Sky (#NeverForget) has been dominating these pages with his offensive positional recaps, while I’ve been sitting back and enjoying the playoffs. But then I saw Navorro Bowman’s knee get mangled while he recovered a goalline fumble in the NFC Championship Game, and it made me reflect on things. If Bowman can keep giving it his all and sacrificing his body after carrying countless IDP teams to championships, why can’t I do the same thing? I thought I was the IDP expert you deserved, but not the one you needed right now, but who am I kidding? There is no offseason. So here is my first batch of 2013 positional recaps.
Stats based on tackles, sacks, forced fumbles, fumbles recovered and passes defended. Rankings based on a 3:1 sack to solo tackle ratio.
1. J.J. Watt – It’s actually kind of boring compared to his otherworldly 2012 season, but Watt was still nearly 10% better than the #2 DL. So why is no one talking about this? Both his sacks and pass deflections got cut in half, making them merely “excellent” instead of “immortal.” Considering the season Houston just had, along with the possibility that they take Clowney first overall, this might be the only time to buy-low on Watt in dynasty leagues for the next decade. Preseason Rank #1. Final Numbers : 80/10.5/4/2/7.
2. Robert Quinn – Quinn is clearly the most valuable DL this year given his ADP, and he’s a worthy choice for DPOY. The Rams have a really solid core at pretty much every key position other than QB, so look forward to hearing a lot more about Quinn in the coming years if they can ever figure out who’s taking the snaps. On a personal note, I’m glad to see Quinn and Chris Long fully embracing the Black Thunder/White Lightening nicknames. In my personal quest to provide them with one, I kept getting stuck with Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman references, and that wouldn’t have been good for anyone. Preseason Rank #23. Final Numbers: 57/19.0/7/2/1.
3. Rob Ninkovich – I’m very surprised to see Ninkovich ahead of Chandler Jones on this list, but he really ended the season strong. There are some leagues that only classify him as a linebacker, and his snaps at LB certainly help his stat line, but every league I’m in considers him a DL. The scary part about players like Ninkovich is that it doesn’t take much for their position change. If the Pats start talking about becoming a 3-4 team (strictly a hypothetical), then Ninkovich loses value quicker than a JaMarcus Russell rookie card. Preseason Rank #19. Final Numbers: 94/8.0/2/2/0.
4. Chandler Jones – Despite my loathing of the professional football team from New England, I’m a big Chandler Jones fan. He has a ton of talent, but more importantly, he has a chance to be the most famous Chandler of all time. Best I can tell, his biggest challenges comes from Chandler Parsons and Chandler Bing. Could there be any easier competition? Meanwhile I’m stuck duking it out with Kevin Costner, Kevin Durant, and Kevin McCallister, among others. Enjoy your gift Chandler. Preseason Rank #17. Final Numbers: 82/11.5/1/1/0.
5. Sheldon Richardson – My favorite DL in the 2013 draft was even better than I could have guessed in his rookie year. It helps playing across from Wilkerson, but Richardson deserves to be here on his own merits. As a 3-4 DE, he will likely never rack up double-digit sacks (if he does, we should all be very, very scared), but the way he sheds blockers and dominates his gaps is truly impressive for a 23-year old. I have a feeling he will be an underrated DL option for years to come. Preseason Not Ranked. Final Numbers: 77/3.5/1/0/1.
6. Kyle Williams – Seeing Williams in this spot is a bit surprising. Mario Williams is clearly the most well-known DL in Buffalo, and Marcell Dareus has the more impressive pedigree, but it’s Williams who led the way this year. Unfortunately for Kyle’s owners, his huge uptick in value is directly tied to him essentially doubling his career high in sacks by breaking into double digits as an interior lineman. In case you haven’t memorized everything I’ve said this year, that type of output is extremely rare for a DT, and it was the primary reason that I was much lower than most on Geno Atkins this year. I like Williams as a lower-end DL2, but I wouldn’t count on a repeat of his 2013 numbers. Preseason Not Ranked. Final Numbers: 68/10.5/1/1/1.
7. Lamarr Houston – I’m lukewarm on Houston, much like I am with Williams. Houston the DL, not the city, which I find to be extremely underrated. Despite its absurd humidity, there are very few cities that combine exceptional food and drink (along with 2.5 professional sports teams) with Houston’s very reasonable prices. As for the Oakland defensive end, I’d prefer my DL1 to put up consistent tackles, and Houston had 3 or less in 7 games this year. Preseason Rank #22. Final Numbers 69/6.0/2/1/0.
8. Muhammad Wilkerson – This is the preseason rank I regret most. I had Wilkerson slated for top-5 before the season ,as I considered him Watt 2.0, and I thought he didn’t get enough credit for a spectacular 2012 season. Then I looked around and saw that I was the only one with him in my top-10, so I sold myself on guys like Mario Williams and DeMarcus Ware having higher ceilings if they could rip of 15 sacks (which, in fairness, is true). So let’s chalk this up to my lack of marbles, and know that in 2014 I will have both Wilkerson and Richardson in my top-10. Preseason Rank #12. Final Numbers 64/10.5/2/0/3.
9. Justin Tuck – Someone must have told Tuck that he was in a contract year in Week 12, as he was different player after that. Over his first 10 games, Tuck had 34 tackles and 1.5 sacks. Over his last six? 29 tackles and 9.5 sacks. Get that money Justin! Whoever ends up with Tuck in 2014 (Denver? Minnesota?), I’ll likely be staying away. Preseason Rank #27. Final Numbers 63/11.0/2/0/4.
