In the trenches of their team defenses, linemen can be the key to your IDP draft. Until I’m blue in the face I will say it over and over again: make sure you know your scoring system. Do you want a lineman with a high sack upside or someone in the interior who will produce tackles? Does your league separate out DE/Edge and DT? Does the hosting site have TJ Watt and Shaq Barrett as linebackers or Edge rusher? It’s simple to state that you need to know your rules but you’d be surprised at the number of fantasy players that don’t. Another aspect of drafting IDPs is how does their scoring compare to their offensive counterparts? This will help you decide when to jump into the defensive side of your draft. For those starting out with IDP, I’ll be covering draft strategies in upcoming articles and you’ll find out why you may want to prioritize this position over the more popular linebackers.

My rankings are based on a balanced scoring system (3:1 ratio of big play points to tackle points). If your league leans big play or tackle heavy, then some adjustments may be necessary.  

 

Here are the top 25, with 26-50 soon to follow.

 

Tier

Rank

DL

Team

1

1

Danielle Hunter

MIN

1

2

Aaron Donald

LAR

1

3

Joey Bosa

LAC

1

4

Cameron Jordan

NO

1

5

Myles Garrett

CLE

2

6

Nick Bosa

SF

2

7

JJ Watt

HOU

2

8

Cameron Heyward

PIT

2

9

Sam Hubbard

CIN

2

10

DeForest Buckner

IND

3

11

Yannick Ngakoue

JAX

3

12

Carlos Dunlap

CIN

3

13

Melvin Ingram III

LAC

3

14

Calais Campbell

BAL

3

15

Justin Houston

IND

3

16

DeMarcus Lawrence

DAL

4

17

Grady Jarrett

ATL

4

18

Frank Clark

KC

4

19

Trey Flowers

DET

4

20

Maxx Crosby

LV

4

21

Arik Armstead

SF

4

22

Chris Jones

KC

4

23

Josh Allen

JAX

4

24

Jadeveon Clowney

FA

4

25

Chase Young

WSH

 

Tier 1

 

I covered Danielle Hunter and Aaron Donald in my IDP overall top 25 article and they will anchor your d-line position if you choose to draft them early. Joining them in the first tier are Joey Bosa, Cameron Jordan and Myles Garrett. Bosa was second in the league in snap percentage for defensive lineman with a whopping 86% for the Chargers. If the Chargers’ offense takes a step back without Philip Rivers, Bosa’s total snaps could even rise. In 2019 at age 24 Bosa had his best season increasing his QB hits and TFL to go along with 11.5 sacks.  Cam Jordan has become the face of the Saints defense and entering his age 31 season, doesn’t seem to be slowing down after a career high 15.5 sacks in 2019. Playing against some weaker offensive lines, Jordan should have a similar season. The development of Marcus Davenport has taken some of the pressure and double teams away from Jordan helping him maintain his production. Myles Garrett could be the best lineman in the NFL. Once he learns to control his emotions/aggressiveness, he will be even more dominant. Your only risk here is another suspension. If he avoids the penalties, he will finish near the top of DL scoring.

 

Tier 2

 

This tier has an interesting mix of players starting with the young Nick Bosa who joins his brother as a top 10 defensive lineman. Nick had a solid rookie season with 9 sacks and finished as the DL 14 in my home league which is slightly big play skewed. He was 21st in total snaps and with a 77% snap percentage I can see this taking an uptick, so expect an increase in his tackles/sacks. In JJ Watt you are getting a player who is high risk/reward due to his injury history but when he plays, he produces.  Before his injury he was top 10 in points and finished the season top ten in PPG. He’s a risky pick with the injuries and his age, but he can be had late as people are staying away from him and could be a value pick if he drops in your draft. Cameron Heyward was a defensive line anomaly last year as he had 9 sacks to go along with 83 total tackles. The high tackle rate was far off his norm where he averaged 52 over 5 full seasons as a starter. He moves around on the line playing the majority of the time on the interior but does take snaps on the edge which explains his hybrid stats. If your league separates DEs and DTs, and Heyward is designated a DT, he should be one of the first DTs taken. Sam Hubbard in his second year made strides and finished in the top 15 of most leagues.  He had a sack in each of his last 5 games and he is expected to continue where he left off and has the ability to finish in the top 10 this year. DeForest Buckner moved to the Colts in an off season trade. Buckner was a key to the 49ers defense last year but this appears to be a move about money as he was entering the fifth year of his rookie contract. Although he had a great season and was one of the top interior lineman, Buckner’s stats were down from 2018.  He saw decreases in sacks, tackles and QB hits which may have led to the 49ers deciding not to pay him. Despite this he still finished as a top DT for fantasy purposes and the move to the Colts should not hinder his production in their 4-3 scheme. The Colts’ main problem last year was their secondary and with Buckner adding pressure to the QB this may help the secondary. Buckner should have similar results despite the move to a new system.

