The 2014 edition of NFL Free Agency is one week in, and already any number of prominent individual defensive players (IDP) have new homes. In fact, a top-5 IDP option at each of the three main positions in 2013
Fantasy Sharks Default IDP Scoring
a year ago have already changed teams.
However, for more IDPs than not, the more things changed the more they stayed the same. Linebackers
stayed put, leaving their fantasy value essentially unchanged. The same goes for Ward and DeMarcus Ware, who both joined last year’s AFC champs in Denver. The pair may have a new helmet (and a fat new paycheck), but from an IDP perspective things aren’t much different there than they would have been in Cleveland or Dallas.
For some players, though, whether due to new digs or the hole created by their departure, much has changed. That has some fantasy owners grinning from ear to ear, while others have been sent to the neighborhood electronics store for a new remote control.
With that in mind, here’s a look at some of IDP’s biggest winners and losers from free agency this year.
UP THE LADDER
Adrian Clayborn, DE, Tampa Bay
After missing almost all of the 2013 season with a torn ACL, Clayborn played in 16 games in 2014, and while the fourth-year pro managed only 5.5 sacks last year, his 60-plus tackles helped vault the former Iowa star into the top 25 at his position in fantasy points. With
arrival in Tampa, there’s no reason to think Clayborn will build on those numbers this season.
The arrival of the former Cincinnati end, coupled with the emergence of defensive tackle
last year, gives the Buccaneers one of the NFL’s deeper and more talented defensive fronts. That should, in turn, translate to lots of single-teams for Clayborn, and if the 25-year-old can convert a few more sack opportunities to go with his stout run defense, a top-15 IDP campaign isn’t out of the question.
Everson Griffen, DE, Minnesota
Griffen is one of the IDPs who ended up remaining with his old team in 2014, and after re-upping with the Vikings for five years and a staggering $42.5 million, Griffen won’t be going anywhere for the foreseeable future. The four-year veteran, who has only one career start and 17.5 career sacks, knows that more will be expected in 2014, according to
The Associated Press.
“They’re holding me up to a higher expectation. They knew what I could do when they drafted me here in 2010, and now it’s time for me to go out there and blossom with this team, with all of my boys,” Griffen said. The Vikings aren’t paying Griffen almost $13 million in guaranteed money to play a rotational role, and if Griffen can come close to living up to that deal, the 26-year-old should find himself well inside DL2 territory in 2014.
Kevin Minter, ILB, Arizona
“We drafted him for a reason,” Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians said. “We love him. He should assume that role.”
Mind you, this isn’t to say that Minter, who played all of one defensive snap as a rookie, is going to lead the NFL in solos this year (like Dansby did in 2013) or finish as fantasy’s top linebacker this year (like Dansby did in 2013). However, the Cardinals took the LSU standout in the second round of last year’s draft for a reason, and if a player who
of CBS Sports
called an “instinctive and physical” linebacker earns an every-down role, Minter is going to be a very appealing upside target in IDP drafts this summer.
LaMarr Woodley, OLB, Oakland
We’ll list Woodley as a linebacker here since it’s the only position that Woodley has ever played in the National Football League, but you can bet the rent that when the first set of position changes come down the line at
My Fantasy League
that Woodley will be moving to defensive end. The 29-year-old confirmed the switch when speaking with
Rebecca Corman of the team’s website
“Here, they are going to use me as a defensive end,” Woodley said, [but] I don’t feel like it’s any different than playing a 3-4 outside linebacker.”
Woodley has struggled in recent years, missing time in each of the past three seasons, but in each of the three years before he topped 10 sacks, Woodley played end at Michigan, and at 265 pounds he’s not ridiculously undersized for the role. This isn’t to say anyone should be doing cartwheels about Woodley’s IDP prospects in 2014, but if nothing else in Oakland, Woodley could be an intriguing target as an upside reserve up front.
Bernard Pollard, SS, Tennessee
On some level, it’s hard for Pollard to gain a lot of IDP value. Despite playing for four teams over eight seasons, Pollard has been a consistent IDP performer throughout his career, topping 90 tackles in five of the past six years and finishing 14th among defensive backs in 2013. Still, if recent news from Nashville is any indication, 100 tackles and a top-10 IDP finish are very real possibilities.
After re-upping Pollard, the team signed former Denver linebacker
with Titans general manager Ruston Webster telling ESPN
the team plans to use Woodyard at inside linebacker. If, as
Jene Bramel of FootballGuys
suggested after the Woodyard deal was announced, the Titans pair Woodyard with third-year pro
it will mean a 3-4 defense populated by two inside linebackers who struggled at the point of attack a year ago, and that equates to more tackle opportunities for Pollard at the back end of the defense.
Donte Whitner, SS, Cleveland
As a Browns’ fan, I won’t pretend to like the Whitner signing, in that all the Browns did essentially was overpay for an older T.J. Ward. With that said, what’s done is done, and the important thing now is the 28-year-old’s IDP prospects in his new digs.
Fantasy Sharks’ IDP Staff Writer Mike Woellert
recently opined that Whitner could be undervalued in IDP drafts this year. I’m inclined to agree.
A one-time IDP stud, Whitner fell from fantasy favor during his three years in San Francisco, topping 80 tackles only once. However, in San Francisco, Whitner played behind one of the NFL’s best front-sevens, a team more than capable of stuffing the run without cheating a safety. The same can’t necessarily be said in Cleveland, and while Whitner isn’t going to pile up 140 tackles like he did in Buffalo in 2010, IDP owners who wait to address defensive backs could do worse than Whitner as a second starter.