Now that the 2017 NFL Draft has concluded, it’s time to take a look into how the IDP landscape may have shifted for the upcoming season. This year’s draft featured a truckload of DBs, and a healthy amount of DLs. The LB class was a little lacking, however. Day One featured 19 defensive players, with Day Two also a strong day for picking up defenders.
To get us started, I’m going to do a preliminary ranking of the top IDPs in this year’s draft, heavily weighted toward each player’s ability to contribute this year. There will be a more thorough breakdown of the rookie IDPs (which includes dynasty consideration) coming soon in the IDP Rookie Report.
Top IDP Rookies for 2017
- Myles Garrett (DE, Cle) – The Texas A&M Defensive End was the #1 overall pick, and for good reason. His speed, length, and technique create a combination that should immediately translate to the NFL. Not only is he talented, but he’s going to match up well with the Browns new DC, Greg Williams. Williams is an aggressive schemer who has likely known for weeks that he was getting the draft’s best edge rusher, and Garrett is ticketed to start at Right End. Keep in mind the Browns will be shifting to a 4-3 defense, so Garrett should have no problem getting DL eligibility.
- Solomon Thomas (DT/DE, SF) – The third overall pick, Thomas is a versatile player, and will help new DC Robert Saleh transition to a 4-3. Thomas should be moved up and down the line, and if all goes well in pre-season, Thomas should be heavily involved from Week One. 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.
- 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. 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.
- Caleb Brantley (DT, Cle) – Brantley makes the list under the auspices of him coming through his legal issues and making it to the field for Week One. If so, 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, so he 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.
- Derek Barnett (DE, Phi) – Barnett joins a loaded Philadelphia D-line, but he’s a polished player who can rush the passer and get to the QB. The Eagles clearly weren’t satisfied with Vinny Curry last season, and with Connor Barwin exiting via free agency, there’s room on the right side for Barnett to work in with Chris Long and Curry. Because Barnett is versatile, he could also kick inside on some sub packages. He’ll need some fortune to be a significant IDP asset this season, but he does have a solid chance to be a back-end DL in his rookie season.
- Reuben Foster (ILB, SF) – The 49ers think he’s healthy enough to play, and if his shoulders hold up, he could be a plug-and-play LB2 to start his career, with serious LB1 upside in dynasty leagues. Foster is a complete linebacker, capable of playing every down. He’s got a lot of Patrick Willis in him, which will make him fun to watch next to NaVorro Bowman. If Foster slots in next to Bowman as the WILL, he should have a healthy mix of tackle opportunity and big play potential.
- Jarrad Davis (OLB, Det) – Davis falls right into the lap of a starting gig. The Lions are desperate to replace DeAndre Levy at WLB, because Tahir Whitehead is a solid workhorse, but he got burned often in coverage last season. Ideally, Detroit would like Davis to eventually be the every-down LB, but that will take a little time. But Davis is still going to be leaned on heavily this season, and we believe he’s up to the task.
- Haason Reddick (OLB, Ari) – The question about Reddick is simply, “What do the Cardinals do with him?” He could be the new Chandler Jones (as Jones moves down into the old Calais Campbell role), in which case he’s only valuable as a pass-rusher. But he’s a former DB, and the Cardinals are likely going to find a way to use him more than just to pin his ears back. Reddick could replace Karlos Dansby on passing downs occasionally. They also may attempt to pair him with Deone Bucannon (also a former DB) to make one helluva LB tandem, but that’s likely a future project. His range is anywhere between LB2 and LB4 depending on his usage.
- Zach Cunningham (ILB, 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.
- T.J. Watt (OLB, Pit) – Watt isn’t just J.J.’s little brother. His talent stands on its own. Watt could be just what the Steelers need to generate a healthy pass rush again. You’re in trouble when your most productive pass rusher is a 39-year-old (that’s James Harrison for those of you scoring at home). Watt can bring speed and power off the edge, but he’s also a converted tight end, so he could be used in coverage more than your average pass rusher (think Von Miller-lite).
- Jamal Adams (SS, NYJ) – Adams was the #1 box safety in the draft, and the Jets invested early and often to revamp their secondary. Adams should move ahead of incumbent Calvin Pryor, as the Jets declined Pryor’s 2018 option. While we’d feel better about Adams’ IDP value if there were no one in his way, we still believe he’ll ultimately be their Week One starter, and push for DB1/DB2 value early.
- Jabrill Peppers (S/LB, Cle) – Peppers could be in line for a huge fantasy season. The knock on Peppers is that he’s not really a true safety. Well, he landed in the right spot, as a developing Cleveland team is likely going to let him learn on the job as their starting SS. But Peppers has some home run value in that he’s a punt returner, a talented running back, and can play linebacker. If the Browns see him as any of those options in addition to his safety role, Peppers could haul in big dividends for an IDP gambler.
