Links to similar discussions on other positions:
Most fantasy owners are used to drafting off a simple ranking of players, but that can mask underlying differences between players. For example, two players may be ranked right next to each other on a cheatsheet, but there could be a wide gap in their expected production. In that case, you would probably want to draft the higher-ranked player a full round earlier than the lower-ranked player. Similarly, there may be a large group of players with very similar projections that are bunched together on a ranking sheet. It may seem that a player ranked 10th is much more valuable than a player ranked 15th, but if only a few projected points separate them, then they are roughly equivalent in value. Rather than force yourself to pick one, it may be best to focus on another position and then come back to this position in the next round since you’re likely to get a player of nearly identical value.
Grouping players into distinct tiers or buckets provides additional context that allows a drafter to make more informed decisions. The projections we offer at Footballguys also help a lot in this regard, but those are still static projections that may not fully indicate the range of likely outcomes for a player. For example, two players may be projected with similar numbers, but one may have significantly more upside and/or a higher floor than the other. Those types of risk vs. reward decisions are inherent in any fantasy draft. While drafting the safe players will typically help you build a solid team, you often need to take some chances and hit on some players who significantly exceed their preseason expectations to win.
Rankings are typically helpful in ordering players within the same position group, but tiers can help you figure out which position to take as you move through a draft. Suppose you see a large group of linebackers that are all capable of putting up top-12 numbers but only one defensive lineman likely to put up elite numbers. In that case, it’s wise to grab the lineman and assume a quality linebacker will last until your next pick. This helps maximize your pick's value and is a strategy that all strong fantasy players use to some extent.
How to Use the Tiers
1. These tiers are based on expected performance for the 2022 season in a balanced scoring system. While dynasty owners always need to consider long-term outcomes to some extent, the upcoming season is most critical for player value. I’ll highlight some dynasty stash options in a separate tier that you can focus on if you are less concerned about this year and want to focus on building for the future.
2. Positional classifications can differ depending on what your league-hosting website uses. For consistency, I will rely on the official Footballguys player classifications. For the most part, these should match up well with the major online sources, but there could be differences. Assigning edge rushers to linebackers or defensive ends (or edge rushers) is the main area that causes issues here, as the classification can have a huge impact on fantasy value.
3. We will add an asterisk (*) for any players that have added value in big-play scoring systems. There is a lot of scoring variability among IDP leagues, so if your league places added value on big plays (i.e., sacks, interceptions, forced fumbles, etc.), this information should help you identify some key targets in each tier.
DEFENSIVE ENDS TIER 1: ELITE OPTIONS
These are the players that stand out above the rest and are the ones to target in your draft if you want a clear edge at the position. Myles Garrett can fill up the stat sheet and has averaged nearly one sack per game played over the past four seasons. Nick Bosa bounced back from an injury and posted 15 sacks last year, which could become his baseline moving forward. Aaron Donald could be on the downside of his career at age 31 but remains an immense talent who set a career-high with 83 combined tackles in 2021.
DEFENSIVE ENDS TIER 2: VERY GOOD TARGETS
These are the value picks among DE1 options if you are willing to wait and take a player a step below the elite. This group includes some of the best pass rushers in the league, but they carry slightly more risk and therefore come at a discount. Players like Joey Bosa and Maxx Crosby have the talent to reach 15+ sacks but haven’t produced like the elites at the position in recent years. Danielle Hunter underwhelmed in 2021 and has an unclear outlook following the Vikings' move to a 3-4 base. Sam Hubbard and Brian Burns are two of the league's most talented young edge rushers. Despite turning 33 years old this summer, Cameron Jordan showed little signs of slowing down with 12.5 sacks last year.
DEFENSIVE ENDS TIER 3: RELIABLE STARTERS
Continue reading this content with a ELITE subscription.
"Footballguys is the best premium
fantasy football only site on the planet."
Matthew Berry, ESPN