While the NFL and fantasy landscapes tremble from the aftershock of
’s pro day (did anyone think he’d flop?), it occurred to me that it was time to take the dynasty evaluations to the defensive line.
As accolades and plaudits continue to rain down on the top defensive prospect of the 2014 draft, we will examine the top 2 defensive end prospects selected in last year’s draft.
Neither player entered the league with the expectations that Clowney will carry but both were expected to be fantasy contributors. Here is a look at how those rookie seasons played out and what we can look forward to moving forward.
DION JORDAN, DE, MIAMI
The Dolphins traded the 12th and 42nd picks in last year’s draft to move up to the third position to select Jordan. In his final two seasons at Oregon he had racked up 23.5 tackles for loss as well as 12.5 sacks along with four forced fumbles.
At 6-foot-6 and 248 pounds, it appeared Miami had found the athletic, versatile answer to play defensive end as the Dolphins transitioned into a 4-3 defense. Jordan would also be able to line up at his more comfortable outside linebacker position when the defense lined up in its hybrid 3-4.
Jordan had undergone offseason surgery (prior to the draft) on his labrum that would hold him out of team drills until late July. He would still be a top 10 defensive line selection in most Individual Defensive Player (IDP) drafts according to MyFantasyLeague.com’s 2013 ADP (average draft position).
Unfortunately, the shoulder issue would cause Jordan to miss quite a bit of practice during the preseason, slowing his development and involvement in the defense. While he would be deemed ready to play in the season opener, it was clear that he would be assuming a backup role after having missed so much valuable practice time.
Oddly, after trading up to get the freakishly athletic Jordan, the Dolphins would utilize him solely as a situational pass rusher as a rookie and he would finish the year having played only 339 snaps.
Jordan’s 2013 season stat line would be reflective of his role as a part-time player. He would amass merely 26 total tackles with a pair of sacks and two passes defended. Not exactly top 10 numbers.
More disturbing were late February reports from CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora that the Dolphins were “gauging trade value” for Jordan. While Jordan is indeed still very raw it seemed implausible that Miami was willing to cut bait so soon.
More recent reports have been more favorable but not by much. Head coach Joe Philbin expects Jordan to “make a big jump” in 2014. Philbin went on to say, “He played (339) snaps. We definitely want to see that increase.” S
ounds good, right? Not so fast. Philbin added, “The most natural place is on third down.”
There are no plans to move Jordan into a starting role and he’ll be battling sack-master
along with ascending talent Olivier Vernon and third-year defensive end
for playing time.
How’s that trade talk going, fellas?
This has usually been the part of the dynasty breakdowns where I expound upon the virtues of practicing patience. Where I point out that Jordan has a huge ceiling and still possesses the athleticism combined with raw ability to be groomed into a fantasy factor.
While all that is certainly true, what Jordan may not have is the opportunity to prove it on the field. At his current position of defensive end with Miami he has very little-to-no fantasy value in any but the deepest of leagues that reward big plays.
When looking at Jordan’s future a trade may be the best possible scenario. There has been talk that Philadelphia (where his former college coach Chip Kelly presently presides) was very high on him prior to last year’s draft. A deal to Philadelphia could be just what the fantasy doctor ordered.
As of now, it’s prudent to hold on to Jordan until after the draft while hoping he gets dealt to a team that would utilize him more. If that does not happen, wait for the first positive reports from Miami on Jordan’s progression and immediately begin shopping him in your IDP league. There simply aren’t going to be the snaps for him to be fantasy relevant should he remain in Miami.
EZEKIEL “ZIGGY” ANSAH, DE, DETROIT
After losing both starting defensive ends Kyle Vanden Bosch and
following the 2012 season, the Lions selected the raw but oh-so-athletic Ansah with the fifth overall pick last April.
During a stellar senior season at BYU he had racked up 62 tackles (13 for loss) and 4.5 sacks while playing at outside linebacker as he would be moving to defensive end for Detroit. With only three years of football experience under his belt, Ansah was considered a project type of player who could take time to develop.
Anash proved to be a quick study by returning an interception for a touchdown in his first preseason game. Despite suffering a concussion in practice, he would finish the pretend games with five total tackles and a fumble recovery.
After mainly working from a two-point stance during his college career, Ansah would line up exclusively with his hand in the dirt as the right defensive end in Detroit. Ansah seemed to pick up the Wide-9 technique rather quickly, and although still very raw, had secured a prominent role on the defense.
Ansah would end up starting 12 of the 14 games he played in as a rookie while battling through a myriad of injuries including ankle and shoulder issues. By season’s end he would play 581 snaps, leading all rookies in sacks with eight and forcing a pair of fumbles.
Ansah also performed well against the run, amassing 30 total tackles with seven of those being for a loss. Not a bad season at all for a player considered a project.
Heading into his second season, Ansah will be a mainstay along the defensive line for Detroit and will benefit from the interior presence of the defensive tackle duo of
. Also working in his favor is that new defensive coordinator Teryl Austin plans to run basically the same Wide-9 scheme defense that Ansah played in last season.
Former defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham (who will serve as a senior coaching assistant) along with defensive line coaches Jim Washburn and Kris Kocurek have been retained by the new regime. Their familiarity with Ansah and having worked with him already will be integral in his continued growth as a defensive force.
Dynasty owners who were smart (lucky) enough to secure Ansah could be sitting on a fantasy gold mine, as his ceiling is very high. He managed to accomplish what he did last season mainly relying on raw strength and pure athleticism.
Currently, Ansah is recovering from offseason shoulder surgery and is expected to miss organized team activities (OTAs) that are scheduled for early April. He is fully expected to be fine for Week 1.
While it would be nice if he could attend and participate in all the offseason programs, it’s more important that he enter the season healthy.
Ansah’s value is a bit higher in big play scoring formats where he should reach DL2 numbers with a double-digit sack season. He also has value in standard scoring leagues as he continues to improve his overall game.
For continued coverage of everything IDP related make sure to keep coming back to Fantasy Sharks. Check out the work of IDP Senior Staff Writer Gary Davenport as well as esteemed IDP Staff Writer Mike Woellert and myself as we bring you all the advice and information needed to dominate your league.
Wally Spurlin is a Fantasy Football Staff Writer at Fantasy Sharks and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writer Association. Follow Wally Spurlin on Twitter @WaltonSpurlin