In the National Football League, games are decided in the trenches, at the line of scrimmage. Looking for an example? Look no farther than Super Bowl XLII, where the New York Giants’ front four helped propel the Giants to a win over the unbeaten New England Patriots.
The defensive line is going to be of similar importance in Individual Defensive Player (IDP) leagues in 2015, and for a similar reason. Building a stout defensive line in fantasy football this year isn’t going to be easy. It’s a numbers game. In a 12-team IDP-league requiring two weekly starters up front, teams are going to be hard-pressed to all field decent starters, much less have any depth.
It’s a similar dilemma to that facing fantasy owners at tight end. Either invest heavily early, or look for value plays later to take up the slack. Well, if you’re interested in taking the latter course of action (or if you just want to be prepared in case an unexpected run freezes you out in your IDP draft), here’s a look at a trio of beefeaters in a good position to out-perform their ADP in 2015.
Charles Johnson, DE, Carolina (My Fantasy League ADP: DL32)
With Greg Hardy now in Dallas after a lost 2014 season, the Carolina Panthers are trying to find ways to replace that lost sack production and bolster a pass rush that dropped from first in sacks in the NFL two years ago to 13th in 2014.
The Panthers have been experimenting in organized team activities with sliding veteran Charles Johnson to the right defensive end spot, a slot formerly occupied by Hardy. ESPN’s David Newton thinks it’s a move that could bear fruit – maybe.
“At 28,” Newton said, “he’s not as fast as he was when Carolina selected him in the third round of the 2007 draft. That’s not a knock on Johnson, still at 6-foot-2 and 285 pounds, the leader of the Panthers defense. But a lost step makes it tougher to get around the opposing team’s left tackle, who often is in the 6-foot-5, 320-pound range.”
Johnson, for his part, wasn’t tipping his hand when it comes to the Panthers’ plans for him in 2015.
“We’ll see,’’ Johnson said. “When we get into training camp, we’ll see.’’
Granted, Johnson may well not be the player he once was, and his tackle numbers have fallen in recent seasons. But even if all Johnson can do in 2015 is back up last year’s DL21 finish in Fantasy Sharks Default IDP Scoring, he’d be a steal at his present asking price.
Damontre Moore, DE, New York Giants (My Fantasy League ADP: DL47)
“After nine seasons,” McCue said, “the Giants parted with long-time defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka in February. That opened a spot on the left edge opposite Pro Bowler Jason Pierre-Paul. Moore now has the chance to become a full-time starter in his third year as a pro. Two of his top competitors for playing time, George Selvie and Robert Ayers, are in their late-20s and lack the tremendous upside of the 22-year-old Moore.”
Also, after playing the 2014 season at less than 250 pounds (which is low for a 4-3 end, especially the left one) Moore told Jordan Ranaan of NJ.com that the New York coaching staff was quite pleased when Moore reported to organized team activities heavier this year.
“[They said] 250 for sure, at the lowest, and if I came in at 255 that would be a bonus. So I managed to come in at 255/256, so they were pleased about that,” Moore said. “I have one thing struck off my list. The other thing is just learning the schematic parts and earning the caches trust and showing I can play.”
The plot thickened further when Ayers suffered knee and ankle injuries in workouts. Granted, those injuries didn’t turn out to be serious, and the presence of rookie Owamagbe Odighizuwa makes for a crowded competition for snaps opposite Pierre-Paul.
Still, Odighizuwa is a rookie and while Ayers sits, Moore is going to have every opportunity to impress the Giants as we head toward training camp. If ever Moore was going to take the “next step” and start realizing some of the potential the Giants saw when they selected Moore in the third round back in 2013, this is it.
Ryan Davis, DE, Jacksonville Jaguars (My Fantasy League ADP: Not Ranked)
The Jacksonville Jaguars recent string of phenomenally bad luck where first-round picks are concerned kept rolling right into 2015. On the very first day of rookie minicamp, No. 3 overall draft pick Dante Fowler tore his ACL and was lost for the entire season. With Fowler gone, the Jaguars are left in scramble mode as they try to maintain the momentum established by last year’s vastly improved pass rush.
Not only is Fowler out for all of 2015, but veteran Chris Clemons, who manned the “Leo” pass-rushing spot for the Jaguars last year, is (as he usually does) skipping organized team activities to work out on his own. That has meant additional first-team reps for youngsters Andre Branch and Ryan Davis, and Davis told Mike Kaye of WTLV-TV that he’s making the most of the opportunity.
“I’ve always been working at [the LEO position] but obviously I want to get better at it anyway,” Davis said. “Regardless of how the situation went down with Dante [Fowler] and [Chris Clemons] not being here, that’s just me as a professional. I just try to get better at it every day but that’s my position so I want to get better at it.”
Davis made the most of his limited opportunities with the Jaguars last year, tallying 6.5 sacks in less than 100 total snaps. If the fourth-year pro can make some noise in camp and earn a larger role in 2015, Davis could make for an excellent upside flier late in IDP drafts.
With the NFL draft in the books, IDP draft season is about to heat up. And Fantasy Sharks has you covered. Whether it’s 2015 player rankings and projections, waiver wire targets, rookie analysis for dynasty leagues or strategy tips, IDP Staff Writer Walton Spurlin and IDP Senior Staff Writer Gary Davenport have all the information you need to dominate your IDP league in 2015.