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Walking Wounded - DL Returning From Injury in 2013

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The defensive line position boasted one of the biggest stories in the Individual Defensive Player (IDP) world last season with the monster season that J.J. Watt produced.  In a format generally dominated by the more glamorous linebacker position, Watt finished among the top point scorers in nearly all IDP scoring formats.

The defensive line is generally dominated by the pass rushing defensive end position as far as racking up fantasy points, and, although Cincinnati’s defensive tackle Geno Atkins would finish close to the Top 5 in scoring, the norm held true in 2012.

Staying in the world of comparison, the defensive line was the least-affected position fantasy-wise by injuries. That’s not to say that it was a season completely bereft of players going down and causing some consternation for IDP owners. For the most part the injuries were not as season-altering from a fantasy standpoint as the defensive back and especially the linebacker position.

Taking a look at the injury landscape of the 2012 season from a defensive line perspective is markedly different from the earlier look we took at linebacker, and as we move forward it becomes clearer as to how that works out.

So let’s get to it and examine how injuries effected the defensive line position for fantasy purposes in 2012 and how those injuries could possibly alter 2013 IDP fantasy strategies.

First up will be a look at players who either missed the entire 2012 season due to injury or only managed to play five games or less. These are the injuries that send IDP owners scrambling to the waiver wire early in a season and perhaps lay waste to what appeared to be a great fantasy draft.

After an impressive rookie season, defensive end Adrian Clayborn was expected to build on the 40 tackles, 7.5 sacks and three forced fumbles that he posted in 2011. That would not happen as a knee injury suffered in Week 3 would end Clayborn’s sophomore campaign after only 187 snaps and a total of two tackles.

Clayborn should be ready to return by the start of training camp and will be expected to help the Tampa Bay Buccaneers improve on the paltry 27 sacks they amassed last season. Until it can be determined just how healthy he is, Clayborn doesn’t project any higher than a DL3 and should be available towards the middle or even the back end of IDP fantasy drafts.

When the Buffalo Bills signed defensive end Mark Anderson to line up opposite the recently acquired Mario Williams it seemed like a match made in fantasy heaven. Anderson was coming off of a very productive 2011 season for the New England Patriots in which he posted 10 sacks and forced a pair of fumbles.

Through five games Anderson was struggling in Buffalo and had registered a single sack and had 14 total tackles. He and Williams both had started the season slowly and it was not from lack of playing time as Anderson was averaging more than 50 snaps per game.

It’s too early to call Anderson a bust in Buffalo, who they would give up on after only one season. He’s under contract for next season at $2.4 million with a $1.5 million option bonus and has plenty of time to get healthy before training camp. The Bills managed 36 total sacks as a team in 2012 with Anderson only contributing one.

Due to the injury suffered by Anderson, as well as Mario Williams dealing with a wrist problem of his own, there was never really a time the two were playing together and at full strength.

The prospects for Anderson to have a bounce-back campaign in Buffalo are very good and the chances that a lot of fantasy owners will pass on him are even greater.

Playing opposite a healthy Mario Williams for an entire season will keep Anderson fantasy relevant. Don’t forget about him come August.

He’ll never reach the DL1 level but could fall to a nice late-round value pick on fantasy draft day and be selected as a depth option with the upside to reach high end DL3.

The next two players that saw their fantasy value hampered by season-ending injuries had started the season slowly and may or may not have been able to turn things around. Washington’s defensive end Adam Carriker and Kansas City’s defensive end Glenn Dorsey have both been marginally effective fantasy plug-and-play options at times and each have flashed some value.

Neither would make it to Week 5 as Carriker would go down in Week 2 with a torn quadriceps and Dorsey would see his season end after playing four games with a calf injury. The fact that these two names are even mentioned is a testament to how few defensive lineman fantasy prospects went down early and missed significant time.

Carriker was coming off of a career-high 4.5 sacks and more than 40 total tackles in 2011 so there was limited optimism that he could build on those totals. Heading into his fourth season in Washington Carriker will get his chance to rebound but is still a very low end fantasy option and can be avoided on draft day.

Dorsey is a free agent and unlikely to return to the Kansas City Chiefs and his best season was back in 2010 when he totaled just under 70 tackles and two sacks. While some NFL team will sign him to bolster their run defense, he remains more valuable as an actual player rather than a fantasy option. No reason to consider drafting him for fantasy purposes unless it is the deepest of leagues.

Finally, veterans Ty Warren and Jason Hunter have likely seen their time as Denver Broncos at an end after suffering injuries in 2012. Warren missed the entire 2011 season and managed to appear in only one game last season before re-injuring his triceps. Truth be told, Warren is probably done as a NFL player after playing in one game over the past three seasons.

Jason Hunter was on his way to being supplanted in the Denver Broncos defense by rookie Derek Wolfe when a torn triceps ended his 2012 season before Week 1. After stints in Green Bay and Detroit, Hunter had a career-best year in 2010 with 60 tackles and three sacks for the Broncos.

His totals dipped drastically in 2011, and there is no reason to believe Denver will be interested in bringing him back for 2013. He may land a job somewhere in the league but has no fantasy value moving forward.



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