- Tre’Davious White (CB, Buf) – White couldn’t have found a better landing spot for IDP. White is 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, but also because 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.
- Marshon Lattimore (CB, NO) – Lattimore has a starting job waiting on him in New Orleans. He’ll line up on the outside, and has three things going for him: His talent, his offense, and his rookie status. Lattimore has excellent coverage skills and ball skills. He’ll also be tested early and often, as opposing QBs often have to air it out to keep up with Drew Brees and Co. With big arms within their division such as Matt Ryan and Cam Newton, the rookie should see plenty of footballs thrown in his direction. Lattimore has the aggressiveness and hands to take advantage of that opportunity.
- Justin Evans (S, TB) – Evans’ IDP value has a wide range of outcomes, based on how the Buccaneers divvy up playing time for their four safeties. Free agent acquisition J.J. Wilcox should hold down the FS spot, which leaves three players to scrap over the strong safety position. In this corner, you have the cagey veteran Chris Conte, who despite being exposed as a liability in coverage, came up big for the Bucs several times last season. And in this corner, there’s the up-and-coming Keith Tandy, who filled in admirably at the end of the season for Tampa Bay. And finally, in this corner, the rookie safety whom the Bucs spent their second-round pick on. Most teams don’t use their second pick on you so you can collect dust on the bench, so if training camp and pre-season is kind to Evans, look for him to be their starting SS. If he’s slow out of the gate, he may end up backing up Wilcox.
Now onto how all these shiny new rookies may affect last season’s IDPs …
DeForest Buckner (DE, SF) – Buckner had a DL1 rookie campaign, so how could it get better? By sending him help in the form of the top DT in the draft: Solomon Thomas. Buckner is also going to benefit from a more aggressive DC, who is moving the Niners to a 1-gap 4-3 attacking defense. Hope you’re hungry, Mr. Buckner.
Vic Beasley (DE/OLB, Atl) – Beasley finally gets some help on the opposite side of the line. Beasley certainly benefitted from the presence of veteran Dwight Freeney, but Freeney was only a part-time player, leaving defenses to focus a ton of attention on just stopping Beasley. Enter Takkarist McKinley, who will help keep teams honest in their offensive schemes. Any extra attention paid across the line is good news for Beasley’s prospects.
Chandler Jones (DE/OLB, Ari) – With the addition of pass-rushing OLB Haason Reddick, Jones could move into the Calais Campbell role. If so – and Jones regains DL eligibility – Jones could again be a DL1 force. Jones was a top DL for IDP when he was with New England. Combine that with Campbell being a perennial DL1 in the spot Jones will likely take over, and things are looking up for Jones.
C.J. Mosely (ILB, Bal) – Mosely has struggled to remain a consistent fantasy factor over the last few years, despite being loaded with talent. First, it was veteran Daryl Smith who was out producing Mosely, then came Zach Orr, who again overshadowed Mosely. Orr retired in the offseason, and the Ravens didn’t do much in the draft to replace him. This should free up some space for Mosely to be more valuable for IDP.
Clayton Geathers (SS, Ind) – The Colts took the top free safety in the draft in Malik Hooker. That’s great news for Colts fans, as Hooker covers a lot of ground and can cast a wide security blanket on the back end of their defense. It’s also great news for Geathers, who was a top-10 DB in FP/G with 6.7 in 2016. Geathers should be allowed to stay closer to the line of scrimmage in 2017, making him an instant DB1 candidate.
Karl Joseph (SS, Oak) – Joseph had a bumpy start to his rookie season, but by the turn he was regularly firing up Top-20 DB starts. The draft brought a talented safety in Obi Melifonwu, but Melifonwu is likely going to support and eventually replace veteran FS Reggie Nelson. A faster FS will only help Joseph’s tackle opportunities.
Vinny Curry (DE, Phi) – 2015 was supposed to be the year Curry made some noise. Then a scheme change and more opportunity in 2016 set the stage for Curry’s breakout season…but it’s just not happening for Curry. He continues to be a situational pass rusher, and when the Eagles drafted Derek Barnett with their first pick, it spelled Trouble (with a capital “T”) for Curry. Barnett excels against the run, likely extinguishing any hopes that Curry would develop into a 3-down lineman.
Jared Crick (DE, Den) – We were worried about Crick’s move to Denver last season, and those worries intensified as the draft was unkind to him in 2017. After Crick’s (predictably) poor showing in 2016, the Broncos drafted DeMarcus Walker in the second round, who should challenge Crick for playing time. Crick needs every snap he can get to remain on the fantasy radar, and Walker might move him off the radar entirely.
