Links to similar discussions on other divisions:
For reference, when I mention where players finished in the rankings last season, my model will be the standard Footballguys scoring system. This is the basic stuff:
- Tackles = 1.5
- Assists = .75
- Sacks = 4
- Forced fumbles = 3
- Fumble recoveries = 3
- Interceptions = 4
- Passes defended = 1.5
- Touchdowns = 6
When tackle numbers are mentioned, solo stops and assists are not lumped together. Unless there is a reference one way or the other, tackles refer to solo stops. When talking about the total number of takeaways for a player, I am counting interceptions, fumble recoveries, and fumbles forced since all of these are scored very similarly in most leagues. Keep in mind that based on scoring systems, rankings will vary (sometimes greatly) from league to league.
From time to time the rookie corner rule will be referenced. For those who are new to IDP or the EOTG, the rookie corner rule is the basic fact that in the NFL, starting a rookie on the corner is like throwing chum to the sharks. Offensive coordinators will target young and inexperienced players as weaknesses thus these guys have an accelerated number of opportunities. Most often these players are the cream of the crop at the position (which is why they are starting so soon) and their numbers will begin to drop steadily after their rookie seasons.
The Arizona defense took a step in the right direction in 2020. After a mediocre 2019, they improved to a top-seven pass defense, recorded the fourth-highest sack total at 48, and racked up 21 turnovers. About the only thing the Cardinals defense did not do well last year, was stop the run. Allowing 4.6 yards-per-carry, ranked them 26th in that category.
It is hard to place blame on the defensive line for the team’s struggles versus the run. The Cardinals had a dozen players see action over the season but injuries left Angelo Blackson as the only one that did not miss at least three games. Availability, however, was not enough to save Blackson’s job. He will be replaced by free-agent addition J.J. Watt. The question is, entering his eleventh season, how much does Watt have left?
In 2018, Watt lit up the league and the box scores with 47 tackles, 15 assists, 16 sacks, 7 forced fumbles, and 4 swatted passes. His 2019 was shortened by injury but even before being hurt, Watt was well off the previous season’s pace. Over his last 25 games, Watt is 51-25-10 with 3 forced fumbles and 3 recoveries. Many see the glass half empty here. During his ten seasons with Houston, Watt did not come off the field much. He turned 32 in March, which is not generally considered over the hill in NFL terms, but he does have a lot of mileage on him.
So what can fantasy managers expect from Watt in 2021? Injuries have cost him a significant number of games in three of the last five seasons, so that risk is real. On the other hand, he was available for all 16 last year. The most intriguing factor here is that Watt has never played with such a talented and productive supporting cast. For the first time in his career, he will not be called upon to carry the defense. With Chandler Jones and Markus Golden coming off the edge, offenses will not be able to focus on Watt. He may not be what he once was from a physical perspective, but if Watt can stay out of the trainer’s room, he is a good bet to reach 45 solo tackles and double-digit sacks, along with a few other splash plays. He is a potential top-ten lineman that could slide on draft day and would be a steal as a second starter.
Jordan Phillips and Zach Allen were the opening game starters at defensive end in 2020. This summer, they are expected to compete for the job opposite Watt. Regardless of who earns the title, both players are likely to see plenty of rotational action. Phillips had a career-best of 9.5 sacks as a tackle for the Bills in 2019, so he has shown some IDP potential. Allen was a third-round pick by the team in 2019. He played sparingly as a rookie and had two sacks in 13 games last season. This is a situation worth watching once the season starts, but unless you are in a deep drafted league, neither of these guys are IDP targets.
Longtime starter Corey Peters is not currently under contract with the team, though there is speculation he could return at some point. Until/unless that happens, last year’s fourth-round picks, Rashard Lawrence and Leki Fotu, will compete with veteran journeyman Xavier Williams for the nose tackle job. Arizona keeps three linemen on the field most of the time, so if one of these guys claims a lion’s share of the snaps, they could have a little value in tackle-required formats.
- DE J.J. Watt – Priority DL2 with top-10 upside
- DE Jordan Phillips – Marginal value expected but there is some potential
- DE Zach Allen – No grand expectations
- DE Michael Dogbe – Marginal value anticipated
- NT Leki Fotu – Marginal value expected
- NT Rashard Lawrence – No value expected
- NT Xavier Williams – No value expected
For the second consecutive season, the Cardinals have created uncertainty at their inside linebacker positions heading into summer practices. In 2020, they had a highly productive Jordan Hicks locked into one spot. They then signed veteran De'Vondre Campbell in free agency. Campbell was expected to start right up to the draft where the team invested the number eight overall pick in Isaiah Simmons. The saga did not end there though. When the season opened, Hicks and Campbell were the starters while Simmons was limited to a part-time role all season. It seemed the situation was resolved when Campbell was not brought back. That lasted until they selected Zaven Collins at 16 overall this year.
Collins is an interesting prospect. Four of his seven and a half career sacks at Tulsa came in 2020. At 6’5” 259 pounds, he has the size, quickness, and athleticism to line up on the edge in Arizona’s 3-4. With Haason Reddick taking his 12.5 sacks to Carolina, it seemed logical that Collins would be the replacement. Then came reports of Hicks wanting to be traded and the organization’s willingness to let him explore that option. This strongly suggests that the coaching staff plans to move forward with Simmons and Collins as their inside duo.
Collins is huge for an inside linebacker in today’s game, but he is a freakish athlete with good speed and solid cover skills, which were accented by his numbers as a junior last year. Collins filled the stat sheet at Tulsa, with 54 combined tackles and assists, 7 turnovers, 4 sacks, and a pair of scores in just eight games in 2021. He is also a physical run defender that hits like a truck and can be productive on the blitz. Collins’ overall skill set and ability to stay on the field in all situations, should make him a great fit as a three-down player at the strong inside linebacker position. His size and physical nature make Collins a great compliment to the smaller Simmons, while his versatility allows for the option of lining up outside some.
While the signs point to him having a full-time role right from the start, nothing is written in stone with Collins, including his position. He has been the consensus third linebacker off the board in dynasty rookie drafts and has great potential both long and short term. On the other hand, we watched the Cardinals stick Simmons in a marginal role for most of his rookie campaign, and Hicks is a good player that the organization has a lot of respect for. If Hicks is not traded or released, Collins could spend his rookie season on the back burner.
