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2020 Fantasy Football Advice 2020 Fantasy Football Projections & ADP Analysis Editor Note NFL Analysis RotoBaller - All Fantasy Sports Articles

Week 7 IDP Rankings, Streamers, and Notes

The big IDP news of the week happened just this Thursday morning, as our rankings were being finalized.

It was pretty big news, too. Yannick Ngakoue was traded to the Baltimore Ravens! Let’s discuss just how big this news is, and whether it’s good or bad for his short and long term fantasy prospects, shall we?

In the short term, fantasy managers should expect Ngakoue’s fantasy potential to actually improve after this trade, even if he was already on a 13 sack pace in Minnesota. The reason for this optimism is twofold.

 

Yannick Ngakoue Implications

The first reason to be optimistic about Ngakoue’s 2020 prospects in Baltimore is the likelihood that the Ravens will use him similarly to how they have used Matthew Judon this season. In 2020, Harbaugh and company have put Judon at or on the line of scrimmage on 79% of his snaps. That is encouraging, since Ngakoue is used to being a hand-in-the-dirt pass rusher and not a stand-up coverage 'backer. Fantasy managers do not want Ngakoue learning a new position mid-season, nor do they want him serving as an all-purpose linebacker. His strength is as a pass rusher, and Baltimore should use him that way.

The second reason to expect Ngakoue to continue his 2020 tear, despite changing teams and defensive schemes, is that he should get FAR more help from the secondary in Baltimore than he got in Minnesota. Baltimore’s three best corners this year (Marlon Humphrey, Jimmy Smith, and Marcus Peters) are giving up a 63.8% completion percentage to opposing passers despite seeing a dozen more targets than Minnesota’s corners. Meanwhile, Minnesota’s corners are giving up a 72.9% completion percentage to opponents. This upgrade in corner performance, as well an increase in opponent passing plays, should spell a much better opportunity for Ngakoue’s sack totals.

While the short term ramifications of this trade are positive for Ngakoue’s fantasy managers, the long term implications are even better. According to overthecap.com, the Vikings are currently more than $8 million over the 2021 salary cap, meaning they will likely be cutting talent rather than adding it this offseason. The same cannot be said for the Ravens, who have approximately $43 million in 2021 cap space. Keep in mind that Baltimore's rosy cap situation is with players like Marcus Peters, Marlon Humphrey, Patrick Queen, and Chuck Clark all under contract through at least the 2022 season.

Overall, this trade is great for all IDP managers who roster Ngakoue. Dynasty managers should love the idea of a 25-year-old pass rusher going to a defense with good corners under contract for several years. Redraft managers should also love this move, as it makes big plays easier to come by for the stud pass rusher. In both formats, the needle is pointing up on this Maryland born star.

 

Top-25 Fantasy Defensive Linemen of the Week

Rank Player Opponent
1 Myles Garrett Bengals
2 T.J. Watt Titans
3 Joey Bosa Jaguars
4 Jason Pierre-Paul Raiders
5 Harold Landry III Steelers
6 Chase Young Cowboys
7 Za’Darius Smith Texans
8 Bud Dupree Titans
9 Khalil Mack Rams
10 Aldon Smith Washington Football Team
11 Aaron Donald Bears
12 Bradley Chubb Chiefs
13 Cameron Jordan Panthers
14 J.J. Watt Packers
15 Shaquil Barrett Raiders
16 Montez Sweat Cowboys
17 Chris Jones Broncos
18 Frank Clark Broncos
19 Josh Allen (Q) Chargers
20 Brian Burns Saints
21 Kyler Fackrell Eagles
22 Carl Lawson Browns
23 Grady Jarrett Lions
24 Jeffery Simmons Steelers
25 Sheldon Richardson Bengals

DL Streamer of the Week: Chase Young, Washington Football Team

Young sits comfortably outside of the top-15 DL rankings for multiple prominent fantasy outlets this week, and that may make sense if you just looked at his output since he was injured in Week 2. Another factor that may be scaring some IDP managers/rankers is his matchup this week with a Dallas Cowboys team famous for its pass-blocking unit. The Cowboys' pass blocking isn't what it used to be, however.

This year, the Cowboys have allowed 14 sacks, which is only slightly below the league average. That number does not reflect what the Cowboys passing game has going on right now, though. So far this year, Dallas has lost both of its starting offensive tackles, Pro Bowl Guard Zack Martin, and mobile superstar Dak Prescott. Do not underestimate how many sacks Prescott has saved this season with his legs or how many Dalton won't save with his. If you want a better idea of what this Cowboys offense really looks like aftr all of these injuries, look no further than the three sacks they allowed against a Cardinals Defense that was missing its best pass rusher (Chandler Jones) on Monday.

Given his low rankings across the industry this week and his matchup with a gimpy Cowboys squad, Young is a nice sneaky play in pretty much all IDP formats. While he may already be a starter for some managers, Young is available in 25% of leagues right now. Young’s combination of availability, talent, and matchup mean he is a strong sleeper/streamer in Week 7.

DL Fade of the Week: Aaron Donald, Los Angeles Rams

Donald is arguably the best player in the NFL, and he is always a fantasy starter in leagues where you have to play a DT. In fact, most weeks Donald is a reasonable high upside fantasy play no matter what kind of league you play in. With all of that said, Donald doesn't have the ideal fantasy matchup in Week 7.

While Chicago’s offense has surrendered 11 sacks this year (tied for 13th lowest), their starting offensive line has been surprisingly efficient. The five starting blockers for the Bears have allowed only seven total sacks and 9.3 pressures per contest this season. That type of efficiency should concern Donald fantasy managers. Although Donald has the talent to blow up any blocking unit in the league, the Bears and their style of play suggest another dud of a week could be on tap for the former Defensive Player of the Year. Donald is a boom-or-bust fantasy prospect in Week 7

Sneaky Good Matchup of the Week: Jason Pierre-Paul v. the Oakland Raiders’ Offensive Line

You don’t need me to tell you to start Pierre-Paul. The fireworks fan stands third in the NFL in sacks right now, and he has already forced three fumbles while averaging nearly four tackles per game. He is arguably a top-ten DL each week, regardless of matchup. His matchup this week is particularly interesting, though.

On paper, fantasy managers should consider downgrading any defensive linemen going against the Raiders’ offensive line. Las Vegas has allowed the sixth least sacks in the NFL so far this season, and the Raiders rank 12th in Adjusted Sack Rate according to Football Outsiders. However, things in Sin City aren't quite as rosy in Week 7 as those factors may suggest.

One of the Raiders’ best pass blockers is Trent Brown, who just went on the COVID list. If Brown doesn’t play, Pierre-Paul could take advantage. On top of that, the Raiders are currently quarantining all of their starting offensive linemen because they had contact with Brown. If Vegas is missing multiple starting offensive linemen, it could turn into slaughter and a terrible fantasy week for the Raiders’ offensive players, too.

 

Top-25 Fantasy Linebackers of the Week 

Rank Player Opponent
1 Bobby Wagner Cardinals
2 Blake Martinez Eagles
3 Jaylon Smith Washington Football Team
4 Roquan Smith Rams
5 Fred Warner Patriots
6 Devin White Raiders
7 Zach Cunningham Packers
8 Lavonte David Raiders
9 T.J. Watt Titans
10 Micah Kiser Bears
11 Shaq Thompson Saints
12 Joe Schobert Chargers
13 Jordan Hicks Seahawks
14 Deion Jones Lions
15 Jon Bostic Cowboys
16 Myles Jack Chargers
17 Foyesade Oluokun Lions
18 Kenneth Murray Jaguars
19 Jayon Brown Steelers
20 Demario Davis Panthers
21 Alexander Johnson Chiefs
22 Tremaine Edmunds Jets
23 Kyzir White Jaguars
24 Dre Greenlaw Patriots
25 Avery Williamson Bills

LB Streamer of the Week: Dre Greenlaw, San Francisco 49ers

Kwon Alexander missed last week’s matchup against the Rams with a high ankle sprain. It seems increasingly likely that he will miss this week’s game after he sat out practice this Wednesday, too. In games that Alexander sits, Dre Greenlaw averages a fantasy friendly nine tackles per game, with a ceiling of 13 tackles.

The Patriots are the third most run-heavy team in the NFL. Even better, Cam’s powerful yet improvisational running style tends to involve linebackers in the game more than usual. That bodes well for a guy like Greenlaw, who brings with him a high floor and ceiling in tackle premium IDP leagues.

LB Fade of the Week: Leighton Vander Esch, Dallas Cowboys

For those who read all of our IDP columns, you will notice that we have advised you to both add Vander Esch and fade him in this week. That is not an accident or a typo. As a season-long asset, fantasy managers should be eager to add the Boise State product. That doesn't mean you should start him this week, though.

As a Week 7 fantasy prospect, there are simply too many questions floating out there to start him. Chief amongst those questions is how much playing time Vander Esch will see against Washington. Last week he played only 52% of the Cowboys’ snaps, and it would make sense for this team to continue to take things slow with a guy who has a history of neck issues and a recently repaired clavicle. With only six total tackles this year and less than 55% of his team’s snaps in both of the games he has played (granted Week 1 was due to injury), Vander Esch should be rostered but benched until he is back to being a full-time starter.

Cautious Optimism of the Week: Foyesade Oluokun, Atlanta Falcons

If you know who Foyesade Oluokun is or how to pronounce his name, then you are probably one of his family members, a teammate, or an IDP fantasy manager. The Yale alumnus has never had the profile of an NFL superstar, nor has he ever been given the playing time necessary to become one. He is finally getting that opportunity now, though, and he is doing enough to make casual fans wonder just who this guy is and whether he is for real.

You want a reason to believe Oluokun is for real? Well, it helps that the Atlanta Falcons finally seem to think he is. While Oluokun occasionally popped with double-digit tackle games during his first two pro seasons, the Falcons rarely rewarded that play with significant playing time. For example, in 2018 the Yale grad only played on 29.88% of the Falcons’ defensive snaps, despite being available in all 16 games. This season is a different story, though, as the Yale Bulldog has played on nearly 60% of Atlanta’s defensive snaps despite missing time to injury. Expect that increased usage to continue, as Oluokun saw 100% of the team’s defensive snaps in Interim Head Coach Raheem Morris’s first game leading the Falcons.

A second reason for Oluokun optimism, beyond how often Atlanta is using him, is how Atlanta uses him. In his first two seasons combined, the Falcons brought Oluokun on a blitz just 25 times. In just five games this season, the Falcons have already sent him after the quarterback on 23 times. That increased blitz usage spells an increase in sack and TFL opportunities, which raises his fantasy value in all formats. Additionally, Oluokun has significantly improved in pass coverage. While quarterbacks had a 115.4 Passer Rating targeting him in 2017, they are now putting up an 85.6 Passer Rating against him. That improvement is likely one of the reasons that Atlanta feels comfortable keeping Oluokun on the field during passing downs.

Given his current production and increased usage, Oluokun is worth rostering in 16-team IDP leagues and unique IDP setups. Do not make the mistake of thinking you have to know how to pronounce his name in order to roster him, though. You don’t. If your friends ask you who he is or how you knew to add him, just say, "He’s that guy from that thing… you know, the guy! I've always liked him! Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go poop!” That should end the conversation right there.

 

Top-25 Fantasy Defensive Backs of the Week

Rank Player Opponent
1 Budda Baker Seahawks
2 Jamal Adams Cardinals
3 John Johnson III Bears
4 Jordan Poyer Jets
5 Tracy Walker Falcons
6 Jessie Bates III Browns
7 Jeremy Chinn Saints
8 Antoine Winfield Jr. Raiders
9 Justin Simmons Chiefs
10 Landon Collins Cowboys
11 Malcolm Jenkins Panthers
12 Josh Jones Chargers
13 Taylor Rapp Bears
14 Vonn Bell Browns
15 Johnathan Abram Buccaneers
16 Jabrill Peppers Eagles
17 Jordan Whitehead Raiders
18 Carlton Davis Raiders
19 Marcus Maye Jets
20 Pierre Desir Bills
21 Justin Reid Packers
22 Keanu Neal Lions
23 Logan Ryan Eagles
24 Adrian Phillips 49ers
25 Kenny Vaccaro Steelers

DB Streamer of the Week: Taylor Rapp, Los Angeles Rams

As we have already covered in past articles, fantasy managers with Taylor Rapp on their roster are in a precarious position this season. Rapp performs very well when he sees a ton of snaps, but he doesn’t tend to see a ton of snaps when rookie Jordan Fuller is healthy.

When Fuller was healthy in Weeks 1, 2, and 5 of his season, Rapp never played more than 24% of the Rams’ defensive snaps. When Fuller wasn’t healthy in Weeks 3, 4, and 5, Rapp played a vast majority of his team's snaps, and he consistently put up starter level fantasy numbers. This trend consistently reflects Rapp's 2019 season, too. Last year Rapp started ten games and saw more than 80% of his team's snaps in nine contests. Rapp put up enough stats to be a fantasy starter in most formats in each of those games.

The lesson to learn from all of this is that when Rapp plays a lot, fantasy managers play him. With Jordan Fuller on the IR, he isn’t going to play this week. That means Rapp will play a lot. It also means you should play him.

DB Fade of the Week: Carlton Davis, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

A constant favorite of mine and a streamer recommendation for us last week, Davis is a bit of a fade in Week 7. The primary concern with Davis this week is the fact Derek Carr likes to spread the ball around. Carr has given double-digit targets to seven different skill players on the Raiders this year. His most-targeted weapon by far is Darren Waller, who lines up inline or in the slot on 77.6% of his snaps this year. Davis rarely goes into the slot, preferring to stick outside. A diverse target selection and primary target in the slot means the Raiders could easily avoid Davis without changing their game plan much at all.

While Tampa may use Davis to shadow Waller, it seems unlikely. It also seems unlikely that Carr will force the ball to his tight end if Davis is blanketing him in good coverage. That means Davis should see limited opportunities for fantasy points this week.



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Check out all of RotoBaller's fantasy football rankings. Staff rankings are updated regularly for all positions and include standard formats, PPR scoring, tiered rankings and dynasty leagues.




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2020 Fantasy Football & NFL Rookies 2020 Fantasy Football Advice Editor Note Fantasy Football Waiver Wire Pickups NFL Analysis RotoBaller - All Fantasy Sports Articles

Top IDP Waiver Wire Pickups for Week 7

Pickings can always be slim in deep IDP leagues, but this year it is looking thinner than usual in even the shallowest of setups. In fact, going shopping for IDP players in 2020 can often feel like you’re going to the grocery store for filet mignon, only to bring home a roll of toilet paper and a tube of Preparation H. Sure, that hemorrhoid cream may come in helpful someday… but it isn’t what you went to the store to get. And it definitely isn’t going to serve the same purpose as the steak you meant to buy but never got… at least I hope it won’t. But maybe it will? I mean, who am I to judge what you do and don’t eat? If you want to eat Preparation H, you do you!

Anyways, the point is that pickings can be slim out there on the IDP waiver wire, depending on your league’s scoring and roster setups. That doesn’t mean there aren’t guys available who can help you, though. It also doesn’t mean that you should dump your starter after one bad game, nor should you keep starting a big name who has played like a bust all season (i.e., Cory Littleton). You must be a reasonable and vigilant manager, which means you should occasionally to listen to my (sometimes) passable advice!

P.S. Thank you for finally rostering Jeremy Chinn in over 25% of IDP leagues! We can finally remove him from this list!

 

IDP Settings

As a reminder, we will use the following IDP designations/league settings for our FAAB recommendations:

  • Standard Scoring Leagues: This system usually rewards 1-point per tackle, 3-points per sack, 4-points per turnover, and sometimes offers 2-points for a tackle for loss (TFL) or pass deflection (PD). Standard leagues also usually only start one DL, LB, and DB, respectively. You will always prioritize your FAAB budget towards offensive players in Standard Scoring IDP leagues, though you shouldn't underestimate the value of adding a great defender in them.
  • Defense Premium Leagues: Defense Premium leagues tend to try to make defensive players worth as much as offensive players. Commissioners often accomplish this by rewarding 2-points per tackle, 3-points for TFL or PDs, 4-points per sack, and 6-points per turnover. In these leagues, you don't necessarily prioritize offensive players on waivers. While it is a case-by-case analysis, defenders in these leagues can often be worth as much as most offensive waiver additions.
  • Deep Defense Leagues: These are leagues that have you start a full defense, or require you to start CBs and DTs, or they are leagues so deep (think 16 team leagues) that at least 32 players at each position (DL, LB, and DB) start every week.
  • Dynasty Leagues: This is self-explanatory to most. Dynasty leagues are those in which every player you draft/add is on your team until you trade or release him.

Now that we have that explanation out of the way, let's get to this week's top adds! Remember that we will only address defenders who are rostered in less than 30% of IDP leagues on ESPN, Yahoo, or other prominent sites. We will also do our best to avoid obvious additions. While players like Myles Garrett are somehow rostered in only 31% of ESPN IDP leagues, we assume that anyone reading this material knows to add Garrett if they can.

 

1. Chase Young, DL, Washington Football Team

Young was on this list last week, and his roster percentage hasn’t gone up at all since then. While Young didn’t take advantage of a great matchup in Week 6, there are few defenders with his weekly upside. He is a must roster in dynasty leagues, Deep Defense leagues, and pretty much all IDP formats.

Standard Scoring FAAB: 3%

Defense Premium FAAB: 4%

Deep Defense FAAB: 5%

Dynasty FAAB: 5%

2. Jason Pierre-Paul, DL, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Pierre-Paul is a relatively obvious name that was left off of some of our early lists because we assumed he would be picked up in a large number of leagues relatively early in the season without our help. However, that does not appear to be the case as Pierre-Paul is still available in approximately 85% of IDP leagues.

The guy is third in the NFL in sacks right now and he has done well against some top-notch blocking units, like the one in Green Bay. He should be rostered in all IDP leagues where he qualifies as a DL, and in Defense Premium leagues as either a DL or LB.

Standard League FAAB: 1%

Defense Premium FAAB: 4%

Deep Defense FAAB: 4%

Dynasty: 1%

3. Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Dallas Cowboys

Vander Esch’s roster percentage only dropped low enough to qualify for this column because of his recent collarbone injury. Now that the former Boise State star is back on the field, he should be rostered in more than 25% of leagues… but he isn’t.

The kid has averaged nearly six solo-tackles per game for his career and over eight total tackles per game, which means he has a lot of value in Standard IDP setups and in leagues that place a premium on tackles. His youth and ability to tip passes mean he isn’t just worth rostering in Standard leagues, though. Vander Esch should be rostered in almost all IDP leagues with ten or more teams.

Side note- Jaylon Smith’s fantasy production could eventually take a slight dip when Vander Esch gets up to speed, as the two young thumpers split stats.

Standard League FAAB: Wait

Defense Premium FAAB: 1%

Deep Defense FAAB: 3%

Dynasty FAAB: 1%

4. Carlton Davis, DB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

While Davis is only rostered in 11% of fantasy leagues, he sits tied for third in the NFL in interceptions and tied for first in PDs. The Auburn product is also averaging nearly four solo-tackles per game, which means you can count on him in pretty much all IDP scoring formats. This steady fantasy production is largely thanks to the fact opposing passers still target Davis, despite his elite resume. Expect that heavy target share to continue against receivers like Michael Thomas, Mike Evans, and others.

With a heavy target share and terrific ball skills, Davis is probably already rostered in any leagues that require you to start a CB. If he isn’t, he should be. It isn’t just CB mandated leagues where Davis should be rostered, however. He is a top-20 fantasy DB in pretty much every league, every week. Start Davis in all IDP leagues any time he lines up against a stud WR who you know will get targets, like Michael Thomas or Julio Jones.

Standard Scoring FAAB: 2%

Defense Premium FAAB: 8%

Deep Defense FAAB: 8%

Dynasty: 2%

5. Brandon Graham, DL, Philadelphia Eagles

Graham sits fourth in the NFL in both sacks and TFLs this season, and he is on a career high pace in both categories. That pace should continue, as the former Michigan star has six more games this season against pass blocking units that rank in the bottom half of the NFL. Expect this grizzled vet to produce fantasy points in the five remaining games he has against the NFC East, as well as against Seattle. That kind of outlook makes him a worth an add in all 14-team IDP leagues, and in Deep Defense setups.

Standard League FAAB: Wait

Deep Defense FAAB: 2%

Defense Premium FAAB: Wait

6. Leonard Williams, DL, New York Giants

This one is not a flashy or particularly popular name to add to our list, but hear us out. So far, Williams has averaged four tackles, one TFL, and 0.5 sacks per game this season. That isn’t half-bad for fantasy purposes. His overall stats aren’t the primary reason to roster him in deep IDP leagues, though. Rather, the main reason to roster Williams this year is his schedule.

Half of the remaining games on the Giants' schedule this year are against teams who rank in the bottom half of the NFL in Adjusted Sack Rate. That isn't even counting a Dallas offensive line that is declining rapidly without Tyron Smith. These matchups are prime spots for Williams to put up fantasy stats, and he has already shown the ability to take advantage of these kinds of matchups against San Francisco and Washington.

While Williams isn't a must-add in Standard leagues, he is worth considering in Deep Defense IDP leagues. Leave him on your bench half of the time if you like, but you may want to start the former Trojan in matchups with Washington, Philadelphia, Seattle, Cincinnati, and Dallas.

Deep Defense FAAB: Wait

7. Dre Greenlaw, LB, San Francisco 49ers

Greenlaw was on this list last week, and he rewarded those who listened to our advice with eight solo-tackles and a TFL. Those results are consistent with what has happened over the past year when Kwon Alexander is out of the 49ers’ lineup. When Alexander sits, Greenlaw plays close to 100% of the 49ers’ snaps and he rakes in the tackles.

This former Arkansas safety is young and worth a long-term roster spot in deep dynasty leagues. He is also a worthwhile pick-up in deep redraft leagues, or in Standard IDP leagues where you need a guy to fill-in for Darius Leonard or Kwon Alexander.

Standard Scoring FAAB: Wait

Deep Defense FAAB: 1%

Dynasty FAAB: 1%

8. Malcolm Butler, DB, Tennessee Titans

It's been some time since Butler was particularly relevant in anything, but he is having a solid fantasy season so far. Right now, he is averaging six solo-tackles per game, playing a similar role to what Logan Ryan did in Tennessee last year. On top of that, Butler sits tied for seventh in the NFL in PDs, and he has returned his two interceptions for a total of 97 yards, showing big-play potential.

While Butler isn't a long-term asset, and he isn't worth rostering in shallow IDP leagues, he will continue to get you targets and tackles. He is rosterable in Deep Dynasty leagues and, perhaps, in 16-team Defense Premium setups. You won't have to pay much for Butler, either, as his name has lost a lot of luster over the past few years.

Defense Premium FAAB: Wait

Deep Defense FAAB: Wait



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2020 Fantasy Football Advice 2020 Fantasy Football Projections & ADP Analysis Editor Note NFL Analysis RotoBaller - All Fantasy Sports Articles

Week 6 IDP Rankings, Streamers, and Notes

I am glad football is back, I really am. I am forever grateful that the players are risking their health for our amusement, and I am thankful for each snap I get to watch. Pretty much all of us feel this way, I would imagine. So take what I am about to say with a grain of salt… but I have to say, there have been some pretty ugly football games played so far this season. I am talking about some eye-roll-inducing, nausea causing pigskin play.

One shining example of this ugly COVID tainted play occurred this past weekend, in the matchup between the San Francisco 49ers and the Miami Dolphins. Now, some watching that game may say that Ryan Fitzpatrick and company looked terrific. They could argue that it was a breakout moment for Miami’s offense, Fitz-magical even. The Dolphins Defense, some might also contend, performed beautifully. They shut down the vaunted Kyle Shanahan attack, and they did it with authority. It was a huge step forward for the hopes and dreams of all Miami fans!

Optimism wasn’t something that a lot of us took from this matchup, however. Hope is not what Trevor, our devoted and sometimes clingy IDP super fan, felt when he watched Preston Williams pick on San Francisco’s practice squad corners. Quality football wasn’t even what my creepy Instagram stalker ‘Taterguy121’ saw on Sunday, judging from the overly supportive messages he keeps sending me on the ‘gram… and the oddly graphic pictures… and that package I am afraid to open because it smells like feet covered in mustard and burnt hair. Anyways, the point is that many of us watching Sunday’s matchup in Levi’s Stadium didn’t see a breakout performance for Miami. We didn’t see the end of Kyle Shanahan’s brilliance, either. What we saw, instead, was a phenomenon that one might call “Backup Blowout.”

 

Week 6 Intro

The term ‘Backup Blowout’ refers to the war of attrition that the NFL is currently fighting in 2020. This season, more than any other in recent memory, games are being decided by third-string corners, scout team blockers, and second-string quarterbacks. While injuries and depth problems have always been a part of football, COVID and a rash of likely COVID-related injuries are pushing NFL coaches and fantasy managers to their limits in just our sixth week of play. Already, multiple superstars on both sides of the ball have gone down for good. Already, a plethora of solid starters and role players have gone missing as well. It’s infecting all stages of the game, including fantasy rosters.

With COVID-related issues striking down NFL players at a record pace, one could argue that IDP managers are put in a particularly precarious position. As superstars like Darius Leonard and Jamal Adams go down in IDP leagues, fantasy managers are having to decide whether to keep these stars on their bench rather than add a guy like Travis Fulgham. Many casual IDP managers may also be struggling with who to start on unexpected COVID bye weeks, or with who to add now that the 20-30 star defenders they already know are all hurt or rostered. This dire lack of stability at the top of the defender pool is something that casual IDP managers likely haven’t had to face before, but it is very real.

The best piece of advice to give IDP managers hurt by COVID is to know focus on matchups when you are picking up tier-two or tier-three defenders off of waivers. Once your star defenders succumb to injury or on a COVID bye, don’t just look for the most famous name or the highest tackle total. Instead, you should consider the opponents of any defender you may be looking to stream or start in perpetuity.

Now more than ever, weekly matchups are nearly as relevant in IDP fantasy leagues as they are in offense only fantasy leagues. Who your defenders are playing matters each week, just like it mattered that the Dolphins were playing a depleted 49ers team in Week 5. Don't be caught off guard like San Francisco was against Miami. Be prepared, and be vigilant. That is how you can weather this sloppy and often frustrating COVID-soaked fantasy season.

Note: As always, our rankings will be split into RotoBaller’s three primary IDP positions (DL, LB, and DB), and they will typically come with some flyer/fade notes for each position as well. Also, as per usual, we will include edge rushers in both our DL and LB ranks since they have different eligibility depending on the fantasy site you are using.

*Fantasy Relevant Defenders Not in Our Week 6 Ranks Due to Bye/Injury: Jamal Adams, Chandler Jones, Nick Bosa, Derwin James, Joey Bosa, Bobby Wagner, Cameron Jordan, Christian Kirksey, Demario Davis, Cory Littleton, Johnathan Abram, Maxx Crosby, and Sam Hubbard.

 

Top-25 Fantasy Defensive Linemen of the Week

Rank Player Opponent
1 Aaron Donald 49ers
2 T.J. Watt Browns
3 Myles Garrett Steelers
4 Chase Young Giants
5 Harold Landry III Texans
6 Aldon Smith Cardinals
7 Yannick Ngakoue Falcons
8 Shaquil Barrett Packers
9 Bud Dupree Browns
10 Khalil Mack Panthers
11 J.J. Watt Titans
12 Jason Pierre-Paul Packers
13 Deforest Buckner Bengals
14 Chris Jones Bills
15 Za’Darius Smith Buccaneers
16 Leonard Williams Washington Football Team
17 Carl Lawson Colts
18 Frank Clark Bills
19 Kyle Van Noy Jets
20 Brian Burns Bears
21 Bradley Chubb Patriots
22 Josh Allen (Q) Lions
23 Grady Jarrett Vikings
24 Akiem Hicks Panthers
25 Justin Houston Bengals

DL Streamer of the Week: Jeffery Simmons, Tennessee Titans

Simmons was officially activated off of the COVID list this week, and the hope is he can return to form quickly. Reports are that Simmons is feeling great, and we hope he is. If the former Mississippi State standout doesn’t have any setbacks in practice this week, he should be a prime streamer candidate in Week 6.

As we have covered before in this column, the Houston Texans' offensive line is below par in a variety of ways. Their pass blocking unit is particularly bad, ranking third to last in Adjusted Sack Rate, per Football Outsiders. Thanks to that poor unit, Deshaun Watson is taking over three sacks per game. While this Texans team may continue to ride a hot streak in the wake of Bill O’Brien’s firing, the Titans Defense has several talented defenders who can help Simmons contain a mobile quarterback like Watson. Remember that Simmons was a wrecking ball when he last played against Minnesota, and Houston’s performance so far in 2020 doesn’t suggest they can contain him any better than Minnesota did. You should feel comfortable streaming Simmons in deeper leagues, as long as he practices the rest of the week.

DL Fade of the Week: All Bengals Pass Rushers

Some have speculated that the Colts’ offensive line has been disappointing this season, in part because pre-season darling Jonathan Taylor isn’t averaging six-yards-per carry. Whether this unit is as good as it should be or not, it has allowed just five sacks in five games despite having a human statute at quarterback. That sort of unit spells concerns for fantasy managers looking for sacks and big plays against Indy.

Generally speaking, Carl Lawson is one of the only Bengals defenders worth rostering in fantasy. Lawson and his teammates tend to be boom-or-bust fantasy assets, however. They are often reliant on a sack or turnover for fantasy production. To make matters worse, the Bengals will be without Sam Hubbard this week. That means that the Colts can more easily hone in on Lawson and the Bengals' few other assets. This week, it seems less than likely that any of the Bengals’ defensive linemen will get the big play they need to start for you in fantasy.

Exploding Matchup of the Week: Aaron Donald v. San Francisco 49ers

Last week we listed Donald as our Explosive Matchup of Week 5, thanks to the fact he was going against Washington's weak offensive line. Donald rewarded our prediction with a whopping four sacks in one game. Do not expect him to repeat that sort of performance this week, but there is still a good chance that he gets a second consecutive multi-sack game against a feeble San Francisco offensive line.

Unquestionably, San Francisco’s most talented blockers are its offensive tackles, Trent Williams and Mike McGlinchey. However, neither of these talented linemen have been particularly impressive in pass protection in 2020. McGlinchey has allowed 14 pressures in five games, and it could be argued that he was as responsible for the 49ers' collapse against Philadelphia in Week 4 as Nick Mullens was. Meanwhile, most who watch Williams’ blocking against the Eagles and Dolphins will tell you that his PFF grade is misleadingly high. Together, these tackles have allowed 22 pressures in five games, and they are the strength of the line. The 49ers’ guards are the real weakness, allowing 27 pressures between them.

Overall, this line is allowing approximately ten pressures per game. It doesn't help that the 49ers will likely start either C.J. Beathard (a career 8.5% sack rate) or a gimpy Jimmy Garoppolo under center, either. Put one of those immobile QBs behind a porous offensive line, and you have the same sack cocktail that Washington was mixing last week against Donald.

