Every year at training camp we get barraged by tweets and articles telling us how great everyone looks. Guys are “flying around,” people feel “one-hundred times better” than last year, so on and so forth. This article is an attempt to cut through the mud and give readers one defensive player I am HIGH on coming into 2018, as well as one I am LOW on regardless of the hype. Enjoy!
HIGH – Tyrann Mathieu is a smart, talented, highly effective playmaker. The 26-year-old safety has spent the last five seasons roaming the Arizona defensive backfield and now moves to Houston to be their starting strong safety. Mathieu signed a one-year prove-it contract, and that’s exactly what I expect him to do. If you have a chance to procure the Honey Badger’s talents for 2018, go for it, as he’ll likely be a top 10 defensive back this season.
LOW – J.J. Watt – When healthy, Watt by far the most productive defensive end of his generation, averaging 80 tackles and 17.5 sacks per season for four seasons from 2012 to 2015. However, the former Wisconsin Badger has only played in eight games over the past two seasons, creating plenty of uncertainty in his ability to stay on the field. At 29 years old, I can’t jump on the J.J. Watt train until he proves he can be an IDP factor for a full season.
HIGH – Darius Leonard – is an under the radar rookie linebacker out of South Carolina State. The 2nd rounder is a tackling machine, setting a school record with 394 in his career. On a defense in Indianapolis that will surely need his help, I see Leonard as a prime candidate to lead his team in tackles as a rookie and beyond.
LOW – Jabaal Sheard is switching from outside linebacker to defensive end to start the 2018 campaign. In most cases, the change would be positive in IDP circles. Unfortunately, Sheard has very little talent around him, which means he’ll be doubled and chipped often as the primary edge rusher. At 6’3, 265 lbs, his size may not lend to that kind of punishment. I see Sheard having an OK year, but not a season that will dominate IDP leagues.
HIGH – Yannick Ngakoue is a 23-year-old star who has averaged 10 sacks a season since entering the NFL in 2016. The former Maryland Terrapin looks like he’s just scratching the surface of his talent as his film shows some impressive technique coming into form. Yannick may not have the name recognition of players like Calais Campbell or Dante Fowler, but regarding production, he’s elite. If you can get your hands on Ngakoue for the long term, go get him… You’ll be happy you did.
LOW – Malik Jackson – has been nothing short of excellent throughout his career, averaging 40 total tackles and nearly six sacks per season since 2013. Unfortunately for Malik, the Jaguars traded for Marchell Dareus last October as well as selected Taven Bryan in the first round in the 2018 NFL draft. New talented additions to the Jaguars interior line will almost certainly reduce Jackson’s role, thus reduce his IDP value.
HIGH – Logan Ryan moved from New England to Tennessee last year after a monster season, amassing 92 tackles and 11 passes defensed. As a Titan, Ryan was not asked to be a primary ball stopper, and his tackle numbers dropped significantly (62 in 2017). Now, with Malcolm Butler and Adoree Jackson taking the top two spots in Tennessee, I see Ryan’s production increasing in 2018. My thought is that he’ll play nearly as many snaps as last year, but as a nickel corner, have many more opportunities to make tackles and defend passes. Look for a bounce-back year out of Logan Ryan in Tennessee.
LOW – Brian Orakpo is 32 years old, plays outside linebacker, and has been inconsistent his entire nine-year career. The former 1st round pick out of Texas cannot be counted on to produce any upside value in IDP leagues (outside of a few OLB required leagues). I recommend cutting bait on the pass-rushing specialist for more upside in a guy like Harold Landry, who will likely spell Orakpo often this season.
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