With the initial wave of free agency signings drawing to a close, the Individual Defensive Players (IDP) outlook for many teams is beginning to take shape. Needs that were going to be addressed in April’s draft have been filled, and many big name IDP players will be donning new uniforms in 2013.
The AFC South is no exception as the Houston Texans and Indianapolis Colts look to improve on rosters that saw both teams make the playoffs last season while the Tennessee Titans and Jacksonville Jaguars look for any port in a storm and try to forget the 2012 season.
Whether Jacksonville and Tennessee can contend with Indianapolis and Houston is irrelevant for our purposes (for the record … they can’t), examining how their new additions will offer IDP fantasy value is another story altogether.
Let’s take a look at each team and their 2013 defensive free agent signings with an eye on the IDP fantasy implications.
The Colts burst out of the gate as free agency opened and made several moves to try and improve their defense by signing former Arizona cornerback
Greg Toler as well as pass-rushing outside linebackers
Erik Walden (Green Bay) and
Lawrence Sidbury (Atlanta). They also re-signed cornerback Darius Butler who joined the team prior to Week 5 last season and produced four interceptions from the slot corner position.
From a fantasy standpoint, there doesn’t look like much to get excited about outside of Toler, who finished the 2010 season as a Top 10 fantasy defensive back. He missed the entire 2011 season with a torn ACL and returned last season to play 11 games for Arizona. He managed to post 27 combined tackles, two interceptions (one he returned for a touchdown) and eight passes defended while playing 308 snaps.
He’ll get the chance at a starting position with Indianapolis, and his proclivity to give up the big play will have quarterbacks testing him all season long. Should he manage to stay healthy, all that attention from opposing offenses will add up to nice fantasy production. Expect at least low-end DB3 production from
Greg Toler in 2013.
Erik Walden managed to amass nine sacks during his three-year stint with Green Bay and somehow parlay that into a fat deal with the Colts. He will get the opportunity to start opposite
Robert Mathis as a pass rushing outside linebacker but does not have a history of production that warrants serious fantasy consideration.
Walden did put up 60 combined stops and three sacks back in 2011 for the Packers and may just need the playing time he’ll see in Indianapolis to break out as a fantasy stud. Or he may have just taken the Colts for $16 million over four seasons. I’m leaning towards the latter.
After four lackluster (I’m being kind here) seasons with Atlanta that saw him total 17 tackles and five sacks, Sidbury got the call from the Governor and was signed by Indianapolis. He may blossom in his new surroundings as he saw only 31 defensive snaps for the Falcons last season and should get the chance to see the field more in 2013.
His sample size of work is too small for fantasy owners to have any reason to call his name come draft day, but monitor his playing time and production early in the season to see if he’s waiver wire worthy.
Day 2 saw the Colts make more moves with the signing of strong safety LaRon Landry to bolster their secondary as well as former San Francisco defensive tackle Ricky Jean-Francois. Landry put together a 16-game effort last season for the first time since the 2008 season and posted 99 total tackles and a pair of interceptions for the New York Jets.
Landry is a wrecking machine when healthy and will man the strong safety position as Antoine Bethea lines up at free safety, giving Indianapolis a formidable safety duo. His health will always be a bit of a red flag, but, as long as he’s on the field, Landry is a solid DB1 for fantasy purposes.
Jean-Francois may represent very minimal fantasy value in leagues that differentiate between defensive tackle and defensive end in scoring, as he’s yet to prove his worth in a standard format. He is coming off a season in which he set career highs in tackles (22), sacks (two) and defensive snaps (328).
Jean-Francois did manage 12 combined stops and a sack in the final two regular season games of 2012 while subbing for an injured Justin Smith, but he remains an afterthought for 2013 fantasy purposes.
Further addressing their ability to stop the run, the Colts have brought former San Diego defensive tackle
Aubrayo Franklin on board. This is Franklin’s fourth team in as many years and he’ll be another big body in the middle of Indianapolis’ defense but offers little-to-no fantasy value as he will be a rotational piece of the defense.
The Jaguars need plenty of help on both sides of the ball and have stumbled out of the gate so far in addressing their defensive deficiencies. From a fantasy outlook, the most notable addition is former Tampa Bay and Chicago linebacker
Hayes manned the WLB position from 2009-11 for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and averaged 83 total tackles per season while posting seven sacks, four interceptions and four forced fumbles in that time span. He signed with the Bears prior to the 2012 season and spent the year in a reserve role seeing only 141 defensive snaps after averaging 854 snaps from 2009-11 for Tampa Bay.
In Jacksonville, Hayes will have the opportunity to jump-start his career as the starting SLB, replacing former fantasy stud Daryl Smith. Should he manage to hold on to that role, he could offer solid LB4 fantasy numbers with LB3 upside. Hayes is not nearly the sound tackler that the man he could be replacing is, so don’t expect him to post quite as gaudy numbers.
Also, there is the possibility that Jacksonville re-signs Smith and Hayes battles incumbent WLB
Russell Allen for that position. Hayes could hold solid LB3 fantasy value as the WLB in 2013 for Jacksonville. Keep an eye on how he is utilized in training camp and the preseason before deciding where to place him on fantasy draft boards.
My lasting memory of cornerback/safety
Alan Ball, whom the Jaguars have also signed, is from last Thanksgiving when he stepped in for the injured Jonathan Joseph for Houston and was asked to cover
Calvin Johnson. Mercifully, his day ended early with an injured foot after being relentlessly abused by the Lions’ passing game.
Ball is versatile and can play either safety or corner, but, unfortunately, he plays neither position at a level that warrants any fantasy consideration.
Roy Miller, the former Tampa Bay defensive tackle, will help to bolster the Jaguars’ run defense, which struggled mightily last season allowing more than 140 yards per game. Unfortunately, he won’t help fantasy owners as he offers no pass rushing threat and will be utilized as only a space eating defensive tackle in the middle of the Jacksonville defense.
Miller is another example of a decent NFL acquisition that holds no fantasy relevance for IDP owners.