 

Top-25 Fantasy Linebackers of the Week 

Rank Player Opponent
1 Darius Leonard (D) Bengals
2 Blake Martinez Washington Football Team
3 Jaylon Smith Cardinals
4 Fred Warner Rams
5 Zach Cunningham Titans
6 Roquan Smith Panthers
7 Eric Kendricks Falcons
8 Patrick Queen Eagles
9 Lavonte David Packers
10 T.J. Watt Browns
11 Micah Kiser 49ers
12 Devin White Packers
13 Myles Jack (Q) Lions
14 Shaq Thompson Bears
15 Deion Jones Vikings
16 Jon Bostic Giants
17 Jordan Hicks Cowboys
18 Jerome Baker Jets
19 Devin Bush Browns
20 Eric Wilson Falcons
21 Joe Schobert Lions
22 Alexander Johnson Patriots
23 Tremaine Edmunds Chiefs
24 Josey Jewell Patriots
25 Foyesade Oluokun Vikings

LB Streamer of the Week: Bobby Okereke, Indianapolis Colts

This former Stanford Cardinal is ascending in the absence of Darius Leonard, and he is doing it against both pass and run-heavy offenses. Two weeks ago, Okereke performed well against a Bears offense that throws the ball 62% of the time, and in Week 5, he did even better against a Browns unit that runs the ball more than any team in the NFL. Okereke has the skills to help in coverage and run support, acting almost as a poor man's Darius Leonard.

Going against the Bengals this week, look for this talented sophomore to serve as an attractive IDP streamer if Darius Leonard is out. However, if Leonard does play, be more cautious about inserting Okereke into lineups in shallow IDP leagues.

LB Fade of the Week: Joe Schobert, Jacksonville Jaguars

For two weeks in a row, Schobert has put up disappointing stats. Even with Myles Jack out last week, Schobert wasn’t able to secure anything but four tackles. In fact, the Wisconsin alum has failed to get you anything but decent tackle totals all of this season. He hasn't secured a turnover, sack, or even a PD. The matchup this week doesn’t spell a high ceiling for the former Brown, either.

The Detroit Lions run the sixth-fewest offensive plays in the NFL this season. That means fewer fantasy opportunities than usual for all Jaguars defenders in Week 6. Detroit also employs a 60/40 pass-to-run ratio, meaning that Schobert and his poor coverage skills will be at a disadvantage on approximately 60% of his plays this week.

If Jack is fully healthy, expect him to be the primary coverage 'backer for the Jaguars when players like T.J. Hockenson or D’Andre Swift are running routes. The Jags should want to keep Schobert away from the passing action as much as possible, considering he allows a 100% completion rate in coverage this season. While the Lions may want to target Schobert for that reason, nothing indicates Schobert will break up or intercept the passes thrown his way. Instead, his history and skillset tell us that he will be a tackle only prospect this week and a low-ceiling fantasy option. Bench him if you can afford to do so.

IDP Star of the Week: Patrick Queen, Baltimore Ravens

Queen has consistently been in our top-20 LB rankings this season. On top of that, he has made multiple appearances in our columns as a waiver target, long-term investment, and weekly streamer. Now, he has officially made his way into our overall top-ten LB ranks. That is a big deal for a rookie who some are still discounting because he is a rookie.

Queen was the AFC Defensive Player of the Week in Week 5, accruing nine tackles, two FR, a FF, and a TD. That wasn’t his only big performance this season, though. In fact, Queen’s only poor fantasy showing this season came against Kansas City. Otherwise, he has been a worthy fantasy starter in even the shallowest of leagues every week. While some will be concerned about relying on a rookie defender in fantasy, and the odds are he will put up a few more stinkers before he is done, Queen is a worthy add in all leagues.

This week, in particular, Queen is a terrific IDP option. While you shouldn’t expect him to repeat his terrific Week 5 (just like with Aaron Donald), the LSU alum should be able to notch a sack or a couple of TFLs against a poor Eagles offensive line. The rookie will also have several shots at an INT or PD against Carson Wentz, who has targeted the intermediate-center of the field (where Queen will patrol) on 43% of his passes this season.

 

Top-25 Fantasy Defensive Backs of the Week

Rank Player Opponent
1 Budda Baker Cowboys
2 John Johnson III 49ers
3 Jordan Poyer Chiefs
4 Tracy Walker Jaguars
5 Jessie Bates III Colts
6 Marlon Humphrey Eagles
7 Antoine Winfield Jr. Packers
8 Landon Collins Giants
9 Justin Simmons Patriots
10 Jeremy Chinn Bears
11 Chuck Clark Eagles
12 Josh Jones Lions
13 Marcus Maye Dolphins
14 Jordan Whitehead Bears
15 Carlton Davis (Q) Packers
16 Mike Hilton Browns
17 Vonn Bell Colts
18 Keanu Neal Vikings
19 Pierre Desir Dolphins
20 Justin Reid Titans
21 Jabrill Peppers Washington Football Team
22 Logan Ryan Texans
23 Adrian Phillips Broncos
24 Trevon Diggs Cardinals
25 Harrison Smith Falcons

DB Streamer of the Week: Carlton Davis, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Davante Adams is set to come back from injury this week, and we should expect Davis to shadow him all game long. That is great news for IDP managers since Aaron Rodgers has targeted his favorite receiver on 18% of Adams' snaps this season. Think about that for a second. If Adams is on the field, there is an 18% chance the ball is thrown his way. That rate is only slightly lower than in 2019 when Rodgers targeted Adams on 15.7% of his snaps.

Adams could realistically see 15+ targets against the Bucs this week. That would give Davis ample opportunities to collect tackles and turnovers. Davis should easily be the second-overall fantasy CB this week and a DB starter in 16-team fantasy leagues.

DB Fade of the Week: Jabrill Peppers, New York Giants

While Peppers established himself as a high-floor fantasy option in 2019, thanks to his high tackle rates and ability to force fumbles, Peppers' 110-tackle pace from last year has disappeared in 2020. This year, Peppers has become a fantasy afterthought. While his draft pedigree, talent, and past production will keep him on fantasy radars for some time, Peppers should be faded in Week 6 and every subsequent week until he proves he is what he used to be.

Now, one might think that the woeful Washington offense would be an excellent spot for Peppers to get right this season. After all, Ron Rivera starts a QB who loves to get sacked and turn the ball over. So why wouldn't fantasy managers hope for Peppers to blitz in and win them glory with a strip-sack? Or maybe a pick-six?

One problem with expecting big things from Peppers in Week 6 is that he only has one sack in four NFL seasons. Even worse, he has zero sacks as a Giant. Neither the Browns nor the Giants have used the Michigan grad as a Blitzer off of the edge. So why should fantasy managers expect this to change suddenly?

A second problem with expecting big things in Week 6 is that Washington runs a low volume offense that cannot establish the run game. Rivera’s squad passes the ball on over 60% of its plays. Given that Peppers has lined up in the box or at the line on nearly 70% of his defensive snaps as a Giant, he should see a low fantasy opportunity against a Washington team that will pass more than run. That spells a meager opportunity for tackles and big plays.



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Top IDP Waiver Wire Pickups for Week 6

Last week, we gave you a few select pieces of advice in our IDP waiver column and our weekly IDP rankings column. Let’s review a couple of those pieces of advice, and whether they panned out, shall we?

Last week we told you to stop letting Budda Baker sit on waivers. We warned you that he had missed one week, but was still a star in a thin DB pool. Today his roster percentage stands at 61% in both ESPN and Yahoo leagues. The 39% who failed to roster Baker this past weekend missed out on a sack, eight solo tackles, and ten total tackles.

That’s elite production from any DB, and the guy silenced injury concerns by playing 100% of the Cardinals’ defensive snaps just a week after thumb surgery. If you are part of the 39% who left him on waivers, I would ask you to look at his performance this past weekend and compare it to whoever you started instead of adding him. I’d hazard that Baker outperformed whatever DB you started over him.

 

Week 6 Intro

Baker is not the only player you left out there despite our brilliant IDP advice here at Rotoballer, though. Last week we also warned you to stop dropping Darius Leonard. Since then, Leonard has been dropped in another 18% of IDP leagues. Now the Colts’ superstar is rostered in a mere 75% of ESPN leagues, and a woeful 68% of IDP leagues in Yahoo. This is an unreasonably low roster percentage for a guy who comfortably dominated all other defenders in fantasy the second half of last year. I mean, come on guys! Sometimes it feels like the only person listening to our brilliant advice is our very imaginary super fan, Trevor.... Oh, and that weird guy on Instagram who keeps asking me if I like my cabbage boiled and always comments that I ‘look like a toothpaste model’ in every picture I post.

Side note: what does that even mean, TaterGuy121? What does a toothpaste model even look like? Are you complimenting me, or telling me I’m so ugly that my teeth are my best feature? I mean, I know I have straight teeth, but I also have eyes, a nose, and a pretty darned nice… you know what? Never mind. I’m getting sidetracked.

The point is, let our warnings about Budda Baker serve as a lesson. We told you to stop leaving proven IDP stars on waivers due to minor injuries, and a lot of you missed out on serious fantasy production by ignoring that advice. Please don't do that with Leonard. Find space for him on your bench until he is healthy, perhaps even trade two decent players you aren't using for a good one so you can improve your roster AND make room for Leonard when he returns. It doesn't matter how you do it, get him rostered in 100% of IDP leagues!

 

IDP Settings

As a reminder, we will use the following IDP designations/league settings for our FAAB recommendations:

  • Standard Scoring Leagues: This system usually rewards 1-point per tackle, 3-points per sack, 4-points per turnover, and sometimes offers 2-points for a tackle for loss (TFL) or pass deflection (PD). Standard leagues also usually only start one DL, LB, and DB, respectively. You will always prioritize your FAAB budget towards offensive players in Standard Scoring IDP leagues, though you shouldn't underestimate the value of adding a great defender in them.
  • Defense Premium Leagues: Defense Premium leagues tend to try to make defensive players worth as much as offensive players. Commissioners often accomplish this by rewarding 2-points per tackle, 3-points for TFL or PDs, 4-points per sack, and 6-points per turnover. In these leagues, you don't necessarily prioritize offensive players on waivers. While it is a case-by-case analysis, defenders in these leagues can often be worth as much as most offensive waiver additions.
  • Deep Defense Leagues: These are leagues that have you start a full defense, or require you to start CBs and DTs, or they are leagues so deep (think 16 team leagues) that at least 32 players at each position (DL, LB, and DB) start every week.
  • Dynasty Leagues: This is self-explanatory to most. Dynasty leagues are those in which every player you draft/add is on your team until you trade or release him.

Now that we have that explanation out of the way, let's get to this week's top adds! Remember that we will only address defenders who are rostered in less than 30% of IDP leagues on ESPN, Yahoo, or other prominent sites. We will also do our best to avoid obvious additions. While players like Myles Garrett are somehow rostered in only 31% of ESPN IDP leagues, we assume that anyone reading this material knows to add Garrett if they can.

 

1. Chase Young, DL, Washington Football Team

It doesn't seem like he should qualify for this list, but he does. Young's elite talent is available in 77% of IDP leagues, which is a bit much even if you factor in the Buckeye's injury in Week 2. Young should be rostered in all leagues, and you should particularly like his matchup against the Giants this week. He is an easy top-ten DL this week, as long as he continues to play.

Standard Scoring FAAB: 3%

Defense Premium FAAB: 4%

Deep Defense FAAB: 5%

Dynasty FAAB: 5%

2. Bobby Okereke, LB, Indianapolis Colts

Last week we told you to add Anthony Walker as a solid fill-in for Darius Leonard, and that call turned out well. Okereke performed even better than Walker, however. Playing 100% of his team’s snaps for the first time all year, Okereke totaled ten tackles, a pick, and a PD against Cleveland last week. While that type of production may decline just a bit against a pass-heavy Bengals offense this coming week, Okereke is a young and talented defender worth adding as a Leonard fill-in in Standard IDP leagues. He is also worth rostering in Deep Defense and deep dynasties.

Standard League FAAB: 1% (if you need a Leonard sub)

Deep Defense FAAB: 2%

Dynasty FAAB: Wait

3. Yannick Ngakoue, DL, Minnesota Vikings

We first told you to add Ngakoue in fantasy after he nabbed a strip-sack against the Colts in Week 2. Since then, Ngakoue has totaled at least one sack and one TFL in three straight games (four games straight, overall). On top of that, he has forced a fumble and averaged nearly three tackles over the past three weeks. Ngakoue is doing all of this despite being the focal point of opposing blockers, with little help from teammates. If Danielle Hunter ever returns, these numbers could increase as Hunter forces QBs towards Ngakoue with regularity. With how thin the DL position is right now, Ngakoue should not be available in 82% of IDP leagues.

Standard League FAAB: 1%

Defense Premium FAAB: 3%

Deep Defense FAAB: 1%

Dynasty FAAB: 2%

4. Harold Landry III, DL, Tennessee Titans

Another player we have already told you to roster but is still available in over 80% of IDP leagues. Landry has averaged over four tackles per game so far this season, and he just notched his first sack against the Bills. Expect his sack numbers to continue to rise, and his tackle rate to stay steady. A bonus of having Landry as your starting DL is that he already had his BYE week, meaning you shouldn't need a backup unless COVID strikes again or injuries crop up. Landry is young enough and well-rounded enough to be rostered anywhere he qualifies as a DL.

Standard League FAAB: 1%

Deep Defense FAAB: 2%

Defense Premium FAAB: Wait

Dynasty FAAB: Wait

5. Jeremy Chinn, DB/LB, Carolina Panthers

You've heard it before, so start adding him, huh? He is almost rostered in enough leagues that he won't qualify for this list. Let's get him there! The guy hasn't logged less than seven tackles in any game, and he will keep getting better.

Standard Scoring FAAB: 2%

Defense Premium FAAB: 2%

Deep Defense FAAB: 7%

Dynasty FAAB: 5%

6. Justin Simmons, DB, Denver Broncos

Simmons was a top-ten DB in fantasy in most formats last year, and he is so again this year. He is valuable in both Deep Defense leagues, thanks to his ability to get you INTs and PDs, and in Standard leagues where his tackling ability will be valued. With his BYE in the rearview mirror, Simmons has even more appeal since you can leave him in your DB slot for the rest of the year.

Standard Scoring FAAB: Wait

Defense Premium FAAB: 2%

Deep Defense FAAB: 2%

Dynasty FAAB: Wait

7. Dre Greenlaw, LB, San Francisco 49ers

Thanks to injuries and Kwon Alexander taking passing down work with Fred Warner, Greenlaw has seen his 2020 fantasy value take a hit. Greenlaw is back healthy, and Alexander may be headed for the IR with a high ankle sprain, however.

Fantasy managers should strongly consider adding and starting Greenlaw for however long Alexander is out. Dynasty managers should also consider keeping Greenlaw for the long term since Alexander could be a cap casualty in 2021. Remember that when Alexander missed the 49ers' final eight regular-season games last year, Greenlaw played over 90% of the team’s defensive snaps in each of those contests. The former Razorback averaged over nine tackles over that span, and he totaled 13 tackles in both Weeks 16 and 17. Don’t spend FAAB on him, because most won’t see much fantasy value in Greenlaw’s 2020 stats, but consider adding him for free if you can.

Standard Scoring FAAB: Wait

Deep Defense FAAB: Wait

Dynasty FAAB: Wait

8. Willie Gay Jr., LB, Kansas City Chiefs

A talented but troubled second-round selection in this year's draft, Gay Jr. has seen his snaps increase every game this season. He spent the Chiefs' entire opener on the bench, only to play nearly half of their snaps this past week against the Raiders. You saw the talent when Gay Jr. got to play in Week 5, when he totaled six tackles and a sack. It is far too early to add Gay Jr. in any but the deepest of redraft leagues, but he is a good add in deep dynasty setups.

Deep Defense FAAB: Wait

Dynasty FAAB: Wait



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Fantasy Football IDP Rankings and Streamers - Week 5

Let’s start Week 5 off with a piece of obvious, but apparently necessary, advice. It is advice that no IDP manager should need, but approximately 8% of IDP managers have to hear. Are you ready for this nugget of wisdom? Wait for it…. Here it comes….

Stop dropping the best defender in fantasy (Darius Leonard)!

This nugget of information seems blatantly obviously, but approximately 6% of fantasy managers have dropped Leonard this week so it has to be said. It is staggering to think that Leonard is currently available in about 8% of IDP leagues (an average of Yahoo and ESPN leagues combined). That’s about 8% too many.

 

Week 5 Overview

Before you ask, yes, I am aware that Leonard may miss Week 5 with a groin injury. And before you hit send on the inevitable hate tweet you have ready for me, yes, I am also aware that Leonard hasn't provided you a turnover or sack this season. I know all of this. Still, remind yourself of who we are talking about here. Leonard is a young superstar who, when healthy, has been the highest-scoring fantasy defender over the past two seasons in almost all IDP formats. He is also a player who, even during his “slump” this season, is averaging a solid nine tackles per game in 2020. That is a fantasy floor that many fantasy LBs would call their ceiling.

Further, recall that Leonard started 2019 with a relatively quiet streak that culminated in three missed games due to injury. During those missed games, many fantasy managers dropped Leonard just like they are this season. All Leonard did after that was punish those who dropped him by racking up 103 tackles, four sacks, five interceptions, seven PDs, and two forced fumbles over the season's final 11 games. That streak saw Leonard match top-ten fantasy QB production multiple times, and it serves as a reminder why you should never give up on him in fantasy.

Now, I hear you. You need to fill that valuable RB role after Nick Chubb and Saquon Barkley went down. I get you. D'Ernest Johnson and Justin Jackson can look pretty appetizing to fantasy managers who are hurting. My question is, do you really have to drop Leonard to roster one of those guys? Isn’t there someone else you can drop? And if there isn’t someone else you can drop, is it worth losing a fantasy LB capable of outscoring Tom Brady just to get a few weeks of spot starter work from Johnson or Jackson?

My answer is no, neither Johnson nor Jackson has more fantasy value than Leonard does the rest of this season in most IDP leagues. There are few fantasy assets who are as reliable as a healthy Leonard. Heck, the only things more reliable in this world that come to mind are Patrick Mahomes, airplane glue, Fruit of the Loom underwear, and a tasty chalupa from Taco Bell (sponsorship pending).

Note: As always, our rankings will be split into RotoBaller’s three primary IDP positions (DL, LB, and DB), and they will typically come with some flyer/fade notes for each position as well. Also, as per usual, we will include edge rushers in both our DL and LB ranks since they have different eligibility depending on the fantasy site you are using.

*Fantasy Relevant Defenders Not in Our Week 5 Ranks Due to Injury/Bye Include: Jamal Adams, Nick Bosa, Derwin James, Chase Young, Tracy Walker, Za’Darius Smith, Preston Smith, Jaire Alexander, Kevin King, Trey Flowers, and Christian Kirksey.

 

Top-25 Fantasy Defensive Linemen of the Week

Rank Player Opponent
1 T.J. Watt Eagles
2 Aaron Donald Washington Football Team
3 J.J. Watt Jaguars
4 Myles Garrett Colts
5 Joey Bosa Saints
6 Bud Dupree Eagles
7 Shaquil Barrett Bears
8 Aldon Smith Giants
9 Chandler Jones Jets
10 Khalil Mack Buccaneers
11 Yannick Ngakoue Seahawks
12 Harold Landry III Bills
13 Jason Pierre-Paul Bears
14 Carl Lawson Ravens
15 Chris Jones Raiders
16 Deforest Buckner Browns
17 Cameron Jordan Chargers
18 Frank Clark Raiders
19 Arik Armstead Dolphins
20 Josh Allen (Q) Texans
21 Bradley Chubb Patriots
22 Kyle Van Noy 49ers
23 Grady Jarrett Panthers
24 Sam Hubbard Ravens
25 Justin Houston Browns

DL Streamer of the Week: Carl Lawson, Cincinnati Bengals

Lawson is an exciting player who is ascending now that he is healthy, despite having limited snaps so far. He was a promising prospect with first-round talent coming out of Auburn, and when healthy he has been the Bengals' most gifted pass rusher over the past three seasons. While Lawson is often hit-or-miss in fantasy thanks to his rotational role on this defense and his sack dependency, he is a significant enough sack artist to be worth starting in prime situations. While this situation against Baltimore may seem less than ideal, it could turn out to be a prime situation in which you can nab Lawson and start him thanks to others discounting his matchup.

This week Lawson is going against a QB who has been on the injured list all week and may not have his extra gear on Sunday. While Baltimore has a good blocking unit, they aren't quite as good as they were last year and if Lamar Jackson isn't himself, Lawson could get a sack or two in Week 5 as a quality fantasy spot starter. The prospect of Baltimore keeping Lamar in the pocket a bit more, or Lamar being slowed by illness/injury is enough to make Lawson a really interesting streamer, even if on paper he doesn't seem to be.

DL Fade of the Week: Maxx Crosby, Las Vegas Raiders

The Chiefs have allowed an average of 11 pressures per game so far in 2020, which isn't ideal. Despite that, Mahomes and company have given up only one sack per contest. While this blocking unit is just average in the running game, allowing 18% of their runs to be stuffed at or behind the line, they have surrendered very few big defensive plays despite going against some good defenses (Baltimore and New England, specifically).

KC's ability to avoid significant losses, sacks, and turnovers is a problem for Crosby's fantasy managers. The second-year pass rusher derives almost all of his fantasy value from big plays (sacks and TFLs). He is averaging less than two tackles per game in 2020, getting nearly all of his fantasy production from three sacks and one PD. That means he is a particularly sack dependent fantasy player. Against this KC unit, don't expect him to get one of those. Feel free to leave Crosby on your bench, or waivers in shallow leagues, this week.

Exploding Matchup of the Week: Aaron Donald v. Washington Football Team

Putting Donald in this spot seems like low hanging fruit since we all know just how good he is as a player. That said, Donald should utterly dominate Washington’s offensive line this week.

Washington has allowed 13 sacks this season so far, and the team is now starting Kyle Allen under center. Allen is a veritable statue who took 3.5 sacks per game in Carolina (an 8.6% sack rate), and who fumbled the ball a whopping once per game in 2019. Combine Washington’s offensive line with an 8.1% sack rate, a fumbling QB who takes sacks like gummy vitamins, and put them up against the best defender in football together, and you’ve got a bleak opening to Mr. Allen Goes to Washington.

 

Top-25 Fantasy Linebackers of the Week 

Rank Player Opponent
1 Darius Leonard (Q) Browns
2 Bobby Wagner Vikings
3 Jaylon Smith Giants
4 Fred Warner Dolphins
5 Devin White Bears
6 Zach Cunningham Jaguars
7 Blake Martinez Cowboys
8 T.J. Watt Eagles
9 Lavonte David Bears
10 Micah Kiser (Q) Washington Football Team
11 Devin Bush Eagles
12 Roquan Smith Buccaneers
13 Eric Kendricks Seahawks
14 Myles Jack Texans
15 Deion Jones Panthers
16 Patrick Queen Bengals
17 Jon Bostic Rams
18 Joe Schobert Texans
19 Shaq Thompson Falcons
20 Jerome Baker 49ers
21 Kenneth Murray, Jr. Saints
22 Alexander Johnson Patriots
23 Tremaine Edmunds Titans
24 Demario Davis Chargers
25 Jordan Hicks Jets

LB Streamer of the Week: Josey Jewell, Denver Broncos

A member of our IDP Waiver column this week, Jewell is an ascending fantasy prospect with a concrete floor and a decent ceiling. Last week we saw the Broncos use both Jewell and Alexander Johnson more as pass rushers, which was impactful. Expect them to be utilized like that more as the season goes on.

Jewell has a nice matchup against a run-heavy New England team this week, especially if Cam Newton starts at QB. Newton has historically allowed opposing LBs to put up good fantasy weeks against him, thanks to his style of running up the middle and through defenders. An example of this would be in Week 1 when Newton helped Jerome Baker to a big fantasy day. Expect a similar game plan from New England this week if Cam plays, and expect Jewell to put up starter fantasy stats as a result.

LB Fade of the Week: Jayon Brown, Tennessee Titans

Brown is usually a stable and steady fantasy contributor. He suffers this week from two problems, however. One problem is that his game this week, which was already moved to Tuesday, may still be canceled. That makes it hard to play any Titan or Bill this week. The second problem is that we don’t even know how any of these Titans players will perform if the game does go.

Football is genuinely in new territory with this COVID pandemic, especially regarding how these COVID delays will impact NFL players’ readiness. We have already seen how a shortened offseason and a lack of conditioning time has caused more injuries, more lineup rotations, and more unpredictable results than usual in 2020. The question now is how well Titans players, like Brown, will be able to go from their couches to the field with little to no practice time over the past two weeks. Do you want to risk your fantasy week on an LB, or any other player, who hasn't been able to take a snap with his teammates for more than 14 days?

 

Top-25 Fantasy Defensive Backs of the Week

Rank Player Opponent
1 John Johnson III Washington Football Team
2 Budda Baker Jets
3 Antoine Winfield Jr. Bears
4 Landon Collins Rams
5 Jordan Poyer Titans
6 Justin Simmons Patriots
7 Jessie Bates III Ravens
8 Marcus Maye Cardinals
9 Jeremy Chinn Falcons
10 Malcolm Jenkins Chargers
11 Josh Jones Texans
12 Johnathan Abram Chiefs
13 Chuck Clark Bengals
14 Marlon Humphrey Bengals
15 Vonn Bell Ravens
16 Harrison Smith Seahawks
17 Jordan Whitehead Falcons
18 Jabrill Peppers Cowboys
19 Carlton Davis Bears
20 James Bradberry Cowboys
21 Adrian Phillips Broncos
22 Keanu Neal Panthers
23 Justin Reid Jaguars
24 Tyrann Mathieu Raiders
25 Mike Hilton Eagles

DB Streamer of the Week: James Bradberry, New York Giants

Last week we faded Bradberry because the Rams were a multi-faceted offense that could easily avoid the Giants' top corner, spelling low opportunity rates for Bradberry to score fantasy points. This week Bradberry is an excellent bet to get multiple fantasy opportunities, however, against the high-flying Dallas Cowboys. While some may question whether Dallas may look to finally establish a consistent run game against the woeful Giants this week, it seems safe to assume the Cowboys will throw the ball at least 35 times this game, with many targets coming Bradberry’s way.

Dak Prescott loves to target Amari Cooper, as evidenced by the pick he forced towards Cooper to end the Browns game last week. Bradberry should see plenty of Cooper, and plenty of targets as a result. Expect this corner to return to his pace of three PDs per game, which he maintained through the first three weeks of this season, in Week 5. That is significant in leagues that reward points for deflections.

DB Fade of the Week: Justin Reid, Houston Texans

So far this year, Reid has been a steady but unspectacular fantasy DB. Reid’s fantasy ceiling has been seriously capped so far because he has zero turnovers or sacks. While Reid can make those kinds of plays, fantasy managers shouldn't expect them to come this week.

Reid’s opponent in Week 5, the Jacksonville Jaguars, runs the fifth-fewest plays in the NFL so far this season. That low volume limits all defenders' opportunities for fantasy points. To make matters worse, the Jaguars average just 1.25 turnovers per game, which limits the odds that Reid will pick up his first pick or fumble this week. While Reid should spend more than half his time in coverage against the Jaguars, who run the fourth pass heaviest offense in the NFL, the low volume and low turnover rates of this Jaguars offense seriously limits Reid’s fantasy upside in Week 5.

Red Flag of the Week: Jordan Poyer, Buffalo Bills

Poyer is valuable enough that you can't just drop him like you can many fantasy defenders, even if he and the Bills may miss Week 5 due to COVID delay. The Bills’ standout safety is a top-three fantasy DB this week if his game goes. The problem is that we won’t likely know if Poyer is going to play in Week 5 until probably Monday or Tuesday morning of next week. Because this game has already been moved to Tuesday, with no indication if it will be played, fantasy managers must decide what to do with their Bills and Titans this week.

Poyer managers have to decide whether to risk playing him with no available backups on Tuesday, or they have to bench him for a lower ceiling player they know will play on Sunday. The only real option, beyond benching Poyer, is adding a player like C.J. Gardner-Johnson. The hyphenated Saints DB plays on Monday, and hopefully you will know whether Poyer’s game will be canceled before Gardner-Johnson takes the field on Monday night.



Win Big With RotoBaller

Be sure to also check out all of our other daily fantasy football articles and analysis to help you set those winning lineups, including this new RotoBaller YouTube video:

More Start/Sit Advice


Check out all of RotoBaller's fantasy football rankings. Staff rankings are updated regularly for all positions and include standard formats, PPR scoring, tiered rankings and dynasty leagues.




Categories
2020 Fantasy Football & NFL Rookies 2020 Fantasy Football Advice Editor Note Fantasy Football Waiver Wire Pickups NFL Analysis RotoBaller - All Fantasy Sports Articles

Top IDP Waiver Wire Pickups for Week 5

Here we are again, tumbling into another week of our Rotoballer IDP Waiver column. As you are likely aware by now, we will typically begin this column with a hilarious joke that makes our biggest fan Trevor fall out of his seat laughing. Then we usually move onto a recap of the injuries and any significant IDP news that informs our Week 5 waiver priorities. This week we will diverge just slightly from this formula, however.

Sorry Trevor, but I know you’ll manage since you aren’t real.

Instead of our usual hilarious and brilliant intro this week, we will begin our waiver column with a very special segment I like to call: Berating You Softly.  The way this will work is I will list a few fantasy superstars who are wildly under-rostered in IDP leagues.

 

Intro

With each of these under-rostered players, I will politely address the fantasy managers who fail to roster them and explain what they need to do to fix the problem. Sounds simple enough, huh? So let’s get started!

  1. Myles Garrett (Available in 53.8% of ESPN leagues and 42% of Yahoo leagues): 53.8% of IDP managers on ESPN are idiots. 42% of IDP managers on Yahoo are idiots. Pick him up, idiots! There, analysis done. You’re welcome, my adoring fans.
  2. Jamal Adams (Available in 47% of ESPN leagues and 49% of Yahoo leagues): The only situation in which Adams should be on waivers is if your league doesn’t use DBs, or if your scoring and roster setup seriously discourages the use of DBs. If you’re in a league like that, leave it immediately and start a better one. On your way out, consider sending a hateful letter to the commissioner of that league. Use expletives in your letter, while you’re at it. Get colorful with it. After all, fantasy football is supposed to be fun, right?
  3. Budda Baker (Available in 44% of ESPN leagues and 53% of Yahoo leagues): See my comments on Jamal Adams, and repeat them here. All IDP leagues should value players like Baker, Adams, and Garrett. Any IDP league in which superstars like Budda Baker and Myles Garrett are considered droppable should not exist, whether they are injured for a few weeks or not. Just ask Trevor!

There, wasn't that fun? And it was kind of nice for me to be able to sit down and have a constructive conversation with you, too. Hopefully, we can continue our polite and civil discourse on a social media outlet that encourages the free exchange of ideas and discourages hateful attacks on one another. Places like that still exist, right? And if they do, me calling you idiots won’t get banned from those places… will it?

Thus concludes our first edition of Berating You Softly. Thanks for reading, if you did!

If you skipped all of that and are just looking for waiver adds, it is on to our waiver rankings for Week 5!

 

IDP Settings

As a reminder, we will use the following IDP designations/league settings for our FAAB recommendations:

  • Standard Scoring Leagues: This system usually rewards 1-point per tackle, 3-points per sack, 4-points per turnover, and sometimes offers 2-points for a tackle for loss (TFL) or pass deflection (PD). Standard leagues also usually only start one DL, LB, and DB, respectively. You will always prioritize your FAAB budget towards offensive players in Standard Scoring IDP leagues, though you shouldn't underestimate the value of adding a great defender in them.
  • Defense Premium Leagues: Defense Premium leagues tend to try to make defensive players worth as much as offensive players. Commissioners often accomplish this by rewarding 2-points per tackle, 3-points for TFL or PDs, 4-points per sack, and 6-points per turnover. In these leagues, you don't necessarily prioritize offensive players on waivers. While it is a case-by-case analysis, defenders in these leagues can often be worth as much as most offensive waiver additions.
  • Deep Defense Leagues: These are leagues that have you start a full defense, or require you to start CBs and DTs, or they are leagues so deep (think 16 team leagues) that at least 32 players at each position (DL, LB, and DB) start every week.
  • Dynasty Leagues: This is self-explanatory to most. Dynasty leagues are those in which every player you draft/add is on your team until you trade or release him.

