The 2018 NFL Draft has come and gone, and rookie camps are underway across the league — camps where this season’s first-year players get their first taste of life in the pros.
It’s also the first opportunity for IDP owners to see these youngsters in their spiffy new uniforms.
Yes, I just said “spiffy.”
That first step toward Week 1 comes as fantasy owners are also preparing to ramp up for the upcoming campaign. That’s especially true in dynasty formats, where some rookie drafts are already underway.
There’s little question that Chicago’s Roquan Smith and Buffalo’s Tremaine Edmunds are the top two IDP options in 2018. Depending on the scoring and roster requirements of individual leagues, they may come off the board in the first round of rookie drafts.
The players listed here, um … .won’t.
As a matter of fact, these first-year individual defensive players won’t be drafted at all in more leagues than not. I play in a 16-team IDP Dynasty League with deep rosters, fill defensive lineups and scoring that can make defenders just as valuable as their offensive counterparts.
None of these players were selected inside the Top 40.
That doesn’t mean they don’t have value. Quite the opposite. Each of the rookie IDPs here not only have talent, but their situation offers a chance to make a dent on the stat sheet sooner than later.
First-year impact from late-round rookie picks? A cheap starter?
Kemoko Turay, DE, Indianapolis Colts
After watching Turay’s showing in rookie minicamp, first-year Colts head coach Frank Reich told George Bremer of the Anderson Herald-Bulletin that he saw a pass-rusher capable of making noise right away.
“I think all the players obviously need to grow, but as an offensive coach and as a former quarterback, you think you have a little bit of an eye for guys who can come off the edge,” Reich said. “And that definitely flashed (Friday), not only on what you saw on the field, but we take numbers and measurements on things. I won’t go into the details, but I will just say this: his numbers were very good.”
The 6-foot-5, 253-pound Turay, who was a second-round pick by the Colts, is an admittedly raw prospect — just as most edge-rushers are. But he’s also wildly athletic. With Indianapolis switching to a four-man front in 2018, the team is as hard-up for pressure off the edge as any team in the NFL. The Colts don’t have the luxury of easing Turay in. If the youngster winds up taking advantage of what should be significant snaps in Year 1, he could provide deep-league IDP owners some cheap production and depth up front.
Darius Leonard, OLB, Indianapolis Colts
Not to keep harping on second-round picks of the Indianapolis Colts, but I’m going to keep harping on second-round picks of the Indianapolis Colts.
Leonard was the first, coming off the board at pick No. 36. He’s hardly a household name after playing at tiny South Carolina State, but Leonard showed with 14 tackles at the Senior Bowl that he can play with the big boys. One AFC scout told Lance Zierlein of NFL.com that he expects Leonard to do just that.
“He’s a good worker and good learner,” the scout said, “and I think he has a chance to be a war daddy once he has an NFL training table and strength program behind him.”
Leonard’s going to be learning by doing. Much like at edge-rusher, the Colts are in dire need of linebacker help after Jon Bostic (who led the Colts in tackles in 2017) bolted for Pittsburgh in free agency. Provided that Leonard really is a hard worker and quick study, it’s not hard to imagine the 6-foot-2, 234-pounder in a three-down role when the Colts take on Cincinnati in Week 1.
Justin Reid, S, Houston Texans
Per the Associated Press, Houston head coach Bill O’Brien isn’t ready to commit anything more than a look to Reid, a 6-foot-1, 207-pounder from Stanford who the Texans took with their first selection in this year’s draft at No. 68.
“He’s a guy (who’s) a versatile guy who can do some different things for us, help us on special teams and obviously, help us on defense,” O’Brien said. “He just got here, so we’ll see how he does in our system.”
That’s OK – if O’ Brien won’t do it I’ll help him out.
Reid’s equally at ease stuffing the run as he is flashing his 4.4-second wheels in coverage — which just so happens to be what NFL teams want in safeties in 2018. He was an excellent value for the Texans at the beginning of Round 3, and he’s a more talented player than fifth-year veteran Andre Hal.
There’s a real chance that Reid will open his rookie season as the starter opposite Tyrann Mathieu. And if he does, it will be behind an unimposing pair of linebackers.
The opportunity will be there.