Ranking the 1st Round: Defensive Line and Linebackers

We are through four weeks of the season which is basically a quarter of the year for most teams. So I am going to be looking at the first round of the draft and rank each positional players by how well they have done based on expectations for them and overall performance.

In this article, I will be looking at this year’s defensive line and linebacker class from the first round.

1stTremaine Edmunds (38.5 points)

Middle linebacker was a huge need for Buffalo prior to the draft. The 16th pick happened and it was no longer an issue as they took Tremaine Edmunds. He has been an absolute tackling machine so far this season, putting together 21 solo tackles, one sack, and one forced fumble in four games.

Edmunds has little to no competition for his spot so will get plenty of snaps every week. Just four games into his NFL career, the linebacker is a must-start in IDP leagues as he has failed to have a double-digit fantasy game only once.

2ndRoquan Smith (23.4 points)

Roquan Smith is an unbelievable talent and is part of a Chicago defense that looks incredible.

He has made 15 solo tackles in the first four weeks, which is okay when you consider he is playing alongside Khalil Mack, the best pass rusher in the game. Smith is becoming Matt Nagy and Vic Fangio’s go-to guy and seems to be earning more and more game time as the weeks go on.

The more he settles into this defense, the better he will get. Despite him not having a double-digit fantasy game, it won’t be too long before he becomes a must-start in IDP leagues.

3rdDa’ron Payne (12.9 points)

Da’ron Payne might not be the highest point scorer on this list, but when you bear in mind he is a nose tackle competing with defensive ends, it’s only right that he wouldn’t score as highly. A nose tackle’s job is mainly to absorb blocks and fill gaps. Not to mention, Payne has also played only three games due to an early bye week for the Redskins. That being said, Payne got to the quarterback for the first time in Week 3, putting a shot on Aaron Rodgers. He managed 8.9 fantasy points on the day.

Payne was drafted 13th for a reason. He was going to start right away, as nose tackle was a real need for the Redskins going into the draft. The Alabama product is really athletic and can be disruptive up the middle.

Depending on what type of IDP league you are in, Payne is worth plugging in at defensive tackle as he will go from strength to strength as the season progresses.

4thLeighton Vander Esch (25 points)

Vander Esch made his first start for Dallas in Week 4 against Detroit after performing well against Seattle in Week 3. He put together eight solo tackles, earning a 10 point fantasy performance.

At the moment, he is still battling for snaps with Jaylon Smith, but if he can stay healthy, this is a battle which Vander Esch should come out on top.

He is a good stash in IDP leagues for now and should start increasing his scoring as he gets more snaps later in the season.

5thMarcus Davenport (14.7 points)

When New Orleans traded up to 14th, a lot of people thought they were taking Lamar Jackson as the heir to Drew Brees’ throne. Those people were wrong.

He is currently competing for snaps with Alex Okafor to play opposite Cameron Jordan which has slightly hindered Davenports ‘point scoring.’ However, he has done okay so far, managing 6.7 fantasy points in Week 3 against Atlanta where he got to the QB twice, including one tackle for a loss.

There is no doubt that Davenport is talented, so as the season goes on he should get more and more playing time and should mold himself into a viable fantasy asset in IDP leagues.

6thBradley Chubb (13.9 points)

I get that Chubb has played as a strong side linebacker for Denver, but that is purely because he is in a 3-4 defense.

I expected Chubb to do more this season, but with Derek Wolfe, Adam Gotsis and Domata Peko on the line and Brandon Marshall, Von Miller, Shane Ray and Shaquil Barrett at linebacker, Denver has a stacked defensive front. As a strong side linebacker, I would have expected more than five solo tackles from Chubb, but the season is still young so I am sure he will start racking up tackles as the season progresses.

Stash Chubb in IDP leagues as he is yet to have a double-digit fantasy performance. He may reach that once he becomes more comfortable with Denver’s defense. You never know, later in the year, he may start to kick on and score some good fantasy points.

7thTaven Bryan (3.5 points)

Taven Bryan is another guy that is stuck on an amazingly stacked defensive front. Yannick Ngaoue and Calais Campbell are severely hampering him from getting a good amount of playing time and more importantly, scoring those fantasy points for us!

He will learn a lot playing alongside the experienced Calais Campbell, so Bryan is worth a stash if you are playing the long game, as Campbell is now 32 years old so doesn’t have much time left in his career.

Taven Bryan’s opportunities in this defense will be severely limited, barring any injuries, so I would curb your expectations for this season.

8thRashaan Evans (3 points)

Rashaan Evans missed Week 1 with a hamstring injury and hasn’t done a great deal since. The 22nd pick for Tennessee wasn’t a huge need as the Titans already had Wesley Woodyard, Jayon Brown and Will Compton.

Evans missed a lot of pre-season due to an undisclosed condition which has severely hampered his early season opportunities. For me, this makes Evans a taxi squad player in IDP leagues and one to look for next season with an extra year of NFL experience under his belt. Apart from that, I can’t see him doing a lot this season for the Titans.

9thVita Vea (0 points)

Due to injuries, the impressive Vita Vea has yet to get on the field for Tampa Bay. Although I am sure they will be looking to get him on the field as soon as possible as they have conceded 139 points in four games, despite their 2-2 record.

Vita Vea is definitely worth keeping for later in the season. He is an absolute beast and will do some serious damage from the DT position.

Follow me on Twitter @DFF_JamesH for all things Football and occasionally some humor. (Don’t get too excited, it’s not great). Thanks for reading!


I work as an In-Play US Sports trader, father to Elijah, Archie and Izzie. Fan of Pittsburgh Steelers. Play the game as DT for Staffordshire Surge (Find them on Twitter @StaffsSurge). FSWA member. Follow me on Twitter @DFF_JamesH

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