Being a top-10 pick usually means a starting role right away for rookies. Managers that picked up Isaiah Simmons in re-draft leagues last season, were majorly disappointed. He played sparingly out of the gate, seeing action on around 90 plays over the first seven games. His role was increased after the Cardinals bye week, but even then Simmons was a part-time player. By the end of the season, he had a stat line of 43-11-2 with 3 turnovers. Those numbers are not eye-catching at a glance, but they become rather impressive when we consider he was on the field for 377 total snaps. The Arizona defense faced a little over 1100 offensive plays in 2020. If we project Simmons’ per snap production over 1100 plays, it looks something like 125-32-6 with 9 turnovers.
Simmons is an elite athlete with a freakish combination of size, speed, and versatility. This guy can do pretty much anything. He played 738 snaps as a junior at Clemson in 2019. According to Pro Football Focus; 106 of those snaps were on the defensive line, 239 came as an inside linebacker, 256 as a slot corner/safety, 130 as a deep safety, and 7 as an outside corner. Simmons was also highly productive for the Tigers, totaling 67-37-8 with three interceptions, two forced fumbles, a recovery, and eight pass breakups in 15 games. The Cardinals told us Simmons would play inside linebacker for them and that is where he lined up for most of his action as a rookie. With a year of experience under his belt and plenty of other good players to work with, the coaching staff could choose to be more creative and move him around more. There will be a lot of competition for tackles on the Arizona defense. That could hold down the fantasy value of everyone involved to some extent, but even so, Simmons has top-12 potential.
The most impressive thing about the Cardinals totaling 48 sacks in 2020, is that they did it without their premier pass rusher. Chandler Jones piled up 19 sacks in 2019. Unfortunately, he was lost to a torn bicep in week five last year. Other than a pair of injury-shortened seasons, Jones has recorded double-digit sacks every year since 2013. At 31 years old, he is entering the fourth quarter of his career, but Jones has shown no sign of slowing down yet. The only issue here is positional designation. In leagues that emphasize big-play production and/or have evolved to using the edge defender position, Jones is a stud. In leagues with balanced or tackle heavy scoring, and designate Jones as a linebacker, his value is diminished considerably.
Markus Golden projects as the starting outside linebacker opposite Jones. Golden was a second-round pick of the Cardinals in 2015, posting his career-best of 12.5 sacks with them in 2016. An ACL injury derailed his career in 2017 but it was resurrected with the Giants two seasons later when he produced 38-34-10. The Cardinals brought Golden back via trade after Jones was injured last year and he filled in admirably, producing 4 sacks down the stretch. With Haason Reddick moving on, the Cardinals signed Golden to a two-year contract in March. He is not the headliner in Arizona but is an excellent bookend on the edge, with the potential to produce 35+ solo tackles and double-digit sacks. Like Jones, Golden’s IDP value will vary greatly based on league format.
Arizona is in a good place at the linebacker positions. They have a highly talented group of starters with a good mix of youth and veteran leadership. They are deep at these positions as well, especially if they keep Jordan Hicks around. Hicks is a starter quality player with experience and a history of strong production both on the field and in the box scores. Devon Kennard is another veteran with plenty of starting experience and has the versatility to play any of the Cardinals linebacker positions. He totaled 14 sacks in two seasons as the strong-side linebacker in the Lions’ 4-3 before joining the Cardinals last season. Dennis Gardeck has developed nicely over his three years with the team. He has worked at both inside and outside linebackers but seemed to find his place last year, recording seven sacks as a passing down edge specialist.
- ILB Isaiah Simmons – Highly versatile playmaker with top-12 potential
- ILB Zaven Collins – Rookie with big upside, but not guaranteed to produce right away
- ILB Jordan Hicks – Tackling machine if he plays full-time
- ILB Tanner Vallejo – Special teams contributor
- ILB Ezekiel Turner – Special teams contributor
- OLB Chandler Jones – Possible LB1 in big-play formats
- OLB Markus Golden – Depth with upside in big-play formats
- OLB Devon Kennard – Injury sleeper with limited upside
- OLB Dennis Gardeck – Injury sleeper with limited upside
- OLB Kylie Fitts – No value expected
When a safety leads the team in tackles, it is generally not a sign of a good defense. Budda Baker led the entire league in tackles and was one of two players to hit triple-digits solo stops in 2019. With the additions of De’Vondre Campbell and Isaiah Simmons, Baker fell short of 100 solo stops last year, but his 90 still led the team and were the second most among defensive backs league-wide. Further improvement in the front seven could drop Baker’s numbers a little more in 2021 but it is important to note that in three years as a starter, he has never fallen short of 80 solos, and has been among the top ten fantasy producers at the position each year.
Stellar tackle production has been the key to Baker’s IDP value but as the team improves and those numbers slip a little, they could be replaced by more splash plays. He is not known as a big-play safety but Baker’s contributions in that area last year were the best of his career with three turnovers and a pair of sacks. At 5’10” 195 pounds, making fewer tackles every season might be good for his career longevity. Baker has been a top-two safety for the last two seasons. He may slip a little in 2021 but it would be a surprise if he were to fall out of the elite tier at the position.
Due to a combination of injuries and lackluster play, the Cardinals' other safety position has been a revolving door in recent years. Last season alone saw four different players start opposite Baker with no one standing out. The team added another name to the competition this season. Former Bengals starter Shawn Williams may not walk into the starting spot right away, but there is a strong chance he will be there by week one.
Williams is best suited to line up at strong safety, which is just what the Cardinals need. He has the size and aggressive nature to play in the box, is a solid tackler that rarely misses, and generally arrives at the ball carrier with a bad attitude. Williams has good speed and cover skills as well and can be a playmaker when the scheme allows it. As a starter for Cincinnati from 2016 through 2019, Williams totaled 16 takeaways, including 12 interceptions. He was the fantasy game’s top defensive back in 2018 with a stat line of 78-29-1, 10 passes defended, 6 takeaways, and a score. His splash play production slipped when the scheme changed under the new coaching staff in 2019, but Williams still managed strong tackle totals and a top-15 finish. After being bumped from the starting spot last season by Von Bell, Williams has become an afterthought for most IDP managers. Slip him onto your sleeper list and pick him up late as depth with top-20 upside.
We have seen enough of Jalen Thompson, Deionte Thompson, and Chris Banjo over the last two seasons, to know that they are all marginal NFL starters at best. All three have been given ample opportunity to prove themselves and have been adequate. If Williams is injured or does not work out for some reason, expect to see some combination of these three again in 2021.
It will be strange to see the Arizona defense take the field this year without Patrick Peterson, who has been a mainstay since 2011. In his place will be free-agent addition, Malcolm Butler. Many consider Peterson an elite, shutdown corner. Butler is not that guy but is a very good, veteran cover man with six years of starting experience and a highlight reel interception that won the Super Bowl for New England in 2015.
