There’s good news and bad news where defensive linemen are concerned in IDP leagues in 2019.
The bad news is the same as it’s been the past several seasons. Relative to the linebacker and defensive back positions, there’s not as much depth on the defensive front.
There are around 20 defensive linemen in a given year that I have a reasonable amount of confidence in as weekly fantasy starters. If you’re in a 12-team IDP league that starts two or more DL, well…you do the math.
However, the good news is that the depth on the defensive line is a little better than in past seasons. There are players who—while I may not be confident in calling them a dependable weekly starter just yet—have the potential to be. There are veterans who have changed teams and/or schemes. Upside youngsters.
The talent pool’s deeper in 2019.
So, as you begin to do your draft research before going fishing in that pool this summer, consider the following defensive linemen in the later rounds. All have an asking price that’s lower than it should be given their potential for production in 2019.
Everson Griffen – DE, Minnesota Vikings
After a miserable 2018 season in which he recorded just 5.5 sacks and left the team for a while to seek treatment for mental health issues, Griffen had to restructure his contract in the offseason just to stay with the team. Still, he told ESPN’s Courtney Cronin that he’s healthy again and ready to put 2018 in the rearview mirror.
“When I’m me, when I’m myself, I can play well,” Griffen said. “And last year I wasn’t myself. If I was myself, I wouldn’t have to take a pay cut — if I was myself, if I was playing at the level I know I can play at each and every year. But I wasn’t, and sometimes things happen in your life that you have to get better with and you have to move forward and you have to learn from it. And this was a big learning experience and I dealt with some stuff. But now I’m comfortable, I’m happy, my family’s happy, my kids are happy and that’s what matters the most to me right now. Sitting here and being free and understanding where I can go and what I can do.”
Griffen has an aggregate ranking at Fantasy Pros that’s just outside the top-20 defensive linemen, but just two years ago the 31-year-old was seventh among defensive linemen in Fantasy Sharks Default IDP Scoring. If you’re looking for a low-end DL2 who has a real chance to crack the top-12, Griffen’s your guy—and a great target for IDP drafters who bomb away at linebacker early.
Justin Houston – DE, Kansas City Chiefs
After eight years, 78.5 sacks and four trips to the Pro Bowl, Houston was released by the Kansas City Chiefs, landing in Indianapolis—where he’ll play weak-side defensive end for the first time in his career. As Andrew Walker reported for the Colts website, defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus has been impressed by Houston’s work ethic while learning the new position.
“He’s doing a great job of soaking it all in and really focusing on the fundamentals of how we play the position,” Eberflus said. “He’s got the movement and the athleticism and all the skill that you need at the position. So, we’re certainly excited about it. And again, he’s just got to have time on task, and he’s just going to keep rising through the summer, through the end of OTAs and into training camp.”
Houston hasn’t tallied double-digit sacks since 2014, when he nearly tied the single-season sack record with 22. But in his final year in Kansas City, Houston racked up 37 tackles, nine sacks and a career-high five forced fumbles. That production would have ranked Houston 13th among all defensive linemen a season ago. Another higher-end DL2 season isn’t an unreasonable expectation for Houston’s first year with a horseshoe on his hat.
Sam Hubbard – DE, Cincinnati Bengals
There’s an all-new coaching staff in Cincinnati this year led by new head coach Zac Taylor. As Dan Hope reported for Eleven Warriors, Hubbard compared the new culture in Cincinnati to his last team up Interstate 71 in Columbus at Ohio State.
“I’ve got about a month or so under my belt working with them, and it’s pretty similar to what I was used to at Ohio State,” Hubbard said. “The energy they’ve brought in and the new attitude, the winning culture they’re trying to create, I love every minute of it.”
Per Geoff Hobson of the team’s website, Hubbard’s also going to be asked to do more in his second season. “It looks like Hubbard is going to be starting and he’ll get plenty of chances to improve on those six rookie sacks,” he wrote. “He keeps coming and coming and coming. When he’s coming off the edge, he’s dynamic. You think about a four-man rush on third-and-long consisting of Atkins and Glasgow inside and Carlos Dunlap and Hubbard outside and, well, pretty good.”
Hubbard finished in DL3 territory last year, but his six sacks came in just 507 snaps and he added 39 total tackles. If his snaps increase into the 700 range, Hubbard could easily be a cheaply available, high-floor DL2 in 2019.
Robert Quinn – DE, Dallas Cowboys
Quinn’s lone season with the Miami Dolphins wasn’t especially impressive, although in fairness he did lead the team with 6.5 sacks. But playing opposite Demarcus Lawrence in Dallas, Bleacher Report’s Maurice Moton feels bigger and better things are coming in 2019.
“Assuming defensive end Demarcus Lawrence fully recovers from shoulder surgery,” he said, “Quinn should be able to win one-on-one matchups on the other side with his raw power. The coaching staff can unleash Quinn on passing downs, but last season with Miami, he also showed the ability to break through the line of scrimmage and accumulate stops against the run. The ninth-year veteran registered 25 solo tackles in addition to providing constant pressure on the end of the Dolphins defensive line.”
I will freely admit I was on the Quinn bandwagon as a similarly undervalued IDP option a year ago at this time—and that didn’t exactly work out so well. But Quinn’s still only 29 years old, he’s demonstrated elite fantasy upside in the past with three straight seasons with double-digit sacks from 2012 to 2014, and playing opposite Lawrence gives Quinn a batterymate at end as good as any he’s had since the days of Quinn and Chris Long playing together with the Rams.
If anything, last year’s relatively disappointing numbers may drive Quinn’s asking price down that much more.