Unlock more content like this with a Footballguys Premium Subscription.
"FBG is the best fantasy football advisory service anywhere."
Nigel Eccles, Co-Founder, FanDuel
The 2023 NFL Draft is in the books, and defensive stars played a big part in the drama in Kansas City. From Alabama's Will Anderson Jr. at No. 3 overall to Toledo defensive end Desjuan Johnson with the final pick of the draft, over a hundred defensive linemen, edge rushers, linebackers, cornerbacks, and safeties now know where their professional careers will begin.
Quite a few of those players will never play a snap in the NFL. Others will spend most of their careers on special teams. But some will go on to play prominent roles in the NFL, and a fortunate few will become stars.
It's those last couple of groups IDP managers are interested in—the players who will see enough playing time to rack up the stats that make all the difference in fantasy football. They want to know which of this year's highly drafted defensive players will go on to become IDP stars. Which will disappoint. And which Day 2 or even Day 3 picks will defy expectations and become difference-makers?
To answer those questions and more, John "The Guru" Norton and Gary "The Godfather of IDP" Davenport have gathered once again to offer their takes on some of the biggest IDP winners and losers from the 2023 NFL Draft.
The first round of the 2023 draft was all about the defensive front, whether it was edge rushers or interior defenders. But players at both positions were drafted en masse from Will Anderson Jr. at 1.03 all the way through the very last pick of the draft. Of all the edge rushers drafted in 2023, who drew the best landing spot from an IDP perspective? Which defensive tackle found the most favorable home.?
Guru: Nolan Smith landed in the best spot in terms of fit for his skill set. The Eagles get after the quarterback like no one else, and they already figured out how to unlock Haasan Reddick's potential. Smith is basically a younger clone. The downside, in IDP terms, is that Philadelphia uses so many players in their rotation. It's hard to have big games with any consistency with fewer than 30 snaps per game.
I really like Tyree Wilson in IDP terms. His path to the lineup is clear with Chandler Jones in the fourth quarter of a great career, and the Raiders don't rotate guys out much. Maxx Crosby played nearly 1100 snaps last year, and Jones averaged 52 per game. Wilson's play style is similar to both Crosby and Jones, so he is a ready-made fit for the scheme.
The Saints haven't given us an IDP stud at defensive tackle since the days of Wayne Martin and La'Roi Glover, but they have given us a few productive guys in recent years. David Onyemata exceeded 40 combined tackles and had four or more sacks twice in the last three years. Onyemata is gone, and rookie Bryan Bresee is set to take over as the team's three-technique tackle. Bresee battled injuries for a big chunk of his time at Clemson but still managed 28 tackles and 5 sacks over the last two seasons. If he can stay healthy, Bresse could pick up tight where Onyemata left off.
Godfather: It's hard to argue with Mr. Norton's selection of Smith or with his caution that a loaded Eagles front could make it a little while before he's a consistent IDP producer. With that said, four Eagles hit the 10-sack mark last year, so it's not like we haven't seen Philly players do more with less.
From a short-term perspective, Will Anderson Jr. would appear to be the edge rusher best set up for early success. It's not just a matter of Anderson's talent, although he's probably the most gifted pass-rusher in the class. Or that the Houston Texans have enough talent on the edge to take at least some of the heat off of Anderson as a rookie. But Houston didn't draft Anderson third overall, so he could sit. He's going to see snaps off the jump—lots of them.
Also, keep an eye on Felix Anudike-Uzomah, who the Kansas City Chiefs made the final pick of Round 1. Anudike-Uzomah isn't the stoutest run defender, but the 6-foot-3, 255-pounder is a quick, athletic pass-rusher who may well have the best bend off the edge of any player in the class. The Chiefs need someone to slot opposite George Karlaftis after Frank Clark was let go, leaving a relatively clear path to snaps for Anudike-Uzomah. There's something of a Yannick Ngakoue vibe here—and Ngakoue has been a solid DL2 on more than one occasion for IDP managers.
Iowa's Jack Campbell was the only off-ball linebacker drafted in Round 1, and the floodgates at the position in an admittedly weak class didn't truly open until Day 3. With Campbell landing in Detroit, where does he fit in among linebackers in 2023? Is there another linebacker you feel found a home that offers significant fantasy upside this season?
Guru: Campbell landed in what could be a great spot. On the other hand, the Lions could screw up an anvil with a rubber mallet, so I won't be surprised if he plays third fiddle behind Alex Anzalone and Malcolm Rodriguez for much, if not all, of this season. I think he's draftable right now, but only as a backup with some upside. Of course, my perspective would change greatly if the coaching staff shows the intestinal fortitude to plug him into a major role right away. The guy can play and will be productive if given the chance.
Rookie linebackers are trending the way of quarterbacks in that many of them are seeing limited roles as rookies before stepping up in year two. At this point, there is no one I am excited about in the short term. That said, the rookie linebacker I'm looking at for immediate production is Daiyan Henley. Eric Kendricks will be the centerpiece of the Chargers' defense, but I could see Henley challenging Kenneth Murray for the Robin role to Kendrick's Batman. Henley brings some big play upside that Murray completely lacks.
Godfather: There's very little question that Campbell was the No. 1 linebacker prospect in this class—he's smart, physical, and quite a bit rangier than he's given credit for. He's been compared to a younger, pre-injury Leighton Vander Esch. Still, some eyebrows went up when the Lions drafted Campbell 18th overall. Still, while that may have been a curious pick, spending that sort of draft capital on Campbell would certainly appear to indicate that he's going to play right away. Last year, Alex Anzalone was 28th in fantasy points among linebackers, and he's a marginal talent on a good day. Provided that Campbell starts right away, he's on the LB2 radar—at least.
Where Day 2 linebackers are concerned, I'm beating the drum this spring and summer for Dorian Williams, who the Buffalo Bills selected in the third round. The Tulane standout didn't play on the biggest stage, but he was productive for the Green Wave, piling up 132 total tackles and five sacks in 2022. Williams is a stout tackler, he has decent range, and as his 15 career interceptions show, he can hold his own in coverage. After losing Tremaine Edmunds, the Bills have a hole at linebacker, and Tyrel Dodson and Terrel Bernard aren't exactly formidable obstacles. Every year a few linebackers come from nowhere to be IDP steals. Williams has the potential to be one in 2023.
Continue reading this content with a ELITE subscription.
An ELITE subscription is required to access content for IDP (individual defensive players) leagues. If this league is not a IDP (individual defensive players) league, you can edit your leagues here.
"Footballguys is the best premium
fantasy football only site on the planet."
Matthew Berry, NBC Sports EDGE