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2017 IDP Rookie Report

2017 IDP Rookie Report

As Training Camp is officially underway for all 32 teams, we’re starting to get a clearer picture of some rookie roles as we near preseason games.

As always, for the purposes of this article, we have listed rookie IDPs based on a number of factors, including skill, role, opportunity, and (in the case of some DBs) return ability. And because of the big differences in IDP scoring systems, we’ve sorted them by position for this latest article, as we do every season. We have factored in future potential into these rankings, but ultimately the goal was to attempt to sort them for the 2017 season. Because IDP remains an inexact science when it comes to scoring systems, the best course of action will be to read the player write-ups and determine how each player fits your system (for example, if a player offers potential in a sack or interception-heavy system, we’ve noted it). And sorting these guys by position will help you identify players you could draft at your weak spots in IDP keeper and dynasty drafts. That said, we urge you not to take the rankings as gospel, instead using them as a general guideline.

For this article, I’m focusing on only the top rookie options at each position, as the preseason is starting to give us a clearer picture into the plans for some of these young players.

Defensive Linemen

  1. Myles Garrett (DE, Cle) – The Texas A&M Defensive End was the #1 overall pick, and for good reason. We love his landing spot, as Browns new DC Greg Williams is an aggressive schemer who must be wringing his hands to use the draft’s best edge rusher. Garrett is ticketed to start at Right End, and with the Browns shifting to a 4-3 defense, Garrett should have no problem getting DL eligibility. Garrett is already impressing his coaches in training camp. They’re expecting big things from their top pick, and so are we. After about a week of camp, Garrett got reps with the 1st team defense - where he’s fully expected to be, come Week One - and he fared well against all-pro LT Joe Thomas. He also looked sharp in his first preseason game, so things are seemingly on track for the rookie DE. Updated 8/14
  2. Taco Charlton (DE, Dal) – Charlton makes this list partly on talent (which he has plenty of) and partly on opportunity. The Dallas D-line is starving for pass rushers as they lost a few of their better options to suspension and injury last season. With DE Damontre Moore now suspended for two games, there is only Tyrone Crawford ahead of Charlton, and Crawford is seeing some reps at DT. Charlton can play the run and get after the QB, and while he wasn’t the dynamic playmaker in college some of his draftmates were, HC Jason Garrett is expecting Charlton to start at Right End. Offenses are likely less concerned about Charlton than the left side threat, DeMarcus Lawrence. Therefore, Charlton should see more action directed his way. Charlton saw his first action in the Hall of Fame game, logging 16 unimpressive snaps against Arizona’s second team O-line. In his second game, he looked far more comfortable, logging a few tackles and his first sack. Updated 8/14
  3. Caleb Brantley (DT, Cle) – Brantley is loaded with talent, but fell in the draft due to some legal concerns. The Browns took a gamble, and it paid off, as the legal issues have been dropped. With the Browns switching to a 4-3 front, he’s going to be sandwiched between DT stud Danny Shelton and two talented pass rushers in Emmanuel Ogbah and Myles Garrett. Brantley is a first-round talent, and would be the Aaron Donald in new DC (and former Rams DC) Greg Williams’ defensive scheme. We’ll take anything close to Donald-esque production, please. Brantley broke his finger last week in practice and had surgery to repair it. Brantley returned to the practice field yesterday, and promptly got into a fight with his O-lineman/teammate. Still, it’s a good sign that he might be able to catch up in time to start Week One. Updated 8/14
  4. Solomon Thomas (DT, SF) – The third overall pick, Thomas is a versatile player and will help new DC Robert Saleh transition to a 4-3. Saleh should attack more gaps than his predecessor, which means Thomas could have value in DT-required leagues as a run-stopper and pass-rusher. Thomas should be used heavily as a DE and a DT, so watch his designation in your league carefully. With Arik Armstead set to be more of a pass-rusher off the edge, Thomas should have a clear shot to start Week One. Thomas staged a brief camp holdout while he negotiated his contract, but that’s been resolved and he just saw his first reps with the first team defense. In his first preseason action, Thomas worked with the second team, but it’s only a matter of time before he gets starter reps. Whether it’s Week One or not remains to be seen. Updated 8/14
  5. Derek Rivers (DE, NE) – The recent retirement of Rob Ninkovich has opened the door for the impressive Rivers to see some playing time. With Trey Flowers and Kony Ealy already locked in to starting roles on the line, Rivers is next up to replace Ninkovich. Keep in mind, however, that the Patriots rotate their pass rushers heavily, and Rivers is most likely to be on the wrong end of a rotation to be an impact player out of the gate. Still, we like his prospects as a talented rookie with a huge roadblock out of his way now. Rivers showed well in his first preseason action, but still seems ticketed for a part-time role. Updated 8/14
  6. Derek Barnett (DE, Phi) – Barnett is likely a big part of Philly’s future plans, but he joins a crowded – and very talented – D-line, so he’ll have to claw for playing time. He had an impressive debut in preseason, racking up 2 sacks, 2 QB hurries, and 2 TFL (though all against backup O-linemen and QBs), so he’s one of our favorite dynasty stashes. But with Brandon Graham, Chris Long, Fletcher Cox, Timmy Jernigan, Vinny Curry (whew…did we forget anybody??) all set to log heavy snaps, it’s hard to see Barnett being reliable enough early this season. Barnett will certainly play, but it will likely be limited snaps unless something drastic happens. Added 8/14