10. Calais Campbell – One of my favorite DL’s to watch, I rarely own Campbell. He makes his presence known on every play, the way Watt and Wilkerson do, but his stats are always just slightly behind those monsters. Campbell set a career high in sacks this year, partly due to John Abraham’s throw-back performance and partly due to making it through 16 healthy games, but he’s been this dominant since his second year in the league. Preseason Rank #8. Final Numbers 58/9.0/1/2/6.
11. Greg Hardy – I don’t know if it’s because of the Hardy Boy detectives or the Hardy Boy wrestlers, but I still do a double-take every time I notice Greg Hardy isn’t white. What’s not surprising is his production. His numbers are nearly an exact replica of what they were last year, and he responded to the loss of Charles Johnson opposite him by throwing up his best games of the year. If I’m going to pick nits, it’s that 10 of his 15 sacks occurred in just three games, making him somewhat of a boom/bust player, especially in big play leagues. But at 25, he should be entering his prime and whoever lands him in free agency will be happy. Preseason Rank #9. Final Numbers 65/15.0/1/0/1.
12. Marcell Dareus – It would be nice if we could attribute some of Kyle Williams’ stats to Dareus, but that’s not how this game works. The way Dareus defended the run in 2013 was extremely impressive, and while he put forth huge efforts on first and second down, he still managed to rack up 7.5 sacks from a DT position. Given his age and situation, Dareus will be seriously challenging Suh and Geno for the top DT spot in 2014. Preseason Rank #44. Final Numbers 71/7.5/1/0/3.
13. Carlos Dunlap – Dunlap is one of those DLs who does everything above-average, but nothing elite. His overall stats are in line with the guys surrounding him on this list, but his name isn’t as sexy because he doesn’t get to the QB as often, and he’s also named after a tire company. With Michael Johnson likely gone in free agency, it will be up to Dunlap and Geno Atkins to keep the front four in Cincy going. I see no reason why he won’t rise to the occasion. Preseason Rank #13 (Nailed it!). Final Numbers 62/7.5/4/1/6.
14. Olivier Vernon – This was my boy in 2013. I snagged him off the wire early in as many leagues as I could, and just prayed that Dion Jordan would take time to develop, which is exactly what happened. I don’t think Vernon was ranked anywhere in the preseason, rightfully so, and it will be interesting to see how Miami handles the Wake/Vernon/Jordan trio next year. It could have the makings of the Giants NASCAR D-Line of the late 2000′s, or it could be a total disaster. Stay tuned. Preseason Not Ranked. Final Numbers 57/11.5/0/0/0.
15. Adrian Clayborn – Clayborn has turned into the DE that Da’Quan Bowers was supposed to be. After missing nearly all of 2012, he returned looking better than ever. His stats slowed down at points during the season, but he climbed this list after a 10-tackle, 1 sack performance against the Saints in Week 17. I’d expect his 2014 preseason rank to be in the high-teens/low-twenties. Preseason Rank #36. Final Numbers 64/6.0/2/0/1.
16. Jurrell Casey – Like Kyle Williams, Casey was an interior DL who had a season that was very similar to his past couple of years in most ways. Also like Williams, he had a huge increase in his sack total, going from 3.0 to 10.5. But unlike Williams, I think Casey can keep it up. With Tennessee’s hiring of Ray Horton as their DC, the overall defensive level in Nashville should improve, and Casey should be one of the prime beneficiaries. Preseason Not Ranked. Final Numbers 54/10.5/1/1/2.
17. Jared Allen – It was unquestionably a disappointing year for Allen and his owners. Not quite as bad as those who drafted JPP, Wake and Ware early, but still not the level we’ve come to expect from Mr. Allen. His tackles and sacks have dropped off since his insane 2011 season, and the defense around him hasn’t been the same since the Williams brothers stopped being world-eaters. Allen’s free agency will be interesting, as I can see him either signing for less money with a contender, or trying to cash in one last time with a team looking for a big name. Preseason Rank #4. Final Numbers 52/11.5/2/0/6.
18. Cameron Jordan – We’ve reached the Cameron section of this recap, and these next two guys will surely see higher ranks in 2014 than they did this year. Jordan held things together for a New Orleans front seven that was decimated by injury, making himself into a Pro Bowler and earning Junior Galette some money as well. With a healthy and experienced stable of payers around him, I expect Jordan to leap into the top tier of DLs in 2014. Preseason Rank #20. Final Numbers 56/12.5/2/2/5.
19. Cameron Heyward – On to our next Cameron, Heyward was one of the better stories among IDPs this year. Pretty clearly labeled a bust after his first two seasons combined for just 35 tackles and 2.5 sacks, Heyward exploded as the 2013 went on, putting up 54 tackles and 5 sacks over his last 10 games. He probably won’t ever be a stud in big-play leagues, but it looks like Heyward has finally put it together as an NFL player. Preseason Not Ranked. Final Numbers 59/5.0/1/1/8.
20. Julius Peppers – Peppers gets the distinction of joining Peyton Manning as the only remaining active players who are referenced in Nelly’s Heart of a Champion. So he’s got that going for him. But other than that, this is a player on the decline. The only reason he cracks the top-20 is due to his 9th career interception, and a fumble that he took 42 yards for a TD. There are several rumors of Peppers getting cut by Chicago in the offseason, and I would not be surprised to see him in a different uniform next year. Preseason Rank #11. Final Numbers 46/7.5/2/1/3.