Now that we have that explanation out of the way, let's get to this week's top adds! Remember that we will only address defenders who are rostered in less than 30% of IDP leagues on ESPN, Yahoo, or other prominent sites. We will also do our best to avoid obvious additions. While players like Myles Garrett are somehow rostered in only 31% of ESPN IDP leagues, we assume that anyone reading this material knows to add Garrett if they can.

 

1. Akiem Hicks, DL, Chicago Bears

Last year, the Chicago Bears' run defense was a completely different unit without Hicks on the field. They went from stuffing stars like Aaron Jones to letting opposing RBs run all over them once Hicks went down. That drop in production spoke volumes about how valuable Hicks is to the Bears’ overall defensive performance, but it didn’t speak to just how effective Hicks could be on the fantasy front.

This year, the 30-year-old veteran already has 3.5 sacks, seven TFLs, and 12 solo tackles. Hicks’ production isn’t a flash in the pan either, considering he has accumulated at least seven sacks, double-digit TFLs, and 50+ tackles in every healthy season he has played since 2016. Hicks should be rostered in all 12-team redraft leagues, as well as in all Deep Defense setups. He is also a worthy addition in deep Defense Premium leagues, but his age could keep him off many shallow dynasty rosters.

Standard Scoring FAAB: Wait Until Waivers Clear
Defense Premium FAAB: Wait
Deep Defense FAAB: 2%

2. Javon Kinlaw, DL, San Francisco 49ers

If you pick up Kinlaw, do so with an eye on the future and not on the immediate present. While Kinlaw is getting far more playing time on this 49ers front than was expected, thanks to injuries on the San Francisco defensive line, you’ll want to see him regularly close out sacks before you consider starting him in fantasy. Don’t be surprised if Kinlaw becomes a usable fantasy asset sooner than later, however.

With just four games under his belt, Kinlaw’s game is evolving at a surprising rate. While he came into 49ers’ camp as a raw bull rusher who struggled in one-on-one drills, the past two weeks have seen the rookie effectively utilizing pass rush moves that he didn’t have in August. It is truly impressive to see this highly drafted rookie learning and executing new maneuvers so quickly, seeing as many with his physical skills and pedigree don’t even bother to develop their technique. While Kinlaw only has eight pressures to his name (two per game) so far, he is evolving quickly. Do not be surprised if he soon turns pressures into sacks. Add him now in Deep Defense leagues if available, in dynasties, and in leagues that require multiple DT starters.

Deep Defense FAAB: 2%
Dynasty: 2%

3. Trevon Diggs, DB, Dallas Cowboys

Remember that the fantasy CB position is one of the most counterintuitive in all of fantasy sports. The best NFL corners rarely make good fantasy CBs, because opportunity is king in fantasy and shutdown corners get very few of those. Meanwhile, average or young corners often make good fantasy CBs because they are targeted frequently, giving them ample chances at tackles and turnovers.

While the jury is still out on whether Diggs is a good NFL cornerback, he is definitely proving to be a valuable fantasy CB right now. He has a 100% snap share so far, despite being a rookie, and he should continue to be targeted by opponents looking to keep up with the Cowboys’ high-powered offense. The former Alabama defender is averaging over five solo-tackles a game and has forced a turnover in two of his first four games, and it isn’t unreasonable to expect that production to continue. Add him in leagues where a CB starter is required.

Deep Defense FAAB: 3%
Dynasty FAAB: 2%

4. Jeremy Chinn, DB/LB, Carolina Panthers

As exhausting as my love for Chinn can be, he is still rostered in less than 20% of IDP leagues, so he is still on this list. He leads his team in both total tackles and solos, plus his experience as a college cornerback suggests he could pick up some turnovers someday soon. He should be considered a DB starter with a high floor in all formats that value tackles.

Standard Scoring FAAB: 3%
Defense Premium FAAB: 3%
Deep Defense FAAB: 7%
Dynasty: 6%

5. Anthony Walker, LB, Indianapolis Colts

Walker was another member of our pre-season IDP sleeper column, and he was a top-100 defender for me as far back as May. He has historically been a steady contributor in the tackles department, and he cleaned up when Darius Leonard left the game in Week 4. If Leonard cannot go in Week 5, Walker is an easy spot-starter for fantasy managers looking to replace Leonard for a week or two. He is also worth rostering long-term in Deep Defense leagues if he is available.

Standard Scoring FAAB: Wait
Deep Defense FAAB: 2%

6. Kyzir White, LB, Los Angeles Chargers

Now that he is getting starter minutes, this little known defender is tied for 12th in the NFL in solo tackles through four games (three starts). He also has three TFLs and a PD in that time, which isn't significant, but it adds some additional value in leagues that reward points for those stats. He is well worth a waiver pickup in Deep Defense leagues and 16-team IDP setups.

Standard Scoring FAAB: Wait
Defense Premium FAAB: Wait

7. Josey Jewell, LB, Denver Broncos

A former NFL Draft sleeper for me and many others, Jewell is having an excellent season now that he is a full-time and healthy starter. So far, he has 21 solos, two sacks, a PD, and three TFLs. He can continue that pace, even playing next to another fantasy-relevant ILB in Alexander Johnson. Jewell has value in Deep Defense leagues, as well as in 14-team Defense Premium setups. He is relatively young, so if you play in a deep dynasty, you can add him to your bench as well.

Defense Premium FAAB: 3%
Deep Defense FAAB: 2%
Dynasty: Wait

8. Mike Hilton, DB, Pittsburgh Steelers

In a secondary with big names like Minkah Fitzpatrick and Joe Haden, it is Hilton who is picking up the fantasy slack early in the 2020 season. While Hilton is a nickel back, meaning he is on the field less than Fitzpatrick and Haden, he has still managed 11 solos, two sacks, three PDs, and two turnovers in three games. That production isn't out of line with his stats from 2018 and 2019, either.

While Hilton obviously won’t continue his 11 sack pace, it won’t be at all surprising if Pittsburgh blitzes him enough to add four more sacks by the end of the year. Opposing offenses are keying on the Steelers’ defensive stars (T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree in particular), and Hilton has the skills to take advantage of that. Also worth noting is that Hilton has already had his bye, so having him as your starting CB (or DB in deep leagues) gives you slight roster flexibility that others may not. He is worth adding in Deep Defense setups, leagues that require you to start a CB, and in 12-team Defense Premium leagues.

Defense Premium FAAB: 2%
Deep Defense FAAB: 3%



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Week 4 IDP Rankings, Streamers, and Notes

We are only three weeks into this young NFL season, and the IDP landscape is already looking like a wasteland. Before Week 3, fantasy managers were already without three of the top-15 IDP defenders after injuries took Derwin James, Nick Bosa, and Danielle Hunter away from us. Things are getting much worse now, with the top two remaining fantasy DBs (Budda Baker and Jamal Adams) looking doubtful to play in Week 4. As if that weren't enough, a groin injury could grab Chase Young off of fantasy rosters as well. Adding insult to those injuries is the fact that the Steelers and Titans are suddenly not playing in Week 4, robbing us of several IDP stars (T.J. Watt specifically) who many of us had planned on playing.

Given all this misfortune, no one can blame IDP managers who struggle to see the bright side of things right now. It's almost as if the entire bright side of the 2020 season is covered in manure, and... is that expired mayonnaise? Yeah, it tastes like expired mayonnaise.

With at least six of the top-25 fantasy defenders likely sidelined for at least this week, fantasy managers will have to continue to adapt and persevere. Remember that this is a weekly game, and even when you lose a defensive stud, you have a good shot of succeeding in fantasy. The loss of Nick Bosa or Budda Baker will cost you an edge, but you can help contain damage and pain by merely consulting our weekly rankings… and drinking some scotch… and maybe even eating a delicious chalupa from Taco Bell. See that, Taco Bell? I can seamlessly slip in a sponsor with no one noticing! Call me.

 

Top-25 Fantasy Defensive Linemen for Week 4

Note: As always, our rankings will be split into Rotoballer's three primary IDP positions (DL, LB, and DB), and they will typically come with some flyer/fade notes for each position as well. Also, as per usual, we will include edge rushers in both our DL and LB ranks since they have different eligibility depending on the fantasy site you are using.

Fantasy Relevant Defenders Not in Our Week 4 Ranks Due to Injury/Postponement: T.J. Watt, Budda Baker, Jamal Adams, Chase Young, Bud Dupree, Devin Bush, Minkah Fitzpatrick, Jeffery Simmons, Harold Landry III, Christian Kirksey, Kenny Vacarro, and Jabrill Peppers.

Rank Player Opponent
1 Myles Garrett Cowboys
2 Joey Bosa Buccaneers
3 J.J. Watt Vikings
4 Aaron Donald Giants
5 Chandler Jones Panthers
6 Shaquil Barrett Chargers
7 Aldon Smith Browns
8 Jason Pierre-Paul Chargers
9 Khalil Mack Colts
10 Yannick Ngakoue Texans
11 Deforest Buckner Bears
12 Chris Jones Patriots
13 Carl Lawson Jaguars
14 Cameron Jordan Lions
15 Frank Clark Patriots
16 Arik Armstead Eagles
17 Josh Allen (Jaguars) Bengals
18 Za'Darius Smith Falcons
19 Brian Burns Cardinals
20 Sheldon Richardson Cowboys
21 Kyle Van Noy Seahawks
22 Sam Hubbard Jaguars
23 Lorenzo Carter Rams
24 Bradley Chubb Jets
25 Grady Jarrett (Q) Packers

DL Streamer of Week 4: Yannick Ngakoue, Minnesota Vikings

So far this year, the Houston Texans' offensive line has the NFL's worst Adjusted Sack Rate per Football Outsiders. They also sit tied for second in sacks allowed at 13. That's an average of 4.3 sacks allowed per game. Meanwhile, Ngakoue has registered a strip-sack in each of his past two games.

While some may continue to fade him because of how poor this defense has been overall, Ngakoue has averaged at least two pressures a game this season without much help. Going against a bad blocking unit that can't protect a QB who loves to scramble and hold onto the ball, this former Jaguar should have an excellent opportunity for some big plays in Week 4.

DL Fade of Week 4: Khalil Mack, Chicago Bears

Mack is going against a terrific offensive line this week. The Colts' blockers are allowing just one sack per game in 2020, despite Philip Rivers serving as an immobile statue behind them. Their Adjusted Sack Rate ranks fifth in the NFL, as well. Add to that the fact that Indianapolis is short on pass catchers and runs the ball 52% of the time this year, and we can expect limited opportunities for Mack to make a big play in Week 4.

Though Mack could still register several tackles against the Colts, we should expect a similar box score to what he put up in Week 1 against the Lions. That translates to around two or three solo-tackles, a couple of half-tackles, and no sacks or turnovers.

Underrated DL Matchup of the Week 4: Josh Allen ( Jacksonville Jaguars) v. Cincinnati Bengals Offense

If one were to look only at his box score, the defensive version of Josh Allen would seem an uninteresting IDP prospect. Some may even consider starting a petition for him to change his name so that the MVP candidate in Buffalo can be the only Josh Allen in the NFL. Box scores don't always tell the whole story of a defensive lineman, though. They don't always predict a DL's future, either.

Remember that Allen collected ten sacks as a rookie last year. Also, recognize that Allen is still getting after the quarterback this year, even if that hasn't yet translated into fantasy goodness. He has logged a sack, six QB hits, and nine pressures in three games without much help around him. This matchup with a Bengals offense is just the spot for his pressures to translate into significant fantasy stats, too. The Bengals have allowed 14 sacks in three games, and they are the second pass heaviest offense in the NFL. Cincinnati will provide Allen with ample opportunity to explode, and fantasy managers should beware seeing him blow up on their bench or waiver wire.

 

Top-25 Fantasy Linebackers for Week 4

Rank Player Opponent
1 Darius Leonard Bears
2 Bobby Wagner Dolphins
3 Jaylon Smith Browns
4 Fred Warner Eagles
5 Devin White Chargers
6 Zach Cunningham Vikings
7 Blake Martinez Rams
8 Micah Kiser Giants
9 Lavonte David Chargers
10 Myles Jack Bengals
11 Roquan Smith Colts
12 Shaq Thompson Cardinals
13 Eric Kendricks Texans
14 Joe Schobert Bengals
15 Deion Jones Packers
16 Patrick Queen Washington Football Team
17 Jon Bostic Ravens
18 Jerome Baker Seahawks
19 Alexander Johnson Jets
20 Matt Milano Raiders
21 Kenneth Murray, Jr. Buccaneers
22 Tremaine Edmunds Raiders
23 Nathan Gerry 49ers
24 Demario Davis Lions
25 De' Vondre Campbell Panthers

LB Streamer of Week 4: Jon Bostic, Washington Football Team

Bostic has already faced an elusive QB with similar skills to Lamar Jackson with success in Week 2. Against Kyler Murray, Bostic totaled eight tackles and a sack despite the former Heisman winner proving to be nearly as (or more) elusive as Jackson. Add to that the fact that the Ravens have surrendered four sacks in each of the past two weeks against good but not elite pass defenses in Houston and KC, and it isn't unreasonable to expect Bostic to match his Week 2 stats in this matchup. While Baltimore's blocking could certainly rebound to its high 2019 standards as soon as this week, such a sudden improvement would not render Bostic useless for fantasy purposes. The odds are Baltimore will get ahead early in this one, and they will look to control the game's tempo on the ground. That spells ample opportunities for Bostic to load up on tackles, even if the Ravens manage to keep him from logging a sack or many TFLs.

LB Fade of Week 4: Cory Littleton, Las Vegas Raiders

In terms of real football, Littleton has been well below average this year in both run support and coverage. In terms of fantasy football, he hasn't been any better. Littleton has made zero big plays (PDs, sacks, turnovers) as a Raider, and he has averaged a mere three solo-tackles per game. Frankly, the only reason for Littleton to be on IDP rosters at this point is the hope that he may still return to his past IDP star production.

Do not expect Littleton's bounce back to be this week, if it ever happens, however. While a matchup against Josh Allen (a big QB who likes to scramble and take risks) may look good on paper, it isn't. This season, the Bills have contained every playmaking 'backer they have faced. They held Micah Kiser to just four half-tackles last week, and he was averaging 11 tackles per game going into Buffalo. The Bills similarly neutralized Jerome Baker in Week 2, despite Baker's ability to rack up stats against Cam Newton in their season opener. The same goes for the Jets' linebackers, who were rendered useless against the Bills in Week 1. Little about Littleton's 2020 season suggests that he will break this trend and make fantasy managers happy in Week 4.

Trade Bait of the Week: Jordan Hicks, Arizona Cardinals

I was fading Hicks harder than almost any other IDP ranker this pre-season, and it looks like I was on to something. The reason for my Hicks fade was Arizona's additions of De' Vondre Campbell and Isaiah Simmons, which I believed could lead to attrition of fantasy points. I may not have faded Hicks enough, however.

Hicks has had one fantasy-relevant game (Week 2) out of three this year, and his overall play has been at or below average so far. PFF currently ranks Hicks as an extremely average 'backer in every phase of the game, and the film backs that up. He looks slower to react, is sharing more of his tackles, and has had a few noticeable slips in coverage. Making things worse is the fact Arizona has recently invested heavily in three of its four LBs (Simmons, Campbell, and Chandler Jones) as well as its star DB (Baker). If Hicks' poor play continues, he could be a 29-year-old cap casualty next summer.

If someone in your IDP league still views Hicks as the top-10 fantasy LB he used to be, see what they would give up for him. A third or fourth round dynasty pick or a young player like Logan Wilson is a good return in your deep IDP leagues and dynasty setups.

 

Top-25 Fantasy Defensive Backs for Week 4

Rank Player Opponent
1 John Johnson III Giants
2 Jordan Poyer Raiders
3 Tracy Walker Saints
4 Justin Simmons Jets
5 Landon Collins Ravens
6 Antoine Winfield Jr. Chargers
7 Marcus Maye Broncos
8 Jeremy Chinn Cardinals
9 Vonn Bell Jaguars
10 Johnathan Abram Bills
11 Jessie Bates III Jaguars
12 Justin Reid Vikings
13 Chuck Clark Washington Football Team
14 Josh Jones Bengals
15 Malcolm Jenkins Lions
16 Harrison Smith Texans
17 Tyrann Mathieu Patriots
18 Adrian Phillips Cardinals
19 Marlon Humphrey Washington Football Team
20 Kareem Jackson Jets
21 Keanu Neal Packers
22 Jaire Alexander Falcons
23 Carlton Davis Chargers
24 Isaiah Oliver Packers
25 C.J. Henderson Bengals

DB Streamer of Week 4: C.J. Henderson, Jacksonville Jaguars

Typically you don't play many CBs in shallow IDP leagues. However, for those who play in leagues that start two or more DBs each week, Henderson has a nice matchup against the Bengals in Week 4. So far, Cincinnati is the second pass heaviest offense in the NFL. The Bengals throw the ball to the edges or deep on about half of their throws, which is where Henderson plays most of the time. It is not out of the question that Henderson could shadow Tyler Boyd in this game, though.

While Henderson has been burned several times this season, as most rookie corners are, he has shown the ability to make fantasy-relevant plays when targeted. In 2020 he has averaged 3.6 solo-tackles per game, 1.3 PDs per game, and he already has an interception. If you play in a league where you have to start a CB or multiple DBs, you could do much worse than a guy with a steady fantasy floor going against the pass-happy Bengals.

DB Fade of Week 4: James Bradberry, New York Giants

Did you know that James Bradberry leads the NFL in PDs this season? No? I didn't think so.

Bradberry has been a surprisingly productive fantasy CB this year. On top of leading the NFL with 9 PDs, he has two turnovers and is averaging a decent 3.3 solo-tackles per game. That is the kind of production you expect from a starting fantasy corner. That said, Bradberry has a bad matchup this week.

Did you know that the Los Angeles Rams are the most run-heavy team in the NFL this season? No? Yeah, it doesn't seem logical when you think about it.

Lately, Sean McVay's offenses have been known for throwing until Jared Goff's arm falls off, but this year they have found success on the ground again. A team that runs the ball 64% of the time, as the Rams do, will significantly limit the fantasy production of a CB. Add to that the fact that the Rams have no true #1 WR to pepper with targets, instead spreading the ball to multiple talented pass catchers based on matchup and scheme, and the opportunities for Bradberry dwindle even further.

IDP Riser of Week 4: Antoine Winfield Jr., Tampa Bay Buccaneers

To those who read our Week 4 IDP Waiver column, this should come as no surprise. Winfield Jr. was our top IDP waiver add, and for good reason. In this NFL Draft, Winfield Jr. had arguably the best ball skills of any DB in the class. At Boston College, he displayed the ability to not only bait quarterbacks into bad throws and cover ground to get them, but he was aggressive against the run as well. Given his playstyle and the lack of a pre-season, we anticipated Winfield Jr. would be slow to playing time and would take time to grow. He hasn't been slow to either. He is already a top-ten DB in fantasy and should be a starter in all leagues.



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2020 Fantasy Football & NFL Rookies 2020 Fantasy Football Advice Editor Note Fantasy Football Waiver Wire Pickups NFL Analysis RotoBaller - All Fantasy Sports Articles

Top IDP Waiver Wire Pickups for Week 4

After watching countless shootouts in Week 3 of this cray-cray NFL season, and seeing two of our waiver targets from last week go down with an injury (Christian Kirksey & Emmanuel Moseley), I know what you're thinking. Why do we even bother drafting defenders? Clearly, defense doesn't matter in the NFL anymore. Just ask the Dallas Cowboys and Atlanta Falcons, right? If anything, defense is optional for NFL teams. So why shouldn't it be for fantasy players?

Wait… you mean you weren't thinking that? Was it just me? Oh… well, good. That means my job as "that idiot who talks too much about defense" is safe at Rotoballer for at least another week! I better make this thing count, before you start thinking the things I was thinking for you, huh? So let’s get to it!

 

IDP Settings

As a reminder, we will use the following IDP designations/league settings for our FAAB recommendations:

  • Standard Scoring Leagues: This system usually rewards 1-point per tackle, 3-points per sack, 4-points per turnover, and sometimes offers 2-points for a tackle for loss (TFL) or pass deflection (PD). Standard leagues also usually only start one DL, LB, and DB, respectively. You will always prioritize your FAAB budget towards offensive players in Standard Scoring IDP leagues, though you shouldn't underestimate the value of adding a great defender in them.
  • Defense Premium Leagues: Defense Premium leagues tend to try to make defensive players worth as much as offensive players. Commissioners often accomplish this by rewarding 2-points per tackle, 3-points for TFL or PDs, 4-points per sack, and 6-points per turnover. In these leagues, you don't necessarily prioritize offensive players on waivers. While it is a case-by-case analysis, defenders in these leagues can often be worth as much as most offensive waiver additions.
  • Deep Defense Leagues: These are leagues that have you start a full defense, or require you to start CBs and DTs, or they are leagues so deep (think 16 team leagues) that at least 32 players at each position (DL, LB, and DB) start every week.
  • Dynasty Leagues: This is self-explanatory to most. Dynasty leagues are those in which every player you draft/add is on your team until you trade or release him.

Now that we have that explanation out of the way, let's get to this week's top adds! Remember that we will only address defenders who are rostered in less than 30% of IDP leagues on ESPN, Yahoo, or other prominent sites. We will also do our best to avoid obvious additions. While players like Myles Garrett are somehow rostered in only 31% of ESPN IDP leagues, we assume that anyone reading this material knows to add Garrett if they can.

 

1. Antoine Winfield Jr., DB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

I know you have heard me lecture on the merits of Jeremy Chinn to the point you’re sick of him and me. That said, I was even higher on Winfield Jr. coming out of this NFL Draft than I was Chinn. In fact, I had this son of a Viking ranked amongst my top-20 prospects in this class. Winfield Jr. was lower on my fantasy radar only because it was assumed he would need time transitioning into his role as a deep safety in the NFL, and that the lack of an offseason would hurt his immediate development. So far the Boston College product hasn’t needed any time to acclimate at all, however. He has logged at least six tackles and a big play (PD, sack, etc.) in every game this season. Winfield Jr. has the talent to continue this production, or exceed it, too. He is worth rostering in ALL formats and he will likely crack my top-ten DB list in Week 4.

Standard Scoring FAAB: 4%
Defense Premium FAAB: 4%
Deep Defense FAAB: 8%
Dynasty: 6%

 

2. Marcus Maye, DB, New York Jets

Maye was on our waiver column last week, but if you want me to stop talking about him then you have to roster him in more leagues! Right now, he is on only 20% of IDP rosters despite making 25 tackles, two sacks, three PDs, and forcing a fumble in just three games. He is proving himself a set-it-and-forget-it starter in even the shallowest of leagues. Hopefully, he will be added in enough leagues that you won't have to read about him next week.

Standard Scoring FAAB: 4%
Defense Premium FAAB: 6%
Deep Defense FAAB: 8%
Dynasty: 4%

 

3. Jeffery Simmons, DL, Tennessee Titans

Simmons has so much talent that the Titans used a top-20 draft pick on him, despite him tearing his ACL just two months before the Draft. The Titans didn't even know if Simmons would play during his rookie year, yet they still selected him 19th overall. That was a bold investment, and yet Simmons has paid near-immediate dividends in just 12 games as a pro. Simmons plays with the same tenacity and pass rush prowess as a young Chris Jones, and he repeatedly collapsed the pocket against the Vikings this past week. Expect Simmons to get home and finish more sacks as this season continues. He is likely already rostered in Deep Defense leagues and deep bench dynasties. If he is free in either of those formats, however, you should add him before his box score reflects his on field impact.

Deep Defense FAAB: 3%
Dynasty: 3%

 

4. Jeremy Chinn, DB/LB, Carolina Panthers

Another holdover from last week's column, but are you really surprised? I told you all summer, and last week, to roster this guy. Still, less than 7% of IDP managers have Chinn on their roster. He totaled 12 tackles this week, so hopefully that number goes up. I will continue to harass you about Chinn until he is rostered in at least 25% of IDP leagues.

Standard Scoring FAAB: 3%
Defense Premium FAAB: 3%
Deep Defense FAAB: 7%
Dynasty: 6%

 

5. Jon Bostic, LB, Washington Football Team

Bostic is having a quietly steady season in Washington so far, no doubt aided by the fact he plays behind a terrifically talented defensive line. Bostic has not registered less than seven tackles this season, and on top of that he has registered a TFL in every game. While it may be easy to write off Bostic's stats so far as a hot start out of line with his career production, remember that Bostic logged over 100 tackles in his first season with Washington last year. Plus, he has never played behind Chase Young before. If Young can return healthy soon, Bostic has an excellent chance of continuing his fantasy starter pace behind this defensive line. He is worth adding in all redraft leagues that start two LBs per team. His age (29 years old) makes him less attractive in dynasty setups, though.

Standard Scoring FAAB: Add After Waivers Clear (aka Wait)
Deep Defense FAAB: 2%

 

6. Isaiah Simmons, LB, Arizona Cardinals

Simmons being on this list may not make much sense to those who actually read my articles. Simmons has always been a worthy dynasty asset, but we have been fading him in redraft leagues because of Arizona’s crowded LB room. His fantasy fade may end soon, however. Rumors out of Arizona (per Josh Alper at NBC Sports) are that the Cardinals could try Simmons at Safety sometime soon, which I have been actively hoping for, thanks to injuries to starting safeties Budda Baker and Chris Banjo. Simmons got experience playing Safety in college, and he has the athleticism to rack up similar stats to Baker's if he is playing at the back end of this defense. Simmons is worth a speculative add in pretty much all IDP leagues, except for Standard leagues with a shallow bench.

Standard Scoring FAAB: Wait
Defense Premium FAAB: Wait
Deep Defense FAAB: 2%
Dynasty: 3%

 

7. Yannick Ngakoue, DL, Minnesota Vikings

Lost in just how bad the Vikings' defense has been is Ngakoue's two straight games with a strip-sack. These sacks have come with zero help from the secondary, nor from Ngakoue's defensive linemates. The former Jaguar has a history of notching strip-sacks throughout his career, and it is encouraging that his last two were against good offensive lines. When Danielle Hunter returns, Ngakoue could see less offensive attention and benefit from quarterbacks flushing towards his side and away from Hunter. Ngakoue is young enough (25 years old) and talented enough to merit stashing in all leagues. Though he is rostered in less than 12% of IDP leagues, he is likely available only in Standard and shallow Defense Premium leagues. Add him to your bench in most IDP leagues, but feel free to start him immediately if you can get him in a Deep Defense setup.

Standard Scoring FAAB: Wait
Defense Premium FAAB: 2%
Deep Defense FAAB: 3%
Dynasty: Wait

 

8. Cameron Jordan, DL, New Orleans Saints

Yes, we have faded Jordan for the past few weeks due to some tough matchups overall. He has lived down to those expectations so far, too. Jordan is still a talented player on a good defense, however, and right now, he is rostered in less than 17% of IDP leagues. That is low for a player who has finished as a consistent top-ten defensive lineman in numerous IDP formats over the years. Consider buying low on him in redraft leagues and playing him when he has better matchups than he had in Week 3.

Standard Scoring FAAB: Wait
Defense Premium FAAB: Wait
Deep Defense FAAB: 2%



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Week 3 IDP Rankings, Streamers, and Fades

Well… this past week was something, wasn't it? As you obviously know, a series of unfortunate events befell pretty much all of us at once! I mean first, Best Buy ran out of pre-orders for the Playstation 5, and then Andre Braugher lost at the Emmys! It’s practically all the fantasy football community can talk about, even now! Oh, and there were a ton of NFL injuries, too… if you care about that sort of stuff.

While a majority of the media and fantasy football community’s attention is currently focused on the injuries of Saquon Barkley, Courtland Sutton, Drew Lock, and Raheem Mostert, the defensive side of the fantasy football field was hit just as hard by the injury to Nick Bosa. The younger Bosa brother was a top-five staple at a shallow DL position, and his loss thins the position to nearly intolerable levels. Losing Bosa will require a strong pivot for many IDP players, as could injuries to Malik Hooker, Chidobe Awuzie, Trae Young, and Byron Jones in deep IDP leagues. Do not expect to find a ready-made Pro Bowl pass rusher like Bosa on waivers, but do know there are players out there who can still help you if you play the game right. Hopefully, the following rankings will help you find those players so that you can repair and rebound in Week 3 and beyond.

Note: As always, our rankings will be split into Rotoballer’s three primary IDP positions (DL, LB, and DB), and they will typically come with some flyer/fade notes for each position as well. Also, as per usual, we will include edge rushers in both our DL and LB ranks since they have different eligibility depending on the fantasy site you are using.

 

Top-25 Fantasy Defensive Linemen for Week 3

Rank Player Opponent
1 T.J. Watt Texans
2 Myles Garrett Washington Football Team
3 Joey Bosa Panthers
4 Shaquil Barrett Broncos
5 Khalil Mack Falcons
6 J.J. Watt Steelers
7 Chase Young Browns
8 Chandler Jones Lions
9 Harold Landry III Vikings
10 Bud Dupree Texans
11 Aaron Donald Bills
12 Frank Clark Ravens
13 Deforest Buckner Jets
14 Aldon Smith Seahawks
15 Lorenzo Carter 49ers
16 Matthew Judon Chiefs
17 Jason Pierre-Paul Broncos
18 Arik Armstead Giants
19 Grady Jarrett Bears
20 Chris Jones Ravens
21 Leonard Williams 49ers
22 Cameron Jordan Packers
23 Sheldon Richardson Washington Football Team
24 Jadeveon Clowney Vikings
25 Trey Hendrickson Packers

DL Streamer of Week 3: Arik Armstead, San Francisco 49ers

There is a good argument for you to bench Armstead this week and for the rest of the year. Offenses will likely key on him like they never have before with Nick Bosa, Dee Ford, and Solomon Thomas out. That said, there is also a good argument for Armstead to start this week. That argument is the New York Giants’ offensive line.

The Giants’ offensive line has surrendered the most sacks in the NFL through two games this season, and it has the highest Adjusted Sack Rate according to Football Outsiders. This unit, minus Andrew Thomas, was also one of the worst in both of those categories in 2019. Adding literal injury to that insulting offensive line are the injuries to Saquon Barkley and Sterling Shepherd. With a bad line and limited playmakers suiting up for New York, it shouldn’t shock anyone if this depleted 49ers Defense can keep the Giants in check. While the towering Armstead will be the focus of blockers this week, the talent of D.J. Jones and Javon Kinlaw should keep him clean enough to collect a sack, a PD, and two TFLs.

DL Fade of Week 3: Cameron Jordan, New Orleans Saints

This week Cameron Jordan is going against an offensive line that has allowed just one sack in two weeks. The Packers’ blocking unit currently sports the lowest Adjusted Sack Rate in the NFL through two weeks, and their talent suggests this rate is sustainable. While All-Pro Left Tackle David Bakhtiari is the most famous name on this unit, several other terrific pass blockers line up next to him on that line. Rick Wagner, Elgton Jenkins, and Corey Linsley are each capable pass blockers in their own rights. Those three have combined to allow only two total pressures and zero sacks through two games this season. While that elite efficiency may be unsustainable against defenses that are better than Minnesota and Detroit, the 2019 pass-blocking success of Wagner, Jenkins, and Bakhtiari suggest they will continue to keep the already mobile Aaron Rodgers clean.