 

Tier 3

 

We begin to see a slight fall off in tier 3 where there are a few with top 10 upside, but most are solid DL2 players for your teams. Carlos Dunlap has exceeded 10 sacks only once in his ten year career, but he has been a consistent IDP scorer. 2019 saw him score in the top 10 in most scoring systems for d-linemen. At age 32, Dunlap will continue to produce but he may fall outside the top 10 to be a low end DL1 or high end DL2. Along with Hubbard and Geno Atkins the Bengals have a solid line on the defensive side of the ball. Yannick Ngakoue wants to be moved out of Jacksonville and his value may change depending on whether he gets moved. I would have expected him to have been moved already, but if an injury happens in the preseason, a team may make an offer to the Jaguars. He’s a sack dependent end for scoring so you may have to move him down a few slots if your league is tackle heavy. Melvin Ingram, Calais Campbell, Justin Houston, and DeMarcus Lawrence are all on the older side and all have continued to produce.  Lawrence saw a down tick last season, Campbell moved to the Ravens this year, and Houston had a good year with the Colts at age 31. They’re lumped together here for a reason. Expect a good season, but they won’t be top 10. Great floor with limited upside.

 

Tier 4

 

We begin to round out our starters in 12 team, 2 DL starter leagues. The toughest player I had to rank was Jadeveon Clowney. I have tended to leave free agents off my rankings, especially at the DB position because their values are highly dependent on where they land and how they are used. At the DE position, the use is going to be similar for Clowney and the only difference will be what offensive lines he goes up against that will affect his value. Grady Jarrett is a prototypical nose tackle who will contribute more in tackle heavy leagues but does get his share of sacks. Maxx Crosby and Josh Allen have the most upside of this group as they enter their sophomore seasons and showed promise in their rookie year. Chase Young comes into the league as the second overall pick in the draft with high expectations.  He dominated in his senior season at Ohio State and most are ranking Young as a starting d-lineman.  I have him just outside at #25, but he can be a Nick Bosa, his former teammate, and is probably the odds on favorite to win the defensive rookie of the year.  

 

There is a big difference in scoring each year between the top 5-10 defensive linemen and the rest. After the top 10 the scoring differences are small and this contributes to my opinion that getting a top DL is more important than getting a top linebacker.  We’ll be going over that in my DL strategy piece but it needs to be noted as you look at the rankings.  Target one of the top 5 and then you won’t go wrong with your DL2.  The next 25 in the rankings will be out soon.  Please feel free to comment here, on Twitter @gasdoc_spit, and on Reddit.  Stay safe!

 

  1. Paul Zone says:
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    Would you have all 3 of these guys in your top 10 if they ONLY have the DL designation?

    Chandler Jones
    TJ Watt
    Shaq Barrett

    Thanks!

    • GasDoc

      GasDoc says:
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      TJ Watt would be #8 if you look at my overall top 25….Jones and Barrett would probably slide in right behind him but it really depends on the scoring system. It is really tough to project sacks and if they don’t meet their expectations, they fall behind especially in tackle heavy formats.

  2. Saint says:
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    Great insight GasDoc. Question for you. In a 12 team dynasty league I currently roster C. Jordan, M. Ingram lll, F. Cox, and B. Burns. My question is would you take C. Young at the 2.08 slot in a rookie draft over possible other offensive options that may be there such as Dillon, Gibson, Moss, or even Tua?

    Thanks in advance for your thoughts.

    • GasDoc

      GasDoc says:
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      Tough to say without knowing the rest of your roster, but out of those choices the only one I’d take over Young would be Tua. So if you don’t need a QB I’d go with Young. You have a relatively older group there and he will help long term.

      • Saint says:
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        Thanks again GasDoc. I currently roster Wentz, Mayfield and Rudolph, but we all saw how ineffective Rudolph was.

        Fournette, Sanders, Edmonds, Scott, J.Hill, B. Hill, Hines

        Adams, Kupp, Chark, Campbell, Arcega-Whiteside, Stills, Pascal

        Probably grabbing Jefferson, Reagor, or another receiver with the 1.08 as I’m assuming one of the big 5 backs will not fall to me.

        Any additional feedback would be greatly greatly

      • Saint says:
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        Thanks again GasDoc. I currently roster Wentz, Mayfield and Rudolph, but we all saw how ineffective Rudolph was.

        Fournette, Sanders, Edmonds, Scott, J.Hill, B. Hill, Hines

        Adams, Kupp, Chark, Campbell, Arcega-Whiteside, Stills, Pascal

        Probably grabbing Jefferson, Reagor, or another receiver with the 1.08 as I’m assuming one of the big 5 backs will not fall to me.

        Any additional feedback would be greatly greatly appreciated

        • GasDoc

          GasDoc says:
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          With Wentz and Baker I’d probably pass on Tua just because I think you need a RB. If McFarland or Vaughn are there in the first, you might want to pounce there and take a WR with the second as it’s a much deeper class..just a thought if you want to go in that direction. Going WR and then Young will probably get you two better players overall though. Also there’s a chance one of those two RBs get to you in the second round…

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