In the updated 2021 version of this article, we discuss some players from each defensive position group that are poised to break out this season. These players should put up a floor of respectable, fantasy starting lineup stat lines with the potential for positional top-15 finishes.
Accountability is paramount in this business, and last season your author swung big on both Montez Sweat and Ifeadi Odenigbo. One was a home run and the other was a strike-out. Montez Sweat broke out for a double-digit sack season playing across from top draft pick Chase Young, as well as in tandem with fellow defensive interior players Daron Payne and Jonathan Allen, who each boast first-round draft capital of their own. Ifeadi Odenigbo, on the other hand, was not accompanied by perennial all-pro Danielle Hunter, who threatened to hold out before opting for surgery to repair an injury. He ended up missing the entire season and the Vikings’ entire pass rush struggled.
Below are players that can be acquired with minimal draft capital or resources in true-position or full-positional IDP leagues. An examination of the factors promoting these ascending players takes place in each article. Remarkably, there are quite a few players that are among the “IDP unseen,” as of now. We will start, again, with the defensive line.
D.J. Wonnum – DE – Minnesota Vikings
I guess you can say your author has not learned his lesson. Again, we chase the presumed starting pass-rusher playing opposite Danielle Hunter. D.J. Wonnum was drafted out of South Carolina in the fourth round of the 2020 NFL Draft. In his first season with the Vikings last year, Wonnum flashed production and upside while serving in a rotational pass-rushing role. Wonnum possesses the ability to break out in 2020 as a reliable starter at the EDGE and/or DE position for your fantasy team.
— Chad Reuter (@chad_reuter) November 16, 2019
I expect Wonnum to approach double-digit sacks this season if he stays healthy and plays the majority of the season. He boasts length and athleticism for his size (6’5” 260 lbs.). If your league rewards added scoring for TFLs, that should push him even further up the rankings. Additionally, the Vikings’ scheme under Mike Zimmer is designed to utilize DEs specific run-fits to stop the run. This increases tackle totals for your DEs. Additionally, Minnesota’s own Andre Patterson has a penchant for developing stud edge defenders.
The rest of the depth chart is thin, as career journeyman Stephen Weatherly looks to compete with late-round youngsters Kenny Willekes, Jordan Brailford, and Hercules Mata’afa for reserve snaps. The lone competition comes from newly-drafted third-round rookie Patrick Jones. Jones was productive at Pittsburg but has been knocked by scouts for being stiff and having shorter arms. Wonnum should be expected to start, and his length and athleticism should allow him to find success in his new role. Wonnum has the ability to shine and make you look like the IDP genius of your league.
Your author acquired him for free and stashed him on the taxi squad in several leagues last season. However, acquiring Wonnum for cheap in as many leagues as possible has also been a goal of this offseason. You are urged to do the same.
Randy Gregory – DE – Dallas Cowboys
It may have taken a long time, but it appears Randy Gregory has finally grown up and matured into a professional football player’s role. Gregory was a stud defender marred by character concerns coming into the league in the 2015 NFL Draft. A first-round talent, he fell to the end of the second round to the Cowboys. Gregory dominated for two seasons at Nebraska, after taking a medical redshirt due to a broken fibula. He recorded 16.5 sacks and 26.5 TFLs in just 23 total games played in college.
Gregory’s draft-day slide was warranted, as his career has been marked by numerous suspensions for violations of the NFL’s substance-abuse policy that kept him off the field completely during the 2017 and 2019 seasons. The Cowboys not only took a chance in drafting him but have stood by him ever since. On the field, he has shown glimpses of brilliance in brief stints in both 2018 and this past season. Playing in a limited role in 2018 he logged 25 tackles with seven TFLs and six sacks in 2018. In 2020, after returning from suspension in Week 8, he compiled 21 tackles with four TFLs and 3.5 sacks splitting reps with former teammate Aldon Smith.
#Cowboys DE Randy Gregory was dominant yesterday.
Here are a few of his best plays from Week 16: pic.twitter.com/AM3jK7kB3O
— Marcus Mosher (@Marcus_Mosher) December 28, 2020
This season, Gregory enters as the full-time starter at DE opposite DeMarcus Lawrence. Despite a new defensive coordinator and a scheme change, both Lawrence and Gregory avoided LB reclassification in full-positional IDP leagues. Gregory, like Wonnum, could approach double-digit sack numbers in a full-time role. Gregory still possesses the athleticism and raw talent to stand out as a top NFL defensive end. With an accomplished veteran like Lawrence playing across from him, coupled with Dallas’s dynamic offense, Gregory should have ample opportunity to make splash plays.
In some leagues, Gregory is sitting on waivers available for free. In others, he can be acquired for the latest round pick in your rookie draft, or even for trading FAAB dollars. Your author recently acquired him in one league for just $10.00 FAAB dollars. Gregory is a low-risk, high-reward option for IDP owners.
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