Michael Johnson (DE, Cin) – The veteran DE still has some productive snaps in him, but last season he was spotty at best for IDP purposes. Then, the Bengals used back-to-back picks (third and fourth rounds) to find Johnson’s successor. Johnson shouldn’t lose his starting job, but with his career rounding third base, the Bengals are likely to rest him more as they work in some rookies to prepare for the future. Johnson’s days of IDP relevance are likely in the rearview.
Malcolm Smith (OLB, SF) – Well, that didn’t take long. We hailed Smith’s move to the other side of the Bay as a great landing spot for him. He’d see plenty of snaps next to NaVorro Bowman, and would play his natural WILL post (a post where he was consistently valuable for IDP purposes in Oakland). Then the 49ers took elite LB prospect Reuben Foster in the first round. Even if Foster doesn’t start in Week One (we think he will), Smith isn’t likely to last long with Foster there. The glimmer of hope for Smith’s IDP value? Foster’s shoulders. Smith’s prospects lie squarely on them.
Tahir Whitehead (ILB, Det) – Whitehead was one of the pleasant surprises for IDP owners last season. He quietly racked up 132 tackles and was a solidifying roster presence after top LBs either disappointed, or went down with injury. That production was made possible in part by a grant from DeAndre Levy, who just couldn’t get back on the field. But the Lions addressed the need for a speedy, versatile WLB when they drafted Jarrad Davis with their first pick. If Davis catches on quickly, he should see a ton of playing time, and be direct tackle competition for Whitehead.
Karlos Dansby (ILB, Ari) – Dansby had another 100+ tackle season in 2016, giving him eight such seasons in the last nine. The one he fell short? He only managed to scrape together 95 tackles in 2010. And although he’s moving back to where it all started in Arizona, the presence of newly drafted Haason Reddick poses a threat to Dansby’s 100-tackle prospects. Reddick may only be used a pass rusher, in which case Dansby should be fine. But Reddick’s skill set goes beyond pass rushing, so he could see time next to Deone Bucannon in subpackages. And that’s where Dansby’s LB2 potential would take a hit.
Calvin Pryor (SS, NYJ) – “Mr. Pryor, now that we’ve declined your 2018 option, we’d like you to meet the two safeties we just drafted with our first two picks.” Ouch. Pryor played hard-hitting ball for the Jets, but for a myriad of reasons, the Jets clearly felt he wasn’t their guy going forward. The Jets used the 6th overall pick on Jamal Adams, who projects to be a new and improved version of Pryor. And any hopes that Adams may fill the free safety role (thus saving Pryor’s starting job) likely went out the window when the Jets took FS Marcus Maye in Round Two.
Ibraheim Campbell (SS, Cle) – The Browns struggled to find the right safety combo last season, but Campbell had a stretch of productive games for IDP. When Jordan Poyer left for Buffalo, Campbell was in line to see an increase in snaps at strong safety. Then Cleveland picked S/LB hybrid Jabrill Peppers in the first round, causing Campbell’s chances of being an IDP factor to plummet.
David Amerson (CB, Oak) – Amerson was a DB3/CB2 last season, with 64 tackles and 16 PD. But when Oakland drafted Gareon Conley, Amerson’s snaps were suddenly at risk. Granted, two things could easily protect Amerson’s outside corner spot: Conley’s current legal issues, and the departure of slot CB D.J. Hayden. Even if Conley makes it on the field, the Raiders may use him in the slot and leave Amerson on the outside. But Amerson needs every snap he can get to remain fantasy relevant. Watch the pre-season carefully for where Conley and Amerson line up.
Emmanuel Ogbah (DE, Cle) – The presence of newly-minted pass rusher Myles Garrett shouldn’t be seen as a threat to Ogbah’s value. If anything, Garrett’s presence down the line – along with a shiny new “DL” designation – will only help Ogbah.
Derrick Johnson (ILB, KC) – The veteran tore his Achilles’ late in the 2016 season, but the Kansas City draft did nothing to cast doubt on Johnson’s IDP value. It appears as though the Chiefs are planning on Johnson being their every-down LB come Week One.
Darron Lee (ILB, NYJ) – Lee struggled in his rookie campaign – which is to be expected – but any concerns that the Jets would go a different route for their linebacking corps were alleviated when they passed on the elite LBs in the draft in favor of secondary help. Lee should be given a chance to develop into the player they hope he becomes.
Jahleel Addae (SS, LAC) – Addae suffered a collarbone injury in 2016, but was off to a hot start before going down. The Chargers drafted safety Rayshawn Jenkins, but Jenkins is a better fit at free safety, so Addae should retain his role and push for DB1/DB2 status in 2017.