It’s been a long time since we’ve had IDP content posted on Razzball. Five months to be exact. The world was simpler back then. Leonard Nimoy was alive, Bruce Jenner was a man, and no one was making jokes about Tom Brady’s balls. Okay there were still jokes about Brady’s balls, but they were in an entirely different context. Since then a lot has changed, not the least of which is the IDP landscape in the NFL. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be taking a look at how free agency and coaching changes will affect IDP in 2015, but today I’m starting with the rookies.
In recent years, rookies have had a pretty big impact on the overall IDP leaderboard. Guys like C.J. Mosley, Kiko Alonso and Luke Kuechly all finished in the top 10 for their position in Year One, and current stalwarts like Ziggy Ansah and Sheldon Richardson have been relevant, if not dominant, from the start as well. But these guys tend to be the exception and not the rule, especially in redraft leagues. Let’s take a look at how this year’s class stacks up for the 2015 season and beyond.
Quick strategic reminders:
OLB/DE Position Eligibility – A pass rusher is a pass rusher for NFL purposes, but in the IDP world, the distinction between Outside Linebacker and Defensive End is a big one. Instead of competing for a DE roster spot with guys like Calais Campbell and Kroy Biermann, OLBs have to fend off tackling machines like Keenan Robinson and David Harris. Scoring systems matter, but in general if a pass rushing prospect is drafted by a 3-4 team that intends on making him an OLB, then he won’t be relevant for IDP purposes.
Rookie Cornerbacks – It’s rare for CBs to be weekly starters in IDP leagues with only roster slots for the combined DB position, and last year was no exception, with only 1 of the top 15 DBs being a corner. But in leagues that require CBs, rookies often present good value. They don’t have the name recognition of the Revises and Hadens of the world, but they do get targeted and put up stats. Last year we saw E.J. Gaines finish in the top 5 at the CB position, and other guys like Kyle Fuller and Bradley Roby were startable as well. Draft position tends not to matter as much as playing time, so keep that in mind.
On to the actual players. I’ll be talking mainly about big names and/or guys who will actually be relevant in IDP leagues. Players are listed in the order they were picked:
Dante Fowler – Talk about starting with a downer. Fowler was primed to take on the Leo role for Jacksonville’s underrated IDP defense, but he went and tore his ACL on the first day of rookie camp. He’s obviously a non-factor in redraft leagues, but for dynasty leagues he could present a mid-late round value if you have a large enough roster and/or Injured Reserve slots to spare. Assuming he recovers, Fowler will be a DL 2-3 in 2016.
Leonard Williams – Amazing value for the Jets, but a big conundrum for IDP owners. Early reports say that Williams, Richardson and Muhammad Wilkerson will all be on the field for passing downs, but even if they are, there are only so many stats to go around. Consensus seems to be that Jets will try to move on from Wilkerson at some point, but that’s not likely to happen until 2016. For now this is a hit to all their upside, as well as Harris and Demario Davis, who will find it harder to get tackles behind these beasts.
Vic Beasley – The jury is still out on how the Falcons will use Beasley, and that will drastically affect his IDP value. As a DE, he becomes the first rookie DL off the board in both redraft and dynasty, given Fowler’s injury. As an OLB, his value plummets. He’s currently listed as an LB from what I’ve seen, so unless that changes he should only be a target in big-play leagues.
Danny Shelton – He should be a top 10 DT as soon as this year for leagues that require them, but I’m more excited about his presence will affect his teammates. Karlos Dansby and Craig Robertson should have more tackling lanes available to them, while Paul Kruger and even Kiki Mingo should benefit in the big-play realm.
Marcus Peters – This is an interesting situation. Peters is likely the most talented CB in this year’s draft, and he joins a defense with a dominant pass rush and a borderline shutdown corner in Sean Smith. The caveat with Peters has always been his ability to play nice with others and keep his nose clean. He should see a lot of targets this year, and if he can avoid getting suspended, he should be an immediate factor in CB-required leagues.