While he is a slight step down on the field, Butler has been a far better IDP option over his career, than Peterson. With 22 takeaways (17 via interception), 3 sacks, 84 pass breakups, and a pair of scores over six seasons as a starter, Butler is on par or a little better than Peterson in terms of splash play production. In the tackle columns, however, Butler has been far superior. Toss out his injury-shortened 2019 and Butler has at least 55 solo stops in four of his five seasons as a starter. In 2020, Butler’s 86 tackles were most among corners league-wide, 14 more than Taron Johnson who was second.
The question is, will Butler’s production follow him to his new team? The answer is, probably not. Arizona has not given IDP managers much to work with at the corner position over the past several years, and this unit is loaded with guys that traditionally make a lot of tackles. Only one Arizona corner has exceeded 50 solo stops since 2015. That was Byron Murphy who totaled 66 as a rookie in 2019. Butler could make up some ground in the big-play columns but we should not count on more than 50-55 tackles.
Murphy should be the starter opposite Butler, with free-agent addition Darqueze Dennard in the slot and Robert Alford in dime packages. As the Cardinals’ second-round pick in 2019, Murphy has been a perfect example of the rookie corner rule. He went from 78 combined tackles and one turnover as a rookie to 51 combined tackles and two turnovers in year two. Arizona is solid and relatively deep on the corners but there is no reason to expect much noise in fantasy terms.
- FS/SS Budda Baker – Elite tier DB1
- SS Shawn Williams – Sleeper with low DB2 upside
- FS/SS Jalen Thompson – Marginal Fantasy value at best
- FS Deionte Thompson – No fantasy value expected
- SS Chris Banjo – Injury depth at best
- CB Malcolm Butler – Possible CB2 target
- CB Byron Murphy – No fantasy value expected
- CB Darqueze Dennard - No fantasy value expected
- CB Robert Alford – No fantasy value expected
- CB Marco Wilson – Developmental rookie
- CB Tay Gowan – Developmental rookie
Los Angeles Rams
The Rams defense held up their end of the bargain in 2020. They were number one against the pass, number three versus the run, and only the Steelers recorded more sacks. They even provided 22 takeaways. Teams running 3-4 schemes usually rely on their outside linebackers to provide the majority of the pass rush and are happy to get a contribution from the defensive line. The Rams got 28.5 sacks from their front-three last year, including 13.5 from Aaron Donald alone.
Donald is a generational talent and one of the best to ever play the game. He won a sack title in 2018 with 20.5 and was the fantasy games' top lineman that season. Donald has at least eight sacks in each of his seven seasons as a pro, reaching double digits five times, including each of the last four. In fantasy terms, he is a perennial member of the elite top-tier with the potential to challenge for another sack title in 2021. One area Donald does not excel in is tackle production. He has reached 40 solo stops twice in his career, falling short of 30 in each of the last two seasons. If his sack totals are not enough to make up for the shortfall in the tackle columns, the turnovers are. Donald has forced 18 fumbles and recovered 6 over his career, including four forced and one recovered in 2020. He turned 30 in May and still has plenty of football ahead of him.
Los Angeles runs a strange scheme in that they usually deploy three defensive linemen, with two of them lining up somewhere between the inside shoulder of the offensive tackles, making them defensive tackles by definition. In this alignment, they have one defensive end and two tackles with their hands in the dirt. As a result, league management sites will sometimes have conflicting opinions when it comes to positions. Donald’s production transcends positional designations so it matters little if your league host calls him a tackle, as the Rams do, or a defensive end. For those in leagues that break out the defensive line positions, however, Donald may not be the only IDP contributor here.
Michael Brockers and Morgan Fox combined for 43 tackles, 33 assists, and 11 sacks last season, while Sebastian Joseph-Day contributed 35-19-1 from the nose tackle position. Brockers signed with Detroit and Fox with the Panthers, so A’Shawn Robinson is expected to have a big role if he can stay healthy. Most leagues had Brockers and Fox as defensive ends with Joseph-Day at tackle, but a healthy Robinson could shake things up. He can play either position but was working at nose tackle for the short time he was healthy last year. Joseph-Day is not a particularly good fit at end, so we will have to see how this all pans out. Rookies Bobby Brown III and Ernest Brown have a shot to earn prominent roles early on. If your league requires interior linemen, someone could have value here. Robinson is the early favorite to be that guy.
- DE/DT Aaron Donald – Elite tier DL1
- DE/NT Sebastian Joseph-Day – potential DT2 depending on role shuffle
- DE Earnest Brown IV – Rookie watch list
- NT/DE A'Shawn Robinson – Potential starter in tackle required leagues
- NT Bobby Brown III – Rookie watch list
- NT Greg Gaines – No impact expected
The salary cap bit Los Angeles hard at the linebacker positions heading into last season. They were unable to retain inside linebacker Cory Littleton, breakout edge defender Dante Fowler Jr or even veteran Clay Matthews who was third on the team with eight and a half sacks in 2019. With those three gone, the Rams had a lot more questions than answers at the second level heading into the 2020 season. As we look toward the 2021 campaign, many of those questions remain, at least at the inside linebacker positions.
Micah Kiser was tagged to replace Littleton last year. He played and produced well out of the gate and looked more than capable of handling the job both on the field and for IDP managers. Kiser totaled 21-11-0 with a forced fumble and three pass breakups over the first four games. Then the injuries struck. In October he was bothered by a sore groin that caused him to miss week five. He played through the injury for a while and looked healthy coming out of the week nine bye. Two weeks after a 10 solo tackle performance against Seattle in week 10, Kiser suffered a knee sprain that landed him on IR. He will enter training camp penciled in at one of the starting spots, but he is not a lock to hold the job come week one.
Kenny Young opened as the other starter last year but in a two-down role. He managed to keep the job all season but his playing time did not expand even when Kiser was out. Instead, the coaching staff inserted Troy Reeder as the three-down guy on the inside. Reeder exploded for a mark of 8-3-3 in his week five start, then went back to the bench. He returned to the lineup with a splash, racking up 12 tackles and 3 assists in week 12. Reeder went on to record 38 tackles, 22 assists, and a pair of pass breakups over the final five games. Kiser and Reeder put up solid numbers and both players looked good at times, but both are seen as better run defenders limitations in coverage.
The coverage concerns surrounding Kiser and Reeder make the third-round selection of Ernest Jones somewhat of a head-scratcher as most scouting reports identify the same strengths and weaknesses in his game. Jones will have an opportunity to throw his name in the wide-open competition for a starting job when camp opens. He is probably an underdog but many believe he has a good shot at being the week one starter. Jones put up solid tackle numbers as a two-year starter at South Carolina so he has the potential to be highly fantasy-friendly.
