Now that Jay has paved the way on the offensive side of the ball, it’s time for me to pull my weight with the 2014 Razzball IDP Rankings. As always I’m starting up front with the big boys. For the second year in a row, J.J. Watt is the class of the position, but he has some company at the top this year. Robert Quinn and Chandler Jones are both coming off breakouts in 2013, and they should be able to challenge Watt for the DL crown if things break right.
After that, things get complicated. There are a number of big names who are looking for a bounce-back after a subpar 2013, in addition to a group of prospects who look primed for the big time. If you can’t land one of the top three, then it’s really a matter of preference. I tend to lean towards DEs who rack up a lot of tackles as opposed to DTs or big-play DEs, but there is no one way to handle your DL lineup slots. My ideal situation is grabbing a Tier 1 or 2 tackler and a Tier 3 sack threat as my starters, with a high-upside youngster to complement them. That strategy gave me Olivier Vernon on multiple rosters last year, and I think of guys like Damontre Moore and Star Lotuleli in that role this year.
Some guys that I’m higher on than most:
Calais Campbell – I don’t know if it’s the silent ‘s’ at the end of his first name, or the fact that he plays in Arizona, but Campbell feels like he has been perpetually underrated since he broke out in 2009. Last year was arguably his best, and he plays in a defense that accentuates his skills. If John Abraham can command at least some of the attention that he did last year, Campbell should flirt with double digit sacks while again putting up dominant tackle numbers.
Muhammad Wilkerson – If you read anything that I wrote last year, you know that Wilkerson is probably my favorite player in the NFL. He’s an absolute beast in his own right, and with the emergence of Sheldon Richardson by his side, teams can no longer safely double team Wilkerson. He’s my pick to lead D-Linemen in tackles and if he can repeat his admittedly fluky 10.5 sacks from last year, he’s a dark horse to be DL1 on the year.
Kyle Williams – This is another name that screams regression on the sack side of things, but even if he drops down to a more reasonable 5 sacks, he’s a startable option up front. If anything, he might also benefit from an uptick on the fumble side of things, as it’s rare to see a 10-sack guy force only one fumble and not recover any. The Bills picked up Jim Schwartz to run their defense, he of questionable challenges but stout defensive fronts, so the D-Line in Buffalo should be one of the best in 2014 in both reality and fantasy.
And on the flip side, I’m lower on these players than their current rankings:
Cameron Wake – I’m a Fin fan, but I was also burned weekly by Wake last year. Even if he’s healthy this year (which he is by all counts), Wake is older than everyone thinks thanks to his time in the CFL. At 32, he’s older than Justin Tuck, and the same age as Jared Allen and Osi Umenyiora, players who more universally regarded as past their prime. In a big-play league, Wake still offers immense talent, but in more balanced leagues, I’m looking elsewhere for my DL1.
Jason Pierre-Paul – Last year, JPP was consensus DL2 after Watt, coming off an otherwordly 2012 season and a solid 2013. He responded by missing 5 games and playing hurt through a few more, compiling only 27 tackles and 2 sacks on the season. JPP is likely Exhibit A for what a bounce-back candidate looks like, but I’m still skeptical. He’s lost a lot of the protection around him up front, and depending on how quickly Moore develops, JPP could be seeing a double team on every drop-back.
Ziggy Ansah – I’m very high on Ansah, and tried to grab him in dynasty leagues wherever I could last year. But he’s another one who is older than people think (already 25), and the vast majority of his production is based on sacks. You can certainly do worse for your DL2 in big-play leagues, but other than that, Ansah’s unpredictability is going to leave owners disappointed most weeks this year.
Enough talk, let’s look at those rankings!