Although Jordan is a good enough player to snag a big play or two against even these Packers, you should lower expectations overall and consider starting someone else in his place if you play in standard 12-team IDP leagues.

Underrated DL Matchup of Week 3: Leonard Williams vs. San Francisco 49ers Offensive Line

Leonard Williams may never live up to the career expectations of being the sixth overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. He may never even live up to the moderate expectations people had of him when Dave Gettleman gave him franchise tag money. Williams should exceed the expectations people have for him going into Week 3, however.

San Francisco is surprisingly thin up the middle of its offensive line. They are currently starting their third-string Center, who is a journeyman recently signed off their practice squad. They are also starting an AFL transplant at Right Guard, a natural tackle learning to play the interior on the fly.  Quinnen Williams secured two sacks and seven combined tackles against this interior last week, and that was when the 49ers had no one to block except for Williams. To make matters worse for the 49ers, they are starting Nick Mullens in Week 3. While Mullens is a serviceable backup, he suffered a 15.4% sack rate against those lowly Jets in just one half of play last week.

Despite all of the problems listed above, and a variety of other injuries not addressed, the 49ers should still be considered slight favorites in New York this week. That doesn’t mean Leonard Williams won’t make several big plays against them, though. He is a sneaky play for those in deeper leagues and those in need of a spot starter at DL or DT.

 

Top-25 Fantasy Linebackers for Week 3

Rank Player Opponent
1 Darius Leonard Jets
2 Bobby Wagner Cowboys
3 Micah Kiser Bills
4 Jaylon Smith Seahawks
5 Devin White Broncos
6 Zach Cunningham Steelers
7 Fred Warner Giants
8 Blake Martinez 49ers
9 T.J. Watt Texans
10 Christian Kirksey Saints
11 Lavonte David Broncos
12 Devin Bush Texans
13 Roquan Smith Falcons
14 Deion Jones Bears
15 Myles Jack Dolphins
16 Alexander Johnson Buccaneers
17 Eric Kendricks Titans
18 Joe Schobert Dolphins
19 Patrick Queen Chiefs
20 Jerome Baker Jaguars
21 Cory Littleton Patriots
22 Demario Davis Packers
23 Jordan Hicks Lions
24 Kenneth Murray Panthers
25 Jon Bostic Browns

LB Streamer of Week 3: Patrick Queen, Baltimore Ravens

Queen has been a pleasant surprise for IDP managers so far, totaling 17 tackles and a turnover while playing over 70% of his defense’s snaps in his first two games. Queen should stay on the field even longer this week, as his skillset is a terrific match against the Chiefs. Queen has the coverage skills to matchup with Travis Kelce on most routes, spelling an opportunity for tackles and PDs. Queen has also shown himself to be a plus pass rusher, which is great for fantasy owners since he is going against a Chiefs offensive line that may be even more leaky than the one that that led the NFL in sacks allowed in 2019.

LB Fade of Week 3: Joe Schobert, Jacksonville Jaguars

While Schobert is worthy of starting in most IDP leagues almost every week, his matchup with the Dolphins is concerning. Schobert is not a strong player in coverage, typically making his hay at the line of scrimmage. Meanwhile, the Dolphins have shown little commitment to the run this season and last, throwing on nearly 63% of their plays. Expect the Dolphins to continue to throw the ball a lot, with Myles Gaskin serving as their uninspiring lead runner. A heavy passing docket favors Myles Jack's skillset more than Schobert's, meaning Jack is likely the better fantasy play in Week 3. Anticipate less than eight tackles and no big plays for Schobert against Miami.

Biggest IDP Riser of Week 3: Micah Kiser, Los Angeles Rams

Kiser made an appearance on my pre-season sleepers list this offseason, and I was the only Rotoballer ranker to have him in my top-100 defenders for 2020. And yet with all of the love I gave him this offseason, I may have underestimated him as a fantasy asset. He is currently on a tear for the Rams, and it may be no coincidence that Kiser is thriving playing behind Aaron Donald while Cory Littleton struggles without him. While Kiser may not be a favorite of analytics websites (Pro Football Focus for one), his raw stats are a thing of beauty in fantasy football. It matters not how Kiser collected his 22 tackles and three PDs in the first two weeks of the season. What matters is that he is playing on 100% of the Rams’ defensive snaps, and he should continue collecting fantasy points while doing so. He should be rostered and started in all IDP formats.

 

Top-25 Fantasy Defensive Backs for Week 3

Rank Player Opponent
1 Jamal Adams Lions
2 Budda Baker Cowboys
3 John Johnson III Bills
4 Tracy Walker Cardinals
5 Landon Collins Browns
6 Justin Simmons Buccaneers
7 Jordan Poyer Rams
8 Marcus Maye Colts
9 Vonn Bell Eagles
10 Jabrill Peppers 49ers
11 Jeremy Chinn Chargers
12 Jessie Bates III Eagles
13 Johnathan Abram Patriots
14 Justin Reid Steelers
15 Antoine Winfield Jr. Broncos
16 Tyrann Mathieu Ravens
17 Keanu Neal Bears
18 Kareem Jackson Buccaneers
19 Marlon Humphrey Chiefs
20 Carlton Davis Broncos
21 Minkah Fitzpatrick Texans
22 Chuck Clark Chiefs
23 Terrell Edmunds Texans
24 Jaylon Johnson Falcons
25 Emmanuel Moseley Giants

DB Streamer of Week 3: Jaylon Johnson, Chicago Bears

Johnson is a long and talented corner who has collected eight solo tackles and five PDs in two games as a rookie. While he is talented, he will continue to be picked on by opposing offenses since he is a raw rookie who tends to get handsy in coverage. Because Johnson is much rawer than Kyle Fuller is, and because Johnson will draw some flags with his aggressive play, look for Matt Ryan to target the rookie often this week. Johnson could see 15-20 targets come his way against an Atlanta offense that is second in the NFL in passing attempts with 90, which translates into ample fantasy opportunities for the Utah product. It won’t matter who Johnson is covering either, since Atlanta features both Calvin Ridley and Julio Jones heavily. Look for Johnson to put up starter fantasy stats this week in leagues that require you to play a CB or two DBs per team.

DB Fade of Week 3: Minkah Fitzpatrick, Pittsburgh Steelers

While Fitzpatrick is a talented defender in real football, he is somewhat big-play dependent as a fantasy asset. He doesn't blitz the quarterback because Pittsburgh doesn't need him to, which means he doesn’t get you sacks. He is a good tackler, but he is not so prolific that you can count on him having a high fantasy floor. That lack of sacks and tackles means you need the former Alabama product to get a turnover or a couple of PDs to make him fantasy relevant most weeks. Unfortunately, Fitzpatrick picking up a big play or several PDs seems less likely than usual against what has become a dink-and-dunk Houston passing attack.

Deshaun Watson has been throwing short out of necessity the past two weeks, attempting only ten passes of 20 or more yards. In fact, Watson has only attempted 25 total passes of 10 or more yards all season. Expect Watson to become even more conservative this week, as T.J. Watt and company continuously drive him out of the pocket and put him on the run. If Watson keeps throwing short and running the ball on most of his drop backs, that will limit Fitzpatrick’s opportunities for fantasy points. Remember that Fitzpatrick has lined up as a deep safety on 73% of his snaps as a Steeler, which should take him out of a majority of plays if Houston continues its conservative ways.

The IDP Lead Balloon of Week 3: Taylor Rapp, Los Angeles Rams

This one is a conundrum. In 2019, Rapp was a fantasy stud who totaled an impressive 100 tackles, three turnovers, and eight PDs in just 15 games (10 starts). That production had him pegged as one of the hottest IDP sleepers of the summer in many IDP circles, despite the fact most of Rapp's stats came after John Johnson III got hurt.

However, the tarnish started coming off of Rapp's star this offseason when he missed camp time with a knee injury. This missed camp time was something many IDP rankers, including myself, should have taken more seriously when ranking Rapp so highly, but his talent convinced us otherwise. Ultimately that knee injury hurt Rapp in two ways. First, it kept him from learning new Defensive Coordinator Brandon Staley's defensive scheme. Second, it allowed sixth-round pick Jordan Fuller to impress the coaching staff and steal Rapp’s starting role on this defense. As a result, Rapp saw the field on only 21% of his snaps in Week 1 and only 24% in Week 2.

Given Coach McVay's strong vocal support for Fuller the past two weeks, it appears Rapp isn't going to get his job back any time soon. As long as Rapp is on the outside looking in with the Rams, IDP managers playing in shallow leagues can feel comfortable releasing him completely. However, if you play in a dynasty league with a long bench, he is still worth stashing. Either way, you should no longer consider starting him after two straight weeks in which he saw the field on less than a ¼ of his team’s snaps.



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Top IDP Waiver Wire Pickups for Week 3

For that fan who requested it (we're looking at you, Trevor in Lubbock), Rotoballer finally has a weekly IDP waiver column! Trevor is going to be psyched! But hopefully, this column reaches more than just Trevor since he doesn't actually exist. Heck, let's hope this even helps a few people!

If you're active in IDP, you know that not all IDP leagues have the same roster and scoring settings. In fact, IDP leagues are famous for their customizability. This high degree of variation in IDP scoring can result in different fantasy defenders having wildly different fantasy values, depending on your league scoring and setup, however. Just like playing in a PPR league may raise James White's value higher than it would be in Non-PPR scoring, certain IDP defenders hold different values depending on your league scoring and setup.

For that reason, Rotoballer's weekly IDP waiver column will offer custom FAAB recommendations for various IDP setups. Each week we will pick our waiver wire players to add, list which IDP formats you should add them in, and tell you how much FAAB you should offer for them.

 

IDP Settings

For our purposes, we will use the following designations/league settings for our FAAB recommendations:

  • Standard Scoring Leagues: This system usually rewards 1-point per tackle, 3-points per sack, 4-points per turnover, and sometimes offers 2-points for a tackle for loss (TFL) or pass deflection (PD). Standard leagues also usually only start one DL, LB, and DB, respectively. You will always prioritize your FAAB budget towards offensive players in Standard Scoring IDP leagues, though you shouldn't underestimate the value of adding a great defender in them.
  • Defense Premium Leagues: Defense Premium leagues tend to try to make defensive players worth as much as offensive players. Commissioners often accomplish this by rewarding 2-points per tackle, 3-points for TFL or PDs, 4-points per sack, and 6-points per turnover. In these leagues, you don't necessarily prioritize offensive players on waivers. While it is a case-by-case analysis, defenders in these leagues can often be worth as much as most offensive waiver additions.
  • Deep Defense Leagues: These are leagues that have you start a full defense, or require you to start CBs and DTs, or they are leagues so deep (think 16 team leagues) that at least 32 players at each position (DL, LB, and DB) start every week.
  • Dynasty Leagues: This is self-explanatory to most. Dynasty leagues are those in which every player you draft/add is on your team until you trade or release him.

Now that we have that explanation out of the way, let's get to this week's top adds! Remember that we will only address defenders who are rostered in less than 30% of IDP leagues on ESPN, Yahoo, or other prominent sites. We will also do our best to avoid obvious additions. While players like Myles Garrett are somehow rostered in only 31% of ESPN IDP leagues, we assume that anyone reading this material knows to add Garrett if they can.

 

1. Marcus Maye, New York Jets

Maye was an entry on our pre-season IDP sleepers list, picked as the most likely player to take over the beneficial role Jamal Adams filled in this Jets Defense. While Maye doesn't match Adams in talent, he is the best pure defender that the Jets have right now, and they will continue to utilize him all over the field as their primary playmaker.

It is astounding that his roster percentage in IDP leagues on ESPN is just 19% despite his quick start to the season. He sports a decent DB fantasy floor, thanks to his tackling ability, and a nice ceiling because of his heavy blitz usage. Maye should be rostered as a top-12 fantasy DB right now. While he is young enough to merit interest in dynasty leagues, his future fantasy potential will likely depend on how many defensive playmakers New York adds next offseason and beyond.

Standard Scoring FAAB: 5%
Defense Premium FAAB: 7%
Deep Defense FAAB: 8%
Dynasty: 5%

 

2. Christian Kirksey, Green Bay Packers

Kirksey is one of those guys who should be rostered in almost all IDP leagues at this point. He has taken over the valuable role that Blake Martinez vacated in the middle of Green Bay's defense, and he is playing it just as well, if not better than Martinez did. Kirksey has totaled 24 tackles (16 solo) in two games, and nine of the remaining games on his schedule are against teams who love to run the ball.

As long as this former Brown is healthy, he should provide you one of the better floors in Standard Scoring leagues. His tackle totals should be high enough that he is valuable even in shallow Defense Premium leagues, and he is young enough (just turned 28) that he merits dynasty consideration as well.

Standard Scoring FAAB: 4%
Defense Premium FAAB: 3%
Deep Defense FAAB: 6%
Dynasty: 1%

 

3. Patrick Queen, Baltimore Ravens

Queen has come out of the gates swinging to open his rookie year. He was always a terrific dynasty option, but he has hit his fantasy stride faster than most could have expected. The LSU product has 17 tackles (11 solo) in two games, plus a sack and an FF. That is terrific production for a rookie LB in both Standard Scoring and Defense Premium, especially considering he had little offseason work to acclimate himself to the pros.

His elite coverage skills, above-average ability to rush the passer and a well-established role in the middle of Baltimore's defense make him a better fantasy prospect than the more highly touted Isaiah Simmons right now.

Standard Scoring FAAB: 2%
Defense Premium FAAB: 4%
Deep Defense FAAB: 6%
Dynasty: 7%

 

4. Jeremy Chinn, Carolina Panthers

If you have read any of my IDP articles, you know I love Jeremy Chinn and have since before the NFL Draft. The Panthers are currently using Chinn as an LB, but he has DB eligibility on almost all fantasy platforms. That is insanely exciting… for Trevor and me! LBs pretty much always score more fantasy points than DBs overall, so having an LB who is DB eligible is a bit of a cheat code if the player is any good. Chinn is excellent, and he will continue to get better.

He is a priority add in dynasties, and he can start for you in all formats right now. If you play in a redraft league, however, he may hold more value in Standard Scoring than in Defense Premium thanks to his current usage as a tackler in the box rather than a deep safety who will collect PDs and picks.

Standard Scoring FAAB: 3%
Defense Premium FAAB: 3%
Deep Defense FAAB: 7%
Dynasty: 7%

 

5. Cameron Heyward, Pittsburgh Steelers

Heyward isn't a sexy player, but he is consistent and has been for years. He has totaled more than 50 tackles and at least nine sacks in every healthy season he has had since 2014 except for one, and in that season, he totaled 12 sacks and 45 tackles. He gets lost on this talented Pitt defense, but he will continue to be a performer capable of contributing to your fantasy team in multiple ways.

He should be rostered in 12-team Standard Scoring leagues, as well as in all Deep Defense leagues. It is surprising to see he is rostered in less than 23% of leagues. If you need to replace Nick Bosa this year, Heyward should be one of your top options.

Standard Scoring FAAB: 4%
Deep Defense FAAB: 6%

 

6. Myles Jack, Jacksonville Jaguars

Jack was an elite NFL Draft prospect at one point, but he has yet to quite live up to his draft billing despite being a steady player for years. However, this season looks different so far. Through two games, he has 14 solo tackles, eight half-tackles, a sack, and PD. The Jaguars are more competitive than a lot of people were expecting, and this could lead to Jack continuing gis hot streak as he plays the run just as much as the pass, unlike in years past.

Jack is worth adding in deeper leagues and in Standard leagues based on the chance he continues this hot streak. Still, his age and lack of career consistency mean his dynasty value is lower than players like Queen, Kenneth Murray, and Isaiah Simmons.

Standard Scoring FAAB: 2%
Deep Defense FAAB: 4%

 

7.  Emmanuel Moseley, San Francisco 49ers

Another member of our pre-season sleepers list, Moseley, has put up very nice production from the CB position the first two weeks of this season. Rostered in just 15% of IDP leagues, Moseley has registered an impressive 17 tackles (11 solo) plus two PDs. Expect him to continue to be picked on by opposing offenses with Richard Sherman, Nick Bosa, and others out. That means more opportunities for tackles and PDs. He will be picked on even more when Sherman returns, too.

Moseley is worth rostering in Deep Defense leagues that force you to start a CB or two, though he isn't worth using FAAB on in setups other than that one.

Deep Defense FAAB: 4%

 

8. Harold Landry III, Tennessee Titans

Landry was an undersized end coming out of Boston College, but he landed 21.5 sacks in his final 20 collegiate games. It took some time for him to acclimate to the pro game, but at 24 years old, he should be rostered in dynasty and Deep Defense leagues. He is off to a bit of a slow start this year, but expect him to come close to the nine sacks he put up in his second pro season last year. He may not merit rostering in most redraft leagues just yet, but he should be on Dynasty and Deep Defense rosters

Deep Defense FAAB: 2%
Dynasty: 2%



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Week 2 IDP Rankings (with Streamers and Fades)

That was quick, wasn’t it? We are already on to Week 2, with the pre-season… er, I mean Week 1 in the rearview mirror. It was a reasonably kind Week 1 to our IDP ranks and sleepers, too, with a 66% success rate for our Week1 Streamer and Fade predictions. It was an even better week for our pre-season IDP sleeper picks, with our dark horse picks of Marcus Maye, Jeremy Chinn, and Emmanuel Moseley putting up impressive fantasy weeks to begin the season.

Let's hope for even more success in Week 2, as defenses acclimate to this new season and those hamstrings finally loosen up, huh?

Note: As always, our rankings will be split into Rotoballer’s three primary IDP positions (DL, LB, and DB), and they will typically come with some flyer/fade notes for each position as well. Also, as per usual, we will include edge rushers in both our DL and LB ranks since they have different eligibility depending on the fantasy site you are using.

 

Top-25 Fantasy Defensive Linemen for Week 2

Rank Player Opponent
1 Myles Garrett Bengals
2 T.J. Watt Broncos
3 Nick Bosa Jets
4 Joey Bosa Chiefs
5 Chandler Jones Washington Football Team
6 Khalil Mack Giants
7 Aaron Donald Eagles
8 Frank Clark Chargers
9 Chase Young Cardinals
10 Shaquil Barrett Panthers
11 Matthew Judon Texans
12 J.J. Watt Ravens
13 Bud Dupree Broncos
14 Grady Jarrett Cowboys
15 Sheldon Richardson Browns
16 Za’Darius Smith Lions
17 Leonard Floyd Eagles
18 Aldon Smith Falcons
19 Deforest Buckner Saints
20 Chris Jones Chargers
21 Harold Landry III Jaguars
22 Sam Hubbard Browns
23 Cameron Jordan Raiders
24 Jadeveon Clowney Jaguars
25 Montez Sweat Cardinals

 

DL Streamer of Week 2: Sheldon Richardson, Cleveland Browns

While Richardson is several years removed from being a Pro Bowl-caliber tackle, he has an excellent matchup this week. Myles Garrett will draw a lot of attention from the Bengals, and Cincinnati has one of the worst interior lines in the NFL to boot. Bengals’ starting Left Guard Michael Jordan allowed two pressures and two hurries last week, which is in line with the two pressures per game he allowed last season. Meanwhile, starting Center Trey Hopkins allowed three pressures last week, and starting Right Guard Xavier Su’a-Filo has allowed nearly three pressures per game when he has been a regular starter. This interior unit is poor, and Richardson should abuse them to the tune of at least three tackles and a sack.

 

DL Fade of Week 2: J.J. Watt, Houston Texans

Last week we faded Myles Garrett because he was going up against Lamar Jackson, and that move proved on point. Here we are doing the same with Watt for similar reasons. While Watt is still one of the best in the NFL, his skill set may be even less suited to stopping Lamar than Garrett's was. Watt is a powerful and deceptively quick athlete, but he isn't fast enough to track down Lamar with any regularity. Remember that the Ravens allowed just two sacks last week, none to the superstar Garrett, and they averaged only 1.9 sacks allowed per game in 2019. Watt can start in your lineup still, but he isn’t likely to finish in the top-10 at his position this week.

 

Underrated DL Matchup of the Week: Matthew Judon v. Deshaun Watson

Deshaun Watson is a terrific QB. He is both elusive and a smart player in the pocket, which should cause headaches for opposing defenders in the same way Lamar Jackson does. Watson isn't as difficult to bring down as Lamar is, however. In 2019, Watson was sacked an average of 3.4 times per game, which was third-worst in the NFL. When Watson went against Baltimore in 2019, Judon totaled two sacks, seven solo tackles, a forced fumble, and three TFLs. This line hasn’t improved since then, either, with Right Tackle Tytus Howard allowing more than two pressures per game over his career. Howard was beaten at least three times by Frank Clark in Week 1, and you should expect Judon to match up with him a lot this weekend. If you need a second pass rusher this week, Judon has definite boom potential.

 

Top-25 Fantasy Linebackers for Week 2

Rank Player Opponent
1 Darius Leonard Jaguars
2 Bobby Wagner Patriots
3 Blake Martinez Bears
4 Joe Schobert Titans
5 Jerome Baker Bills
6 Zach Cunningham Ravens
7 Devin Bush Broncos
8 Jaylon Smith Falcons
9 Roquan Smith Giants
10 Christian Kirksey Lions
11 T.J. Watt Broncos
12 Fred Warner Jets
13 Lavonte David Panthers
14 Alexander Johnson Steelers
15 Demario Davis Raiders
16 Deion Jones Cowboys
17 Cory Littleton Saints
18 Devin White Panthers
19 Patrick Queen Texans
20 Eric Kendricks Colts
21 Tremaine Edmunds Dolphins
22 Jordan Hicks Washington Football Team
23 Micah Kiser Eagles
24 Kenneth Murray Chiefs
25 Shaq Thompson Buccaneers

 

LB Streamer of Week 2: Alexander Johnson, Denver Broncos

In 2019, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offensive line was 30th out of 32 teams in Adjusted Offensive Line Yards, and they tied for second-worst in the NFL with 23% of their rushing attempts getting stuffed at the line, per Football Outsiders. Still, Pittsburgh was the 10th most run-heavy team in Week 1, as well as in 2019. With James Conner a big question mark to play this week, and ineffective when he played last week, the Steelers can be expected to run the ball through multiple backs without much help from their offensive line. Against a very run-heavy Tennessee team last week, Alexander Johnson had himself a week with 12 combined tackles. Pittsburgh won't run as much as the Titans do, but they will run the ball at Johnson enough for him to get another eight tackles and a couple of TFLs.

 

LB Fade of Week 2: Fred Warner, San Francisco 49ers

Now I know what you’re going to say, “a stud LB going against a bad offense should spell a big fantasy day!”

On its face, that is true. However, all fantasy players need snaps and opportunities to accumulate points. Last week Tremaine Edmunds totaled just two and a half tackles for fantasy owners despite going against this poor Jets offense, and the reason for that was a lack of opportunities. The Jets ran the third least amount of plays in the NFL in Week 1 (53), and you shouldn't expect them to run much more this week. Expect them to get behind early and suffer many three-and-outs against a talented and angry 49ers Defense. That means Warner won't be on the field that much, which limits your fantasy opportunities and upside.

 

Underrated LB Matchup of the Week: Demario Davis v. Las Vegas Raiders

The Raiders were eighth in the NFL in rushing percentage last season, and in Week 1 they finished seventh in that same category by running on 50.82% of their plays. With two of his three starting WRs being rookies, expect Gruden to exercise this same game script to keep Drew Brees off the field in Week 2. If the Raiders can successfully run the ball, or the Saints struggle to throw consistently without Michael Thomas on the field, that could spell a good fantasy game script for Demario Davis. Shaq Thompson racked up 12 tackles against a run-heavy Raiders attack last week, and Davis could do the same. Expect at least seven tackles, and perhaps a PD or two in coverage if they use Davis to cover Waller.

 

Top-25 Fantasy Defensive Backs for Week 2

Rank Player Opponent
1 Budda Baker Washington Football Team
2 John Johnson III Eagles
3 Tracy Walker Packers
4 Jamal Adams Patriots
5 Harrison Smith Colts
6 Jabrill Peppers Bears
7 Landon Collins Cardinals
8 Jordan Poyer Dolphins
9 Justin Simmons Steelers
10 Minkah Fitzpatrick Broncos
11 Jeremy Chinn Buccaneers
12 Taylor Rapp Eagles
13 Vonn Bell Browns
14 Marcus Maye 49ers
15 Kareem Jackson Steelers
16 Tyrann Mathieu Chargers
17 Keanu Neal Cowboys
18 Johnathan Abram Saints
19 Marlon Humphrey Texans
20 Adrian Phillips Seahawks
21 Jessie Bates III Browns
22 Chuck Clark Texans
23 Terrell Edmunds Broncos
24 Juan Thornhill Chargers
25 Logan Ryan Bears

 

DB Streamer of Week 2: Kareem Jackson v. Pittsburgh Steelers

Jackson is a vet with a decent floor and ceiling this week thanks to his ability to adapt to Pittsburgh’s whims. He is underrated in run defense, showing up numerous times against Derrick Henry last week, and he should notch at least four tackles against the NFL’s 10th heaviest running team (Pittsburgh) this season and last. Expect him to line up in coverage on 74% of his snaps, per his tendencies the past three seasons, however. That should spell several opportunities at a big play with the risk-taking Big Ben throwing the ball his way.

A decent tackle floor and ample opportunity for a big play are what you want in a weekly streamer. Jackson joins Alexander Johnson as a great streamer this week against an effective Steelers offense that should stay on the field long enough for these Broncos defenders to have ample fantasy opportunities.

 

DB Fade of Week 2: Carlton Davis v. Carolina Panthers

Davis has spent only 59 snaps in the box since the beginning of 2019, which is only 5% of the 1,085 snaps he has played over that time. That means that Davis won’t be involved in a ton of run support. That shouldn’t shock anyone who drafted him, as he has always been a PD reliant fantasy asset who collects most of his tackles after the catch. It does limit his fantasy floor against a team whose best and most used offensive weapon (Christian McCaffrey, obviously) is a running back who lines up out wide only 5% of his snaps.

Of more concern in this matchup, however, is that Davis has only covered the slot on 6% of his snaps since 2019.  That is a problem because Carolina’s top receiver (D.J. Moore) has lined up in the slot or backfield on nearly 18% of his snaps since 2019. Last week Moore spent even more time in the slot, lining up there for 26% of his snaps. That means Moore should spend considerable time away from Davis when it matters this week. Carolina could even decide to move Moore around the formation, or keep him in the slot, specifically to avoid Davis.

If the Buccaneers don't use Davis to shadow Moore in this game, which they did not do in either of their games against Carolina last year, the former Auburn Tiger could be left covering Carolina’s third or fourth-best offensive weapon all game. That limits his fantasy ceiling and his floor.

 

Underrated DB Matchup of Week 1: Harrison Smith v. Indianapolis Colts

Although they were locked in a competitive game against a weak opponent this past Sunday, the Colts had Philip Rivers throw the ball on 68% of their plays (46 total attempts). 63% of those passes (29 of 46) were of the dump-off variety, meaning they were within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage. That usage is consistent with how Rivers operated with the Chargers last year, too. In 2019 the Chargers threw the ball 63% of the time, with 55% of those throws failing to travel more than 10 yards from the line of scrimmage. If the 2020 Colts continue down this same path, we can expect tons of short throws to RBs and TEs and many interceptions.

If the Colts come close to throwing the ball 40 times in Week 2, which they might with how poor this Vikings pass-defense looked last Sunday, it could spell ample opportunities for an all-purpose safety like Harrison Smith. With half of Rivers' throws going to Nyheim Hynes, Jonathan Taylor, and Jack Doyle, we should see Smith clean up at least seven tackles between the sticks. With Rivers' penchant for turnovers, Smith could be looking at his first interception of the season as well.

 

My Biased Overreaction of Week 2: Ranking Jeremy Chinn as DB11

Let's just pencil Chinn in here as my overreaction for every week of this fair season, shall we? He has been my IDP crush all summer despite his rookie status, and I believe he is a special IDP asset. The Panthers used Chinn EXACTLY how I had hoped they would in Week 1, starting him at LB and never taking him off of the field. That sort of usage gives fantasy managers a fantasy DB playing the LB position in real life, which can translate into elite tackles and sack numbers for a fantasy DB. You rarely get that sort of production out of a DB in fantasy, and Chinn is talented enough to take advantage. I will rank him high most weeks until I have a good reason not to. Love the kid, and I don't care who knows it!



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Week 1 IDP Rankings, Streamers, and Fades

It’s nearly here! After all of our waiting and hoping, a brand new season of the Bachelor is… I mean, football is here! Yay!

As we kick off this new and unprecedented NFL season, Rotoballer is going to be changing up how we do our weekly IDP rankings analysis. Taking over the weekly IDP rankings article will be Yours Truly, and I will be putting my own spin on things. If you are one of my 14 devoted followers on Twitter, you know what to expect. If you are anyone else, let me tell you that you should expect some bad jokes mixed with some mediocre commentary. We will then grind those two ingredients together and sprinkle them on top of our weekly IDP rankings. It’s going to be incredibly… digestible! I promise you that much!

Note: These rankings will be split into Rotoballer’s three primary IDP positions (DL, LB, and DB), and they will typically come with some flyer/fade notes for each position as well. Expect edge-rushing linebackers like T.J. Watt to regularly appear on both our DL and LB rankings each week, because they are categorized as Defensive Linemen on some prominent fantasy apps (ESPN) while being dubbed Linebackers on others. Now that we've covered all that let's get to the good stuff!

 

Top-25 Fantasy Defensive Linemen for Week 1

Rank Player Opponent
1 T.J. Watt Giants
2 Joey Bosa Bengals
3 J.J. Watt Chiefs
4 Frank Clark Texans
5 Nick Bosa Cardinals
6 Cameron Heyward Giants
7 Aaron Donald Cowboys
8 Khalil Mack Lions
9 Bud Dupree Giants
10 Chandler Jones 49ers
11 Deforest Buckner Jaguars
12 Cameron Jordan Buccaneers
13 Myles Garrett Ravens
14 Maxx Crosby Panthers
15 Melvin Ingram Bengals
16 Calais Campbell Browns
17 Bradley Chubb Titans
18 Chase Young Eagles
19 Shaquil Barrett Saints
20 Demarcus Lawrence Rams
21 Carlos Dunlap Chargers
22 Za’Darius Smith Vikings
23 Sam Hubbard Chargers
24 Yannick Ngakoue Packers
25 Dante Fowler, Jr. Seahawks

 

DL Streamer of Week 1: Maxx Crosby, Las Vegas Raiders

Teddy Bridgewater has a career sack rate of 8.3%. In fact, before playing behind the elite Saints line last year, Bridgewater never had a sack rate lower than 8% in any of his NFL seasons. That rate won’t get better in Carolina, where the starting Left Tackle is already dealing with injuries, while the starting Center and Left Guard combined to allow 93 total pressures last season. Remember that Crosby lined up on the interior of the Raiders' defense for 53% of his defensive snaps last year.

Expect Crosby to notch at least one sack, a couple of TFLs, and four total tackles in this matchup. Feel okay spot starting him this week if you are one of the many who lost Danielle Hunter to the IR today.