The wildcard here is Travin Howard. Most do not remember that he was first in line to replace Littleton before an MCL tear ended his season during training camp. At 6’1” 219 pounds, Howard is undersized for a linebacker but he brings something to the table that the other options do not. Howard is a former college safety with excellent speed and good cover skills. The former undrafted free agent spent a year on the Rams practice squad before seeing a little action in 2019. That year he recorded 22 tackles, which does not seem like much until you consider Howard played just 102 snaps on defense. He was a three-year starter at Texas Christian, playing safety in 2015 before moving to linebacker for his final two seasons there. Over those three years, Howard averaged 115 combined tackles with 5.5 sacks, 10 pass breakups, and 9 turnovers.
Whoever lands the lead role at the Rams inside linebacker position is going to have significant IDP value. Kiser may be the early favorite and Jones the rookie sleeper, but I suggest picking up Howard at the end of your draft just in case.
The outside linebacker positions are much more settled after last year’s salary purge. Leonard Floyd stepped up with his best season as a pro, reaching double-digit sacks for the first time in his career. This guy was the ninth overall pick in 2016 but his four years with Chicago were far from impressive. The fresh start in a different scheme appears to be just what Floyd needed to kick start his career. He is not likely to provide much in the tackle columns, but Floyd’s sack potential gives him some value in big-play-based leagues going forward.
The other starting outside linebacker job remains open to competition. Last year’s third-round pick Terrell Lewis likely enters camp as the favorite, but he will be pushed by third-year players Justin Hollins and Ogbonnia Okorono. Rookie Chris Garrett may challenge for playing time at some point but is more of a developmental prospect at this point. Chances are all three contenders will get rotational playing time regardless of who wins the title of starter.
- ILB Micah Kiser – Solid LB2 if he is the three-down starter
- ILB Kenny Young – Marginal impact at best
- ILB Troy Reeder – Quality LB2 if he plays full time
- ILB Ernest Jones – Rookie sleeper with good upside if he gets on the field enough
- ILB Travin Howard – Sleeper with big potential
- OLB Leonard Floyd – LB3 in big play based formats
- OLB Terrell Lewis – Deep sleeper with limited upside
- OLB Ogbonnia Okoronkwo – Minimal impact expected
- OLB Justin Hollins – Deep sleeper at best
- OLB Chris Garrett – developmental prospect
The salary-strapped Rams watched some good players walk out the door this offseason. Not the least of which being safety John Johnson III and slot corner Troy Hill. The loss of Johnson hurts but at least the team has some players waiting in the wings at safety. Taylor Rapp was a second-round pick of the Rams in 2019. He got on the field much more than expected as a rookie after Johnson was injured. There were some growing pains but all in all, Rapp performed well while gaining much-needed experience. He is a physical strong safety that attacks the running game like a linebacker and hits like one too. Rapp is best suited to play in the box where his quick reaction time puts him in position to make a lot of plays in run support. He is not so polished in coverage and lacks the versatility, quickness, and ball skills to line up deep or cover man to man down the field. In short, the coaching staff will need to be careful with how they use him, but Rapp’s skill set can be an asset in many situations.
From the fantasy perspective, Rapp is highly productive. As a rookie he made 10 starts, playing sparingly in the other six games. On roughly 80% of the team’s defensive snaps, he produced 61 tackles, 38 assists, and 3 turnovers, averaging 12.1 points in the games he started. Keep an eye on the Rams' safety situation during camp. If Rapp wins the job, target him as a priority DB2 with top-ten upside.
After seeing his production as a rookie, most expected Rapp to start opposite Johnson last season. That was the Rams plan entering training camp as well, but by the end of camp, Jordan Fuller had moved past Rapp on the depth chart. The word on Fuller coming out of Ohio State was that he is a tough, physical leader with a great work ethic but tends to take poor angles, will whiff on a tackle now and then, and is not particularly athletic. What makes him a good fit as one of the Rams' starting safeties are Fuller’s coverage and ball skills. He matches up well with tight ends and bigger receivers in man coverage and is comfortable working over the top in zone. He started 40 games over three seasons with the Buckeyes, accounting for eight turnovers and recording decent tackle totals. In 11 games as the Rams’ starter last season, Fuller averaged about four tackles and an assist per game, adding three interceptions. Rapp would seem the better target for IDP managers based on his strong tackle production, but Fuller could be just as productive if he lands at strong safety, which is a possibility.
Rapp and Fuller are the projected starters at safety early in the game, but the Rams have thrown us some curveballs in recent years. Last year’s third-round pick, Terrell Burgess, does a lot of things well and might be the team's best safety in terms of coverage. He is a bit undersized and did not show great ball skills as a one-year starter at Utah, but is a consistent tackler with a high IQ and a motor that never stops. He will be in the mix for one of the safety jobs and could be the starting free safety come week one. If he is not a starting safety, Burgess could be a fit as the slot/nickel defender.
Nick Scott is another interesting prospect. He went to Penn State as a running back in 2015, moved to corner in 2016, then to safety in 2017, earning a starting job as a senior in 2018. The Rams picked him up in round seven two years ago and have continued his development. Scott is a long shot at best but the coaching staff will look at all options this summer.
The Rams' top-ranked pass defense boasts a pair of outstanding corners in Jalen Ramsey and Darious Williams. Ramsey is one of the game's elite shut-down cover men and a former fifth overall pick, while Williams has come from nowhere as a former undrafted free agent. During his time with Jacksonville, Ramsey was not only elite on the field, but a quality IDP option as well. Over his first three seasons he averaged 56 solo tackles, 8 assists, 14 passes defended, and 3 interceptions. Unfortunately, those days are gone. Since joining the Rams, Ramsey’s numbers have plummeted. Differences in the schemes are one factor but the main issue is that opponents are no longer throwing in his direction as often. The result was a stat line of 36-8-0 with one pick and 9 passes defended in Ramsey’s first full season with Los Angeles, which is likely the new norm for him.
A stellar pass rush is another factor in keeping numbers down for the Rams outside pass defenders. Offenses simply have no time to get the ball downfield and when they do, the quarterback is often under duress. This, and the fact opponents were avoiding Ramsey, undoubtedly helped Williams total 15 pass breakups and 5 interceptions in his second season as a pro. Williams is an emerging playmaker. He earned the starting job last year largely due to recording three turnovers and a score in limited action as a rookie. If he can make a bigger impact in the tackle columns, Williams would be an IDP factor. At 5’9” 187 pounds, run support and tackling is not exactly in his wheelhouse though. Williams totaled 48 combined tackles last season. Those numbers should go up a little but probably not enough to make a difference.
