There isn’t a more important word in fantasy football than “value.”
OK, maybe the most important word in fantasy football is “championship,” but in order to achieve the latter you need to find the former on draft day.
Lord knows we try. Every year there are a litany of articles written about potential sleepers at running back and busts at wide receiver. The thing is, “sleeper” is just another way of saying a player is undervalued. And “bust” is just another way of saying players are coming off draft boards earlier than they should.
It’s no different in the world of individual players. Success in an Individual Defensive Player (IDP) draft is all about finding values along the defensive line, at linebacker and in the secondary. As a matter of fact, finding IDP bargains might be even more important – not only do they give you a productive defensive corps but they also allow fantasy owners to assemble a stronger offensive lineup with the picks that otherwise might have been burned on IDPs.
Now that I have your attention (I hope), here’s a look at a starting lineup of IDPs in a “standard” setup (two defensive linemen, two linebackers, two defensive backs and a “flex) who are all (as things stand today) coming off draft boards at a position of value.
I would be perfectly content to roll these guys out as my starting lineup every week.
(Average Draft Position data courtesy of My Fantasy League.)
DL1: Everson Griffen, DE, Minnesota (ADP: DL13)
Minnesota just showed faith in Griffen, inking the 29-year-old defensive end to a whopping four-year, $58 million extension that included well more than $30 million in guarantees. Griffen told Matt Vensel of the Twin Cities Star-Tribune that he intends to repay the team by, well, doing what he’s always done.
“This means I’m a Viking for life,” Griffen said. “I don’t have to change nothing in my play but just take my game to the next level each and every day and help this team win. I appreciate each day I step on the football field. I appreciate the coaching staff, the ownership, the organization. It shows me that they respect me more than [just as] a player and as a man, too. I can never take that for granted.”
Griffen has earned that respect by piling up 30.5 sacks over the past three seasons, including eight (along with 48 tackles and two forced fumbles) a year ago. Griffen may have been passed in the IDP pecking order by batterymate Danielle Hunter, but as his DL7 finish last year in Fantasy Sharks Default IDP Scoring shows, Griffen’s no slouch in his own right.
If you target linebackers early, he’s great value as a DL1. And if you pair him with an even higher-end lineman your fantasy squad could have a massive edge on the competition up front.
DL2: Jerry Hughes, DE, Buffalo (ADP: NR)
As Robert Quinn wrote for Bills Wire, Hughes told WGR Radio in Buffalo that no one is happier than he is to be switching to a 4-3 defense in 2017 under new head coach Sean McDermott.
“This year I’m going forward a lot more. In the past, you have to communicate a lot more as an outside linebacker and that’s a lot more responsibilities,” Hughes said. “Now, I get to pin my ears back, get off the football, get my hands on an offensive lineman. Be fast and violent and I’ve always loved that aspect.”
Hughes allowed that there are adjustments to be made.
“I mean the nuances, as far as the language we talk, our assignments, the formations, they’re all different,” he said. “So, we have to wipe the slate clean and learn a new defense and it’s been a lot of fun for us, just because it has allowed us to focus on our technique up front.”
Hughes had just 11 sacks the past two years, but the last year he played end in the 4-3 (2014) Hughes amassed a career-high 53 tackles, piled up 10 sacks and finished the year seventh among defensive linemen in fantasy points. A similar season in 2017 is well within reach.