  1. Reuben Foster (LB, SF) – Foster’s talent is undeniable. When healthy, he could be the next Patrick Willis. But his shoulder surgery limited him in OTAs, and the 49ers have both NaVorro Bowman and Malcolm Smith. However, he’s already impressed early in training camp, pulling down 3 INTs in the first four practices, and drawing heavy praise from HC Kyle Shanahan. Shanahan just came over from an Atlanta team that rebuilt their defense on the backs of rookies, which led to a Super Bowl berth. That means Foster won’t be up against a stodgy old ball coach who can’t see the value of getting their rookies involved early and often. Smith just went down with a chest injury that appears to have knocked him out for the season, so Foster is now in line to take over at the WILL next to Bowman. Foster may not have a 3-down role early on, but it’s only matter of time, assuming his shoulders hold up. Foster continues to flash in camp, adding a few sacks to go with those INTs, making it harder for the team to keep him off the field. Foster had a solid preseason debut, lining up next to Bowman, as he looks to have his role carved out for him. Updated 8/14
  2. Jarrad Davis (LB, Det) – While Davis might not hold the same upside that Reuben Foster holds, he’s really the “1A” for LBs. He has the most sure-fire path to IDP productivity. He falls right into the lap of a starting gig, and has been working as the MLB for Detroit in OTAs and minicamp. The Lions are desperate to replace DeAndre Levy at WLB, and Tahir Whitehead was a much better WILL than he was a MIKE (a position he played all last season). Ideally, Detroit would like Davis to be the every-down LB, so the only question is, will Davis prove he can play all three downs by Week One? We believe he can, and early camp results show that the Lions braintrust thinks he can, too. Davis recently had a breakthrough practice, where he seemed more confident calling plays and showed well against the run and the pass. He followed that up with a solid first preseason game. So far, every indication is pointing toward Davis being an immediate factor for IDP. He’s got LB2 easily within his sights, with some LB1 upside. Updated 8/14
  3. Marquel Lee (LB, Oak) – Out of the ashes of a crew of middling inside linebackers in Oakland there has emerged a potential starter in Lee. He was a fifth-round pick for the Raiders, and has recently been getting first team reps. Lee doesn’t jump off the page like some of the early-round LBs in this year’s draft, and so far he’s been “fairly solid,” according to HC Jack Del Rio. That’s not exactly a ringing endorsement, so this is shaping up to be a product of opportunity. But hey, we’ll take it! If Lee can indeed hold onto the starting gig, he’ll have some nice value – particularly in dynasty leagues – but Oakland now has several young LBs who all profile similarly, so we caution against going in heavy on Lee until he seems to have sewn up the starting job. Cory James and Ben Heeney were the 2016 versions of Lee. Lee got the start with James in their first preseason action, and looked tentative and, at times, lost. However, he’s still got a few more weeks to get comfortable, and doesn’t have much competition it seems. Watching his next few weeks will be key to understanding his value. Added 8/14
  4. Haason Reddick (LB, Ari) – Coming out of the draft, the question about Reddick was simply, “What do the Cardinals do with him?” But the picture is now starting to come into focus. With the departure of ILB Kevin Minter, there’s a spot that’s opened up in the middle. Reddick spent minicamp as the team’s ILB with Deone Bucannon sidelined with injury. This should put Reddick in position to play next to Bucannon on most downs. Bucannon’s injury might keep him from starting Week One, so Reddick should have a large role early. Keep in mind, Arizona also has veteran LB Karlos Dansby, who still has some gas left in the tank, but at least Reddick won’t have to compete with Daryl Washington, who was released. Reddick was one of the highlights of the Hall of Fame game, showing well with run and coverage skills, and even a blitz. Reddick’s 2nd preseason game saw him lined up next to Dansby, who was the play caller. Whether or not Reddick can carve out a role with both Dansby and Bucannon involved is the ultimate question for his 2017 fantasy value. Reddick’s range remains anywhere between LB2 and LB4 depending on his usage. Updated 8/14
  5. Zach Cunningham (LB, Hou) – Cunningham is best when he can use his speed, and he’ll fill that role nicely in Houston. He does have Brian Cushing directly in his path, but the Texans should find ways to get him on the field. For dynasty purposes, he’s ticked to replace Cushing next to Bernardrick McKinney. So far in training camp, Cunningham is learning to call plays and align the defense, but he’s 3rd on the depth chart at the WILL spot. In their first preseason game, Houston had Cushing as the play caller, with Cunningham working with the backups, which was expected. Cunningham will need a few things to go his way to be fantasy relevant this year, but is a quality dynasty stash. Updated 8/8
  6. Raekwon McMillan (LB, Mia) – After Miami signed Lawrence Timmons and extended Kiko Alonso, it seemed like drafting McMillan was redundant, but the Dolphins threw him into the fire early. He played MLB in their base defense in OTAs and in training camp. It’s clear HC Adam Gase views him as the future MLB, but that’s now on the back burner as McMillan went down with a season-ending knee injury on the opening kickoff of preseason. Luckily, he’ll have a full year to recover, and the Dolphins have likely already seen enough to believe he can be their guy going forward. For now, he’s simply a quality dynasty stash. Updated 8/14