The Rams had just four players line up at corner all of last season. Troy Hill played the most, working on 972 of a possible 1024 snaps. Hill worked in the slot most of the time, where opponents often go when the quarterback needs to get the ball out quickly. As a result, he was the fantasy game’s number two corner in 2020. Los Angeles enters the summer looking for Hill’s replacement. Having worked as the fourth corner last season, David Long is the early favorite to move up. He will have to hold off rookie fourth-round selection Robert Rochell though.
Rochell would probably have been picked earlier had he not played at a small school (Central Arkansas). His scouting report reads like an application for the job. He is a freakish athlete that can play press or zone with equal success. Rochell has excellent range and ball skills, breaks on throws like a receiver, and is a physical tackler that seems to relish contact. This organization has a knack for finding gems at the defensive back positions outside the first three rounds of the draft. Rochell could prove to be yet another one.
It remains to be seen if the Rams can patch up all the holes and be a top-five pass defense again in 2021. They may pull it off if there are no injuries, but depth is a concern.
- SS Taylor Rapp – Top-12 potential if he lands the starting job
- FS/SS Jordan Fuller – Target as DB3 with upside, move him up if he lands at strong safety
- FS Terrell Burgess – Watch list sleeper
- FS Nick Scott – No impact expected
- CB Jalen Ramsey – Marginal fantasy value
- CB Darious Williams – Marginal fantasy value
- CB Robert Rochell – Sleeper with a high long-term ceiling in corner required formats
- CB David Long – Deep sleeper at best
- CB Deyonte Deaton – No impact expected
San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers entered last season looking to improve a run defense that ranked in the bottom half of the league in 2019. That goal was achieved as they moved all the way to sixth versus the run. With that improvement, no one is going to complain about the pass defense slipping from first in 2019, to fourth in 2020. The 49ers do have some things to work on this year though. After finishing near the top in sacks with 48 San Francisco slid to the bottom third in the league with 30 last season while their turnover fell from 27 to 20.
Both the slumping pass rush and the lower turnover numbers can be traced directly to the defensive line where the early injury to Nick Bosa and the trade of DeForest Buckner to Indianapolis combined to create a huge impact and a ripple effect. After racking up 12 sacks in 2018, Buckner became the focal point of opponents blocking schemes in 2019. While that limited him to seven and a half sacks personally, it created the opportunity for everyone else to be more successful. Adding to the challenge of rebuilding their pass rush, is the departure of Kerry Hyder Jr, who led the team with eight and a half sacks last year before taking the free-agent route to division rival Seattle in March. His defection leaves the 49ers with no one on their roster that produced more than three and a half sacks last year.
It is hard to replace a guy that is such a disruptive force and arguably the best interior lineman in the league. Last year’s first-round pick, Javon Kinlaw, has been tasked with doing so. To this point, there is no comparison between Buckner and Kinlaw. The former racked up 74 combined tackles and 6 sacks as a rookie while Kinlaw managed 33 and 1.5. That said, the organization is all in on Kinlaw and everyone in the building expects a breakout season from him in 2021.
Saying that Kinlaw could eventually be better than Buckner might be a stretch but he has the potential to be great. Pre-draft scouting reports compared Kinlaw to guys like Chris Jones, Jarran Reed, and yes, Buckner himself. At 6’5” 310 pounds, Kinlaw is a physical freak. He has the quickness and pass rush arsenal of an edge defender with the size and strength of a nose tackle, and he is relentless both as a pass rusher and run defender. Kinlaw checks the box for college production as well. He did not make a ton of tackles at South Carolina, but in two seasons as a starter there he totaled 10 sacks, forced 7 turnovers, and swatted down 8 passes. He has a lot to prove, but as the first tackle off the board in most rookie drafts last spring, sitting tight on Kinlaw in dynasty leagues or investing a late pick on him in re-draft formats, might be prudent.
As a rookie, Kinlaw worked in a three-man rotation with D.J. Jones and Kevin Givens. If Kinlaw steps up as the coaching staff expects, there may not be so much rotating going forward. Jones is set to start again this season but the team added former Raiders starter, Maurice Hurst, to create more competition. Hurst totaled seven and a half sacks in his first two seasons with the Raiders. While that does not seem like much, consider that Oakland was at the bottom of the league in sacks in 2018, when Hurst led the team with four. He was considered by many to be a first-round talent coming out of Michigan but fell to round-five due to medical concerns. His career with the Raiders sputtered to an end after three seasons but you never know what a change of scenery and scheme might do for a talented player.
The ripple effect from not having Buckner and Bosa is clearly seen in the production of Arik Armstead who exploded for a career-best ten sacks when playing with them in 2019. Armstead’s production crashed back to earth with three and a half sacks last season. He has been with San Francisco since 2015 and has 22.5 career sacks. Granted, injuries cause Armstead to miss 18 games between 2016 and 2017, but other than his breakout in 2019, Armstead has never recorded more than three and a half sacks in any season. This whole situation makes it hard to put a fantasy value on Armstead. Was his 2019 a one-year wonder or can he produce similar numbers with Bosa back and better production from the interior line? All things considered, he is probably worthy of a late investment if you are in need at the position.
The return of Nick Bosa will be a huge boost for the entire 49ers' defense. As a rookie in 2019, he was responsible for nine sacks, four turnovers, and three batted passes, on top of his solid contribution as a run defender. Bosa was expected to be even better in year two had he not been struck down by the knee injury in week two. He is doing well in rehab and is expected to be ready at some point in training camp, possibly at the start. Players returning from this type of injury often start slowly until their confidence returns, but Bosa should be full speed by October if not sooner. The injury bumps him down a few slots on draft boards but he should still be drafted as a low-end DL1.
San Francisco has a lot of bodies providing depth along the defensive line but they still have some questions. Dee Ford is trying to return from a back problem that has plagued him since before he left Kansas City. The organization hopes he will be able to contribute in pass-rush situations. Kentavius Street, Jordan Willis, Zach Kerr, and Arden Key are all veteran backups that are probably competing with a few other players for two or three roster spots.
- DE Nick Bosa – Returning from a knee injury but still a solid DL1 target
- DE Arik Armstead – Sleeper with DL2 upside
- DE Dee Ford – Injury risk outweighs the upside
- DE Kentavius Street – No impact
- DE Jordan Willis – Suspended for first six games
- DE Arden Key – No impact
- DT Javon Kinlaw – Second-year pro looking for a breakout season
- DT D.J. Jones – Minimal IDP value
- DT Maurice Hurst – Deep sleeper with DT2 potential
- DT Zach Kerr – No impact
There is no guesswork when it comes to the San Francisco linebackers. Fred Warner is going to be the man in the middle and Dre Greenlaw will play the weak side. Both will stay on the field in most sub-packages. Free-agent addition Samson Ebukam will man the strong side when the 49ers deploy three linebackers.
