It seemed for a time it would never get here, but at long last the 2014 NFL draft has come and gone. Now, 256 young men know where their NFL careers will begin. Scores more signed as undrafted free agents after the dust settled. Hundreds of those players ply their trade on the defensive side of the ball.
Among the defensive stalwarts who were drafted were 41 defensive linemen. The first, South Carolina’s
, made news by being the first overall player selected. The last, Missouri’s
(at No. 249) made news by becoming the first openly gay player drafted by a major North American sport.
Culturally significant though that may be, here at Fantasy Sharks we’re less concerned about who kisses whom on TV, and more worried about what this year’s crop of newcomers brings to the table in Individual Defensive Player (IDP) leagues.
With that in mind, here’s a look back at the players featured in the
2014 IDP Draft Preview Series
at IDP Manor and how those players’ fantasy prospects are affected by their new homes. We’ll start things off with a video look at this year’s Top 10 rookie defensive linemen in IDP leagues, with special attention paid to the pair most likely to offer a short-term return on a draft-day investment.
– DE, South Carolina (Houston Texans – Round 1, Pick 1)
For his part, Clowney can’t wait, telling
John McClain of
The Houston Chronicle
, “I used to think if I ever got to play with J.J I’d get a lot of sacks because he gets double-teamed all the time. That would take a lot of pressure off me. Hopefully, I can take a lot of pressure off him.”
Unfortunately, landing in Houston also means playing standing up as a 3-4 outside linebacker. If your IDP provider affords Clowney defensive line eligibility (as
will reportedly do), Clowney is an upside DL2 and easily this year’s top rookie IDP.
However, at providers like
My Fantasy League
, where Clowney will be classified as a linebacker, he’ll be a high-variance, low-tackle option best-suited to big play-heavy scoring systems.
Aaron Donald – DT, Pittsburgh (St. Louis Rams – Round 1, Pick 13)
If Clowney’s landing spot was a worst-case scenario, then Donald’s was the opposite, with the explosive 285-pounder joining what is now a loaded front with the Rams.
Donald’s ready to start doing his part alongside Robert Quinn,
, “It’s just the beginning. I still got a lot of work to do and a lot more time to put in.”
Not only does Donald’s ridiculous first step make him the most interesting three-technique prospect from an IDP perspective, but on that filthy line in St. Louis, double teams will be few and far between. Donald’s my pick as this year’s top first-year defensive lineman, a risk/reward IDP DL2, and a weekly starter in leagues that require the position right off the bat. This kid is going to be special.
Kony Ealy – DE, Missouri (Carolina Panthers – Round 2, Pick 60)
With big holes at wide receiver and on the offensive line and one of the league’s better front fours, it was something of a surprise to see the Panthers use their second pick on Missouri defensive end
Todd Palmer of
The Kansas City Star
he won’t be shy about bending the ears of
, noting, “It’s a special group, and I’m going to try to learn as much as I can.”
Unfortunately for IDP owners, being stuck behind two Pro Bowlers also means precious little playing time for Ealy in 2014. However, with Hardy playing under the franchise tag and facing assault charges and a ton of cheddar tied up in him and Johnson, if the Panthers decide to cut costs next year by dumping a vet Ealy could start producing as soon as 2015.
Dee Ford – DE, Auburn (Kansas City Chiefs – Round 1, Pick 23)
Given Ford’s size (252 pounds), it wasn’t at all surprising to see the Auburn star drafted by a team running a 3-4 defense. What was surprising, however, was that it was the Chiefs, who have a pair of Pro Bowl outside linebackers already on the roster in
Kareem Martin – DE, North Carolina (Arizona Cardinals – Round 3, Pick 84)
The Cardinals rode one of the NFL’s best defenses to a surprising 10-6 record last year, but with end
well the wrong side of 30 and carrying a $10 million cap hit in 2015, they looked to the future up front in the third round with
At 272 pounds Martin is a bit on the small side to man the end in a 3-4 front, but Arizona general manager Steve Keim told
Kyle Odegard of the team’s website
that the 6-foot-6 youngster still has room to grow.
“It’s hard to find guys that have that type of length and speed,” Keim said. “He is 272 (pounds) right now. I think when we drafted Calais (Campbell), he was somewhere around 284. He’s 305 now. The sky is the limit.”
Martin’s size and athleticism could very well translate into more than a little upside down the road, especially playing opposite Campbell. However, questions about Martin’s motor and how long he’ll be waiting for significant snaps leaves Martin mainly of interest to IDP owners who can afford to stash him for 2014.