Defensive Backs

  1. Jamal Adams (S, NYJ) – Adams has a crystal clear path to a starting job, and he’ll be asked to hit early and often. After seeing Adams and rookie FS Marcus Maye in OTAs, the Jets promptly traded incumbent SS Calvin Pryor. The reviews coming out of minicamps have remained glowing about Adams, so he should push for DB1/DB2 potential early on. Both Adams and Maye are the clear-cut safety duo at training camp. It also helps his value that the Jets look like they might not be able to keep their offense on the field for long, putting Adams in line for a lot of work. Adams did sprain his ankle in camp but he recovered and showed well in his first preseason game. The Jets didn’t use him as a true box safety (instead he was moved around a lot, as we predicted), but saw plenty of action to show he can be fantasy relevant out of the gate. Updated 8/14
  2. Jabrill Peppers (S, Cle) – While the knock on Peppers is that he’s not really a true safety, he landed in the right spot, as a developing Cleveland team appears set to let him learn on the job as their starting SS. On top of that, Peppers has some home run value in that he’s a punt returner, a talented running back, and can play linebacker. HC Hue Jackson is likely to use him on offense with that skill set, so Peppers has a boatload of upside if he can earn a starting job early. The only fly in the ointment for Peppers is the newly-acquired Calvin Pryor. It’s doubtful Pryor will push Peppers out of his starting SS spot, but this is the Browns we’re talking about. He also has a little more breathing room as safety Ed Reynolds went down with a knee injury. Peppers has been working with the second and third team, and working at strong safety and free safety, but these next few weeks will be critical in his 2017 fantasy value. He is returning punts in practice and hitting hard, and saw his first game action as a 2nd team safety and 1st team kick returner. With 1st team safety Ibraheim Campbell getting concussed, Peppers stepped in earlier than expected. As of now, his chances of starting Week One depend on Campbell’s health and Peppers’ ability to win the job outright. Updated 8/14
  3. Tre’Davious White (CB, Buf) – White couldn’t have found a better landing spot for IDP. He’s set to inherit the outside corner spot vacated by Stephon Gilmore. That’s good not only because he’ll get solid opportunity there as a starting rookie, he’ll also benefit from one of the most generous tackle crews in recent years. New DC Leslie Frazier should be using more Zone principles, which will allow White to use his run-stopping skills near the line of scrimmage. White has had a solid camp so far, and is working on more run-stopping responsibilities. That bodes well for his IDP relevance. Updated 8/8
  4. Josh Jones (S, GB) – Jones is making a strong impression at training camp, as he’s playing his way into a job. The Packers are mixing him in at SS as well as an ILB in some packages, and so far he’s been rewarding them with some highlight reel plays. Once preseason games hit, it will be worth watching as to how the Packers use Jones and incumbent SS Morgan Burnett. Burnett has been playing ILB in nickel packages early, which makes sense for two reasons: not only is the NFL heading toward faster ILBs who cover better, but Green Bay in particular seems to lack in that area, so converting safeties like Burnett and Jones to hybrid LBs seems to be the future. How much playing time that will lead to for Jones once Week One hits is the question, but keep in mind Burnett has a hard time staying healthy, and Jones looks to be ready to fill his shoes if the time comes. We’re also starting to see some package with both Burnett and Jones on the field in training camp, so while Jones probably isn’t a redraft target (except as a late-round flyer), his dynasty prospects are looking good. Updated 8/8
  5. Budda Baker (S, Ari) – Baker is an interesting chess piece for the Cardinals. He’s essentially a carbon copy of Tyrann Mathieu. He can play both safety positions and slot CB, and is a ferocious hitter. Mathieu has a lengthy injury history (especially considering how short his career has been), so the Cardinals drafted Baker as “Honey Badger” insurance. In his first preseason game action, Baker was used all over the secondary and was impressive. Still, the Cardinals rotate DBs heavily and it’s too early to tell if – and where – Baker plays this season. But he’s likely just one Mathieu injury away from a heavy workload. The Cardinals also have Antoine Bethea in front of Baker, but Bethea is also getting up there in age. Added 8/8
Justin Varnes
IDP Analyst

Initially a subscriber to Fantasy Guru, Justin became the company’s IDP Analyst in 2015. He produces both preseason and in-season content geared towards IDPers, including weekly defensive player previews. Follow him on Twitter at @downwithIDP.

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December 31, 1969
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December 31, 1969