 

DL Fade of Week 1: Myles Garrett, Cleveland Browns

Myles Garrett is my pick for Defensive Player of the Year in 2020, but that campaign won’t start strong. Baltimore has a terrific offensive line that kept Garrett in check last year, and Lamar Jackson is notoriously hard to bring down. If you have Garrett, you’re playing him. Just don’t expect too much in Week 1, except maybe a junk sack where Lamar runs into his arms.

 

Underrated DL Matchup of Week 1: Frank Clark v. Houston O-Line

Frank Clark struggled early in his first year with KC, but he caught on in Week 7 and was a consistent threat for the rest of the season. That culminated in a big playoff game against the Houston Texans, in which Clark sacked Deshaun Watson three times. The Texans return pretty much the same offensive line this year as they had last, and their receiver corps is now missing DeAndre Hopkins. Expect the Texans to play from behind more this week than they did against KC in the playoffs and expect Clark to again take advantage to the tune of at least one sack and several solos.

 

Top-25 Fantasy Linebackers for Week 1

Rank Player Opponent
1 Darius Leonard Jaguars
2 Bobby Wagner Falcons
3 Cory Littleton Panthers
4 Joe Schobert Colts
5 Roquan Smith Lions
6 Fred Warner Cardinals
7 Blake Martinez Steelers
8 Devin Bush Giants
9 Jaylon Smith Rams
10 T.J. Watt Giants
11 Jordan Hicks 49ers
12 Leighton Vander Esch Rams
13 Deion Jones Seahawks
14 Christian Kirksey Vikings
15 Tremaine Edmunds Jets
16 Lavonte David Saints
17 Devin White Saints
18 Kenneth Murray Bengals
19 Alexander Johnson Titans
20 Zach Cunningham Chiefs
21 Shaq Thompson Raiders
22 Demario Davis Buccaneers
23 Jayon Brown Broncos
24 Eric Kendricks Packers
25 Patrick Queen Browns

 

LB Streamer of Week 1: Kenneth Murray, Los Angeles Chargers

Expectations for all rookie defenders, including Murray, should probably be tempered in 2020 due to the lack of pre-season games or camps in this unique offseason. There are some exceptional cases in some special situations, though. For example, do you know who else had a limited offseason and has zero NFL games under their belts? The Bengals’ starting Left Tackle and Quarterback, both of whom Murray is going against this week.

Murray’s style of play is one that typically transitions well to the NFL. He is a fast, athletic, downhill thumper who should rack up tackles in the middle of a talented Chargers Defense. It's hard to imagine him having many problems with a rookie Left Tackle or a  Right Tackle who has been dubbed a bottom-10 run blocker two years in a row at Pro Football Focus. He also shouldn't struggle coming up the middle against three blockers (Trey Hopkins, Michael Jordan, and Xavier Su’a-Filo) whose PFF ratings are all below average. Murray should notch eight tackles and two or three TFLs in this game, even if he hasn't ever played an NFL game. Feel free to start him if you're nervous about the health (Fred Warner) or fantasy opportunities (Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch) of your usual starter.

 

LB Fade of Week 1: Lavonte David, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

In two games against these same Saints last year, David collected 10 solo tackles and only one half-tackle total. He got no sacks, no PDs, no INTs, and no TFLs. If anything, this offensive line has improved since then, and this Week 1 matchup will be even more of a shootout than usual. Don’t expect David to get a sack against this veteran unit that allowed the fourth-lowest sack rate in the NFL last year. Don’t expect a pick (Drew Brees is the QB after all) or a PD, either. Instead, expect to fade David, and feel comfortable starting at least 12 other LBs before him this week.

 

Underrated LB Matchup of Week 1: Pittsburgh LBs v. Daniel Jones

The Giants are starting a Left Tackle with zero NFL experience, and who many ranked as just the third or fourth-best pass-blocking tackle in his class. Their Right Tackle allowed pressure on nearly 10% of his snaps last year, and the interior of this line was part of a unit that ranked as only the 25th best in Adjusted Line Yards by Football Outsiders in 2019.

To make matters worse, Daniel Jones turned the ball over 24 times and took 38 sacks in less than 13 full games last year. His 12 fumbles as a rookie should have T.J. Watt licking his lips in anticipation of at least one strip-sack this week, while Devin Bush Jr. should be a comfortable Week 1 fantasy start in even the shallowest of fantasy leagues. Bud Dupree should even be considered a spot starter at LB in leagues that pay a lot of points for big plays (sacks, FF, etc.).

 

Top-25 Fantasy Defensive Backs for Week 1

Rank Player Opponent
1 Budda Baker 49ers
2 John Johnson III Cowboys
3 Landon Collins Eagles
4 Harrison Smith Packers
5 Tracy Walker Bears
6 Jabrill Peppers Steelers
7 Jamal Adams Falcons
8 Jordan Poyer Jets
9 Taylor Rapp Cowboys
10 Minkah Fitzpatrick Giants
11 Keanu Neal Seahawks
12 Tyrann Mathieu Texans
13 Chuck Clark Browns
14 Justin Simmons Titans
15 Vonn Bell Chargers
16 Jeremy Chinn Raiders
17 Jessie Bates III Chargers
18 Marlon Humphrey Browns
19 Carlton Davis Saints
20 Terrell Edmunds Giants
21 Logan Ryan Steelers
22 Johnathan Abram Panthers
23 Juan Thornhill Texans
24 Kareem Jackson Titans
25 Malcolm Jenkins Buccaneers

 

DB Streamer of Week 1: Jeremy Chinn v. Las Vegas

For those who have followed my IDP reports this summer, you know that Chinn is one of my big IDP sleepers in dynasty and deeper redrafts. While it’s true that rookies often need time to adjust to life in the NFL secondary, a matchup with Las Vegas could be the perfect introduction for this talented rookie thumper. The Raiders are likely to try to establish the run in this one and try to control the game early, and we should expect Chinn to spend a lot of time in the box as a result. It won’t surprise anyone if Chinn is assigned to follow Josh Jacobs around for most of the day, and Jacobs projects for at least 20 rushes and a few targets in this contest.

Don’t start Chinn if you have an elite DB on your roster, but if you play in a deep league or need a spot starter, you could do worse than taking a flyer on the Southern Illinois alum. His floor looks to be three or four tackles, but this former corner could get you far more if the Raiders test him regularly.

 

DB Fade of Week 1: Justin Simmons, Denver Broncos

Against these same run-heavy Titans last year, Simmons secured an INT and four tackles. That is probably his ceiling in this matchup, and he may not come close to reaching it if the Titans have their way. With the recent injury to Vonn Miller and Bradley Chubb reportedly being eased back into the defense slowly, Denver may struggle to get after and pressure Ryan Tannahill in this one. The Titans will try to run the clock out and run as few plays as possible, and when they do pass, they should have plenty of time to do so.

A calm Tannahill should limit Simmons' big-play opportunities. If the Titans control the clock like they want to, there may be a limited opportunity for Simmons to make any plays at all. After all, Simmons only spent about 32% of his time in the box or at the line last season, and he did so even less against Derrick Henry.

 

Underrated DB Matchup of Week 1: Keanu Neal vs. Seattle

Dan Quinn has lined Keanu Neal up at the line of scrimmage or in the box on 46.7% of Neal's career snaps. That's a high amount, and it explains why Neal has averaged an impressive seven tackles per game in his short career. That kind of usage also spells a good week against a typically run-heavy Seattle offense that finished sixth in the NFL in run percentage last year, and first in run percentage the year before that. When an offense that likes to pound the rock goes against a sure tackling in-the-box safety, it spells a promising fantasy floor for your DB.

Neal is also often used to contain Tight Ends on passing downs, which is noteworthy since Russell Wilson targeted the TE position on 19.7% of his passes last year, despite Will Dissly and others being out with injury for most of the year. If Neal is healthy, which all reports indicate he is, this could be a good return game for him and for fantasy managers in need of a DB to replace the injured Derwin James.



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Final IDP Tiered Draft Rankings and Analysis

Welcome back for our last Individual Defensive Player (IDP) rankings analysis of the pre-season! With the season just around the corner, many of you are making the final tweaks to your roster or setting up for your final 2020 draft. Hopefully, these ranks and tiers will help you draft the right guy or avoid dropping the wrong one.

Note that while our RotoBaller ranks use only the defensive line (DL), linebacker (LB), and defensive back (DB) positions, our ranks do not assume that your league drafts on one particular website or uses one type of scoring.

If you are new to IDP, we do this because IDP scoring is highly customizable and is best when you and your league mates find what works best for you.

 

IDP Scoring

Because so many IDP leagues operate with different rules, scoring, and lineups, we try to accommodate you all in our rankings. If it helps, the following analysis does segregate IDP scoring into two general categories, which are as follows:

  • Standard scoring- This is the most common format used in general IDP leagues. It is a format that awards 1-2 points for solo tackles, a ½ point for half-tackles, 3 points for sacks, 2 points for Tackles for Loss (TFL) & Passes Defended (PD), and 4-5 points for Interceptions (INT) & Forced Fumbles (FF).
  • Big Play scoring- This format seeks to even out the scoring between LBs, DLs, and DBs by rewarding more points for big plays like sacks and INTs. They typically reward 1-2 points for tackles, 4-5 points for sacks, 2-4 points for TFLs and PDs, and 8+ points for turnovers.

 

Tier 1: One Defender Who Should Go Top-90

Tier

Rank Player Name Pos Pierre Chris Justin Consensus
1 1 Darius Leonard LB 1 1 1 1.000

There is no change here. Darius Leonard is our unanimous top individual defender in fantasy, just like he was back in May. Last year, he scored 24+ points in standard-scoring leagues multiple times, and he matched several QBs in Big Play scoring leagues as well. He is the rare tackler who merits being the top-overall defender in both Big Play and standard IDP scoring, thanks to his high tackle floor and lovely ceiling in sacks, INTs, and PDs.
 

Tier 2: Defenders Worthy of Drafting Ahead of A WR4

Tier Rank Player Name Pos Pierre Chris Justin

Consensus

2 2 Bobby Wagner LB 2 2 3 2.333
2 3 Danielle Hunter DL 3 3 2 2.667
2 4 Cory Littleton LB 4 8 4 5.333
2 5 Joey Bosa DL 5 6 5 5.333
2 6 Blake Martinez LB 7 12 7 8.667
2 7 Myles Garrett DL 13 4 10 9.000
2 8 Budda Baker DB 10 7 12 9.667
2 9 Landon Collins DB 8 10 13 10.333
2 10 Joe Schobert LB 6 11 15 10.667
2 11 Nick Bosa DL 9 13 11 11.000
2 12 Jaylon Smith LB 18 9 8 11.667

The fantasy stock of Budda Baker and Landon Collins is elevated this year by the lack of depth at their position. With the season-ending injury of Derwin James, there aren't many DBs you can trust for consistent fantasy production in 2020. That is why you may have to reach for Baker and Collins earlier than you would like. They are two of the few DBs with a high ceiling in standard scoring and a high floor in Big Play scoring leagues.

Perhaps the most important thing to note about this tier, however, is how many DLs are rated ahead of LBs who will likely outscore them in standard scoring. We do this because the DL position is perilously thin on a majority of fantasy websites/apps.  You have an elite tier of four or five pass rushers who you can count on most weeks, and then you have a bunch of inconsistent guys with low floors. However, this dynamic changes drastically if you play on apps such as ESPN's, which gives 3-4 outside linebackers fantasy eligibility at the DL position. There, you have the option of drafting players like T.J. Watt, Chandler Jones, and Shaquil Barrett to start at your DL position, and so the DL position is suddenly much less thin. In those leagues, which are not the norm, you may see the value of some of these DLs drop a tiny bit.

Remember to check all defenders' position eligibility on the app/website you're using before you draft or make roster moves, so you know just how deep or thin the DL position is for you.
 

Tier 3: Mid-Round Defenders Who Can Win Their Position

Tier Rank Player Name Pos Pierre Chris Justin Consensus
3 13 Jamal Adams DB 14 19 6 13.000
3 14 Roquan Smith LB 12 17 14 14.333
3 15 Leighton Vander Esch LB 15 14 16 15.000
3 16 Aaron Donald DL 23 15 9 15.667
3 17 Devin Bush LB 11 18 18 15.667
3 18 Tremaine Edmunds LB 17 20 17 18.000
3 19 Zach Cunningham LB 16 22 22 20.000
3 20 Jordan Hicks LB 24 24 19 22.333
3 21 John Johnson DB 21 26 25 24.000
3 22 Deion Jones LB 20 29 24 24.333
3 23 Lavonte David LB 22 31 20 24.333
3 24 Demario Davis LB 26 25 26 25.667
3 25 J.J. Watt DL 25 28 27 26.667
3 26 T.J. Watt LB/DL 40 5 37 27.333

When he was healthy last year, Jamal Adams was the top overall DB in most fantasy setups. He is still talented enough to be an elite DB for you this year, too. That is why Justin has Adams in his top-10 overall defenders. However, Adams falls in our overall ranks because his new job in Seattle may bear better real football fruits than it will fantasy stats. Remember that Kam Chancellor only topped 100 combined tackles in a season once and only two career sacks during eight seasons in Seattle, while Earl Thomas never notched a sack playing for Pete Carroll. Also, recall that much of Adams' fantasy value has come from sacks and tackles. Expect a slight dip in fantasy production for Adams this year, even if he is joining a better defense overall.

Another player that Justin has higher than the overall ranks do is Aaron Donald. Donald's stock should be exceptionally high in IDP leagues that force you to start a Defensive Tackle (DT) and in leagues that highly reward TFLs. In those leagues, feel free to draft Donald higher than several of the guys on this list. However, his low tackle totals and lack of PDs keep him below players like Hunter and Bosa in standard IDP leagues.

The final outlier in this tier is T.J. Watt. Two of our rankers have Watt outside of their top-35 players, while yours truly places him in the top-5. Why this discrepancy? Well, there are two reasons for it.

I have Watt so much higher than others do because he is eligible as a DL in ESPN leagues, where he should be the top overall DL selected. I also have him higher because he is an elite fantasy LB if you play in a Big Play scoring league. Watt’s elite and consistent FF, TFL, and sack production make him a top fantasy LB in that sort of scoring. However, if you play in a standard scoring league on an app where Watt is only LB eligible, feel free to rank him lower.
 

Tier 4: Big Name Bargains

Tier Rank Player Name Pos Pierre Chris Justin Consensus
4 27 Cameron Jordan DL 29 23 32 28.000
4 28 Fred Warner LB 42 16 30 29.333
4 29 Chandler Jones LB/DL 28 21 40 29.667
4 30 Harrison Smith DB 34 27 31 30.667
4 31 Devin White LB 38 35 23 32.000
4 32 Shaq Thompson LB 31 39 34 34.667
4 33 Jordan Poyer DB 36 40 29 35.000
4 34 Shaquil Barrett LB/DL 19 41 47 35.667

Fred Warner is a bust candidate for many this year, which is reflected in some of our rankings. The low projections some have for him could be supported by the fact Warner is currently on the team’s Covid-19 list, too. However, Warner finished last year as the leader of an elite San Francisco defense and a top-seven LB in most fantasy formats. This summer, the camp reports were glowing for Warner too, as he added muscle and was showing more pop against the run game. When healthy, the 49ers' defensive leader shouldn't come off the field, and he shouldn't have trouble matching or even topping his fantasy production from last year.

Chandler Jones is another player who sees added value on ESPN and others that use 3-4 edges as DLs in fantasy. If you can use Jones at the DL spot, he should be a top-five player at his position thanks to his five straight years of double-digit sacks. He also holds extra value as an LB in Big Play scoring. However, just like with T.J. Watt, you can fade Jones if you play in standard-scoring leagues where Jones is only LB eligible.
 

Tier 5: Risks vs. Rewards

Tier Rank Player Name Pos Pierre Chris Justin Consensus
5 35 Keanu Neal DB 30 47 33 36.667
5 36 Kwon Alexander LB 27 57 28 37.333
5 37 Khalil Mack LB/DL 35 36 51 40.667
5 38 Jayon Brown LB 33 51 41 41.667
5 39 Jabrill Peppers DB 41 34 53 42.667
5 40 Tracy Walker DB 45 33 52 43.333
5 41 Cameron Heyward DL 46 38 50 44.667
5 42 Christian Kirksey LB 43 56 36 45.000
5 43 Shawn Williams DB 59 43 39 47.000
5 44 Eric Kendricks LB 37 59 46 47.333
5 45 Minkah Fitzpatrick DB 32 53 58 47.667
5 46 Taylor Rapp DB 49 37 60 48.667
5 47 Vonn Bell DB #N/A 62 38 50.000
5 48 Justin Simmons DB 56 30 66 50.667
5 49 Tyrann Mathieu DB 48 50 54 50.667
5 50 Chase Young DL 58 32 71 53.667

 In this tier, you will find several players of the boom or bust variety. Included in that category are Keanu Neal, Kwon Alexander, and Christian Kirksey. These players have been good, if not elite, fantasy starters in the past. Each of them also stands to inherit a fantasy-friendly role on their defense, with Kirksey inheriting a particularly attractive position from Blake Martinez in Green Bay.

Neal, Alexander, and Kirksey each carry injury and inconsistency risks, however. Alexander also carries the additional risk of losing playing time to the sure-tackling sophomore, Dre Greenlaw. Feel free to draft Alexander, Kirksey, and Neal in deeper leagues, but don’t reach for them based on name value or past production.

The safer players in this boom-or-bust tier are Cameron Heyward and Justin Simmons. Both Heyward and Simmons are steady performers who play valuable positions (DL and DB, respectively). Neither of these players has to worry about learning new schemes or playing on a poor defensive unit, and both are still relatively young. Expect Heyward to put up consistent tackle and sack numbers on a talented Pittsburgh defense. At the same time, Simmons will fly under the radar despite consistently having a relatively high fantasy floor the past two seasons.
 

Tiers 6-7: Depth and Dynasty Value Galore

Tier Rank Player Name Pos Pierre Chris Justin Consensus
6 51 Jerome Baker LB 54 48 62 54.667
6 52 Isaiah Simmons LB 53 46 65 54.667
6 53 Jessie Bates III DB 80 42 43 55.000
6 54 Sam Hubbard DL 65 58 42 55.000
6 55 Patrick Queen LB 39 44 82 55.000
6 56 Von Miller LB/DL 47 72 49 56.000
6 57 Carlos Dunlap DL 44 80 45 56.333
6 58 Calais Campbell DL 50 66 55 57.000
6 59 Yannick Ngakoue DL 51 61 59 57.000
6 60 DeForest Buckner DL 78 49 48 58.333
6 61 Melvin Ingram III DL 55 64 57 58.667
6 62 Kenneth Murray LB 68 45 70 61.000
6 63 Bradley Chubb LB/DL 64 60 64 62.667
7 64 Frank Clark DL 60 70 63 64.333
7 65 Justin Reid DB 62 76 61 66.333
7 66 Alexander Johnson LB #N/A 54 80 67.000
7 67 Justin Houston DL 52 94 56 67.333
7 68 Kareem Jackson DB #N/A 68 #N/A 68.000
7 69 Grady Jarrett DL 69 #N/A 67 68.000
7 70 K.J. Wright LB 70 #N/A 68 69.000
7 71 Marlon Humphrey DB #N/A 69 #N/A 69.000
7 72 Josh Allen DL 74 52 85 70.333
7 73 Chuck Clark DB #N/A 55 87 71.000

For now, the fantasy LB position is so deep that you shouldn’t be drafting Isaiah Simmons, Patrick Queen, or Kenneth Murray as a starter in shallow redraft leagues (i.e., leagues that start less than 2 LBs per team). However, you should value them quite a bit in dynasty leagues or deeper setups.

Simmons has terrific long-term potential that could make him a top-10 overall fantasy defender someday, especially if Arizona ever uses him enough in the secondary to give him DB eligibility. Meanwhile, Murray is the best rookie LB prospect to draft in your standard-scoring leagues, and Queen has Fred Warner like potential that could make him an asset in any format.

Also worth noting are the two Ravens’ DBs in this tier. Look for Chuck Clark to provide sneaky DB production, and he is a terrific sleeper if you wait on DBs until late in your draft. Meanwhile, Humphrey is the top CB prospect for those who play in leagues that force you to start at least one CB. Despite his big-play skills, QBs continue to challenge Humphrey. He is a good source of PDs and tackles.
 

Tiers 8-9: Deep League Starters

Tier Rank Player Name Pos Pierre Chris Justin Consensus
8 74 Kevin Byard DB 67 74 75 72.000
8 75 Demarcus Lawrence DL 63 86 69 72.667
8 76 Chris Jones DL 57 89 73 73.000
8 77 Nick Vigil LB 75 #N/A 72 73.500
8 78 Matt Milano LB 61 77 89 75.667
8 79 Trey Flowers DL 73 #N/A 79 76.000
8 80 De'Vondre Campbell LB 76 #N/A 77 76.500
8 81 Maxx Crosby DL 81 73 76 76.667
8 82 Rashaan Evans LB 77 65 93 78.333
8 83 Za'Darius Smith LB/DL 91 63 83 79.000
9 84 Brian Burns DL #N/A 71 88 79.500
9 85 Jarrad Davis LB 71 #N/A 90 80.500
9 86 Terrell Edmunds DB 72 79 91 80.667
9 87 Bud Dupree LB #N/A 81 #N/A 81.000
9 88 Anthony Walker DB 88 75 #N/A 81.500
9 89 Carlton Davis DB #N/A 82 #N/A 82.000

Maxx Crosby had an excellent rookie season that saw him exceeding most expectations, but there are questions about whether he can keep it up long term. If he can produce this year as he did last, we will have to raise him in our ranks and recommend adding him even in shallow leagues.

If you play in leagues that require you to start a CB or a DT, Chris Jones and Carlton Davis are both VERY valuable players. Jones is arguably the second or third best fantasy DT this year, while Davis is an up-and-coming young corner who deflected 19 passes last year while notching 54 solo tackles. Expect Davis to continue to produce in CB mandated leagues, since he plays in a division full of pass-happy offenses that will target him regularly.
 

Tiers 10: Super Deep League Adds & Waiver Watch Players

Tier Rank Player Name Pos Pierre Chris Justin Consensus
10 90 Bradley McDougald DB 66 #N/A 100 83.000
10 91 Everson Griffen DL 83 #N/A #N/A 83.000
10 92 Micah Kiser LB #N/A 83 #N/A 83.000
10 93 Dante Fowler, Jr. DL 79 78 92 83.000
10 94 Malcolm Jenkins DB 90 #N/A 78 84.000
10 95 Danny Trevathan LB 85 93 81 86.333
10 96 Jadeveon Clowney DL 100 85 74 86.333
10 97 Raekwon McMillan LB 87 #N/A #N/A 87.000
10 98 Johnathan Abram DB #N/A 87 #N/A 87.000
10 99 Logan Ryan DB #N/A 88 #N/A 88.000
10 100 Jeremy Chinn DB 98 67 99 88.000

Jeremy Chinn and Johnathan Abram each have the terrific pedigree of high draft picks, and they start at the back end of leaky defenses. Do not be surprised if Chinn in particular loads up on fantasy stats as a rookie because he is a big safety with cornerback experience and terrific speed.

Finally, some may question why Jadeveon Clowney is so low on this list. There is a good reason for his place here, though. Remember that he is just now joining a new team, with no training camp or pre-season prep in this unit. Also, recall that he has been historically inconsistent as a fantasy performer over the years, never once collecting double-digit sacks or 60+ tackles. While Clowney’s immense potential and flashes of brilliance still merit watching him on waivers or adding him in deep leagues, he doesn't belong on most fantasy rosters right now.



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Check out all of RotoBaller's fantasy football rankings. Staff rankings are updated regularly for all positions and include standard formats, PPR scoring, tiered rankings and dynasty leagues.




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Boom and Bust Draft Picks: Running Back Edition

Many fantasy football managers are familiar with the concept of “boom” and “bust” players by now. “Boom” guys are your overachievers. They are the guys from high school who were voted the most likely to clean porta-potties for a living, and yet they ended up becoming the most tenured Senator in Washington. In fantasy terms, these are the guys whose Average Draft Position (ADP) is significantly lower than where they will likely finish the season.

“Bust” guys are the opposite of booms. They are the high school superstars who were voted the most likely to succeed, but ended up huffing paint in a box (a.k.a. their home) behind a Dairy Queen five years later. In fantasy terms, these are the guys who are unlikely to return good value at their current ADP.

So who are the running backs most likely to become the Jeff Bezos of fantasy, and who is bound to be selling cars in Tucson instead of playing NFL football next season? Read on to find out.

 

In Full Boom

Jonathan Taylor, Indianapolis Colts

ADP of 47 overall

The upside of this former Badger is clear as day.

In his three seasons at Wisconsin, Taylor showed elite balance, speed, and elusiveness on his way averaging more than 2,000 rushing yards per season. It is insane to average over 2,000 yards over three seasons, just in case you didn’t know. What’s even more impressive is the fact he exceeded expectations at the NFL Combine too, proving he had the top end physical profile to back up his crush-worthy film.

There are downsides to Taylor’s game, though.

The former Heisman candidate fumbled on nearly 2% of his college carries, which is twice as much as your average starting NFL back. He also had very little experience pass blocking and receiving at Wisconsin, so there are questions about how quickly he can adapt to those parts of the game as a rookie. Of additional concern is the fact that Marlon Mack is penciled in as the starter in Indianapolis, per Head Coach Frank Reich. Mack is a talented runner in his own right, and he should do enough with his early-season touches to hold onto at least 30-40% of the backfield snaps for most of the season.

All of this said, Taylor is an elite talent who will see a healthy snap share behind be an offensive line that returns all five starters from a 2019 unit that ranked as the 12th best offensive line by Football Outsiders. That line rated seventh-best in power run blocking ratings, and it ranked fourth in its ability to create second-level yardage for its backs. That blocking, along with an improved passing game with Philip Rivers at quarterback, should provide a healthy soil in which Taylor's explosive skills can grow.

Expect the Colts’ rookie to outperform players like Melvin Gordon, Le’Veon Bell, and Todd Gurley this season, all of whom are being taken ahead of him, according to Rotoballer’s industry-wide ADPs.

 

J.K. Dobbins, Baltimore Ravens

ADP of 91.7 overall

There is a strong argument that J.K. Dobbins is the best draft value in all of fantasy football this year.

No player going in the eighth or ninth rounds of fantasy drafts has Dobbins' upside. He possesses an elite mix of burst, balance, elusiveness, and pass-catching ability. It is almost unfair to think that such a talented player will be playing with both an MVP quarterback who keeps defenses honest and an offensive line ranked third-best in the NFL in 2019 by Fantasy Outsiders. If Dobbins were the clear cut starter on this team, he would be an easy top-10 redraft and dynasty choice.

Even if he isn't the unquestioned starter, however, there is reason to believe that Dobbins and Ingram can match the same type of production that Alvin Kamara and Ingram sported during Kamara’s rookie year. This Baltimore offense is nearly as good, if not just as good, as that Saints team was. Plus, Dobbins should be heavily involved in the offense early in the season, per John Harbaugh’s statement that the rookie will see a “significant role” in their offense from the get-go. That talent and opportunity combo spells success.

If Dobbins can net even 20% of the rushing attempts that Baltimore had last season, that would translate to 120 rushes. If he could add another 50 targets to that over the season, that will translate into significant fantasy production. Given his talent and the potential for even more involvement, if Ingram were to go down, Dobbins is a bargain at his current ADP (34th RB selected in redrafts). He should be the ideal target for Zero-RB enthusiasts, as well as those utilizing an RB-Heavy model.

Expect Dobbins to finish the year as a top-25 back, far exceeding his current ADP.

 

Boston Scott, Philadelphia Eagles

ADP of 141 overall

Scott isn't a sexy name or a sexy pick in fantasy. He is firmly stuck behind Miles Sanders on the Philadelphia depth chart, and Philly has mentioned using Sanders as an every-down back this season. Scott isn't an elite athlete, nor does he have any history as a primary NFL rusher, either.

With that said, Scott has more fantasy upside than many think.

The first reason to believe that Scott has standalone fantasy value is that Doug Pederson has never actually utilized a workhorse back during his time in Philadelphia. Even last season, when Miles Sanders took over as the lead back, Scott maintained a role in this offense. As a matter of fact, during the time that Sanders as the Eagles’ starter (Weeks 14-the Wild Card Game), Scott averaged 8.8 rushes and 5.6 targets per game. If you were to factor out Week 17, when Sanders was limited by injury, Scott still averaged nearly 12 touches per game during Weeks 14-16 and in the playoffs.

This sort of involvement, even when Sanders was proving himself a legitimate starter, indicates that Scott should expect around 10-12 touches every week in 2020.

The second reason to like Scott’s independent value is that he put up substantial fantasy numbers with those 12 touches per week he was getting. From Week 14 through the playoffs, Scott gained 79.6 total yards (rushing + receiving) per game. He also scored four touchdowns in those five games. If you were to project those stats out over a full season, it would translate to 1,273.6 total yards and 12.8 TDs.

While fantasy owners shouldn’t expect Scott to total 1,200 yards and 12 TDs this season without Sanders going down, he does have some standalone value this year. He has the chance to become Philly's goal-line back, considering Sanders was ineffective in that role, and he can provide RB2 upside if Sanders were to go down. That type of ceiling and floor is worth an investment several rounds earlier than his current ADP of 141st overall.

 

Bound to Bust

Le'Veon Bell, New York Jets

ADP of 38 overall

Before his release, Leonard Fournette was the top bust on this list. That seems like low-hanging fruit since his release, however. So here we are with Bell as our highest-drafted RB bust of 2020.

There are a few reasons to think Bell will bust in 2020, much like he did last year. For starters, Bell did just that… he busted last year. When a 28-year-old back has the worst season of his career, it is rare for him to rebound and become elite again. While some expect a bounce-back because the Jets added Mekhi Becton and Connor McGovern to their offensive line this year, this is still the same coaching staff who vocally questioned Bell’s worth in 2019 and 2020, and it is the same scheme that didn’t fit him last season. This team also may be no better at the skill positions than they were last year, with Denzel Mims, Breshad Perriman, and Chris Herndon each dealing with injuries over the past month.

That spells a lot of attention on Bell and little on anyone else.

Another concern for Bell is his style of play. He is a patient and instinctive runner who has excelled only when he and his offensive line are on the same page. With what looks to be three new starters on this offensive line, it will take time for Bell to mesh with this blocking unit, even if they are improved over last year. The problem is, the former Steeler star isn’t getting a lot of reps in camp with this new unit, per his own Twitter feed, and he won’t have any pre-season games to get acclimated with them, either.

Bell is being drafted as the RB17 in PPR drafts, near where he finished in PPR last year (RB16) and much higher than where he finished in standard scoring (RB21). That means he is currently being drafted at or above his ceiling, and well above his floor. That is the boilerplate recipe for a draft bust.

 

Ronald Jones II, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 

ADP of 79.7 overall

Jones has been a pretty trendy pick in many circles all summer, thanks to a decent showing last season and his pedigree as a former second-round pick in the NFL Draft. That said, fantasy managers seem to like Jones a lot more than his current head coach does.

Last year, Bruce Arians showed ZERO qualms about pulling Jones any time he messed up. Whether it was a dropped pass, a fumble, or being stonewalled at the line, Arians appeared to pull the kid immediately after. If you watched full Tampa Bay games, Arians didn't seem to give Peyton Barber nearly the short rope that he gave Jones. In fact, Barber was still averaging over 30% of the team’s RB snaps late last year, when Jones was far outperforming him in both the run and passing game. Meanwhile, Jones saw a 50% or higher snap share in only three of 16 games last season.