San Francisco hit the jackpot when they stole Warner in round three of the 2018 draft. He has become one of the NFL's elite, three-down middle linebackers, and a dependable, every-week must-start for IDP managers. Warner has everything teams look for in a middle backer. He plays the run well and rarely misses a tackle, is one of the game’s better coverage linebackers, makes his share of game-changing plays, and is a leader.
In fantasy terms, Warner is an exceptionally consistent every week play. Over his three seasons as a pro, he has averaged 84 solo tackles and 39 assists. Over the last two seasons, he has 15 pass breakups, 4 sacks, 8 turnovers, and a score. Warner 17 among linebackers as a rookie, seventh in 2019, and just missed the top-12 last year. Production says Warner is a priority LB2 but dependability might be enough to warrant drafting him among the first 12 linebackers.
Greenlaw began his rookie season in a time-share with Kwon Alexander, who was returning from an injury. Greenlaw’s playing time went down as Alexander worked his way back. That lasted until week nine when Alexander was lost for the season. When all the numbers were in, Greenlaw was 65-27-1 on about 73% of the snaps. The program repeated last season, with Alexander playing full-time through week six before being lost. Greenlaw ended up playing roughly 70% of the snaps in 2020, going 61-24-1 with an interception. A little basic math tells us that, on a per snap basis, Greenlaw has been just as productive as Warner in the tackle columns. So far Greenlaw has not shown much splash-play prowess though, with two sacks and one interception on over 1400 plays. His tackle production alone is enough to make Greenlaw a decent third starter of excellent depth in most leagues. Target him as your LB4 or LB5 and you will not be disappointed.
The signing of Ebukam served two purposes for the 49ers. It gave them a starting quality strong-side linebacker and plucked a starter from a division opponent at the same time. It was a good move for the organization but there is no fantasy value here as San Francisco plays with two linebackers more than 60% of the time.
When Alexander was healthy at the start of last season, Greenlaw worked in the strong side role. When Greenlaw moved into the full-time weak side role, Azeez Al-Shaair got on the field in the limited role. Al-Shaair will compete with recent addition James Burgess Jr for the job as the top backup this year. Burgess has never been able to maintain a starting job from one season to the next and is the epitome of a journeyman, but when he gets on the field he makes a lot of plays. Remember him if either Warner or Greenlaw are injured.
- MLB Fred Warner – Low-end LB1 or priority LB2
- WLB Dre Greenlaw – Decent third starter or quality depth
- SLB Samson Ebukam – No impact
- MLB/WLB Azeez Al-Shaair – Injury sleeper at best
- MLB/OLB James Burgess Jr – Injury sleeper
- WLB Nate Gerry – No impact expected
The 49ers secondary has been a black hole in terms of fantasy production for a long time. Injuries have been a factor to some extent, but even when healthy, players fall short in the box scores on most weeks. Over the last three seasons, no San Francisco defensive back has recorded more than 51 solo tackles in a season, and none have averaged more than eight and a half points per game. That said, there are some things to keep an eye on here. Jaquiski Tartt has been the starting strong safety for San Francisco since 2015 when he was healthy. Tartt has completed a full slate of games once in his career. This summer he will face competition from both Tavon Wilson and Tony Jefferson who were signed as free agents. Both newcomers are veterans with plenty of starting experience, and both have been fantasy factors at some point in their respective careers. There is no reason to put them on your draft list at this point, but keep an eye on the situation once the season starts. Someone could emerge.
Jimmy Ward is a converted corner that has been playing a lot of free safety recently. Like everyone else in this secondary, his quality play on the field has not translated to the box scores. The additions of Wilson and Jefferson could spell a return to his natural position as the slot corner this year.
Jason Verrett was a first-round pick of the Chargers in 2014. He is a highly talented player but his career story has been all about one injury after another. Verrett played more than six games in a season once over his first five years in the league and managed 13 starts in 2020. When healthy, Verrett is a borderline shutdown corner and a strong #1 for the 49ers.
Emmanuel Mosley is set to return as the starter opposite Verrett, with K’Waun Williams as the third man at corner. Rookie Ambry Thomas will compete with veteran Dontae Johnson and a few other warm bodies for whatever playing time is left over.
- SS Jaquiski Tartt – Marginal value at best
- FS Jimmy Ward – No IDP impact
- SS Marcell Harris – No impact expected
- FS/SS Tavon Wilson – Deep sleeper with limited upside
- SS Tony Jefferson – Deep sleeper with limited upside
- CB Jason Verrett – No IDP impact
- CB Emmanuel Mosley – No impact
- CB K'Waun Williams – No impact
- CB Ambry Thomas – Rookie corner rule if he somehow gets on the field
- CB Dontae Johnson – No impact
Only the Dolphins had fewer sacks than Seattle’s 28 in 2019 and the Seahawks ranked in the bottom half of the league in most other important areas as well. In 2020 they improved to seventh in sacks with 46, they were fourth against the run at under four yards-per-carry, forced 22 turnovers, and were number 12 against the pass. Over the last three years, the organization has committed considerable draft capital to the defense with thus far mixed returns, but they have done a good job of bringing in free agents and making trades that have helped.
Along the front-four, Seattle has 2018 third-round pick Rasheem Green, 2019 first-round selection L.J. Collier, and in 2020 they drafted Darrell Taylor in the second and Alton Robinson in the fifth. Between them, these players accounted for 36 tackles and 9 sacks last season. Coincidentally, Robinson, who was the latest draft pick of the group, led the way with four of the sacks. None of these players have become household names and likely never will, but there is more to the story.
Neither Green nor Collier has shown signs of becoming long-term starters at defensive end, but with Jarran Reed moving on in free agency, their versatility will come into play. Both saw action from the tackle position last season and performed well. So well in fact, that the organization did not feel the need to aggressively pursue a contract with former starter Jarran Reed. At this point, league management sites have both players at defensive end. They have minimal fantasy value at that position but if they are officially moved to tackle that could change.