– DE, Oregon State (Minnesota Vikings – Round 3, Pick 72)
Crichton was a personal favorite of mine entering the draft. The 6-foot-3, 273-pounder may never post-double digit sacks, but Crichton is a hard-nosed strong-side edge setter in the
mold, capable of solid DL3-plus production that can be had for next to nothing in IDP drafts.
“I can’t wait to be in Minnesota,” Crichton said. “Me and Anthony, we’re just going to try to create havoc and create sacks and we’re just going to do what we do.”
However, Crichton also landed on the same team as the aforementioned Robison, who is by far the most proven of a young and untested group of defensive ends in Minnesota. I haven’t given up hope on Crichton a potential high-floor IDP DL2 at some point, but he isn’t going to see enough snaps for it to happen right away.
Ra’Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota (Baltimore Ravens – Round 2, Pick 37)
Hageman was one of the more polarizing defensive line prospects of 2014. Some pundits looked at the remarkably quick 305-pound former tight end and saw an explosive athlete capable of excelling as a 4-3 defensive tackle or 3-4 five-technique. Others look at Hageman’s inconsistent play and pedestrian stats and see a lazy player.
The Atlanta Falcons saw him as their second-round pick. The Falcons plan to feature more 3-4 looks defensively in 2014, and Hageman told D. Orlando Ledbetter of
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution he thinks his versatility will help in that regard.
“I tell coaches I play all the way from a zero technique all the way to a nine,” Hageman said. “I feel like versatility is definitely one of my strengths.”
If Hageman plays to his potential and carves out a significant role as a rookie, he would appear more than capable of the sort of high-end IDP DL3 production 2013 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year Sheldon Richardson put up. With that said, that’s no slam-dunk, making Hageman more of a DL4-type for all but the heartiest of souls.
Demarcus Lawrence – DE, Boise State (Dallas Cowboys – Round 2, Pick 34)
The 2014 draft wasn’t kind to any number of young individual defensive players from a situational fantasy standpoint. However, in the case of 6-foot-3, 251-pound Boise State defensive end
, things broke pretty well.
The Cowboys dealt a third-round pick to move up and take Lawrence, who is a big fan of the player the Cowboys are hoping he’ll help replace according to
Jean-Jacques Taylor of ESPN Dallas
“I love trying to mirror his game and steal his pass-rushing moves,” Lawrence said of Demarcus Ware. “I really like how he works his feet, because he’s a technician.”
This isn’t to say that Lawrence, who needs to add weight and refine his pass-rush moves, is suddenly going to start putting up Ware numbers. However, Lawrence was viewed as a first-round pick in many circles and should see significant playing time early. There’s reason enough here to hope for IDP DL2 production at some point in the not too distant future, and Lawrence should be at least serviceable depth or bye-week fill-in pick out of the gate.
If you’re not the video type or just can’t stand the sight of yours truly (yes folks, that’s me … in all my scruffy glory), here’s a recap of the Top 10 defensive linemen for Dynasty IDP Leagues in 2014, bearing in mind that Jadeveon Clowney takes the top spot where eligible.
1.) Aaron Donald – DT, St. Louis Rams:
IDP DL3-plus, Weekly starter in defensive tackle-required leagues, IDP DL3-plus plus in “standard” formats
2.) Demarcus Lawrence – DE, Dallas Cowboys:
Plenty of playing time right away.
4.) Ra’Shede Hageman – DT/DE, Atlanta Falcons:
Role unclear in hybrid front, but should play quite a bit.
5.) Kony Ealy – DE, Carolina Panthers:
Won’t pay dividends until 2015 at earliest.
8.) Scott Crichton – DE, Minnesota Vikings:
Could struggle for snaps as a rookie.
9.) Will Sutton – DT, Chicago Bears:
If they get the 2012 Sutton, look out NFL.
10.) Dominique Easley – DT, New England Patriots:
Crazy talent, but will his knees hold up?
As IDP Draft Season gets underway in earnest, Fantasy Sharks has you covered. Whether it’s player rankings for Redraft and Dynasty leagues, projections, player spotlights, sleepers and busts or strategy tips, IDP Staff Writers Walton Spurlin and Mike Woellert and IDP Senior Staff Writer Gary Davenport have all the information you need to dominate your IDP league in 2014.
Gary Davenport is the IDP Senior Staff Writer at Fantasy Sharks and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association and Pro Football Writers of America. Davenport’s IDP work has been featured in a number of national print publications and on both satellite and terrestrial radio, and he was a finalist for the FSWA Web Article of the Year in 2013.