Of additional concern to Jones' fantasy value is that the team is investing heavily in his position right now. They invested a significant draft pick this year in Ke’Shawn Vaughn, and they have now signed Leonard Fournette as well. That sort of interest indicates a severe lack of interest in the guy they currently have as their lead back.

Considering where Jones is going in drafts, and the snap share he is likely to get this year, he is a prime bust candidate. Do not expect him to outperform Zack Moss, J.K. Dobbins, Tyler Higbee, or any other number of players going after him in drafts.

*Note: This article was written before Fournette reportedly agreed to terms with the Buccaneers. One should expect Jones' ADP to drop after this move, as well as his production. Given the RB depth in Tampa now, both Jones and Fournette are still massive bust candidates at their current ADP and several rounds after that.

 

Tarik Cohen, Chicago Bears

ADP of 87.3 overall

Tarik Cohen is a very nice bench player in PPR leagues, but he lacks the ceiling that his ADP suggests.

Consider that the ‘Human Joystick’ caught an impressive 79 passes last season, and yet he collected only 700 total yards and three TDs. That production landed Cohen as the RB27 in PPR scoring in 2019. He scored only 9.9 more PPR points than Duke Johnson, and only 17 PPR points more than Adrian Peterson or Jamaal Williams. That isn’t impressive company, and Cohen isn’t likely to do much better in 2020. Expect the Bears to funnel most of their rushing work through David Montgomery or some other bigger back. Meanwhile, the presence of Allen Robinson and Anthony Miller should cap Cohen's pass-catching ceiling at what it has been, if not lower. He will provide you with 4-5 catches for 30-40 yards each week, but he will likely need a big play to get much more.

That’s a decent floor for an RB4, but it’s a crumby ceiling for a guy going in the eighth round. You can get the same out of Chris Thompson several rounds later than where Cohen is going now. That, and the players going behind him (Deebo, Dobbins, etc.) make Cohen a legit bust candidate, considering his price.



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Why Zero RB Won't Work In 2020 (and Beyond!)

In the 1970s, you didn't have to go far to find a funky cool cat cutting up the dance floor in a polyester leisure suit while his pet rock named Morton rested comfortably in his pocket. By the 1980s, people had realized things like the pet rock, and leisure suits were lame. Instead, it was cool to wear parachute pants, perm your hair, and brag about how you completed an entire side of your Rubik's Cube. Then the '90s hit, and a wave of grunge draped America's youth in flannel shirts and passive-aggressive attitudes. And on and on fads like this go. Some of them survive long enough to become real thorns in your side (see Facebook), while most fade so fast you can barely remember them five years later (see MySpace).

If you're looking for the biggest fantasy football-specific fad, however, you need to look no further than the strategy known as 'Zero RB.' This strategy is that in which fantasy managers avoid drafting running backs in the first few rounds. Instead, Zero RB truthers use their early draft picks on a heavy dose of wide receivers (WR), with the occasional tight end (TE) or quarterback (QB) thrown in for measure. The idea behind the strategy is that there is allegedly less volatility in elite WRs, QBs, and TEs than there is at the RB position. So, you should build a strong base with these safer positions before taking a bunch of flyers on the already risk RB position later in your draft.

Sounds like a solid strategy, right? I mean, there are plenty of positions in fantasy, so why shouldn't you gobble up the best players at each of them while your friends "waste" their early picks on RBs? The list of reasons you shouldn't do this is long, so why don't we get to them?

 

Elite RBs Typically Score More Points than Elite WRs

Since 2016, fantasy's top-overall WR has been outscored by an average of three RBs in PPR leagues and five RBs in standard leagues each season.

In 2016, David Johnson finished as the top-scoring fantasy running back (RB1) in both PPR and standard scoring. That season, Johnson scored 100.5 more PPR points than the WR1 in fantasy, and 119.7 more standard points than the WR1. Johnson wasn't the only RB to outscore the WR1 in 2016, either. Three total RBs outscored fantasy's best WR that season.

In 2017, the story was much the same. Fantasy's RB1 (Todd Gurley) outscored fantasy's WR1 by 73 PPR points and 105.5 standard points that season. Again, three different RBs ended up scoring more PPR points than the WR1 that year, and six RBs outscored the WR1 in standard scoring.

In 2018, the trend continued. Four different RBs outscored fantasy's WR1 in PPR leagues, and five RBs outscored the WR1 in standard scoring.

Last year, Michael Thomas did his best to end this trend by putting up a historically significant fantasy season, totaling a whopping 374.6 PPR points. He was terrific, and a joy to have on your team… and he was still outscored by fantasy's top overall RB (Christian McCaffrey) by 96.6 PPR points and 129.6 standard points.

That's a convincing fantasy beat down, considering how prolific Thomas was in 2019.

Last year's WR2 (Chris Godwin) didn't fare much better than Michael Thomas did when compared to RB competition. Six different RBs scored more PPR points than Godwin did last year, and an incredible 11 RBs outscored him in standard scoring.

If the past four years are any indication, the top WRs aren't going to outscore the top RBs in 2020, no matter your league's settings.

 

Wide Receiver is So Deep, You Can Wait

Last season, there were 25 WRs who scored at least 200 PPR points. That group did not include any of the following talents on it:

Now consider that each of the following rookies could realistically average 12 or more PPR points per game this season, under the right circumstances…

With this list of impact rookies, a promising group of 2020 sleepers (Preston Williams, Darius Slayton, etc.), and the 25 players who scored 200+ points last season, this year's fantasy WR crop is deep. By our count, at least 45 WRs have the chance to put up at least 180-200 PPR points this season, if all goes well.

That's great depth when you consider only 23 RBs topped 180 PPR points last season.

 

Running Back is Shallow, You Can't Wait

While the WR position has been incredibly deep for the past four years and looks to be even deeper in 2020, the RB pool has been decidedly top-heavy in recent seasons.

To illustrate just how shallow the RB position is when compared to WRs, let us begin by dividing them into smaller groups. For our purposes, we will divide the WR and RB positions into the following tiers:

  • Tier 1- The top-overall scoring WR or RB in PPR scoring in any given season;
  • Tier 2- The second through fifth-highest scoring WRs or RBs;
  • Tier 3- The sixth through tenth highest scoring WRs and RBs
  • Tier 4- The 11th through 20th highest scoring WRs and RBs;
  • Tier 5- The 21st through 30th highest scoring WRs and RBs; and
  • Tier 6- The 31st through 40th highest scoring WRs and RBs.

Now that we have these tiers established, we can compare the RB and WR positions in fantasy more easily. In the following chart, you will see the average PPR production for players in each of these tiers over the past four seasons.…

WR Tiers Avg. PPR Points Scored By Players in Tier RB Tiers Avg. PPR Points Scored By Players in Tier
Tier 1:

WR1

331.4 points Tier 1:

RB1

412 points
Tier 2:

WR2 to WR5

293.2 points Tier 2:

RB2-RB5

321.7 points
Tier 3:

WR6 to WR10

260.8 points Tier 3:

RB6-RB10

254.8 points
Tier 4:

WR11 to WR20

225.5 points Tier 4:

RB10-RB20

203.2 points
Tier 5:

WR21 to WR30

193.5 points Tier 5:

RB21-RB30

163.5 points
Tier 6:

WRs31 through WR40

170 points Tier 6:

RB31 through RB40

137 points

As you can see, Tier 1 RBs have handily outscored Tier 1 WRs over the past four seasons, and Tier 2 RBs have done the same against Tier 2 WRs. As you can also see, after Tier 3, that trend does a 180º. WRs routinely dominate their RB peers in total points and consistency, once we get to Tier 4 and beyond.

More important than how RBs and WRs compare to each other, however, is how they compare to those at their own position.

Over the past four seasons, Tier 2 RBs have scored 26% more fantasy points than Tier 3 RBs have. Meanwhile, Tier 2 WRs have scored only 12% more points than Tier 3 WRs. Overall, a fantasy manager will net an average of 34.5 PPR points per season more if they draft a Tier 2 RB and a Tier 3 WR than they will if they draft a Tier 3 RB and a Tier 2 WR.

Going a bit lower on the chart, we see that Tier 3 RBs score 25% more PPR points than Tier 4 RBs. Meanwhile, Tier 3 WRs tend to score only 15% more points than Tier 4 WRs. In other words, you stand to gain 19.6 PPR points per season if you draft a Tier 3 RB and a Tier 4 WR, instead of a Tier 4 RB and a Tier 3 WR.

This year's fantasy RB group looks to be even more top-heavy than in years past, with serious questions swirling around established fantasy starters such as Leonard Fournette, Melvin Gordon, James Conner, Le' Veon Bell, and Todd Gurley. To make things worse, most of this year's promising rookie RB class and several established stars (Aaron Jones, Nick Chubb, Mark Ingram, etc.) are expected to split a significant share of their touches this year. With half of this year's top-20 RBs burdened with questions about their workload, age, health, or ability level, the value of nailing a top-10 talent at the position early in your draft is more important than ever. You really cannot afford to risk waiting on RB in 2020.

 

Elite RBs Aren't As Hard To Identify As You Think

Six of last year's top-10 scoring RBs were selected within the first 20 picks of fantasy drafts, and nine of the top-10 were taken with the first 30 picks. By pick #46, 11 of the 12 top-scoring RBs were taken, and all 12 were gone by pick #63. Meanwhile, only three of the top-10 scoring WRs in PPR were selected in the first two rounds, and half of them were chosen after pick #40.

This success rate has stayed consistent over the past four seasons, too.

Since 2016, 60% of all elite (top-10 scoring) RBs have been selected within the first 20 picks of fantasy drafts. That's true in both standard and PPR scoring. During those same four years, only 37% of elite WRs were drafted within the first 20 picks of PPR drafts, and only 47% of elite fantasy WRs went that high in Non-PPR drafts.

As you can see, fantasy players have more trouble getting elite value out of early-round WRs than they do elite RBs.

 

Quarterbacks Do Not Help the Zero RB Argument

Quarterbacks should never go in the first four rounds of fantasy drafts. There. Done. Happy?

No? Sigh…. Fine, we will dive in a bit further, then.

Only three QBs have topped 400+ fantasy points, and only five have finished with more than 360 fantasy points in a season, since 2012. No QB has topped 400-points more than once during this time, and never has it been done by multiple QBs in a season.

Those facts pour serious cold water on the idea that you should pass on an RB and draft Lamar Jackson or Patrick Mahomes at their current ADP (19th and 23rd overall, respectively). A more reasonable expectation for Mahomes and Jackson in 2020 is probably something closer to 350 or 360 fantasy points.

Consider that the top-overall QB in fantasy has averaged 363.35 fantasy points in the past nine seasons, where the 400-point barrier wasn't broken.  Also, consider that the second-overall QB (QB2) in fantasy has averaged 342.5 points over the past eight seasons. Meanwhile, the QB10 over the past eight years has averaged 273.5 points per season.

Thus, drafting Mahomes at 19th overall instead of taking Deshaun Watson at pick #69 will likely net you a mere 30-points at the very deep QB position. Meanwhile, taking Jackson at pick #23 instead of Josh Allen with the 102nd pick will probably earn you a 70 fantasy point gain. That's not that much, considering the cost.

 

You Don't Have to Go Zero RB to Get the Best TEs

There are two elite TEs worthy of a top-30 selection in 2020 drafts: George Kittle and Travis Kelce. Over the past two seasons, Kelce has averaged 96.8 PPR points per season more than the TE6 in fantasy. At the same time, Kittle has averaged 63.25 PPR points per season over the TE6. That is a significant advantage at a thin position.

While Kelce and Kittle give you a noteworthy edge over a vast majority of fantasy TEs, their PPR edge over guys like Mark Andrews and Zach Ertz (who you can get two rounds later than the Killer-Ks) is less than 50 PPR points. Additionally, what edge they may give you over the overall TE position in 2020 may be less than it has been in the past. Players like Darren Waller, Evan Engram, Mike Gesicki, Tyler Higbee, Hayden Hurst, and Hunter Henry could all come within 80 PPR points of Kelce and Kittle this year if all goes right for them.

That said, if you have to have Kittle or Kelce, they are unlikely to cost you a top-12 draft pick in non-TE premium formats. That means that you can easily draft one, or maybe even two, very good RBs before you need to pull the trigger on one of the two elite TEs in fantasy. Thus, Kittle and Kelce can be had without going all-in on the Zero RB strategy.

 

Closing Argument: Zero RB Put Into Practice

For one final demonstration of just how risky the Zero RB philosophy is in today's fantasy game (especially PPR), let's now recreate a practical Zero RB draft from 2019.

Below you will see two teams drafted using the 2019 ADPs from Fantasyfootballcalculator.com. Using those ADPs, we have crafted a near best-case scenario Zero RB team (Team 1), and a solid but somewhat flawed RB-Heavy team (Team 2). Comparing these two teams is enlightening…

Round Team 1 (Pick #9) Team 2 (Pick #10)
1 Michael Thomas Nick Chubb
2 Odell Beckham Jr. Dalvin Cook
3 George Kittle Aaron Jones
4 Amari Cooper Zach Ertz
5 Melvin Gordon Kenny Golladay
6 Miles Sanders T.Y. Hilton
7 Lamar Jackson Aaron Rodgers
2019 PPR Points Scored 1,666.00 1,734

In this example, Team 1 could not have executed the Zero RB strategy much better. They captured the top WR and the top QB in all of fantasy, both of whom had historically significant fantasy seasons, and drafted the second best TE in 2019. They also selected the RB15 and RB23, despite waiting on the position until the fifth and sixth round. This result is precisely what most Zero RB strategists are hoping for when they use this system, as Team 1 gained a weekly edge over everyone at every position except at RB.

Despite all of that, Team 1 drafted the inferior team in comparison with the RB-Heavy Team 2. Team 1 ended up being outscored by Team 2 by 68 PPR points, despite Team 2 having a distinct disadvantage at QB, WR, and TE. Had Team 1 abandoned Zero RB at any point and selected Dalvin Cook, Aaron Jones, Chris Carson, or Derrick Henry at any point in time, they would have likely won this matchup handily.



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IDP Draft Sleepers: Linebacker

 

There are at least 25 linebackers (LB) in fantasy right now that are not only well-known names in the IDP community but are also consistent fantasy contributors in even the most shallow of IDP leagues. Given that kind of depth, many IDP managers in shallow leagues will have little to no use for LB sleepers this year or next.

There are, however, a lot of IDP managers who play in deeper and more unique leagues. In those leagues, finding a sleeper LB can be just as important as finding one at WR or TE. We must swim out into uncharted waters for those people, looking for undrafted or underrated fantasy LBs who stand to outperform their ranks/ADP in most fantasy circles.

Here we will identify some of these LBs currently being undervalued in a variety of deeper IDP formats. Each of the players on this list falls outside of the top-40 LBs in most IDP fantasy rankings (including Rotoballer's), yet they have a realistic chance of finishing in the top-30 this year or next.

 

1. Anthony Walker (ILB), Indianapolis Colts

There is a fantasy superstar who plays the linebacker position in Indianapolis. He is well-known by both fantasy managers and casual fans alike. He will rack up sacks, interceptions, and tackles with the best of them. He will win you matchups in fantasy.

That superstar isn't named Anthony Walker, but Walker is pretty good, too.

Walker is currently the 45th overall LB in the Rotoballer ranks, and as the 46th best on both ESPN and FantasyPros. This rank undersells Walker's fantasy floor in tackle-centric IDP leagues, however. In fact, the Northwestern product should be an easy top-35 fantasy LB in such leagues. Over the past two seasons, Walker has averaged 7.4 tackles per game (4.9 solo). Last year, in just his third year as a pro, Walker upped his average to 7.75 total tackles and 5.5 solo tackles per game. That is valuable consistency from a guy currently going undrafted in many deep IDP leagues.

While Walker may not be a superstar in leagues that put a premium on sacks and interceptions, his contribution in these areas should continue to improve in 2020. Last season Walker collected two turnovers and two and a half sacks, but that was with Leonard missing time and Deforest Buckner playing in San Francisco. If Buckner and Leonard can demand the double-teams that they deserve, Walker should have no trouble registering 80+ solo-tackles, 10 TFLs, and four sacks next season.

That's a valuable fantasy return for a guy whose price tag is as a waiver claim or late-round draft pick.

 

2. Dre Greenlaw (OLB), San Francisco 49ers

One position battle for IDP fantasy players to watch this summer will be the fight between Greenlaw and Kwon Alexander for the 49ers' second starting LB spot in their nickel packages. Last season San Francisco ran some variation of the nickel on 58.6% of the time. That means that the team played less than three LBs on over half of their snaps last year, and that either Greenlaw or Alexander could be missing half of the team's defensive snaps in 2020 if that trend continues.

There are two reasons that Greenlaw could realistically win his battle with Alexander and get at least 70% of the 49ers' total defensive snaps in 2020. One of those reasons is that Greenlaw is the far superior tackler.

Last season, the former Razorback missed a tackle once every four games, while Alexander averaged a miss every game. Alexander's tendency to whiff is no outlier, either. When Alexander was in Tampa Bay, he missed 22 or more tackles in every season that he played more 12 or more games. For a 49ers team that may not have made the Super Bowl without Greenlaw's heroic stop in their final game at Seattle, sure tackling against both the run and pass should be a high priority going into this season.

The second reason that Greenlaw could win a +70% snap share is his low cap hit, compared to Alexander. While Alexander's contract averages $13.5 million per season, Greenlaw makes approximately $710,000 per year. Considering that Greenlaw is the younger, healthier, cheaper, and better tackling option than Alexander, why wouldn't the 49ers throw him out there and see what they have in him long-term?

If Greenlaw does manage to match or top his 70% snap rate from last season, the fantasy implications could be noteworthy. Had the former Razorback started a full 16 games last season, he was on pace to rack up 112 solo-tackles. That would have led the NFL, and it makes him an excellent bargain for 2020 IDP players who play in formats that value solos.

 

3. Micah Kiser (ILB), Los Angeles Rams

While the Rams have moved on from Wade Phillips as their defensive coordinator, they are reportedly keeping the 3-4 scheme with which most of their defensive holdovers are familiar. That means that the players still in Los Angeles won't face a massive change in their defensive system, so they can hopefully hit the ground running. That type of advantage could be essential for a player like Kiser, as he looks to take over for the ultra-productive Cory Littleton.

Kiser's college career, and the accolades he got out of Rams camp late last year suggest that he could be an impactful fantasy defender in this defense. At the University of Virginia, he averaged 133 total tackles and 6.3 sacks per season over his final three seasons. Though viewed as a limited athlete in the Draft, the Rams valued Kiser's superior nose for the ball and potential to man the middle.

Going into his third year as a pro, Kiser has the daunting task of replacing the elite production that Littleton had in Los Angeles, and replicating the role Roquan Smith played in Chicago under the Rams' new defensive coordinator.  While Smith and Littleton may be impossible comparisons for Kiser to live up to, remember that the former Cavalier doesn't have to match their athleticism or production to be an LB3 or LB4 in fantasy. He simply needs to rack up 100+ junk tackles, while batting a few balls and grabbing a few sacks along the way.

Given Kiser's production in college and his beneficial role in the middle of a defense that plays against a lot of high-volume rushing attacks, Kiser is worthy of a late-round flyer in your deeper IDP leagues. Littleton was once a sleeper himself before racking up tons of stats playing behind Aaron Donald. It's worth a late-round pick in deep IDP leagues to see if Kiser can take similar advantage of a similar situation. If he can come close to 110 tackles and four sacks, he will be at least a decent bench stash on your fantasy roster.

 

4. Logan Wilson (ILB), Cincinnati Bengals

Cincinnati had been looking for a leader in its linebacker corps for years. During that time, the defense has been a sieve against both good and bad offenses. It has lacked both leadership, and superior tackling ability, at the second level.

This prolonged deficiency is why the Bengals passed on offensive tackle Josh Jones in the third round of the 2020 NFL Draft, and instead selected the roughneck named Logan Wilson.

During his time in college, Wilson was 13th in the FBS in career tackles per game and 10th in career solo-tackles per game. He wasn't just a sure tackler, either. The Wyoming Cowboy scored three touchdowns on defense in college, proving his big-play ability. While these plays didn't come against top competition, Wilson showed he had NFL level athleticism at the NFL Combine, too. Though Wilson's film shows he has a long way to go in pass coverage, he should be considered a decent bet to lead the Bengals in tackles as soon as he earns a starting job.

Considering that Wilson should lead early in Cincinnati, while going against some of the more run-heavy offenses in the NFL, it is safe to say that the former Wyoming standout is an attractive dynasty IDP target. He should be considered a top-45 dynasty rookie draft selection, and a high-upside stash in 14-team redraft leagues that start two LBs.

 

5. Zack Baun (OLB), New Orleans Saints

Baun is different from the others on this list because he is a dynasty sleeper, but not a real redraft option. The kid has the drive, talent, and motor to be elite someday, but he landed on a talented and veteran team that could bring him along slowly. If this Wisconsin grad had gone to the Jets, he could have immediate fantasy value. In New Orleans, fantasy players may have to wait before utilizing the former Badger.

When he does take the field regularly, however, you should look out.

At Wisconsin, Baun was an all-around force. He showed himself capable of blowing up plays against big-time programs like Michigan in a variety of ways. Baun won with power, speed, and finesse while playing at both linebacker and defensive end. He could also drop into coverage off the line, showing the ability to bait quarterbacks into bad decisions and big defensive plays. While this all-purpose defender may not be an elite athlete, his game showed shades of dominance in the Big Ten for most of his senior year.   I had Baun as one of my top-25 players in the entire 2020 Draft class, and he fell to a team that can afford to groom him and unleash him in a variety of fantasy-friendly ways.

As a long-term fantasy asset, Baun has the ability and tenacity to be a real force. During his senior year of college, he posted 12.5 sacks, 19.5 tackles for loss, and 75 total tackles. His skillset and drive suggest he is capable of putting up similar numbers in the NFL, if he is used properly and stays healthy. Fantasy players should value him particularly high in leagues that pay a premium for sacks and TFLs. Like Logan Wilson, you should target this former Badger as a fourth-round pick in your rookie-drafts and stash him in your TAXI.



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Washington’s Backfield Without Derrius Guice: Addition By Subtraction?

Less than a month ago, we took an in-depth fantasy look at the Washington Football Team's (otherwise known as the 'Washington No Names') backfield situation. Back then, Washington's RB unit looked to be a free-for-all brawl. The odds favored Derrius Guice getting a majority of the backfield’s early-down work. Adrian Peterson was set up to be a handcuff and a goal-line vulture, while Antonio Gibson would steal nearly half the passing down work.

A lot has changed since then.

Obviously, the biggest player news to come out of the NFL in general over the past few weeks is Guice’s domestic violence arrest and subsequent release. That was not the only change to come in this backfield, however. Since our last article, Bryce Love has also been medically cleared for contact, and the No Names have officially announced that Gibson would be spending time with their receivers group during camp. That's a decent amount of news to come out in a short period, so what should fantasy managers make of it?

 

Addition By Subtraction

Surprisingly, the answer to this question may be that Washington's backfield is easier to evaluate and value in fantasy without its best runner on the roster.

While it is true that Guice averaged more yards after contact (5.07 yards per carry) last year than what all but five NFL running backs averaged overall, it is also true that Guice was impossible to trust. He was a talented but injury-prone lead in a four-headed monster. It was hardly a situation where you felt safe investing in a lead back or his backups.

With Guice gone, the dynamic shifts, and the situation gets a little more predictable.

Washington now has three real mouths to feed in its backfield, rather than four. That alone should concentrate the snaps/touches on Dan Snyder’s football team, which helps consolidate fantasy points/value. Guice’s release also rids Washington of its biggest injury risk, and removes one of fantasy's most prominent question marks from fantasy boards altogether. One final thing Guice’s exodus does, is it gives fantasy managers the ability to accurately identify and value the specific roles of players like Peterson, Gibson, and Love.

Let’s take a more in-depth look at each of these players, the situation they are playing in, and how they could impact your fantasy team this season.

 

What Kind of Offense Will Washington Run?

As was discussed in our article last month, Scott Turner is the primary play-caller in Washington this year. Turner has a limited history as the primary play-caller in the NFL, but both he and his father (Norv Turner) have a long history of specializing in QB and WR coaching. That history alone indicates that Turner will favor the passing game.

Adding to Washington’s pass crazy prospects is the fact that Turner called at least 65% pass plays in each of the four games he coordinated last season. During the two real blowouts that he coordinated in, Turner dialed up the volume of his pass plays to the tune of 71.1%. During that time, Christian McCaffrey averaged just 13 carries per game, but his passing game targets increased significantly. In fact, 33% of McCaffrey’s 2019 targets came in his four games under Turner.

While it is easy to point out that Turner’s history as a coordinator is limited to four games, each of which involved his team being down early, there is no reason to believe Turner won’t be coaching from behind in 2020 just as much as he was in 2019. Washington's defense last year allowed the sixth-most points in the NFL, and while they just added Chase Young and Kendall Fuller, they also lost their best corners in Josh Norman and Quinton Dunbar. That defense is about to stack up against a lot of intimidating offenses, too. Their 2020 opponents include the Cowboys (twice), 49ers, Rams, Ravens, Seahawks, Steelers, and Eagles (twice). It is fair to expect Washington to trail in most of these games, often by a lot, and that they will have to throw a ton to catch up.

A pass-heavy game script should help the fantasy prospects of a back like Gibson, while limiting players like Peterson and Peyton Barber (if he makes the roster).

 

Will A Lead Back Emerge With Guice Gone?

As we have already covered, Ron Rivera has shown a strong preference for running back timeshares (referred to as RBBC’s herein) during his time as an NFL head coach. For a good part of his career in Carolina, Rivera split his RB carries and production evenly between DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart. Christian McCaffrey was the only back to earn a genuine workhorse role under Riverboat Ron.

There is no CMC in Washington, nothing even close.

Given Rivera’s history of using RBBCs, fantasy managers should not expect a fantasy star to break out of Washington’s backfield in 2020. While Gibson, Peterson, and Love each hold some fantasy value this season, their ceiling is likely capped by their roles in this offense and their limitations as players (be it age, inexperience, pass blocking, etc.). That means you should not use a top-100 pick on any of these players in redrafts or dynasty leagues.

 

What To Make Of Antonio Gibson, Washington’s New “It” Toy

Gibson was already a popular commodity in dynasty leagues before Guice was released, but you should expect his fantasy hype to grow out of control over the next few weeks. His name will likely grace the lips of Matthew Berry over 100 times come Monday, and he will be a popular name on every sleeper and breakout list as well. And why wouldn’t people be excited about an athletic freak capable of playing both wide receiver and running back?

At 6’0” and 220-pounds, Gibson has the physical frame to be a workhorse back in the NFL. He is a well-built and well-balanced runner with superior top-end speed (4.39-seconds on the 40-yard dash) and decent hands. At first glance, he seems a perfect fit for Washington's new passing offense, too. I mean, the guy played both the wide receiver and running back positions in college, and he is getting mentioned in the same breath as CMC by Ron Rivera and others. Those kinds of measurables and high praise guarantees a big rookie season and a Hall of Fame career, right?!

Not necessarily.

A closer look at Gibson’s skillset suggests that he is not the next Christian McCaffrey. Instead, Gibson’s closest comp as a prospect seems to be… Cordarrelle Patterson?

Consider the following:

  • Both Gibson and Patterson were JUCO transfers who lacked polish and a true position in college.
  • Both Gibson and Patterson split their time between receiver and running back, with very similar stats.
    • Gibson had 38 catches for 735 yards receiving, plus 33 rushes for 369 yards rushing during his final college season.
    • Patterson had 46 catches for 778 yards receiving, plus 25 attempts for 308 yards rushing during his final college season.
  • Both Gibson and Patterson tantalized NFL owners and fantasy managers alike with their elite size and Combine numbers.
    • Gibson measured 73-inches tall and 220-pounds; Patterson measured 73.88-inches and 216-pounds.
    • Gibson ran a 4.39 on the 40-yard dash; Patterson ran a 4.42.
    • Gibson’s vertical was 35-inches; Patterson’s was 37-inches.
    • Gibson ran a 2.57-second 20-yard split; Patterson a 2.61.
    • Gibson ran a 1.55-second 10-yard split; Patterson a 1.60.

While Gibson’s lack of polish and/or position might (note I said 'might') mean he never becomes a fantasy or NFL star, he can still average 7-10 PPR points per game for your fantasy team in a rotational role. Remember that Ty Montgomery earned dual eligibility as an RB/WR in 2016 while scoring 142.5 PPR fantasy points and averaging 9.5 PPR points per game. While Gibson is a superior athlete to Montgomery, 9.5 PPR points per game is a fair expectation for Gibson’s rookie year average, considering he could be learning two separate NFL positions as he goes.

Gibson’s current ADP is 181st overall, but you should expect that number to blow up over the next few weeks. Gibson is a value in dynasty leagues around pick 115, and in redrafts around pick 120. However, taking him higher than this range would mean you are paying a premium for his ceiling and ignoring his floor.

 

Is Adrian Peterson Still Only A Handcuff?

A month ago, Adrian Peterson’s fantasy football relevancy was seemingly tied to the health of Derrius Guice. Peterson was set to cede at least half of the rushing work to Guice, and he wasn’t likely to get many catches with Gibson and Guice on the roster, either. That limited involvement had Peterson looking more and more like a handcuff, who only belonged on a fantasy roster in deep standard scoring leagues.

Oh, what a difference a month makes.

With Guice now gone, Peterson’s snap and touch share looks to increase into a fantasy-relevant range. The Sooners legend has an established leadership role on this squad, and even at 35, he is a more experienced and reliable runner than Peyton Barber or Gibson. Peterson’s ball security, ability to grind out first downs after contact, and his leadership will also win him favor with Rivera. Expect the veteran to see a vast majority of Washington’s early-down work early in the season, now that his main competition for that job was cut.

While Peterson should maintain a noteworthy early-down role this year, his production should dip some from last year. Remember that in 2019, 79% of Peterson’s fantasy points came on the ground, and 33% of them came in the four games that he was given 18+ rushing attempts. The man known as ‘All Day’ is unlikely to run all day in Turner’s pass-heavy scheme.

Though you should expect Peterson’s output to decline this year, his current ADP of 233rd overall is low, considering that Guice is gone. Look to draft the OU alum closer to pick 160 in standard scoring and pick 180 in PPR. Think about handcuffing him with Love late in your drafts, too, if you want to ensure you have Washington's primary backfield runner (not receiver).

 

Did Derrius Guice Just Make Bryce Love’s Career?

Bryce Love is a puzzle wrapped in a riddle.

The opinions about his ceiling and floor as a pro prospect are wide-ranging, and they were that way even before he lost the past two years to a severe knee injury. Many see elite pro potential in Love’s junior year breakout at Stanford, when he flashed great top-end speed while challenging for the Heisman and putting up 2,118 rushing yards in a single season. Others are less sold on Love, dropping him entirely off their boards because of his recurring knee injury, below-average size, and lack of passing game involvement in college.

Considering all of this, it is fair for you, as a fantasy manager, to wonder what to make of this Stanford Tree now that he is healthy and faces less competition for touches than he did a week ago.

Three weeks ago, the answer to this question was considerably less optimistic than it is now. Back then, this former Cardinal hero was fighting merely for a roster spot. He was locked into a five-way competition in which he had little room for error or injury.