Taylor spent his rookie season on the non-football injury list. Because he missed the entire season, he was able to participate in the team’s rookie camp this spring. Taylor says he is healthy and ready to go in 2021. The interesting note from rookie camp is that Taylor worked as both a defensive end and strongside linebacker. When asked about Taylor’s role, Coach Carroll said “he did that a lot in college. We like him as a pass rusher first but he’s got all the athleticism”. All signs suggest Taylor will have a similar role to that of Bruce Irvin who played strongside linebacker in base packages and defensive end in passing situations. We will have to see if this translates to more IDP value for Taylor than it did for Irvin, but at least it looks like Taylor will have a significant role.
Robinson will remain in the mix for playing time at defensive end and could eventually earn a starting job, but for now, Carlos Dunlap and Kerry Hyder Jr are in line for those spots. Dunlap was rescued from whatever was going on with the Cincinnati defense last year. Seattle traded for him around mid-season and Dunlap immediately paid dividends with three and a half sacks in his first four games with the team. He is 32 years old and is not a long-term answer for the Seahawks, but is signed through 2023 should the team elect to keep him that long. Chances are he will be let go at the end of 2022.
As an IDP prospect, Dunlap still has good value. He has reached double-digit sacks just once in 11 NFL seasons but, except for last year’s fiasco, has never fallen short of 30 solo tackles or seven and a half sacks in a non-injury season. Over his career, Dunlap has accounted for 30 turnovers, 88.5 sacks, and 3 scores. His numbers also get a boost from his knack for swatting down passes. Something he has done 42 times over the last five seasons alone. Target him as a DL3 with low-end DL2 potential.
Kerry Hyder Jr is a highly underrated player. He will be playing for his fourth team in six seasons as a pro but is not the typical NFL journeyman. Hyder not only made the Lions roster as an undrafted rookie in 2016, but he earned a significant role in the defense. On 655 snaps he totaled 37 combined tackles and 8 sacks. He was set to start for the Lions heading into 2017 when an Achilles injury ended his season in training camp. The injury issues lingered and Hyder was released after the 2018 season. He spent 2019 as a backup for the Cowboys before being picked up by San Francisco last year. With Nick Bosa and Solomon Thomas injured, Hyder once again found himself in a starting lineup. In his two seasons with significant roles, Hyder has 85 combined tackles and 16.5 sacks.
There is yet another significant player in the mix for snaps in Seattle, and if you think Hyder’s path has been strange, take a look at Aldon Smith. He was a first-round pick of the 49ers in 2011. In his first two seasons with San Francisco, Smith looked like a future Hall of Famer, recording 80 tackles, 21 assists, 33.5 sacks 5 batted passes, and 5 turnovers. Then the wheels came off. He played through a shoulder injury for much of 2012, but it was off-field issues that caused his problems. In September of 2013, he was arrested and charged with his second DUI in less than two years. Shortly afterward Smith checked into a rehab center. That was followed by more legal issues, arrests, and a litany of incidents that would cause him to be out of the league for four years. He was reinstated by the league ahead of the 2020 season and signed with the Cowboys. Despite being away from the game for so long, Smith recorded 12 tackles, 8 assists, and 4 sacks in his first three games with Dallas. Unfortunately, he was unable to sustain the momentum, posting one more sack over the rest of the season.
Smith was not offered a contract by the Cowboys but has so far managed to stay clean since returning to the game. At age 31, he is a low mileage player with a lot of upside. If he can keep his head is right and get his conditioning up to NFL standards, Smith has the potential to make an impact with Seattle.
Smith is not the Seahawks' only reclamation project this year. They recently signed former Arizona first-round pick Robert Nkemdiche to a one-year deal. Nkemdiche was a huge bust for the Cardinals, but not from lack of ability. He simply could not stay healthy. From 2016 through 2019, Nkemdiche missed 33 games and played sparingly in many more. He saw the most playing time of his career in 2018, going 22-11-4.5 in ten games. At age 26, he has the potential to be not only a starter for the Seahawks but a long-term answer as well. That said, let us see how long he can stay on the field.
One concern with drafting players from Seattle’s front four is that they have a lot of mouths to feed. This team traditionally rotates a lot of players along the line. They got away from that a little bit over the last two seasons, but that was due more to a shortage of good players than a change of philosophy. We might get good sack production for Dunlap, Hyder, Smith, or even Taylor, but more than 30-35 tackles from any of them is a longshot.
- DE Carlos Dunlap – Target as DL3 with low DL2 potential
- DE Kerry Hyder Jr – Priority depth in 12 team leagues
- DE Aldon Smith – Sleeper with a lot of risk but huge upside
- DE Darrell Taylor – Watch list player
- DE Alton Robinson – Potential dynasty target
- DE Benson Mayowa – Marginal fantasy potential
- DT/DE L.J. Collier – May hold good value when/if moved inside
- DT/DE Rasheem Green – May eventually have some value in tackle required leagues
- DT Poona Ford – Depth in leagues starting two tackles
- DT Al Woods – No IDP impact
- DT Robert Nkemdiche – Big talent if he can stay healthy
There are a lot of things for the coaching staff and IDP managers to sort through along the defensive line. There is much less to think about with Seattle’s linebackers. As an IDP prospect, Bobby Wagner has been a perennial top-ten guy. Wagner consistently puts up good solo tackle totals with at least 82 in each of the last five seasons, but it is the generosity of Seattle’s home stat crew and a knack for the splash play that help push him to the elite level. Wagner has been credited with at least 53 assists in four of the last five seasons, putting up fewer than 47 twice in his career. He totaled 37 in 2017 but posted a career-best 97 solos that season. Wagner was uncharacteristically light in the turnover columns last year, causing him to slip to number eleven in the final rankings. Before 2020, he had at least three takeaways in six of seven seasons, an average of two and a half sacks per year, and four career touchdowns. Wagner is one of the game’s better pass defending middle linebackers as well, averaging nearly six pass breakups. Wagner has missed nine total games with injury over his career, but only two since 2014. There is simply no weakness to his game, on the field or in the box scores. He is as dependable as it gets and should be drafted among the elite at the position.
K.J. Wright had been the sidekick to Wagner since 2012, but there is a changing of the guard at the weak side linebacker position this year. The Seahawks used a first-round pick on Jordyn Brooks last spring. Brooks spent most of his rookie season as the strong-side linebacker, seeing action in base packages. In that role, he recorded 35 tackles and 23 assists. Those numbers are underwhelming until we consider that Brooks only played 32% of the snaps. Multiply his per-snap production by the same number of plays Wagner was on the field, and we get 107 tackles and 70 assists. Brooks made no splash play contributions last season, but that likely had more to do with the role than his ability. Over his final two seasons at Texas Tech, he produced five and a half sacks and four turnovers. Wright was a dependable LB3 or excellent depth while working next to Wagner over the years. Brooks should have at least equal value with the potential to be much more in the long term.
