Week 2 of the 2013 free agency period is nearing its end, and signings are beginning to slow down a bit. The savvy NFL teams have let the initial rush of big money (this offseason that is a relative term) signings subside and are filling their needs at bargain prices.
There have been plenty of Individual Defensive Player (IDP) relevant players switching teams, and fantasy values are beginning to take on a much clearer definition. We take a look at the AFC West and the fantasy implications of the players signed by each team to-date.
The Raiders will say goodbye (and good riddance) to malcontent middle linebacker Rolando McClain and have signed former Chicago Bears do-it-all linebacker Nick Roach to take his position in the middle. Roach is a sneaky good IDP pick for 2013 as he finds himself in a prime fantasy point-producing role in Oakland.
After stepping into the middle linebacker position for the injured Brian Urlacher last season, Roach played 276 of a possible 277 defensive snaps and averaged six solo tackles per game. Roach is capable of more than holding his own against both the pass and run with above-average sideline to sideline speed and will amass very nice tackle numbers. He is a solid LB4 with low-end LB3 upside for 2013 fantasy purposes.
Kevin Burnett amassed 109 total tackles with 2.5 sacks last season for the Miami Dolphins at WLB and will now assume that role in Oakland. The lack of big plays that Burnett posts is a bit troubling and the occasional forced fumble or interception would be a nice boost to his fantasy worth.
Burnett will be 31 by season’s end but has averaged more than 100 combined tackles in each of the last three seasons and remains a viable fantasy option. He should once again surpass the century mark in tackles while lining up next to fellow new signee Nick Roach. Burnett carries LB4 fantasy potential into the 2013 season and can be had later in drafts at nice fantasy value.
Kaluka Maiava has been brought over from the Cleveland Browns to man the SLB position for the Raiders in 2013. He is expected to unseat the hard working but unspectacular Miles Burris and is coming off of career highs in snaps played, tackles, forced fumbles and passes defended.
Maiava played approximately 40 percent of the Browns defensive snaps last season and finished the season with 53 total tackles and a pair of sacks. Burris had 96 combined stops with 1.5 sacks and an interception, so there is some fantasy production to be had at the SLB spot in Oakland. There is a realistic chance that Burris holds off the veteran in training camp and keeps his job, so tread carefully with Maiava.
Whichever player mans the SLB position next season has high end LB5/depth player written all over him, but let this situation play out before investing a late-round draft selection on Maiava.
Oakland has also signed a pair of space eating, lane clogging big bodies to play defensive tackle in former Cincinnati Bengal Pat Sims as well as Vance Walker from Atlanta. Both will help the Raiders to improve their run defense but offer no fantasy relevance. Former Broncos defensive end Jason Hunter has also been signed but missed the entire 2012 season with a torn triceps and figures to be little more than a rotational option at the defensive end spot for Oakland. Hunter is not worth drafting in 2013.
The Chiefs hit the free agency market looking to bolster their secondary and did just that. The signing of Sean Smith, the four-year veteran formerly of Miami, gives them a nice bookend cornerback to Brandon Flowers. Smith is coming off of a 59 total tackles, two interception, three forced fumbles and 12 passes defended campaign last season in Miami.
At 6-foot-3 and nearly 220 pounds, he has the size and athleticism to match up with the taller wide receivers of today’s NFL and is not afraid to help out in run support. From a fantasy perspective, Smith is inconsistent enough in coverage (he allowed 54.9 percent of the passes thrown into his coverage to be completed and allowed six touchdowns in 2012) that he will be tested frequently.
Smith is more valuable in leagues that differentiate between the cornerback and safety positions as a solid CB3 but is also an option in standard formats as a depth fantasy defensive back with upside.
Kansas City also signed former Atlanta and Houston cornerback Dunta Robinson, he of the helmet-to-helmet hits and numerous fines. Robinson had a very nice 2012 season with 80 total tackles and has averaged 64 combined stops per season during his nine-year career.
It is still unclear as to where exactly Robinson will line up in the Chiefs secondary, as there has been speculation that he could be moved to safety. However, new head coach Andy Reid has stated recently that Robinson will be competing for a starting cornerback position.
Wherever Robinson does end up playing he is a solid DB4 with upside as an above-average player against the run that has posted 5.5 sacks and 17 interceptions in his career.
A sneaky good signing by Kansas City that has flown under the radar is free safety/strong safety Husain Abdullah. Abdullah sat out the entire 2012 season while pursuing religious obligations and is an excellent complement to Eric Berry in the Chiefs secondary.
Abdullah had racked up 49 combined tackles with a sack and interception through nine games in 2011 before seeing his season cut short due to concussions.
He’s a versatile player that can hold down either safety position and could see numbers similar to the 75 total tackles and three interceptions he posted in 2010 as a starter for Kansas City. He may be worth a late-round flyer selection in a 2013 IDP draft that posts solid DB3 numbers at a great value.
Mike DeVito, the run stuffing defensive end formerly of the New York Jets, was brought over to help the Kansas City run defense and he will do just that. What DeVito won’t do is offer up very much fantasy value. It’s just not his game as he has never posted more than a single sack in a given season and is more valuable as an NFL commodity that fantasy one.
In leagues that require the defensive end position he has limited DE5 potential and is nothing more than a potential waiver wire player to watch in standard format leagues that combine the defensive line positions.