Gary Davenport
IDP Draft Preview: Best and Worst-Case Scenarios for the Top DL in the 2014 NFL Draft

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Free agency in the National Football League is well underway, the scouting combine has come and gone, and most colleges have already held their pro days. Now the waiting game begins, as Individual Defensive Player (IDP) owners far and wide count the days until this year’s NFL draft gets underway on May 8th.

The six weeks or so until that day will be filled with mock drafts and speculation about this year’s top prospects, including a number of defensive stars. We’ve never been one to miss out on the fun, so here’s a look at some best and worst case fantasy scenarios for 2014’s top individual defensive players.

Kicking things off, the big uglies up front, from a potential first overall pick in this year’s NFL draft to 2014’s top defensive tackle prospect.

Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina

Best Case: Jacksonville

It may seem counter-intuitive to ever call Jacksonville a “best-case” scenario for anything, but in the case of Jadeveon Clowney's IDP value, it’s true. Jacksonville head coach Gus Bradley, who Clowney called “a very cool guy and a very good coach,” according to Chase Goodbread of NFL.com, runs a 4-3 under front that would appear a perfect fit for Clowney’s speed and athleticism. If Bradley can get Clowney to play to his potential as a “Leo” pass-rusher, the sky’s the limit, both in the NFL and IDP.

Worst Case: Houston

As Scooby Axson of Sports Illustrated reports, Clowney may not even get to No. 3, as there has been more than one pundit in recent weeks suggesting that the Houston Texans could make Clowney the first overall pick of the 2014 NFL Draft. Clowney himself hasn’t been shy in that regard, proclaiming he believes he should be the top pick. However, former Cleveland Browns general manager Phil Savage has reservations about Clowney in a 3-4 front, according to Fox Sports Radio (via Goodbread).

“I don’t particularly think he forecasts well as an outside backer up on his feet rushing the edge, because I do think there is some lateral tightness in his athletic ability,” Savage said even worse (for IDP owners) would be positional classification as a linebacker, which would be a huge blow to Clowney’s fantasy value.

Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri

Best Case: Denver

One of the benefits of a deep draft class (such as this year’s) is felt by the playoff teams who pick at the back and find themselves with a much beefier selection to choose from than normal. Such is the case with Todd McShay’s latest mock at ESPN, which slots Ealy to Denver at Pick No. 31.

“Ealy is a versatile defensive lineman who would be a good value pick here,” McShay wrote. “Like most teams right now, the Broncos have some uncertainty along their defensive front entering free agency, with a couple of unrestricted free agents and Von Miller recovering from a torn ACL. Ealy would help fill that need.”

Ealy would also slot in Denver as a 4-3 end and have a solid shot at significant early playing time.

Worst Case: Arizona

Other mocks, such as the ones at CBS Sports, don’t paint as rosy an IDP picture for Ealy, who had eight sacks and 14 tackles for loss for Missouri in 2013. Two of the draftniks at CBS, including Will Brinson, predict the Arizona Cardinals will select Ealy at No. 20 overall.

“Signing Antonio Cromartie beefs up their cornerback position in a big way and makes that secondary seriously scary,” Brinson wrote. “Adding a piece to the front seven like Ealy, who’s crazy athletic, only makes this top 10 defense more versatile.”

Unfortunately, landing in Arizona (or any other spot running the 3-4) would likely mean a switch to outside linebacker for the 273-pounder, which would most definitely be bad juju from an IDP perspective.



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