Footballguy Sigmund Bloom often opines that there is no longer an information advantage in fantasy football. Increased media coverage of the NFL scouting combine, breaking news on social media, and advanced analytics are all equalizers in fantasy football.
Coverage of skill-position players is a daily exercise. NFL defenses, however, do not enjoy the same limelight. Offense is to the big city what defense is to the small town. News of defenders travels more slowly and is less sensationalized. Complex data for analysis are harder to come by. IDP fantasy gamers find themselves unaware of important changes to player values hiding in plain sight.
Fantasy gamers drafted perennial DB1 Jordan Poyer with confidence last summer, only to be disappointed. He played deep too often to compile tackles. A year ago, Josey Jewell, Jordan Hicks, and Frankie Luvu were afterthoughts at best. Each finished among fantasy football's top 24 linebackers.
Clues foreshadowing these revelations exist. This series interprets changes in rosters, player contracts, personnel groupings at organized team activities (OTAs), and insights new coordinators will offer into defensive philosophy. The goal is to read a new defense and anticipate fluctuations in IDP fantasy values.
Bloom also speaks of talent, situation, and opportunity as the three legs of a tripod that supports fantasy value. Defensive scheme changes can be so impactful to fantasy value that they constitute a fourth leg. Each season, a quarter to a third of the NFL's teams hire new defensive coordinators.
Reading the New Defense: Philadelphia Eagles addressed the impact of the change in nomenclature from "4-3" to "3-4." Some fantasy football leagues operate on sites that rely on team depth charts for position designations. Such leagues experience drastic shifts in player values based on team nomenclature while the duties of affected players change subtly, if at all. Footballguy Gary Davenport investigates position redesignation in his piece, The Effect of True Position on IDP.
This article is the sixth in a series examining the effects on defenders' fantasy values portended by new defensive schemes. Each piece further contemplates personnel moves and comments about them from the coaching staff and front office.
The first five are as follows:
The Falcons defense is the first in the series to convert from 3-4 architecture to 4-3 architecture. Fantasy football platforms that rely on conventional positions will change most of the Falcons' pass rushers' designations. The most notable beneficiary is Grady Jarrett, who will return to his familiar undertackle role, a 4-3 defensive tackle, after two years as a 3-4 defensive end.
The practical impact the franchise desires is an increase in quarterback pressure and sacks. The Falcons finished 32nd in pressure rate in each of the past two seasons and collected a league-worst 39 quarterback sacks over that time. In 2022, Nielsen's only season as co-defensive coordinator in New Orleans, the Saints compiled 48 sacks.
Central Connecticut State was Nielsen's last job as a team's sole defensive coordinator (2008-2009). Nielsen was also the co-defensive coordinator of a Northern Illinois University team that took on Florida State in the 2013 Orange Bowl.
The Huskies ran a straightforward 4-3 defense and stayed in base sets for most of the game versus quarterback E.J. Manuel, the 16th pick of the 2013 NFL Draft. The analysis of this article presumes Nielsen will run a 4-3 defense substantially similar to that he managed under head coach Dennis Allen's leadership in New Orleans.
Nielsen inherits the aforementioned Jarrett, a two-time Pro-Bowler in Dan Quinn's 4-3-under/Cover-3 defense, along with several young pass rushers assembled for Dean Pees's 3-4 defense. Half of the defensive personnel likely to make the roster arrived in Atlanta this spring. All four presumptive starting linemen are in their 30s.
Falcons Interior Defenders
The experienced talent will help Nielsen install his scheme quickly. They are likely to rotate with the youngsters, neutralizing the fantasy value of everyone but Jarrett. The new cast will enable Super Bowl LI's breakout defender to return to the role of a featured interior disruptor.
Second-year tackle Ta'Quon Graham, a former 5th-rounder like Jarrett, represented what little help Jarrett had in the interior last year. The revelation elevated Jarrett's game before a season-ending injury to Graham in Week 11.
|Tackles for Loss
*QB Pressures from PFF.com
Nielsen brought defensive tackle David Onyemata with him from New Orleans. He and Jarrett will work interchangeably in the two defensive-tackle spots in even fronts. Graham will fill out the rotation, relieving Onyemata most often in run defense. Veteran nose tackle Eddie Goldman will anchor odd fronts.
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