It’s been over a month since I posted my initial IDP rankings, and the only constant since then has been change. I’ve updated the rankings in those original posts, but some players warrant a closer look for those of you drafting late or trying to figure out Week 1 lineups. I’ll post a full set of Week 1 rankings next week, but for now here is a quick look at some players of interest as kickoff looms a week away:
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Jason Pierre-Paul – No news is good news right? Wrong? This is definitely one of the weirdest situations I’ve ever seen, and right now I’m avoiding it entirely. JPP has a high ceiling when he’s healthy, but that’s obviously the million dollar question. I would assume that we see him at some point this season, but everyone knows that when you assume you’re likely to blow off one of your fingers.
Greg Hardy – At least this situation has some clarity. Hardy will miss the first 4 games, but after that he joins Demarcus Lawrence in what will be a top tier DE duo. His weekly ranking will likely be top 15 if not top 10 at his position once he returns, and while I have him at 25 right now, I have no problem taking him higher due to his ceiling.
Sheldon Richardson – I slotted Richardson right between JPP and Hardy, which sums up how I feel about his situation. His current 4-game ban is bad enough, but with other pending legal issues, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him miss the entire season. However, his talent level is so high that I’d still gamble on him as a DL3 in the draft.
Cameron Heyward – Finally some good news. Heyward has shown flashes throughout his budding career, and this year looks like the one that catapults him into the weekly starter discussion. His preseason performance hasn’t been statistically impressive, but he’s a clear talent on a defense that’s surprisingly lacking in that department. I like him as a low DL2 right now, and a nice pairing with a big-play guy like Cameron Wake or Mario Williams.
Navorro Bowman/Sean Lee – Rating two guys who missed all of 2014 in my top 10 has had me a little bit worried without seeing them play. Bowman returned for San Francisco’s second preseason game, and did not disappoint, with tackles on each of the three snaps he played. As long as he’s on the field, he has the potential to be the #1 overall LB, however I expect the Niners to be careful with him given their bleak 2015 outlook and the recent rash of retirements they’ve seen. Lee finally made his return during this past weekend, and while he only racked up 3 tackles in one half of play, just seeing him on the field was encouraging. Dallas doesn’t have many alternatives with Rolando McClain suspended, so I’d expect Lee to be out there Week 1. He might be a bit rustier than usual, but he’s still a legit LB1 when healthy.
Ryan Shazier/Telvin Smith – I’m lumping these two second year LBs together because they are among my biggest risers thanks to the preseason. Shazier has led all players in tackles this preseason (which includes the HoF game, but still), and has generally looked like the stud that Pittsburgh hoped they had drafted in the first round last year. I don’t know if he’ll join fellow NFC North sophomore C.J. Mosley as an LB1 in 2015, but after a miserable 2014, seeing him making plays is a good start. Smith has also looked good thus far, and his skill set is a perfect complement to Paul Posluszny’s. I expect him to get his share of passes defended, as well as a few interceptions, which has the potential to lead to a big year.
Clay Matthews – We finally got a look at Matthews this past weekend, and he played all 20 of his snaps at MLB. I’m still not a fan of this in general, as the Pack are wasting the talent of one of the top pass rushers in the league, but for IDP purposes it’s not terrible. There are still a few intriguing options who could ultimately push Matthews back outside, but Jake Ryan is a rookie 4th rounder who’s still learning the defense and Sam Barrington got beat for two touchdowns last weekend. I’d expect Matthews to stay in the middle for at least the first month of the season, if not much longer.
Landon Collins – I’m still high on Collins long term, but he might not be worth his current price if he can’t get on (or stay on) the field. He saw his first action against the Jets last weekend, and looked solid, but an August MCL sprain, combined with the usual rookie growing pains has dropped him out of the top 15 in my rankings. I’m not expecting starter-level production from him until he gets more reps at NFL speed.
Jason McCourty – An unfortunate groin injury will likely sideline McCourty for the first few weeks of the season. Unfortunate because “groin surgery” sounds about as painful as it gets, and also because these types of injuries often get tweaked and re-injured as the season goes on. In CB-required leagues JMac is still in high-CB2 range given that he’s one of the few elite options at the position, but in more standard leagues I’m probably not drafting him.
Calvin Pryor – One of last year’s biggest disappointments, Pryor has the chance to bounce back now that he’s moving to Strong Safety full time. I’m still a little bit gun shy, as he’s also in a new system, but Todd Bowles produced IDP gold in his secondary last year, so Pryor’s situation is pretty ideal.
Eric Berry – Saving the best for last, Berry’s comeback from cancer is likely the best story in football right now. He’s played more than a few snaps in the preseason, and all signs point to him becoming a factor in IDP leagues again in 2015. I currently have him just outside my top 30, but if you’re a believer in karma, there may not be a pick with more upside than Berry.
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