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Primed to Shine - DL Ready to Break Out in 2013


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So, we are down to the final two teams. The Super Bowl is two weeks away and hearty congratulations are in order for the Ravens, the 49ers and, of course, the Harbaugh boys. Faced with a couple of weeks with no football (do not try to sell me on the Pro Bowl as being a real football game, thank you) it feels like a good time to examine some burgeoning IDP fantasy studs.

The IDP landscape can be a tricky one to maneuver and figuring out who will finish a given season atop the scoring list is a difficult and fluid task. Looking ahead to 2013, there are quite a few names to keep an eye on as IDP stars in waiting that are ready to make a move up the rankings.

Whether it’s from having put in the requisite work to improve their game or by returning from injuries that have hampered their progress, these are players that have reached the verge of becoming top-tier fantasy options for 2013.

For the sake of brevity we will look at only the defensive line position (DL) in this particular article and limit it to five names to keep handy on fantasy draft day.

Muhammad Wilkerson , DE, NEW YORK JETS: Welcome to the top tier of the DE position Mr. Wilkerson. The Jets hit pay dirt when they drafted Wilkerson with the 30th overall selection in 2011, as he was one of the few bright spots during a miserable season for New York in 2012.

His tackle numbers increased from 48 combined stops in his rookie season to 70 this past year and he also added 4.5 sacks to bring his career total to 7.5. At 6’ 4” and 315 pounds, he displays surprising speed off the edge and frequently creates the penetration necessary to disrupt running plays as they develop.

There is room for him to improve as a pass rusher as he’s been getting by on sheer athleticism at this point by utilizing his burst off the snap and power moves. He improved by over 3.5 sacks from his first season to his second and a similar improvement is on tap in 2013. He is a top ten selection at the DE position in 2013 fantasy drafts.

Brandon Graham , DE, PHILADELPHIA: When the Eagles selected Braham with the 13th overall pick in 2010 he was expected to play a situational role behind incumbent pass rushers Trent Cole and Jason Babin while developing his game.

Graham had amassed 13 total tackles and three sacks in his rookie season before tearing his ACL in the Eagles Week 14 win over Dallas. His 2011 season was derailed by injury as he struggled to return from ACL and micro fracture surgery that would limit him to appearing in only three games.

Entering the 2012 season, Graham would be at a crossroads in his career as the dreaded ‘bust’ label was beginning to be placed on the third year DE out of Michigan. Finally healthy, it was time for Graham to either step up or slip into NFL obscurity and after 10 weeks he had managed to post only 14 total stops with 1.5 sacks and a forced fumble.

Things would change drastically once the Eagles released Jason Babin in late November and Graham would assume a much bigger role on the defense. He responded by exploding down the stretch for Philadelphia by racking up 23 combined tackles, four sacks and a forced fumble in Weeks 13 through 17.

Graham was particularly unstoppable in Week 15 against the Bengals when he put up 2.5 sacks with six tackles and a forced fumble.

The kid has finally arrived and the future is very bright for Graham as a fantasy force moving forward. He is a top five-fantasy IDP defensive line selection in 2013.



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