper than it has been in years. Draft strategies are changing and linebackers still score the most of any position group–make sure you grab some studs.
That said, you will be drafting defensive linemen later than you have in the past. There are a plethora of players who are value picks in IDP drafts. Many of these players are being drafted as DL2/3, but carry DL1 upside. Here are a few of the best defensive line value picks to target late in your IDP drafts.
Kwity Paye, DE, Indianapolis Colts
Paye was a tremendous talent hailing from the University of Michigan as a rookie in 2021. He had a strong rookie campaign, even though his sack numbers (4) were a bit to be desired. Paye finished 2021 with 27 tackles (16 solos), four sacks, a forced fumble, and two fumble recoveries. He made a strong impression on the coaching staff, playing the team's second-most snaps of any defensive end.
The leader in snaps, Al-Quadin Muhammad, left the Colts in free agency to join the Bears. This sets up Paye to be the snap leader and lead defensive end for the Colts in 2022. The Colts also traded for pass-rush specialist Yannick Ngakoue. Ngakoue can soak up some of the offensive line attention, being a far better pass rusher than Muhammad was, thus giving Paye more one-on-one opportunities.
Paye has tremendous burst and athleticism off the edge. Watch how quickly he gets into the backfield here.
KWITY PAYE. ðŸš«— Indianapolis Colts (@Colts) August 22, 2021
ðŸ“º FOX pic.twitter.com/BXJvh1VM50
Paye has a consensus rank of DL24 at footballguys.com, making him a fringe DL2/3 for 12-team leagues. Paye has top-12 defensive lineman potential, making him a tremendous value where he is being selected.
Emmanuel Ogbah, DE, Miami Dolphins
Ogbah has been an absolute beast during his two-year tenure in Miami. He has accumulated 82 tackles (49 solos), 18 sacks, four forced fumbles, and 15 passes defended during that span. He has posted back-to-back nine sack seasons, and his 15 passes defended is the most of any defensive lineman in the NFL across that stretch. Ogbah has a full array of moves, as you can see here.
Still, Ogbah has been devalued at his position. He currently holds a consensus rank of DL29 yet has produced like a DL1 over the past two years. Jaelan Phillips is primed to break out which could eat into a little of Ogbah’s production, though with where he is being drafted, Ogbah is an elite draft value.
Jadeveon Clowney, DE, Cleveland Browns
In general, Clowney has been a disappointment in comparison to his draft capital. Even still, it has not been a bust of a career, he is just a better real-life fantasy football player than a fantasy asset. His run defense is stellar, possibly one of the best defensive ends in run defense in the entire NFL. Watch here where he reads the toss to Tyreek Hill perfectly and uses his unreal length to wrap him up for a loss.
Last year was Clowney’s first year with Cleveland, and he seemed to benefit from playing across from Myles Garrett. Garrett is one of the league’s premier pass-rushers and garners loads of attention. This allowed Clowney to focus on beating one man rather than a double team. Clowney responded with 36 total tackles and seven sacks. Clowney also had the third most pressures (53) of his career in 2021. He re-signed for another one-year contract and will be playing for another contract.
Clowney has a consensus rank at footballguys.com of DL51.5. That has him being drafted as purely bench depth. Clowney may not have a ton of dynasty value, as he turns 30 years old this year, though he still holds great value for a few more years, making him one of the top DL value picks in your IDP drafts.
DE Yetur Gross-Matos, Carolina Panthers
Gross-Matos becomes a value pick, not because of what he has shown on the field but purely because of potential volume opportunity. He has been a gross (see what I did there) disappointment since the Panthers drafted him in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft. He has provided a lackluster 53 total tackles (27 solos) and just six sacks to start his career.
Gross-Matos has shown signs of life, though. During the final three games of the 2021 season, he compiled 12 tackles (seven solos), three tackles for a loss, and 2.5 sacks. He has shown flashes of refined skills, mainly the use of his hands matched with burst, as you can see here.
Yetur Gross-Matos with the stab/slap. He stabs with the inside hand to get the OL thinking long arm (power), causing him to lean forward. @__lobo99 then slaps the outside arm to clear the OL's punch & further affect his balance. Matos with the strip sack! #passrush #keeppounding pic.twitter.com/17kqkEQEVK— DLineVids (@dlinevids1) October 4, 2020
Morgan Fox was second on the Panthers in snaps for defensive ends, and he signed with the Chargers in free agency. Gross-Matos holds a consensus rank at Footballguys of DL54.5. With raw rookie Amare Barno as the only significant addition to the defensive end group, Gross-Matos has the opportunity to see an enormous snap-share for 2022.
With three-down linebackers now becoming a thing of the past, their positional importance and value have sky-rocketed. Netting yourself an elite three-down linebacker should be your main priority when building your IDP squad. The defensive line gets deeper by the year and is also less valuable due to many teams using pass-rush rotations now.
The defensive line is boom or bust as it is, so shooting for later round value while loading up on the highest scoring position (linebacker) is a must. You can find value late in your IDP drafts for each position. Hopefully, this helps you land some defensive line value.
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