Today is a different story.

Now, Love is a nearly sure bet to make the roster, and he is being presented with a real opportunity to earn meaningful snaps and opportunities in camp. That opportunity to prove himself in camp and earn snaps with the first or second-team could be huge for Love. Camp snaps will be critical for many young and unproven players this year, with no pre-season games to establish themselves in. Odds now favor Love earning at least a backup role out of camp, and possibly more.

While Peterson will likely pose an obstacle to Love’s ascension, the second-year runner has an outside shot at unseating the veteran as Washington's lead rusher at some point this season. Considering that Love has an outside chance of becoming Washington's primary ball carrier, his current undrafted ADP is a bargain. Invest one of your final two or three draft picks in Love if you are doing a deep redraft or dynasty startup, and add Love to your bench if you've already drafted in your deep league, and he is on waivers.



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IDP Draft Sleepers: Defensive Back

As of August 1st, several relevant fantasy defenders have decided that they rather sit out this season than have a swab shoved up their nose before they are locked in a quarantine trailer for two days. Those defenders who chose to stay home include C.J. Mosley, Dont'a Hightower, Michael Pierce, and Patrick Chung. These are all good players, and they are players who would have had some impact on Individual Defensive Player (IDP) rosters during the 2020 fantasy season.

With this kind of uncertainty and turnover sure to continue in a year with no pre-season, it is more important than ever for IDP managers to keep an eye on the state of NFL defenses and individual defenders. That is why we will spend our August running through the various defenders who stand to become booms, busts, and sleepers in this COVID-ravaged season.

We will start this dive with a discussion of which defensive backs (DB) stand to outperform their current ADP/Rank this season. In other words, who are our top DB sleepers in 2020?

 

1.      Kyle Dugger (S), New England Patriots

Since the end of last season, the New England Patriots have lost three starting linebackers (Jamie Collins, Kyle Van Noy, and Dont'a Hightower), as well as their starting strong safety (Patrick Chung). Both of the McCourty brothers are possible opt-outs, too. That means that the elite defensive unit that Bill Belichick fielded last year is desperately thin in both the secondary and at linebacker.


That's where Kyle Dugger comes in.

Dugger has the frame to play linebacker, but he has the speed (4.49 on the 40) and burst (42-inch vertical) of a safety. Dugger's college film (most of it on handheld quality cameras) from Lenoir-Rhyne showed his ability to cover ground in zone coverage and fill holes against the run. This potential to play multiple positions is likely why Belichick invested the 37th overall pick in him in the first place.

For those questioning if Belichick would start a rookie like Dugger, remember that 'the Hoodie' started Richard Seymour, Devin McCourty, Aaron Hernandez, Rob Gronkowski, Sony Michel, Chandler Jones, Jerod Mayo, and Hightower as freshmen. A majority of those players were fantasy relevant as rookies, too.

For those of you saying Adrian Phillips' presence at safety renders Dugger irrelevant in 2020, remember three things. One, the Patriots often utilize three-safeties. Two, they invested more in Dugger (37th overall pick) than they did Phillips (a 2-year, $7.5 million deal signed in May). Three, Dugger's size and versatility mean he doesn't have to beat Phillips at safety to be a starter for you and the Patriots.

While Dugger's floor is as a third safety, he should have a shot to start at both safety and linebacker in 2020. If Dugger starts at safety, he is a deep league consideration. If he starts at linebacker while retaining DB eligibility, he is a must roster in all IDP formats.

 

2.      Jeremy Chinn (S), Carolina Panthers

Traditionally, the best fantasy DBs often play a cleanup role behind weak defensive fronts. Take Budda Baker, Jamal Adams, and Tracy Walker from 2020, for example. Each of those players was a talented closer, and they cleaned up behind poor play in front of them.

Why is it that the best fantasy DBs play in these situations?

Well, there are a couple of reasons that talented DBs tend to clean up in fantasy points behind weak fronts. The first reason is that bad defenses usually stay on the field a lot, and more plays means more fantasy opportunities. The second reason is that fantasy DBs get most of their points when the players ahead of them miss, or when the defense needs a DB to come down and blitz or close holes that the front seven couldn't handle on their own.

Here might be the right place to remind you that the Carolina Panthers spent their entire 2020 NFL Draft class on defense. The only free agents they signed to help replace Luke Kuechly, Bruce Irvin, Eric Reid, and Mario Addison were Tre Boston and Tahir Whitehead.

Jeremy Chinn has elite speed (4.46 forty time) for his size (6'3" and 221 lbs.), which should help him feast at the back end of a lousy defense in Carolina. Expect him to have success blitzing, while offenses focus on Brian Burns and Yatur Gross-Matos in the pass rush. This former Saluki should easily lead all rookie DBs in tackles, and he could be tops in sacks and turnovers, too. His fantasy floor is as a high upside IDP reserve, but he is worth rostering in both deep redrafts and dynasties.

 

3.     Emmanuel Moseley (CB), San Francisco 49ers

When people draft cornerbacks in fantasy, they often gravitate towards the biggest and best names at the position. After all, doesn't it make sense for fantasy managers to want the best overall players? Shouldn't they want shutdown guys like Jalen Ramsey, Richard Sherman, and Patrick Peterson?

The answer to that question is yes; you want the best players at their position in fantasy… unless you're talking about cornerbacks.

You see, NFL quarterbacks often avoid throwing anywhere near the best shutdown corners in football. In fact, good quarterbacks will typically avoid throwing the ball to the side of the field that players like Sherman and Peterson are on. When balls don't come the way of your fantasy corners, they won't get any tipped passes, tackles, or interceptions.

Opportunity is crucial in fantasy, and it is the reason that a player like Moseley has sneaky fantasy value in deep IDP leagues.

Moseley started 11 of the 49ers' 19 games last season, including their two most important (the NFC Championship and Super Bowl). During those starts, opposing quarterbacks targeted Moseley often because he was considered the weakest link on a 49ers Defense that sported Richard Sherman across the field and the underrated K'Waun Williams in the slot. Despite being targeted frequently, Moseley held up and produced decent fantasy stats. As a starter, he averaged 4.1 tackles per game while racking up two interceptions and nine passes defensed in 11 games. These are solid stats that could prove valuable in deep fantasy leagues that require you to start multiple CBs.

Consider Moseley only in deep leagues that require you to start a CB specifically, but know that he may end up a top-15 fantasy CB in 2020.

 

4.      Marcus Maye (S), New York Jets

With Jamal Adams traded to Seattle and C.J. Mosley opting out of this season, no one can blame fans for thinking that the New York Jets Defense is a dumpster fire. When you look at that unit, the only names most fans will even recognize are probably Jordan Jenkins, Marcus Maye, and last year's disappointing #3 overall NFL Draft pick Quinnen Williams. So it's entirely reasonable to say that this entire defensive unit should be ignored in IDP redraft leagues, right?

Wrong. I mean, someone has to tackle and cover for this team, right?

While Maye isn't a shiny new toy, nor is he anything to get too excited about, he is a sturdy defender who has shown flashes over three years. He has always earned positive grades for both his run defense and coverage skills, and he showed glimpses of pass-rush potential during his injury-shortened 2018 season. With their defensive leader (Adams) now gone, it is perfectly reasonable to expect the Jets to use Maye similarly to how they used Adams, simply because they have no better options. Expect this former Seminole to lead his woeful defense in tackles, passes defensed, and interceptions in 2020. He is worth rostering in deep IDP leagues, and fantasy managers should keep an eye on him as a possible waiver steal as the season progresses.

 

5.     Carlton Davis (CB), Tampa Bay Buccaneers:

Coming out of Auburn in the 2019 NFL Draft, Davis was considered a promising but flawed cornerback prospect. While he had great size and length, his inconsistent film and average Combine numbers caused him to fall to the Bucs at the back of the second-round. Despite the concerns that some teams had about him, Davis performed admirably as a rookie against high-powered NFC South offenses. He went a long way towards establishing himself as a long-term IDP fantasy asset, too.

In 2019, the former Auburn Tiger netted a terrific 19 passes defensed and a solid 60 tackles in just 14 games as a rookie. If Davis can continue this pace of 1.3 PDs and 4.3 tackles per game, he will be a perennial top-10 fantasy CB even if he doesn't net very many turnovers. This talented sophomore should be rostered as a legitimate top-12 fantasy CB in leagues that require you to start a CB, even if he isn't on many of the top rankings/ADP lists.

 

Honorable Mentions

  • Antoine Winfield Jr. (S), Tampa Bay Buccaneers
  • Johnathan Abram (S), Las Vegas Raiders
  • Xavier McKinney (S), New York Giants
  • Juan Thornhill (S), Kansas City Chiefs
  • Damontae Kazee (S), Atlanta Falcons



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What to Expect from Washington's Backfield in 2020

The running back position in fantasy football is historically shallow. You traditionally have your five no-brainer top running backs worthy of a first-round pick, and another 10 or so guys deserving of a top-45 pick thanks to their situation/talent/history. After that, you have a lot of gray area. That gray area is where fantasy football teams are often made and broken. That gray area is where the Washington Redskins’ backfield has been hiding since Alfred Morris left town, and it's where they find themselves again in 2020.

As it stands today, Ron Rivera and company will enter camp with at least four reasonably talented runners in Derrius Guice, Antonio Gibson, Adrian Peterson, and Bryce Love. Each of these players is capable of leading the Redskins backs in snaps. Each of these players is also flawed enough to lose any starting job they win, or they could fail to separate themselves from what ends up being a four-way committee. Any time an NFL squad has four starting running backs, fantasy owners have none.

So with this crowded but intriguing backfield situation queued up for a season-long battle in Washington, it is natural for fantasy owners to have questions like, will we see anyone seize a lead role in this backfield? Could Washington go with a four-man committee? If Guice thrives, will others still provide fantasy value? Let's take a deep dive and find out the answers to these questions and more.

 

How Will Offensive Coordinator Scott Turner Use His RBs?

The son of former NFL Head Coach and respected quarterback whisperer Norv Turner, new OC Scott Turner spent two stints in Carolina working with Ron Rivera as an offensive quality control coach and a quarterbacks coach. Turner's professional coaching experience is limited mainly to coaching the passing game (quarterbacks and wide receivers). His only experience as an offensive coordinator came in the final four games of a lost 2019 season in Carolina.

During Weeks 14 and 15 of last year, Turner coordinated in two relatively competitive contests against Atlanta and Seattle. In those games, Turner called a decidedly pass-heavy scheme, calling a pass on 65.5% of his plays. Turner's game plan skewed even more towards the pass during blowouts in Weeks 16 and 17, with Carolina passing 71.1% of the time.

During Turner's short time as offensive coordinator in Carolina, Christian McCaffrey's rushing production dipped. He averaged a mere 13 carries in those four games, which isn't surprising considering the team was passing so often. However, McCaffrey's involvement in the passing game during this time went up significantly under Turner. 33% of McCaffrey's 2019 targets came in the final four games of the season.

Now it must be said that Turner's play calls in Carolina were likely driven by the fact the Panthers were routinely playing from behind. It is also worth noting that McCaffery's passing game involvement was always substantial thanks to his talent, and it went up as Carolina's offensive line deteriorated in pass protection. However, it does not seem unreasonable to label Turner as a pass-first coordinator, even with this limited and skewed sample size. Turner has stated that he runs a 'vertical offense' in the mold of the "Air Coryell" system. He openly advocates moving players all over the field, and opening lanes in the running game by throwing past the sticks early and often.

Taking Turner's passing game history and his statements together, it seems likely that fans should expect Washington to call a 60-40 pass/run split in games which they are competitive. This split should involve a lot of intermediate/deep shots to Terry McLaurin, and 10-12 short passes to running backs and gadget players per game. This system should help the Washington running backs in PPR formats, but it could harm them in standard leagues.

 

What Is Ron Rivera's Impact?

Ron Rivera is a defensive coach first and foremost. When considering what his running backs could do for you in fantasy, however, it is worth taking a look at his history as a head coach on both sides of the ball.

From 2011-2014, Coach Rivera split his running back touches pretty evenly between Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams. During that time, both backs were fantasy-relevant, but neither were consistent fantasy starters. Jonathan Stewart averaged 159 rushes, 26 targets, 797 total yards (rushing plus passing), and 4.9 touchdowns per season under Rivera. Meanwhile, Williams averaged 147 rushes, 12 targets, 758 total yards, and 4.5 touchdowns during that time. This sort of timeshare was not an outlier in Rivera's Carolina scheme, either. As Head Coach in Carolina, Rivera always rotated several running backs onto the field, with one notable exception.

In 2017, the Carolina brass gifted Rivera the talents of Christian McCaffrey. As a rookie, McCaffrey quickly became an outlier in the Rivera era, netting a healthy 69% snap share before seizing the keys to the backfield during his sophomore and junior campaigns. In his second and third seasons, CMC commanded more than 90% of the team's snaps. Seeing as CMC was an outlier, however, and no one in Washington comes close to his talent, Rivera will likely return to his timeshare ways in 2020.

Since Rivera's history on offense foreshadows a 2020 timeshare in Washington, it is also worth considering how Rivera's defense could influence the backs he puts on the field and how Turner uses them.

While Rivera is renowned by many as a defensive master, his run in Carolina tells us something different. During his nine years as a head coach, Rivera's defenses have finished as a top-17 defense in terms of points allowed just three times. During that same stretch, his defenses have finished 20th or worse in points allowed five different times.

This inability to stop teams from scoring is a problem, especially if Washington wants to run the ball and control the clock.

While Rivera inherits a talented front-seven in Washington, his defensive history suggests that his offense could play from behind a lot. That means more snaps for players capable of excelling in the passing game, like Guice and Gibson, and less for ground-oriented backs like Peterson and Love.

 

Why Is Derrius Guice Washington's RB1?

Two years ago, Guice was a hot commodity in fantasy football. He was seen as a first-round NFL Draft talent who fell to the second round due to character concerns, landing him on a Redskins team that could and would use him often. He was viewed as the heir to Kareem Hunt's mantle as Fantasy Football Rookie Bargain of the Year, and people were projecting him to have the same kind of rookie year impact that Josh Jacobs had in Oakland a year later.

Fast forward to today, and Guice is coming off of two injury-shortened seasons to start his career. While the label "injury-prone" may not apply to Guice, or anyone if you ask some medical experts, there is a definite concern about whether this former LSU Tiger can hold up for a full 16 game season.  It is common for people coming off of knee injuries to experience soft tissue injuries and rust. With a torn left ACL that got infected, a torn right meniscus, and a sprained left MCL over the past two seasons, it is fair to worry about whether Guice might be a prime candidate for another injury (soft tissue or otherwise) in 2020. One could easily see him coming up lame again, or Coach Rivera limiting his touches for fear another injury could occur.

There is some good news to go with the bad for Leonard Fournette's old college backup, however.

The good news is that there is still a lot of love in Washington for Guice. The Redskins’ Running Back Coach Randy Jordan recently told Redskins.com that the third-year back has "every tool in the toolbox." Jordan went on to state that Guice is the guy who brings "instant juice" to their offense. This love from Guice's position coach is good to hear, and it is easy to see why Jordan would be enamored with the kid, too. In just five NFL games, the LSU alum broke two separate plays for 60 and 45 yards. Guice has also displayed terrific tackle-breaking ability in his limited NFL experience, averaging 5.07 yards after contact per attempt.  For context, Ezekiel Elliott averaged 3.23 yards after contact last year, and Derrick Henry averaged 4.18.

While the sample size is supremely small, Guice's big-play potential and elite yards after contact numbers lend credence to those touting his RB2 fantasy potential if he can stay healthy.

 

What Is Antonio Gibson's Role?

Gibson is a hot name in the Washington backfield right now. While he is going several rounds behind Guice, fantasy owners love the former Memphis product's potential as a PPR steal in the late rounds. The love for Gibson isn't exclusive to fantasy owners, either.

Adrian Peterson has lauded Gibson as an all-around weapon, capable of taking snaps as both a running back and receiver. Ron Rivera has also labeled Gibson a 'Swiss Army Knife' that defenses must account for on every play. Such high praise from big names in the organization is a promising sign for the rookie, but those comparing him to CMC are setting themselves up for disappointment.

While Gibson's 220-pound frame is bigger and better suited for a heavy workload than CMC's is, the rookie has no experience as a primary back or receiver in Division I or the NFL. Despite Gibson having workhorse size and superior top-end speed (4.39-seconds on the 40-yard dash), the coaches at Memphis only gave him 77 total offensive touches in two years. Instead, Coach Silverfield opted to move Gibson around the formation as a gadget while using Kenneth Gainwell and Damontae Coxie as their primary back and receiver, respectively. This lack of offensive involvement is likely the reason for Gibson's limited route running, upright running style, and tendency to catch with his body. This lack of reps/touches is also a red flag for those expecting Gibson to hit the ground running as a rookie.

If Gibson wasn't good enough to be Memphis' top option in the backfield or out wide, why would things be any different during his first year in the NFL?

 

If Guice Is the RB1, Who Is His Handcuff?

Adrian Peterson used to be the best player in fantasy football, and he is going to be a Hall of Famer someday. He is also still a contributor in the NFL. Teams continue to value the former Sooner for his locker-room leadership and his ability to wear defenses down over four quarters.

Peterson isn't close to being who he used to be, however.

Over the past two seasons, this aging veteran has averaged 11 PPR fantasy points per game and 9.9 standard fantasy points per game. In 2019 he scored more than 10 PPR fantasy points in eight games, but he scored less than 10 PPR points in seven. While that sort of production was worth a fantasy roster spot late last season, it was also inflated by an interim coach who loved running the ball down defenses' throats and a backfield thinned by injuries to Guice, Chris Thompson, and Bryce Love.

This year Peterson turns 35 years old. He is playing with a coordinator who likes to motion backs out of the backfield and into the passing game, which was never Peterson's strength. The former Sooner also faces stiffer competition for touches than he ever has in Washington as Guice, Love, and Gibson all look to stay healthy and establish roles in this new Washington scheme. All of these factors point to Peterson's role in Washington, and his fantasy production, dipping lower than they ever have.

Expect 'All Day' to score closer to an average of five or six PPR points per game in 2020, rather than the nine or more he put up in a depleted backfield the past two years.

 

Does Bryce Love Have a Role At All?

At Stanford, Bryce Love had an incredibly productive junior year that saw him finish second in Heisman voting. In that exciting third year, Love displayed good top-end speed, crisp cuts, and incredible efficiency when he had good blocking. Love also showed some worrisome traits, even in his best season, however. While he was fast, it often took time for him to get to his sixth gear. While he showed good movement through open holes, he lacked the power needed to break real tackles. While he was efficient on the ground, he did little in the passing game despite having four years of opportunity.

These were only the beginning of the concerns for Love, though.

In 2018, Stanford's star runner saw his yards per carry nearly cut in half. Throughout ten games that season, he managed only 739 rushing yards, which was almost a third of what he put up in 13 games the year prior. Love's disappointing senior year didn't stop there, as he concluded it with an ACL tear that would require two separate surgeries and cost him his entire rookie year.

Today, a year and a half removed from his original injury, there are still questions about Love's durability and his place in the NFL. The Stanford product has yet to take the field since the injury, and there is little to no buzz coming out of Redskins camp, suggesting that the team is thrilled with his recovery. Remember that this is the time of year that organizations promote their players and spread good feelings, and yet all of the good feelings in Washington seem to be focused on Guice, Gibson, and Peterson. A team in need of good PR and fan engagement should be itching to talk about the recovery and return of a former Heisman finalist. Yet, they are pretty quiet on this issue.

If there were a time to buzz about Love, that time would be now, but it isn't happening.

 

Conclusion

From a scheme perspective, Coach Turner's history indicates Washington will have a throw to open the run mentality. That fact, along with Coach Rivera's preference for a running back committee, should give fantasy managers pause before drafting a Redskins back early in standard-scoring leagues. Of further concern is Coach Rivera's inconsistent defensive history. If the Redskins' defense (which has holes at cornerback) disappoints like more than half of Rivera's past defenses have, Washington could be throwing even more than they would like to catch up. That means fantasy managers should expect a 60-70% pass rate in Washington in 2020, with 10-20 targets going to the likes of Guice and Gibson.

From a personnel standpoint, Derrius Guice is still the best fantasy bet in Washington's backfield thanks to the edge he holds in size, age, efficiency, and talent over the others in his backfield. His current ADP of 81st overall in redrafts is reasonable, though his touches and injury history may never allow him to be anything more than an RB4 this season. Be comfortable selecting Guice in the top-90 of both dynasty and redraft leagues, but manage your expectations for him this season.

Given his ability to play the Curtis Samuel role in Coach Turner's offense, expect Gibson to receive 4-5 targets and perhaps another 4-5 carries per game. That combination of involvement and talent is worth a top-120 pick in dynasty leagues and a top-140 pick in redrafts thanks to his PPR potential. Do not expect Gibson to be a workhorse or the primary handcuff to Guice, however.

Adrian Peterson is the safest handcuff option to pair with Guice. While Gibson is the popular choice as that handcuff, Gibson's role shouldn't change too much if Guice were to go down. Peterson's power and ball security will make him the primary ball carrier if Guice were to go down to injury, and he should remain in the mix for 8-12 carries a game even if Guice is the healthy starter. Peterson is a late-round bench stash in deeper redraft leagues.

Bryce Love is a lottery ticket in 2020 fantasy redrafts, and nothing more. Though he should make the final roster in Washington as a fourth running back, he should not jump Guice, Gibson, or Peterson on the depth chart anytime soon. Love isn't the pass-catcher that Gibson is, he isn't the after contact monster that Guice is, and he doesn't provide the goal line power or leadership that Peterson does. Consider Love a deep dynasty stash and a bench option in 14 or 16-team leagues, but let him stay on waivers in traditional 12-team redrafts.

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2020 Fantasy Football Advice 2020 Fantasy Football Draft Strategy & Tips 2020 Fantasy Football Projections & ADP Analysis Editor Note Featured Football NFL Analysis RotoBaller - All Fantasy Sports Articles

IDP One-Man Mock With Multiple Personalities

For those of you in fantasy football IDP leagues (Individual Defensive Player), it can be hard to find content that helps you decide when you should draft defenders in your drafts, and when you should expect others to select them. To help you through this process, we are going to conduct a one-man mock with IDP players included.

However, a simple one-man mock won't give you the best idea of how your draft will go. One man drafting for every team with one strategy for all will not give you a realistic feel for how a real draft with various personalities and draft strategies will go. That is why this one-man mock will be a little different than others.

 

Meet the Squad

In this one-man mock, one analyst (me) will be putting on a different personality for each of the 10 teams drafting. Those different strategies/characters are as follows:

  1. The Steady Eddies- This team will embody your old-school analyst views on drafting. That means they won't usually invest in risky players or a lot of rookies. Think of ESPN's Eric Karabell as the captain of this ship;
  2. The Mavericks- This is one of two unpredictable risk-takers participating in this mock. They do not shy away from injured players, streaky players, or boom-or-bust types;
  3. The Hype Trains- This team will be prone to hype, big names, and hyperbole;
  4. Zero RB 4 Life- This team employs the zero running back theory;
  5. The Best Players Available- This team will traditionally draft the best player on their board, regardless of position;
  6. Half-Back 2 Da Future- This team goes running back heavy early;
  7. The Basic B's- This team prints off an analyst's draft rankings and they draft from that almost exclusively;
  8. The Wild Cards- This is The Mavericks' twin. They are also risky and unpredictable drafters. There is always one, if not two, of these types in any draft;
  9. Jack Reacher- Reacher will always try to get his guy, often a round or two higher than expected;
  10. The Trend Setters- This team will start runs at positions like QB and TE. They will value securing the best player(s) at a position, whether those positions are deep or not.

With our various personalities explained, let us note that the offensive scoring and roster setup in this mock league is traditional. That means this league will start one QB, two RBs, two WRs, one TE, two FLEX, one DL, one LB, one DB, and one IDP-FLEX. This league also uses the 'standard IDP scoring' system, which awards one point for a solo tackle, a half-point for a half tackle, two points for a PD or FR, three points for a sack, and four points for an INT or FF.

With all of this established, let us get to the picks.

 

Rounds 1 & 2

Round Pick Fantasy Team Player NFL Team Pos.
1 1 Steady Eddies Christian McCaffery Panthers RB
1 2 Mavericks Saquan Barkley Giants RB
1 3 Hype Trains Ezekiel Elliott Cowboys RB
1 4 Zero RB 4 Life Michael Thomas Saints WR
1 5 Best Players Available Alvin Kamara Saints RB
1 6 Half-Back 2 Da Future Derrick Henry Titans RB
1 7 Basic B's Davante Adams Packers WR
1 8 Wild Card Josh Jacobs Raiders RB
1 9 Jack Reacher Joe Mixon Bengals RB
1 10 Trend Setters Tyreek Hill Chiefs WR
2 11 Trend Setters Patrick Mahomes Chiefs QB
2 12 Jack Reacher Lamar Jackson Ravens QB
2 13 Wild Card Dalvin Cook Vikings RB
2 14 Basic B's Nick Chubb Browns RB
2 15 Half-Back 2 Da Future Clyde Edwards-Helaire Chiefs RB
2 16 Best Players Available DeAndre Hopkins Cardinals WR
2 17 Zero RB 4 Life George Kittle 49ers TE
2 18 Hype Trains Chris Godwin Bucs WR
2 19 Mavericks Odell Beckham Jr. Browns WR
2 20 Steady Eddies Julio Jones Falcons WR

One note worth making in these first two rounds is that both Pat Mahomes and Lamar Jackson are likely to go much earlier than most analysts, including myself, would advise. If you play with people who like to get the "best player at his position," know that they are prime candidates to take Mahomes or Jackson in the top-20 picks. Don't buy into that trend, even in super-flex and dynasty leagues, however. Sit back and let others make these moves. Focus your attention on elite RBs and WRs early.

It is also worth noting that Dalvin Cook's holdout has him sliding into the second round of most fantasy drafts right now, and this mock reflects that. Cook's fall is an understandable trend, as his injury history and potential holdout are worrisome in both redraft and dynasty leagues. Do not overestimate how far Cook should fall, however. It is June, and there is still plenty of time for the Vikings to come to an agreement with the player they have repeatedly identified as a franchise cornerstone. If you can get this FSU product in the late first or early second round, you should jump on him. He is risky, but he was also the second-best fantasy back in 2019 when healthy. That kind of potential rarely falls outside of the first round.

 

Rounds 3-5

Round Pick Fantasy Team Player NFL Team Pos.
3 21 Steady Eddies Kenyan Drake Cardinals RB
3 22 Mavericks Austin Ekelar Chargers RB
3 23 Hype Trains Miles Sanders Eagles RB
3 24 Zero RB 4 Life Mike Evans Bucs WR
3 25 Best Players Available Aaron Jones Packers RB
3 26 Half-Back 2 Da Future Travis Kelce Chiefs RB
3 27 Basic B's Adam Thielen Vikings WR
3 28 Wild Card JuJu Smith-Schuster Steelers WR
3 29 Jack Reacher A.J. Brown Titans WR
3 30 Trend Setters Kenny Golladay Lions WR
3 31 Trend Setters Leonard Fournette Jaguars RB
4 32 Jack Reacher Jonathan Taylor Colts RB
4 33 Wild Card D.J. Moore Panthers WR
4 34 Basic B's Le' Veon Bell Jets RB
4 35 Half-Back 2 Da Future Chris Carson Seahawks RB
4 36 Best Players Available Allen Robinson Bears WR
4 37 Zero RB 4 Life Todd Gurley Falcons RB
4 38 The Hype Trains Calvin Ridley Falcons WR
4 39 Mavericks David Johnson Texans RB
4 40 Steady Eddies James Conner Steelers RB
5 41 Steady Eddies Cooper Kupp Rams WR
5 42 Mavericks Kyler Murray Cardinals QB
5 43 The Hype Trains Mark Andrews Ravens TE
5 44 Zero RB 4 Life Amari Cooper Cowboys WR
5 45 Best Players Available Stefon Diggs Bills WR
5 46 Half-Back 2 Da Future Robert Woods Rams WR
5 47 Basic B's Melvin Gordon Broncos RB
5 48 Wild Card Cam Akers Rams RB
5 49 Jack Reacher D.K. Metcalf Seahawks WR
5 50 Trend Setters Raheem Mostert 49ers RB

Even if his best blocker (Brandon Brooks) is out for the season, Miles Sanders is going to go high. How high should he go, though? Remember that Sanders' touches and efficiency, both at the goal and elsewhere, were all over the place last year. He is a talented player, but the loss of Brooks, the history of Doug Pederson backfield timeshares, and Sanders' inefficiency near the goal are all reasons to fade him out of the top-25 picks. He may go in the top-20 picks of your draft, but you should think twice about being the person that makes that pick. Picks 23-30 are a better range for his risk/reward profile.

The Steady Eddies get excellent value at the end of the fourth in James Conner, even if he isn't going amongst the top-40 picks in most current drafts. Pittsburgh's history of using one primary RB and Mike Tomlin's offseason comments about Conner being that lead tells us this Pitt Panther is a prime bounce-back candidate in 2020. While the Steelers' primary back is going behind rushers who carry just as much risk as he does (see David Johnson and Le' Veon Bell), Conner could end up the better player in redrafts and dynasties. Conner's age, upside, and blocking are all more attractive than Bell or Johnson.

The Hype Trains take a risk by passing on Amari Cooper (who was a top-10 WR last year) for Calvin Ridley. In doing so, the Hype Trains buy into the narrative that Ridley will see elite usage this season, and some of your league members will buy this hype too. This Crimson Tide star is a former first-round draft pick who was on pace to be WR16 in PPR settings and WR14 in standard leagues before injuries hit him last year. WR15 may be the ceiling for Ridley, however. Remember that Julio Jones will still get 160 targets from 'Matty Ice' while Russell Gage, Hayden Hurst, and Todd Gurley are all receiving buzz about their roles in this offense. That competition for targets could keep Ridley as a low-end WR2 in 2020, and his week-to-week inconsistency could continue for a third straight year.

 

Rounds 6-9: Defenders Appear!

Round Pick Fantasy Team Player NFL Team Pos.
6 51 Trend Setters Zach Ertz Eagles TE
6 52 Jack Reacher Kareem Hunt Browns RB
6 53 Wild Card Terry McLaurin Redskins WR
6 54 Basic B's David Montgomery Bears RB
6 55 Half-Back 2 Da Future D'Andre Swift Lions RB
6 56 Best Players Available Courtland Sutton Broncos WR
6 57 Zero RB 4 Life Dak Prescott Cowboys QB
6 58 Hype Trains Deshaun Watson Texans QB
6 59 Mavericks Deebo Samuel 49ers WR
6 60 Steady Eddies Mark Ingram II Ravens RB
7 61 Steady Eddies Keenan Allen Chargers WR
7 62 Mavericks Darren Waller Raiders TE
7 63 Hype Trains Devin Singletary Bills RB
7 64 Zero RB 4 Life J.K. Dobbins Ravens RB
7 65 Best Players Available D.J. Chark Jaguars WR
7 66 Half-Back 2 Da Future Tyler Locket Seahawks WR
7 67 Basic B's DeVante Parker Dolphins WR
7 68 Wild Card Alexander Mattison Vikings RB
7 69 Jack Reacher Rob Gronkowski Bucs TE
7 70 Trend Setters Darius Leonard Colts LB
8 71  Trend Setters Ke’Shawn Vaughn Bucs RB
8 72 Jack Reacher Joey Bosa Chargers DE
8 73 Wild Card Russell Wilson Seahawks QB
8 74 Basic B's A.J. Green Bengals WR
8 75 Half-Back 2 Da Future T.Y. Hilton Colts WR
8 76 Best Players Available Evan Engram Giants TE
8 77 Zero RB 4 Life Jarvis Landry Browns WR
8 78 Hype Trains Michael Gallup Cowboys WR
8 79 Mavericks Julian Edelman Patriots WR
8 80 Steady Eddies Hunter Henry Chargers TE
9 81 Steady Eddies Tyler Boyd Bengals WR
9 82 Mavericks Will Fuller V Texans WR
9 83 Hype Trains Marquise Brown Ravens WR
9 84 Zero RB 4 Life Darius Slayton Giants WR
9 85 Best Players Available Derrius Guice Redskins RB
9 86 Half-Back 2 Da Future Tom Brady Bucs QB
9 87 Basic B's Tarik Cohen Bears RB
9 88 Wild Card Bobby Wagner Seahawks LB
9 89 Jack Reacher Cory Littleton Raiders LB
9 90 Trend Setters CeeDee Lamb Cowboys WR

FINALLY, we see some defenders come off the board!

