It’s still pretty early in the 2017 fantasy season. Draft time is still a ways off in most redraft leagues, and it’s still a few weeks before training camps across the NFL will get underway. A lot can and will change between now and the beginning of the season.
Still, plenty of Individual Defensive Player (IDP) league owners have already begun their draft preparation by participating in mock drafts, and those mock drafts offer our first real look at how people are valuing this year crop of defensive players.
In the case of this group of IDPs, as we near the end of June they aren’t getting the respect they deserve.
And if that holds into draft season, there could be value to be had.
Brandon Graham, DE, Philadelphia Eagles
Per Ryan Neal of Yahoo Sports, Pro Football Focus noted recently that Graham led all edge-rushers in impact play rate in 2016. According to PFF, Neal wrote, “Graham finished second last season when pressuring the quarterback, totaling 83 quarterback rushes. If you watched the Eagles, you saw Graham in the backfield constantly. Sometimes, the statistics lie because regardless of the sack numbers and total pressures, Graham looked virtually unblockable last season. He really made a huge jump from the past couple of seasons with the Eagles.”
Perhaps because he only notched 5.5 sacks in 2016, Graham has been coming off the board in middling IDP DL2 territory – if not later. However, given those impressive pressure numbers and the presence of a better batterymate in rookie first-rounder Derek Barnett, it’s not a reach to predict Graham’s sack numbers will increase this season. That’s all it’s going to take for him to outperform his presently modest average draft position.
Akiem Hicks, DE, Chicago Bears
Despite career highs in solos (36) and sacks (7) in 2016, Hicks wasn’t named to the Pro Bowl. As Mark Potash wrote for The Chicago Sun-Times, the 27-year-old intends to use that as fuel in the upcoming season.
‘‘I’d be lying to you if I said I didn’t compare myself to other guys in the league,’’ Hicks said. ‘‘I will say this: I know there’s a couple of guys who went to the Pro Bowl last year at the defensive end/defensive interior position that I’ve made way more plays and played better than. That’s just part of the game.”
Hicks, who recently took exception to my calling him a “high-floor” IDP option, isn’t a threat to pile up 15 sacks in 2017. But his solid tackle numbers (54 total stops a year ago) offers that high floor I mentioned. More often than not he hasn’t been one of the first 30 DL drafted in the IDP mocks I’ve taken part in – despite finishing 17th among defensive linemen last year in Fantasy Sharks Default IDP Scoring.
Emmanuel Ogbah, DE, Cleveland Browns
Ogbah was solid for the Browns as a rookie, topping 50 total tackles and adding 5.5 sacks as a 3-4 defensive end. The Browns are moving to a four-man front in 2017 under new defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, and as Andrew Gribble of the team’s website reports that suits Ogbah just fine.
“That has been my bread and butter since high school and college. I am excited with the defense,” Ogbah said. “I was inside in the 3-4. Now, I am outside. I am just excited that now I am in a position that I am comfortable in and used to.”
New batterymate (and No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft) Myles Garrett has garnered all the ink so far this year, and it’s Garrett who has drawn the most IDP attention as well. In the drafts where Ogbah’s been taken at all it’s been in DL4 territory. Given their respective asking prices, Garrett’s injured foot and Ogbah’s promising first season, right now it’s the second-year pro who is the better fantasy value.