With Brooks moving to the weak side, either Ben Burr-Kirven or Cody Barton will inherit the strong side job. Both were drafted by the Seahawks in 2019 and are entering their third season. Barton has seen more playing time thus far but both have shown well when given an opportunity. Barton has the versatility to play all three linebacker spots and may end up being the backup for everyone. With Darrell Taylor also expected to see time at SLB, Neither Burr-Kirven nor Barton are going to provide any IDP value. Should either Wagner or Brooks miss time, Barton would be the player to grab.
Seattle’s top-four linebackers are solid but they are short on depth beyond that. Nate Evans is a second-year undrafted free agent that was fairly productive at UCF. Aaron Donkor is part of the NFL’s International Player Pathway Program. He played in six games at New Mexico State last year.
Jon Rhattigan is a West Point Grad that has been permitted by the Army to try out for an NFL team.
- MLB Bobby Wagner – Elite tier LB1
- WLB Jordyn Brooks – Priority LB3 with high LB2 upside
- SLB Ben Burr-Kirven – No fantasy impact
- MLB/OLB Cody Barton – Injury sleeper with LB3 ceiling
- SLB Nate Evans – Special teams contributor
- OLB Aaron Donkor – Special teams contributor
- MLB Jon Rhattigan – No impact expected
When Seattle traded for Jamal Adams last offseason, there were some concerns the move might have an ill effect on his IDP value. The results were quite the opposite. In eleven games he was on pace for 86 tackles, 35 assists, and managed to set a new record in sacks by a defensive back with 9.5. His 12.27 fantasy points per game were third among DBs and would be second if we count Jeremy Chinn as a linebacker, which we should. Adams is a physical, intimidating hitter that excels in run support and is at his best when lining up in the box. He is not a liability in coverage but does have some limitations. He will not make many interceptions but has forced seven fumbles and recovered four since coming to the league in 2017. The sack numbers set a record but were not a fluke as Adams already has 21.5 at this early stage of his career. He is an elite, tier-one defensive back with the potential to unseat Budda Baker as the top fantasy option at the position.
Injuries forced the Seahawks to do a lot of shuffling in the secondary last season. At safety, Adams missed time with a groin, Marquise Blair played two games before landing on IR with a knee injury, and Damarious Randall battled a foot injury much of the season. It was the same story at corner where Tre Flowers, Shaq Griffin, Quinton Dunbar, and Ugo Amadi all missed at least four games. The silver lining for Seattle was the opportunity to get a good look at safety Ryan Neal and corner D.J. Reed.
Free safety Quandre Diggs was the only starter to survive 2020 without missing games. He is set to continue as the starter with Blair possibly challenging at some point when he is fully healthy. Diggs is a good fit as the Seahawks’ free safety, but playing off the ball all the time all but voids his fantasy potential.
That does not leave much room for Neal to get on the field. The coaching staff, however, knows he can play if called upon and are happy to have him on special teams until that time comes. In four starts last year, Neal intercepted two passes, broke up two more, and accounted for 27 combined tackles. He was as impressive on the field as in the box scores.
Seattle brought back safety Damarious Randall as well, but his best shot at contributing will probably be as the slot/nickel corner, or on special teams with Neal.
The team has moved on from Quinton Dunbar and long-time starter Shaq Griffin, so there will be a different look at corner for 2021. Early expectations are that free-agent addition Ahkello Witherspoon will start on one side with D.J. Reed opposite him, but this is not set in stone. Witherspoon started a good number of games over his four years with San Francisco but was in and out of the lineup a lot. Injuries were the biggest factor but he was not always the starter even when healthy. With all the injury issues Seattle dealt with last year, bringing in a guy that has not been able to stay on the field raises some eyebrows. Witherspoon has not been very fantasy-friendly even when healthy, though the Seahawks tradition of IDP value at the position could change that if he plays full time.
Reed looked like the second coming of Richard Sherman when he got on the field last season. He too is a former 49er, having been drafted there in the fifth round in 2018. Reed’s first action with the Seahawks came against his old team in week eight. All he did in that game was record six tackles, pick off a pass, and knock another one down on 36 snaps as the nickel corner. He took over the starting job the following week when Dunbar was injured. In nine games (seven as a starter) Reed totaled 46-16-0 with 3 turnovers and 7 passes defended. The quality of Reed’s play undoubtedly factored into the decision not to re-sign Griffin or Dunbar. The fact that he is so much easier on the salary cap made the decision even more attractive. Seattle corners have a long history of quality IDP value. Having averaged better than 12 points per game last year, Reed looks like the next guy to carry the torch. Despite missing Week 12, he was the fantasy game’s number three corner over the final nine weeks of 2020.
Tre Flowers and/or Pierre Desir are likely to play a big part for the Seahawks in 2020. It feels like the team has been trying to replace Flowers ever since he was drafted in 2018, but he keeps hanging around. He was not supposed to start as a rookie fifth-round pick but ended up doing so in all 15 games that he was available. They drafted Ugo Amadi and signed Jamar Taylor to compete for the job in 2019. Taylor was listed as the starter entering training camp, but Flowers again started 15 games as the number two corner. Over those two seasons, Flowers produced 124 tackles, 31 assists, 2 sacks, 10 turnovers, 15 pass breakups, and a top-ten finish in 2019. The addition of Dunbar was finally enough to get Flowers out of the lineup at the beginning of last season, but he still ended up starting seven of the first eleven games before being injured. Pass on Flowers when drafting but grab him quickly if/when Witherspoon goes down.
Pierre Desir is a journeyman, playing for his fifth team since 2014. He provides solid veteran depth on a team that has needed it in recent years but is not going to beat anyone out for a starting spot. Desir had a productive fantasy season with the Colts in 2018 but has otherwise been a non-factor for IDP managers.
- SS Jamal Adams – Elite tier DB1 with the potential to atop the DB rankings
- FS Quandre Diggs – Marginal IDP value
- FS Marquise Blair – Deeps sleeper in the short term but may have dynasty value
- SS Damarious Randall – Minimal fantasy impact
- SS/FS Ryan Neal –Darkhorse sleeper who will produce if he gets a chance
- CB D.J. Reed – Possible CB1
- CB Ahkello Witherspoon – Injury risk but in a good situation
- CB Tre Flowers – Grab him when Witherspoon is hurt
- CB Pierre Desir – No IDP impact
- CB Ugo Amadi – No IDP impact
That does it for part one of this year’s pre-season offering. I will be back in a week or so with the AFC West. Until then, keep in mind that championships are won in the offseason!