Bud Dupree/Shane Ray – I’m lumping these two together because they will likely put up similar production in 2015, which is to say not much. By getting drafted by 3-4 defenses, both players will receive the OLB designation, which already hurts them enough. But the fact that they were drafted by Pittsburgh, who is known to slow-play their rookies (remember Jarvis Jones?) and Denver, who already has Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware, hurts even more. Both are great talents, and although Ray has seen both injuries and off-field issues affect his draft stock, he still has the higher ceiling. But the only way I would roster either of them is as a long-term flyer in a deep dynasty league that rewards big-plays.
Shaq Thompson – From an IDP perspective, Thompson was always going to be a mystery. Is he a safety? Is he a linebacker? Is he a runningback? Is he more coordinated than his namesake? Getting drafted by the Panthers doesn’t make him any easier to value. Early reports have him starting at WLB next to Kuechly and Thomas Davis, which is nice because he’s starting, but not so nice because those two will dominate the stat sheets. I would avoid him in redraft, but he’s worth a flier as a tier 2 IDP in dynasty under the assumption that he eventually absorbs most, if not all, of Davis’s numbers.
Stephone Anthony – It took us to Pick 31, but we finally have a guy who will be IDP-relevant in all leagues for 2015. While currently listed as a backup to David Hawthorne and Dannell Ellerbe, Anthony should be a Week 1 starter for this Saints defense. There are very few viable MLBs in this draft, and Anthony has one of the clearer paths to starting, so it’s likely going to cost more than usual to grab him in dynasty rookie drafts.
Malcom Brown – Of course the consensus top-15 pick falls to New England at 32. Of course it does. Brown should be a Wilfork-in-training from Day One, which makes him irrelevant as a draftable player, but opens up lots of opportunities for those around him. The entire Pats front seven will benefit here, so the rich get richer. Other than that $1 million fine I guess…
Landon Collins – Outside of the big three MLBs, Collins will have the most impact on IDP leagues in 2015. The consensus top safety in the draft somehow made it to Day Two, and the Giants made a move to grab him. He’ll be their starting SS in Week One and is set up to be a DB2-3 for 2015.
Bernardrick McKinney – When Houston traded up for this pick, addressing their MLB situation made sense. Brian Cushing hasn’t been able to stay healthy or productive since he got off the juice, and the rest of the guys they have trotted out have been replacement level at best. Most importantly, the best MLB talent in this draft class was still available. Instead, they drafted McKinney. Nothing against the Mississippi State product, but the next guy on this list should have been the choice. As it stands, McKinney slots about even with Anthony as the second and third rookies to be drafted this year.
Eric Kendricks – Finally! The MLB position has been devalued across the league, but Kendricks still has first round talent. Minnesota is an interesting location for him, as Chad Greenway is still chugging along, and they drafted fellow UCLA Bruin Anthony Barr last year. Similar to Thompson, I’m not sure if there are enough stats to make all three of these guys startable in 2015, but unlike Thompson, Kendricks won’t be the one who suffers. This is our best bet for a LB1 season from a rookie in 2015, and he’s likely worth an early second round pick in rookie drafts, given the scarcity at LB.
Randy Gregory – The last name I’ll go over in detail is one of the draft’s most intriguing prospects. Gregory had a first round grade across the board until off field issues caused his stock to drop faster than Blue Bell Ice Cream’s. Dallas scooped him up in the late second round, and he’ll likely see a good amount of snaps for them as long as he behaves himself. I’d consider him a tier below Fowler/Williams/Beasley as a pass rusher, and given his history it’s risky to invest too much into him. But if your league wants no part of him, he’s worth a late round flier in rookie drafts.
That covers most of the big names who should be on the IDP radar for 2015 and beyond, and as you can see the pickings are a little bit slim this year. Here are some other names to watch: