At first glance, the San Diego defense doesn’t appear to offer IDP owners much in the way of fantasy assets. The team ranked a so-so 20th in the NFL in total defense in 2015, and only outside linebacker Melvin Ingram (LB20) cracked the top 25 at his position in Fantasy Sharks Default IDP Scoring.
However, where casual observation reveals only an IDP wasteland, a deeper look shows potential values — players at all three “main” IDP positions who not only possess real fantasy upside but who can also be had relatively cheaply on draft day.
The Chargers looked to bolster their defense with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, adding talented young Ohio State defensive end Joey Bosa (DNP). It didn’t take long for Mike Mayock of the NFL Network to point out why that pick was met with groans from the IDP community.
“Understand that the Chargers’ base defense is a 3-4 front,” Mayock said. “Most people thought that Bosa would go to a 3-4 team. I’ve seen Bosa stand up and play in space, and he can do that. His playing style is most reminiscent of Everson Griffen of the Vikings.”
However, as Jeffri Chadiha of NFL.com pointed out, the Chargers don’t plan to have Bosa play standing up. The 6’5″, 269-pounder will play the 5-technique end spot in both the base defense and subpackages, which the Chargers spent the majority of time in last year. That means Bosa will keep his DL eligibility in IDP leagues, and new batterymate Corey Liuget (DL76) told Chadiha he can’t wait to get after it with his new buddy.
“He’s a relentless player, from what I’ve watched on film,” Liuget said. “He has a motor. It’s like he doesn’t stop or get tired. That’s the kind of player I want next to me. Plus, he’s from Florida. He’s right up the road from me [Bosa hails from Fort Lauderdale, Liuget is from Miami], so I expect him to be a badass.”
Liuget missed five games a year ago, but with Bosa taking pressure off on the other side it’s not hard to imagine Liuget returning to his prior status as a high-floor IDP DL2. In redraft formats he might slot slightly ahead of Bosa thanks to the growing pains that often come with the position. But from an upside standpoint it’s all about the youngster, and an argument can be made in dynasty formats that Bosa is the No. 1 defensive rookie at any position in 2016.
Down the stretch last year, young inside linebacker Denzel Perryman (LB72) emerged as a top-15 fantasy producer, piling up 39 stops over a five-game stretch from Week 12 to Week 16. That late-season surge has given way to increased expectations for 2016, but Perryman told Eric Williams of ESPN he isn’t taking anything for granted.
“Hey listen, we’re just working hard and playing together,” Perryman said. “We’re building. We’ve got a lot of good potential. We’re just building right now, coming together every day and competing. We’re out here competing. That’s why I ain’t saying nothing. We’re just working.”
The former Miami standout will be flanked at inside linebacker in 2016 by Manti Te’o (LB62), who also seemed to come into his own a bit last year. Everyone’s favorite imaginary Casanova told Ricky Henne of the team’s website he’s well aware that he’ll be expected to help anchor the defense.
“I have a bigger leadership role this year, and it’s the role I’m most comfortable in,” he said. “I look at myself as the voice of the defense, and I think I’m viewed that way. This is going to be my fourth year, and everything has come full circle. I’m more of an inclusive type of leader, and I like to make sure everyone feels important. They all have special roles to the success of our team. For me as a leader, my job is to make sure they know that. To make sure all 11 links on defense are playing as one and for each other.”
Perryman’s the more athletic of the pair and worthy of consideration as an upside IDP LB3, while Te’o is more of a late-draft depth call as a LB4. Should either youngster struggle or get injured rookie fourth-rounder Joshua Perry (DNP) waits in the wings — if he gets onto the field the team may be hard-pressed to take him back off.
And as to Ingram, he of the 10.5 sacks and top 20 season in 2015? If your IDP league rewards highly for sacks he’s worth a look as a third linebacker. But Ingram has had all sorts of durability issues over his four years in the league. Don’t get caught chasing last year’s stats.
When I said no Chargers player finished inside the top 25 at his position in fantasy points last year that wasn’t entirely true. Safety Dwight Lowery (DB20) slipped just inside the top-20 defensive backs — but he did so as a member of the Indianapolis Colts.
Lowery was brought over in free agency to fill the (admittedly huge) shoes of longtime Bolts star Eric Weddle (DB66). The 30-year-old will slot at free safety while fourth-year pro Jahleel Addae (DB107), who started 12 games in 2015, mans the strong safety spot. However, Addae told Williams it’s important not to read too much into who plays where in John Pagano’s scheme.
“On the depth chart it says strong safety and free safety, but we’re really interchangeable,” Addae said. “And even when Eric Weddle was here, sometimes we were like, ‘Ok, you’ve got this blitz, you’ve got this coverage and I’ll stay back.'”
It wasn’t the way he meant it, but Addae is right — the two safeties are interchangeable…as late dart-throws in the secondary for IDP drafters. Lowery’s career year at 30 reeks of a fluke though, and Addae was at best a spot-start despite his starting role last year. So don’t invest much in either player.
The same can be said about third-year cornerback Jason Verrett (DB64) and free-agent acquisition Casey Hayward (DB93), who came over from Green Bay. Both have shown the ability to be productive for fantasy owners in IDP leagues that require their position. But neither has done so consistently enough to be more than a speculative add toward draft day’s conclusion.