The first week of NFL free agency 2013 is nearly in the books, and there are Individual Defensive Player (IDP) fantasy ramifications aplenty. While the market value of a lot of the big name free agent defenders has been less than anticipated, the signings have been fast and furious.
Examining the fantasy implications of the signings to-date is still a very fluid situation as the exact positions that each player will line up at has yet to be determined. The NFL Draft in April will also muddy the waters as rookies will be in the mix to fill some starting roles that as of right now appear covered by some of the recent signings.
Offseason workouts and minicamps will help to clarify a lot of these situations, but until teams begin to actually convene and release depth charts, we can only surmise what fantasy value players may hold on their new teams.
For the sake of brevity and clarity, I felt it best to break down the analysis of the free agency effect on 2013 IDP fantasy landscape to one of examining a single division at a time.
Starting with the NFC West seems like a good idea, as there has already been a plethora of signings that are sure to shake up plenty of IDP leagues in 2013.
SEATTLE: The Seahawks don’t always go out and sign free agent defensive ends, but when they do it’s two of the biggest names on the market. There were concerns at the conclusion of the 2012 season that Seattle would have trouble replacing the sack production of defensive end Chris Clemons as he recovers from an ACL injury.
Those concerns are laid to rest as the Seahawks have brought on board Cliff Avril, formerly of the Detroit Lions, and emerging defensive end talent Michael Bennett from Tampa Bay. For those of you counting at home, they bring a combined total of 18 1/2 sacks accumulated last season.
Seattle can allow Clemons to take his time returning from injury and ensure he is 100 percent before hitting the field as Avril, Bennett and second-year pass rushing specialist Bruce Irvin get after the quarterback. The rich got richer and the Seahawks are serving notice to the league that their defense is going to be bringing consistent pressure from all sides.
Over the past three seasons, Avril has amassed 29 1/2 sacks with nine forced fumbles and one interception that he returned for a touchdown. While he has never surpassed more than 41 total tackles in a season, Avril is that nice IDP combination of sack and big play potential that adds up to above average fantasy production. Avril is an elite DL2 with DL1 upside for 2013.
Seattle cut Bennett back in 2009, so bringing him back on board has a bit of poetic justice to it. His tackle numbers have increased in each of his four seasons in the league and he finished 2012 with 34 solos and 41 total stops. More impressive were the nine sacks he put up last season, easily surpassing his previous high of four (2011).
Bennett can be utilized at either defensive tackle or defensive end in the same manner that the Seahawks were using Jason Jones last season before his injury. My guess is that Bennett will see the majority of his time at the defensive end position until Clemons is healthy enough to reclaim his spot. Look for solid DL3 production with huge upside for Bennett as he could easily put up double-digit sacks in 2013.
SAN FRANCISCO: The 49ers defense suffered a blow when Dashon Goldson took his services to Tampa Bay, as they will be weaker over the middle in their secondary coverage. I’m guessing the Seattle coaching staff has noted this and salivates over the vision of newly acquired wide receiver Percy Harvin running roughshod through the 49ers secondary.
The signing of former St. Louis safety Craig Dahl looks to be a Band-Aid on a gaping wound at this point. Dahl is a serviceable defensive back that started all 16 games for St. Louis last season but is not the answer to replace Goldson from an NFL standpoint. However, we care about fantasy implications, and, for that purpose, Dahl is not far behind Goldson.
Dahl’s not a complete liability in coverage, and, while he does miss his fair share of tackles, he has managed to average 75 total stops and one interception per year over the past four seasons. If he can hold off C.J. Spillman and Darcel McBath as the starting free safety by the bay, Dahl could hold DB4 fantasy value in an every down role.
Initial reports out of San Francisco have been that defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey will be used at the nose tackle position the 3-4 in 2013. He’s a bit undersized to be utilized as simply a run-plugging stopper, so look for Dorsey to have the chance to penetrate from the interior and create sack opportunities.
Dorsey has always been a solid defensive tackle against the run, averaging 57 tackles in each season that he’s played at least 15 games. Being given the chance to use his athleticism to get after the quarterback from the middle could boost his fantasy value. His value is higher in leagues that require the defensive tackle position, but he can hold late-round value in standard leagues as a DL4/depth option.