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BACK OF THE LINE: Late-Round IDP Targets on the Defensive Line

In many of my Individual Defensive Player (IDP) league pieces in 2017 here at Fantasy Sharks, I’ve advised an aggressive strategy along the defensive line. The reasoning behind it isn’t complicated – there just aren’t all that many defensive linemen I have much faith in as weekly starters.

But for whatever reason, the day could come when you’re looking for some upside plays along the defensive line late on IDP draft day. Maybe you got caught on the outside of a long run at the position. Maybe you chose to blast away at linebacker early and now need to come back and find values on the defensive front.

Or maybe you just think I’m stupid and decided to fade the defensive lineman position in your draft. If it makes you feel any better, my better half agrees with you regarding my intelligence level.

It doesn’t really matter how you got there. All that matter is that you need some late-round targets on the defensive line who have an excellent shot at out-performing their modest asking price.

I’m here to help – even if I am a big dummy.

For the sake of this article, I’m using “The Huddle Expert IDP Draft” as a benchmark. It’s a league filled with savvy IDP minds including John Norton of Football Guys, Steve Gallo of The Huddle, Brandon Salamat of DLF and Walton Spurlin of Pro Football Focus.

Well, and me.

These guys know their stuff.

Frank Clark, DE, Seattle (DL32, 25.09)

Clark broke out in a big way in 2016, piling up 47 tackles, 10 sacks and two forced fumbles en route to a DL16 fantasy finish in his second NFL season. That’s a pretty good year in its own right, but head coach Pete Carroll told ESPN’s Sheil Kapadia he thinks Clark is capable of even more.

“Here’s a guy who came back to us with a little bit different makeup. Stronger, he looks faster than ever,” Carroll said. “Lost a few pounds. Came in a little bit leaner than when he had come in a year ago. He feels great. He just feels physically on it. We talked about how much further down the road he is now in understanding what’s expected of him and all that.”

It would be great if Clark could stop getting in fights with teammates and harassing reporters online, but unless your IDP league awards extra points for personality, it isn’t really relevant. What is relevant is what Clark can do between the lines.

Even if you believe that Clark’s 2016 season is his IDP ceiling he’s a bargain as a middling fantasy DL3. If you think he can better last year, then he’d be highway robbery.

Cameron Heyward, DE, Pittsburgh (DL31, 25.07)

After an injury-marred season that saw Heyward miss Pittsburgh’s run to the AFC title game in 2016, Heyward told Colton Wood of the Gwinnett Daily Post that he’s prepared to rebound in a big way in 2017.

“I’m still knocking off rust,” Heyward said after last week’s preseason win over Atlanta. “I’m glad to be out there. I’m hungrier than ever because I didn’t play for a while, but I’ve just got to keep improving. I’ve got to challenge myself, and there’s a lot of things I can get better at. I just look forward to showing up.”

Heyward has essentially become an IDP afterthought this summer after his down 2016, but consider this, in both 2014 and 2015 Heyward topped 50 total tackles, added 7.5 sacks and finished the year inside IDP DL2 territory.

Is Heyward going to single-handedly win you any games? No. But he’s shown the ability to be a high-floor fantasy DL2 in the past – especially in leagues slanted toward tackles over sacks.

About Gary Davenport

A member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association and Pro Football Writers of America who resides in Columbus, Ohio, Gary has been featured on a number of fantasy websites and in nationally circulated publications. These publications include the USA Today Fantasy Football Preview and the magazines distributed by Fantasy Sports Publications Inc., for whom Gary is a both a contributing author and associate editor. Gary is an eight-time FSWA Award finalist and two-time winner who has been a finalist for that organization's Fantasy Football Writer of the Year award each of the last three years. He won the honor in 2017. Gary also appears regularly on Sirius XM Radio (including live from Radio Row at Super Bowl XLIX) and over-the-air stations across the country. Gary was one of the co-founders of, and Head Writer at, Fantasy Football Oasis before joining Fantasy Sharks as an IDP Senior Staff Writer in 2011. He knows football. Or so he's heard.