Darius Leonard is the only defender worthy of a top-75 fantasy selection. The Colts' star defender may even be worth taking even higher than that. One could easily argue that Leonard's lead at the top of the LB position is more established and substantial than the edge CMC has on his fellow top-tier RBs, or that Michael Thomas has on the WR group.

Joey Bosa and Cory Littleton are defenders who join Leonard and Bobby Wagner as reasonable top-90 selections in this mock. Jack Reacher secures them both thanks to his willingness to spend prime picks on players he doesn't want to miss out on by waiting. While it is not a reach to select Bosa and Littleton in this range, many will prefer to grab offensive players like CeeDee Lamb, Jerry Jeudy, and Noah Fant before they take their first defenders.

One general lesson to learn from this early run on defenders is that defenders in IDP are not the same as your standard D/ST units. Smart owners usually wait until the later rounds to draft even the best D/ST units, but IDP defenders are different. Elite defenders are worth taking higher than you would expect. Project the Trend Setters, Jack Reachers, and Wild Cards in your leagues to start runs on defenders in these rounds.

It is also worth noting the recent news that Deebo Samuel broke his foot, as that the injury could sideline him through all of camp. This injury has him falling out of the top-55 picks in this mock, but a variety of factors could influence his draft position come August. If the reports are accurate that Samuel could be back by Week 1 and in great shape, he may deserve to go in the top-50 picks. However, if the former Gamecock re-aggravates his foot or shows up out of shape, he could fall out of the top-70 selections in redrafts. Keep an eye on Samuel's recovery and his conditioning. Remember that South Carolina Head Coach Will Muschamp warned the 49ers about the receiver's lax conditioning habits during the 2019 draft process.

 

Rounds 10-13

Round Pick Fantasy Team Player NFL Team Pos.
10 91 Trend Setters Jerry Jeudy Broncos WR
10 92 Jack Reacher Justin Jefferson Vikings WR
10 93 Wild Card Noah Fant Broncos TE
10 94 Basic B's Tyler Higbee Rams TE
10 95 Half-Back 2 Da Future Damien Williams Chiefs RB
10 96 Best Players Available Marvin Jones, Jr. Lions WR
10 97 Zero RB 4 Life Matt Breida Dolphins RB
10 98 Hype Trains Myles Garrett Browns DE
10 99 Mavericks Danielle Hunter Vikings DE
10 100 Steady Eddies Josh Allen Bills QB
11 101 Steady Eddies Brandin Cooks Texans WR
11 102 Mavericks Marlon Mack Colts RB
11 103 Hype Trains Ronald Jones II Bucs RB
11 104 Zero RB 4 Life Jordan Howard Dolphins RB
11 105 Best Players Available Henry Ruggs III Raiders WR
11 106 Half-Back 2 Da Future Sony Michel Patriots RB
11 107 Basic B's Carson Wentz Eagles QB
11 108 Wild Card Aaron Donald Rams DT
11 109 Jack Reacher Mecole Hardman Chiefs WR
11 110 Trend Setters Jamal Adams Jets S
12 111 Trend Setters Jaylon Smith Cowboys LB
12 112 Jack Reacher James White Patriots RB
12 113 Wild Card Christian Kirk Cardinals WR
12 114 Basic B's Jamison Crowder Jets WR
12 115 Half-Back 2 Da Future Michael Pittman, Jr. Colts WR
12 116 Best Players Available Matt Ryan Falcons QB
12 117 Zero RB 4 Life Budda Baker Cardinals S
12 118 Hype Trains Emmanuel Sanders Saints WR
12 119 Mavericks Derwin James Chargers S
12 120 Steady Eddies Phillip Lindsay Broncos RB
13 121 Steady Eddies Diontae Johnson Steelers WR
13 122 Mavericks Blake Martinez Giants ILB
13 123  Hype Trains Zack Moss Bills RB
13 124 Zero RB 4 Life Nick Bosa 49ers DE
13 125 Best Players Available Landon Collins Redskins S
13 126 Half-Back 2 Da Future Roquan Smith Bears ILB
13 127 Basic B's Joe Schobert Jaguars ILB
13 128 Wild Card Darrell Henderson Rams RB
13 129 Jack Reacher Kerryon Johnson Lions RB
13 130 Trend Setters J.J. Watt Texans DE

Rounds eight through eleven are where you can expect to see smart drafters considering rookie receivers like CeeDee Lamb, Jerry Jeudy, and Justin Jefferson in IDP redrafts. Mind you, these rookies carry significantly more value than this in dynasty leagues. Concerns about target shares, depth charts, and various other issues are enough to drive these rookies' stock out of the first 80 picks in redrafts, however.

Myles Garrett falls to the late tenth here, but he merits discussion in the same breath as Joey Bosa and Cory Littleton in your IDP drafts. He was on pace to be one of the most productive fantasy defensive linemen in 2019 before his suspension, and he could pick up that pace again in 2020. Expect him to finish as a top-four DL in 2020, or higher.

Public perception has Derwin James' fantasy stock falling, even in the risk-taking eyes of the Jack Reachers and Wild Cards in this mock. The consensus amongst experts and fans is that Budda Baker, Jamal Adams, and Landon Collins are better fantasy assets than James, due to his injury concerns and lack of production last season. This perception will probably force James down boards during your draft, where you could get a bargain as the Mavericks did at pick #119.

Finally, notice here that the Trend Setters drafted a second LB at pick #111. The IDP-FLEX position should almost always be filled with an LB, at least when playing in standard IDP scoring leagues. That is why the Trend Setters made this move for Jaylon Smith. They can now start two of fantasy's best LBs, giving them a weekly edge at both the LB and IDP-FLEX spots.

 

Rounds 14-18

Round Pick Fantasy Team Player NFL Team Pos.
14 131 Trend Setters Tevin Coleman 49ers RB
14 132 Jack Reacher Tremaine Edmunds Bills ILB
14 133 Wild Card Hayden Hurst Falcons TE
14 134 Basic B's Leighton Vander Esch Cowboys LB
14 135 Half-Back 2 Da Future Devin Bush Steelers LB
14 136 Best Players Available Latavius Murray Saints RB
14 137 Zero RB 4 Life Antonio Gibson Redskins RB
14 138 Hype Trains Tony Pollard Cowboys RB
14 139 Mavericks Drew Brees Saints QB
14 140 Steady Eddies Zach Cunningham Texans LB
15 141 Steady Eddies Cameron Jordan Saints DE
15 142 Mavericks Dallas Goedert Eagles TE
15 143 Hype Trains Jordan Hicks Cardinals LB
15 144 Zero RB 4 Life Fred Warner 49ers LB
15 145 Best Players Available Lavonte David Bucs LB
15 146 Half-Back 2 Da Future John Johnson III Rams S
15 147 Basic B's Harrison Smith Vikings S
15 148 Wild Card Deion Jones Falcons LB
15 149 Jack Reacher Justin Simmons Broncos S
15 150 Trend Setters Boston Scott Eagles RB
16 151 Trend Setters Aaron Rodgers Packers QB
16 152 Jack Reacher Gio Bernard Bengals RB
16 153 Wild Card Lynn Bowden, Jr. Raiders RB/WR
16 154 Basic B's Cameron Heyward Steelers DL
16 155 Half-Back 2 Da Future Chase Young Redskins DE
16 156 Best Players Available T.J. Watt Steelers OLB
16 157 Zero RB 4 Life Demario Davis Saints ILB
16 158 Hype Trains Tracy Walker Lions S
16 159 Mavericks Anthony Miller Bears WR
16 160 Steady Eddies Chase Edmonds Cardinals RB
17 161 Steady Eddies C.J. Mosley Jets LB
17 162 Mavericks Jalen Reagor Eagles WR
17 163 Hype Trains Patrick Queen Ravens LB
17 164 Zero RB 4 Life Baker Mayfield Browns QB
17 165 Best Players Available Jared Cook Saints TE
17 166 Half-Back 2 Da Future Daniel Jones Giants QB
17 167 Basic B's Austin Hooper Browns TE
17 168 Wild Card Jabrill Peppers Giants S
17 169 Jack Reacher Joe Burrow Bengals QB
17 170 Trend Setters Preston Williams Dolphins WR
18 171 Trend Setters T.J. Hockenson Lions TE
18 172 Jack Reacher Chris Herndon Jets TE
18 173 Wild Card Denzel Mims Jets WR
18 174 Basic B's Tua Tagovailoa Dolphins QB
18 175 Half-Back 2 Da Future Joshua Kelley Chargers RB
18 176 Best Players Available Calais Campbell Ravens DL
18 177 Zero RB 4 Life DeSean Jackson Eagles WR
18 178 Hype Trains Mike Williams Chargers WR
18 179 Mavericks Devin White Bucs LB
18 180 Steady Eddies Minkah Fitzpatrick Steelers DB

You will notice that teams like the Steady Eddies and the Hype Trains waited to fill a lot of their defensive needs until late in this mock. Expect some of your more practical drafters, or those who draft based on headlines, to wait on defenders until later. It is a common belief amongst fantasy players, and not an entirely false one, that individual defenders are nearly as replaceable as kickers and D/ST units. You can often get some solid defenders late in your draft. However, these later round defenders will usually carry limited ceilings or a boom-or-bust nature with them, making them significantly inferior options to the Bosa brothers, Budda Baker, or Darius Leonard.

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Check out all of RotoBaller's fantasy football rankings. Staff rankings are updated regularly for all positions and include standard formats, PPR scoring, tiered rankings and dynasty leagues.




Categories
2020 Fantasy Football & NFL Rookies 2020 Fantasy Football Advice 2020 Fantasy Football Projections & ADP Analysis Editor Note Featured Football NFL Analysis RotoBaller - All Fantasy Sports Articles

Early IDP Tiered Rankings & Analysis for 2020

Individual Defensive Player (IDP) formats are becoming more popular in fantasy leagues, but not all IDP leagues are the same. Your IDP ranks can and should change depending on your league's format. An example might be that if your league requires you to start a defensive tackle (DT) specifically, then Aaron Donald's fantasy value would be higher in your league than in leagues that use only a general defensive line (DL) position.

Our ranks are rooted in IDP leagues that use only DL, linebacker (LB), and defensive back (DB) positions. My rankings  rely on a common IDP scoring format that I will refer to as "standard scoring." This scoring system awards one point for a solo-tackle, a half-point for a half-tackle, two points for passes defensed, two points for a safety, three points for a fumble recovery, three points for a sack, four points for an interception, and six points for a touchdown.

Below you'll find my analysis of our IDP rankings.

 

Tier 1: One Defender Who Should Go Top-90

Tier Player Name Pos Pierre Chris Justin Overall Rank
1 Darius Leonard LB 1 1 1 1.000

As you can see, RotoBaller rankers universally agree that Darius Leonard is the top individual defender in fantasy. His short but impressive NFL resume proves he is capable of leading the NFL in tackles while picking off passes like a corner, sacking quarterbacks like an end, and scoring touchdowns. In standard scoring formats last year, Leonard had two games of 24+ fantasy points, and he scored eight or more fantasy points in 12 of his 13 games. That kind of ceiling/floor combo in a fantasy defender is almost unheard of, and it places Leonard in a tier of his own. This Colt is young too, making him the top defender in both dynasty and redraft stables.

 

Tier 2: Defenders Worth Drafting Before a WR4

Tier Player Name Pos Pierre Chris Justin Overall Rank
2 Bobby Wagner LB 2 2 3 2.333
2 Joey Bosa DL 3 3 5 3.667
2 Danielle Hunter DL 4 6 2 4.000
2 Cory Littleton LB 5 5 4 4.667
2 Jaylon Smith LB 7 7 8 7.333
2 Jamal Adams DB 8 10 6 8.000
2 Myles Garrett DL 12 4 10 8.667

This tier of defenders offers a good lesson in positional value for those new to the IDP game. The LB position in fantasy is incredibly deep, while the DL and DB positions are top-heavy. The lack of elite supply at DL and DB means that the top players at these positions will often hold more value than most fantasy LBs, even though LBs typically score the most points amongst defenders. Although players like Leonard and Bobby Wagner should go early regardless of their position, fantasy owners should prioritize the likes of Joey Bosa, Danielle Hunter, Myles Garrett, and Jamal Adams over almost any LB.

 

Tier 3: Mid-Round Defenders Who Can Win Their Position

Tier Player Name Pos Pierre Chris Justin Overall Rank
3 Aaron Donald DL 9 11 9 9.667
3 Blake Martinez LB 6 17 7 10.000
3 Landon Collins DB 11 12 11 11.333
3 Roquan Smith LB 10 14 12 12.000
3 Budda Baker DB 14 9 16 13.000
3 Joe Schobert LB 13 13 13 13.000
3 Tremaine Edmunds LB 18 19 15 17.333
3 Leighton Vander Esch LB 16 24 14 18.000
3 Devin Bush LB 17 18 23 19.333
3 Zach Cunningham LB 20 20 20 20.000

There is a solid argument for Budda Baker to be included in the second tier of our defender rankings. Tackles (especially solo tackles) are the best indicator of consistent weekly performance in IDP, and Baker is the first DB to lead the NFL in solo tackles since 1996. That spells an uncommon fantasy floor for any DB, and good draft value in the double-digit rounds.

Another player who may be too low on this list is Aaron Donald, especially for those playing in leagues that utilize a starting DT slot. If you have to start a DT, Donald should arguably be one of the first three fantasy defenders drafted due to the giant drop from him to the next DT on the list. If he gets back to his 20-sack form, the Pitt product could be the top overall DL.

Finally, Blake Martinez is a tier-two prospect for two of our three rankers. He has been a tackle machine and a consistent fantasy contributor for years in Green Bay. This new New Yorker carries two question marks that could make him a risky tier-two defender, however. First, there are questions about whether his new Giants teammates can keep him as clean as his superior teammates in Green Bay did. Second, there are doubts about whether he can raise his fantasy ceiling by improving upon his unimpressive turnover numbers (five in four seasons). Those questions could be enough to put players like Baker, Landon Collins, and Roquan Smith ahead of Martinez on many boards.

 

Tier 4: Big Name Bargains

Tier Player Name Pos Pierre Chris Justin Overall Rank
4 Jordan Hicks LB 21 25 17 21.000
4 Lavonte David LB 15 30 18 21.000
4 Derwin James DB 23 8 35 22.000
4 Nick Bosa DL 24 15 29 22.667
4 Deion Jones LB 19 28 22 23.000
4 Demario Davis LB 22 29 25 25.333
4 Fred Warner LB 29 21 30 26.667
4 Cameron Jordan DL 34 16 32 27.333
4 Devin White LB 28 35 21 28.000
4 Harrison Smith DB 30 23 31 28.000
4 J.J. Watt DL 26 32 26 28.000

Derwin James is one of the most talented DBs in the NFL, but his injury history has him ranked as just the 22nd defender in our overall ranks. If James can stay healthy, he should replicate or better the elite fantasy stats he produced during his rookie year. This former Seminole has the potential to be the top overall fantasy DB for years to come, and those kinds of players aren't usually available 21 defenders deep into drafts.

Nick Bosa also represents great fantasy value if he is the 23rd defender selected in your draft. There are valid concerns about how he will do without Deforest Buckner playing next to him, but there is still a lot of potential on that line and in Bosa's biceps. This former Buckeye's fantasy floor should be as a top-eight fantasy DL if he stays healthy in 2020.

Finally, J.J. Watt falls lower in our ranks than expected thanks to the litany of injury issues he has suffered over the past four years. The older Watt brother's inability to consistently finish seasons is a concern, and it should impact his draft value, but it doesn't mean he shouldn't be valued at all. While this former Defensive Player of the Year is now too risky to go amongst the top-15 defenders, his upside at the thin DL position means he is still a substantial value outside the top-25 defenders.

 

Tier 5: Starters With Upside

Tier Player Name Pos Pierre Chris Justin Overall Rank
5 John Johnson DB 27 34 24 28.333
5 C.J. Mosley LB 25 50 19 31.333
5 Shaq Thompson LB 32 31 34 32.333
5 Jordan Poyer DB 41 36 28 35.000
5 Keanu Neal DB 35 38 33 35.333
5 T.J. Watt LB 40 39 37 38.667
5 Kwon Alexander LB 31 60 27 39.333
5 Shawn Williams DB 42 41 39 40.667
5 Jayon Brown LB 36 46 41 41.000
5 Chandler Jones LB 43 43 40 42.000
5 Jabrill Peppers DB 48 26 53 42.333

T.J. Watt and Chandler Jones are both serviceable starters at the fantasy LB position thanks to some stellar sack and turnover production. Still, their low tackle totals keep them out of the top-tier of LBs in standard scoring IDP leagues. If your league uses an EDGE position or offers added incentive for sacks and tackles for loss, however, their fantasy value should skyrocket. Consider Watt and Jones to be boom-or-bust standard league LBs, but high-end fantasy EDGE options.

Like Watt and Jones, C.J. Mosley could also be a steal in the right circumstances. Mosley has the talent and ability to be a top-five fantasy LB, and he has been one in the past. There are valid reasons why Mosley is ranked lower than his resume suggests, however. Mosely is now on a weak Jets Defense that won't do him many favors, as opposed to the strong Ravens Defenses he regularly worked on in the past. Additionally, this former Crimson Tide is recovering from a groin injury that may or may not fully heal by the start of the season. These question marks may be enough to take Mosley out of the top-ten fantasy LBs early in this process, but he still has the upside to sneak into that range if healthy.

Finally, Kwon Alexander was an elite fantasy LB for two seasons in Tampa, and he could replicate that sort of performance if he stays healthy and on the field in SF. The problem is, Alexander's missed games in four of his five NFL seasons. Another problem is that this 'Hot Boy' may lose time in nickel packages to Dre Greenlaw, who is a far cheaper and more efficient tackler. If Fred Warner and Greenlaw are SF's nickel' backers, Alexander's playing time and fantasy opportunities will drop by half.

UPDATE: Mosley has opted out for the 2020 NFL season due to COVID concerns.

 

Tiers 6-7: Late Round Selections With Versatility Or Upside

Tier Player Name Pos Pierre Chris Justin Overall Rank
6 Shaquil Barrett LB 33 56 47 45.333
6 Cameron Heyward DL 50 37 50 45.667
6 Khalil Mack LB 37 49 51 45.667
6 Eric Kendricks LB 39 53 46 46.000
6 Jessie Bates III DB 53 42 43 46.000
6 Tracy Walker DB 59 27 52 46.000
6 Christian Kirksey LB 45 63 36 48.000
6 Vonn Bell DB 38 68 38 48.000
6 Todd Davis LB 49 54 44 49.000
6 DeForest Buckner DL 54 47 48 49.667
6 Minkah Fitzpatrick DB 44 55 58 52.333
6 Justin Simmons DB 74 22 66 54.000
6 Isaiah Simmons LB 57 40 65 54.000
7 Sam Hubbard DL 66 58 42 55.333
7 Jerome Baker LB 58 48 62 56.000
7 Von Miller LB 51 72 49 57.333
7 Patrick Queen LB 46 44 82 57.333
7 Melvin Ingram III DL 56 62 57 58.333
7 Chase Young DL 71 33 71 58.333
7 Taylor Rapp DB 63 52 60 58.333
7 Tyrann Mathieu DB 61 61 54 58.667
7 Calais Campbell DL 52 70 55 59.000
7 Justin Houston DL 55 75 56 62.000
7 Yannick Ngakoue DL 62 66 59 62.333

Shaquil Barrett's projections for 2020 are all over the place, and our ranks reflect that. He is a fantasy starter at EDGE or DE if he is eligible in your league. Still, his viability as a top-ten standard scoring LB depends on whether he can repeat his 2019 breakout performance. Given that Barrett collected more sacks and forced fumbles last year than he had in the first four years of his career combined, it seems unlikely he will repeat as the NFL's sack leader in 2020.

Two other players worth note in this tier because of their positional flexibility are Khalil Mack and Isaiah Simmons. Mack is a valuable fantasy player in leagues that allow him to start as an EDGE or DL, but he is not a top-ten LB in standard formats. Meanwhile, Simmons is a fascinating fantasy pick in dynasties. Simmons could also be a top-five DB in redrafts if he gains DB eligibility while playing most of his snaps at LB.

Last but not least, in this tier is the best defender to come out of this year's NFL Draft, Chase Young. Young should hit the ground running just like his former teammate Nick Bosa did last year. If Young can get enough playing time, he will produce starting fantasy DL numbers in his rookie season. In dynasty formats, Young should be considered a top-five DL.

 

Tiers 8-9: Bye Week Fill-Ins & Deep Defense Starters

Tier Player Name Pos Pierre Chris Justin Overall Rank
8 Bradley Chubb LB 65 59 64 62.667
8 Carlos Dunlap DL 47 99 45 63.667
8 Frank Clark DL 64 67 63 64.667
8 Demarcus Lawrence DL 69 57 69 65.000
8 Justin Reid DB 68 69 61 66.000
8 Jamie Collins LB #N/A #N/A 70 70.000
8 K.J. Wright LB 72 #N/A 68 70.000
8 Josh Allen DL 80 45 85 70.000
8 Jadeveon Clowney DL 60 78 74 70.667
8 Grady Jarrett DL 75 #N/A 67 71.000
8 Brian Burns DL #N/A 71 #N/A 71.000
8 Kevin Byard DB 77 64 75 72.000
8 Jarrad Davis LB 73 #N/A #N/A 73.000
8 Kenneth Murray LB 95 51 #N/A 73.000
9 Nick Vigil LB 76 #N/A 72 74.000
9 Jeremy Chinn DB #N/A 76 #N/A 76.000
9 Chris Jones DL 67 89 73 76.333
9 De' Vondre Campbell LB 78 #N/A 77 77.500
9 Rashaan Evans LB 79 65 93 79.000
9 Dante Fowler DL #N/A #N/A 80 80.000
9 Malcolm Jenkins DB 86 #N/A 78 82.000
9 Matt Milano LB 70 90 89 83.000
9 Maxx Crosby DL 92 81 76 83.000

If you play in a deep or unique IDP league, such as ones that start DTs and defensive ends (DE), this tier of players should interest you. These deep league values include Grady Jarrett and Chris Jones as top-five DTs, Bradley Chubb as a starting Edge option, and Brian Burns as a promising EDGE or DE. Jones is arguably the second-best DT in fantasy, and Burns should be able to add to the 7.5 sacks he had as a rookie now that Bruce Irvin and Mario Addison are no longer in Carolina.

Other interesting deep league additions in this tier include Jeremy Chinn and last year's rookie surprise Maxx Crosby. Crosby notched ten sacks last year and should have more help around him this year, as Las Vegas added several good defenders in free agency. Chinn is an all-around defender who is likely to take over for Eric Reid in Carolina, and he could clean up playing behind a young and flawed defense that should be on the field a lot.

 

Tiers 10: Super Deep League Adds & Waiver Watch Players

Tier Player Name Pos Pierre Chris Justin Overall Rank
10 Micah Kiser LB #N/A 83 #N/A 83.000
10 Myles Jack LB 91 73 86 83.333
10 Za'Darius Smith LB 90 77 83 83.333
10 Terrell Edmunds DB 82 80 91 84.333
10 Dante Fowler Jr. DL 85 85 #N/A 85.000
10 Trey Flowers DL 83 94 79 85.333
10 Logan Ryan DB 84 #N/A 87 85.500
10 Anthony Walker LB #N/A 86 #N/A 86.000
10 Danny Trevathan LB 81 97 81 86.333
10 Ronnie Harrison DB #N/A 87 #N/A 87.000
10 Anthony Hitchens LB 96 82 84 87.333
10 Eric Reid DB #N/A #N/A 88 88.000
10 Kyle Fuller DB #N/A 88 #N/A 88.000
10 Adrian Amos DB 98 74 95 89.000
10 Reshad Jones DB #N/A #N/A 90 90.000
10 Arik Armstead DL 94 84 94 90.667
10 Jamie Collins Sr. LB 87 95 #N/A 91.000
10 Antoine Bethea DB #N/A #N/A 92 92.000
10 Benardrick McKinney LB 88 #N/A 96 92.000
10 Logan Wilson LB #N/A 92 #N/A 92.000
10 Tahir Whitehead LB 89 91 98 92.667
10 Johnathan Abram DB 100 79 99 92.667
10 Hasean Clinton-Dix DB 93 #N/A #N/A 93.000
10 Mack Wilson LB #N/A 93 #N/A 93.000
10 Dre Greenlaw LB #N/A 96 #N/A 96.000
10 Matt Judon LB #N/A #N/A 97 97.000
10 Bud Dupree LB 97 #N/A #N/A 97.000
10 Marlon Humphrey DB #N/A 98 #N/A 98.000
10 Jonathan Allen DL 99 #N/A #N/A 99.000
10 Bradley McDougald DB #N/A #N/A 100 100.000
10 Marshon Lattimore DB #N/A 100 #N/A 100.000

This final tier of players should remain on waivers in all but the deepest of formats, such as leagues that require you to start cornerbacks (CB) or a full 11-man defense. Players like Kyle Fuller and Marshon Lattimore are fantasy starters at CB, but they aren't consistent performers at the DB position. Dre Greenlaw, Za'Darius Smith, Logan Wilson, Benardrick McKinney, and Anthony Walker all could be starters in deep leagues that require you to play an outside linebacker (OLB) and inside linebacker (ILB).

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Check out all of RotoBaller's fantasy football rankings. Staff rankings are updated regularly for all positions and include standard formats, PPR scoring, tiered rankings and dynasty leagues.




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Fantasy Football Spring Cleaning Primer

It’s springtime again, and with spring comes the need for cleaning.

That means it’s time to make room in your garage for that treadmill your in-laws gave you as a passive-aggressive Christmas gift and, more importantly, it’s time for you to clean out your fantasy football closet and make room for the new wave of young talent coming in. Luckily for you, this guide is here to help you decide when to keep that veteran player in your pocket, and when to make room for youth.

So let’s get to cleaning!

 

QB: Out with Ben Roethlisberger, in with Drew Lock

While Roethlisberger is still being treated as a solid Superflex QB in fantasy, I don’t love his prospects without Antonio Brown.

Completions made to Brown account for 20% of Big Ben’s career passing yards and touchdowns, despite playing seven seasons without him. Brown was even a crutch for Roethlisberger during JuJu Smith-Schuster’s breakout 2018 season, accounting for 25.2% of his total yards as well as 44% of his touchdowns and deep ball yards. That kind of production is hard to replace, evidenced by the fact that Big Ben has only one 4,000-yard season and two seasons of more than 18 touchdown passes without Brown.

Drew Lock, on the other hand, had several promising weapons in Denver even before the team added two more in the draft. The addition of Jerry Jeudy gives Lock an elite route runner with the ability to stop on a dime, swivel like a top, and lose defenders at the snap. Jeudy should help open easy windows on the right side of the field, where Lock completed only 47.6% of his passes compared to his completion percentage of 75.4% to the rest of the field. The addition of K.J. Hamler is also significant, adding a deep element to the offense that can spread defenses thin. Hamler and Jeudy adding on to what Denver already had in Noah Fant and Courtland Sutton should raise Lock’s fantasy value significantly.

Roethlisberger's ceiling without Brown is probably 4,000 yards and 22 touchdowns, which is low for an injury-prone quarterback. That is why you should pass on Big Ben in the 12th round and bet on Lock’s upside two or three rounds later in all formats.

 

RB: Out with Aaron Jones, in with Clyde Edwards-Helaire

The Chiefs made Clyde Edwards-Helaire the first running back off the board in this year’s draft, and it is clear why. Aside from top-end speed, Edwards-Helaire is better than Damien Williams at almost everything. He is more durable, he gets more yards after contact, he breaks more tackles (71 to Williams’ 22 last year), and he is more consistent (Williams averaged 3.12 yards per carry on 108 of his 111 carries, while the rookie averaged 5+ yards per carry in 15 of his final 28 college games).

Since Edwards-Helaire seemingly has an edge on Williams, who was benched for an aging LeSean McCoy at times last year, it seems likely the rookie will take over the 18+ touches per game that Reid has given to his lead back in 16 of his 21 seasons as a head coach. In this offense, 18 touches per game could see Edwards-Helaire coming close to the 7 catches and 140 all-purpose yards per game that Brian Westbrook averaged as Reid’s lead back in Philly.

Unfortunately, the Packers have not been infected by Andy Reid’s lead back mindset. Instead, Green Bay is going the other way by creating a three-headed toilet monster.

Last season Aaron Jones ranked 12th among NFL running backs in red-zone touches and 9th in red-zone usage rate. That means Jones had to convert a whopping 42% of his red-zone touches into touchdowns (for reference, Christian McCaffery converted 18.6%) to become a top-10 fantasy back last year. That conversion rate was unsustainable even before the Packers used a 2nd round pick on A.J. Dillon, who should cut into Jones’ goal-line work more than Jamaal Williams ever did thanks to his powerful running style.

With Jones’ red-zone efficiency bound to regress from its insanely high levels in 2019, he was already looking at touchdown and fantasy regression in 2020. Now that a touchdown vulture like Dillon is in town, Jones' regression should be even more pronounced. That is why you should be comfortable taking Edwards-Helaire ahead of Jones in all fantasy formats.

 

WR: Out with Jamison Crowder, in with Henry Ruggs III*

A vast majority of Jamison Crowder’s routes come in the short to intermediate areas of the field, which is where Sam Darnold gets more than 76% of his completions. That’s why Darnold targeted Crowder on 24% (8.3 targets per game) of his 2019 throws and 31.5% of his touchdowns. This sort of target share makes Crowder a very safe bye week fill-in for fantasy owners, especially in PPR settings.

While Crowder has a reliable fantasy floor, Henry Ruggs looks to be a boom or bust fantasy asset in 2020 thanks to his quarterback.

In 2019, Derek Carr threw 48 passes of 20+ yards (aka deep balls) in 16 games. For context, Patrick Mahomes threw 73 deep balls while playing in only 14.5 games last year. Carr’s conservative play in 2019 wasn’t an anomaly, either. Carr hasn’t attempted 70 deep balls since his rookie year. This reluctance to throw deep, along with the fact Carr has never averaged more than 7.4 yards per throw under pressure, should significantly limit the weekly floor of a rookie deep threat like Ruggs.

After balancing Ruggs’ promising long term outlook with what should be a low weekly floor in 2020, Crowder’s stability makes him preferable in re-draft leagues while Ruggs’ ceiling is the choice in dynasty formats.

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