The NFL draft has come and gone. So has the majority of free agency, although there will still be some moves when the wave of post-June 1 cuts passes. For the most part, though, we know which individual defensive players will be playing where in 2015.
And that means it’s time. Time to start preparing for this season’s fantasy drafts.
In the coming weeks and months, you will be deluged with information. Sleepers. Deep Sleepers. Super Sleepers. Super-Extra Sleepers. And Top Secret Extra-Deep Super Sleepers.
However, there’s a flip side to all that sunshine being blown about. Dark clouds on the horizon, if you will. For these Individual Defensive Player (IDP) stars, the situation around them has changed in the past couple of months, enough so that a player who one appeared worthy of an early IDP pick is suddenly a risky(er) bet.
Caveat emptor, kiddies.
Muhammad Wilkerson, DE, New York Jets
Make no mistake, in no way is Wilkerson’s inclusion here meant to be an indictment of his skills on the football field. In fact, were the 25-year-old not living in J.J. Watt’s world (aren’t we all), then a compelling argument could be made that Wilkerson is the best 3-4 defensive end in the National Football League.
And yet, Wilkerson’s future with the Jets got a lot murkier of late. Headed into the last year of his rookie deal, Wilkerson hasn’t been even a little bit shy about his desire to be paid a salary commensurate to his performance, including skipping the first round of voluntary workouts.
Then the Jets drafted USC defensive lineman Leonard Williams with the No. 6 overall pick, a 302-pounder with a similar skill-set to Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson. Dom Cosentino of NJ.com wasn’t sounding any alarm bells, but Wilkerson’s contract situation and the swirling trade rumors could have Wilkerson on the move.
“I’ll be looking to see if a Wilkerson deal gets done before the start of this season,” Cosentino said. “If it does, you have your answer. If it doesn’t, how things play out this season with Williams in the mix may well determine Wilkerson’s fate.”
The same applies to his IDP value. If Wilkerson’s contract situation is resolved or the Jets are still in contention, Wilkerson’s IDP DL1 upside will hold. But if we reach a point where the Jets have nothing to play for and the winds appear to be set to blow Wilkerson out of New York, the veteran could lose significant snaps to the rookie.
And losing snaps is ‘no bueno.’
Curtis Lofton, ILB, Oakland Raiders
Lofton has never really lived up to the hype that accompanied his selection as a second-round pick in the 2008 NFL draft. However, from both an NFL and fantasy perspective, Lofton has been a steady producer, including a ninth-place finish among linebackers in Fantasy Sharks Default IDP Scoring.
Lofton found himself on the move this offseason, signing a free-agent deal with Oakland after being released by New Orleans . Lofton told the team’s website he’s there to be a leader.
“I think my role here is I’m going to be the middle linebacker and kind of the quarterback of the defense. Kind of help these young guys get lined up,” Lofton said. “Take charge and they brought me here to win.”
Now, I don’t doubt that Lofton will start. But until I see him with a green dot on his helmet I’m going to be nervous that Lofton (who ranked 45th in pass coverage among inside linebackers last year at Pro Football Focus) is going to lose subpackage snaps. And if he does, Lofton’s IDP value is going to take a big hit.
Michael Griffin, FS, Tennessee Titans
Ever since Griffin posted 108 tackles and finished the season fourth among defensive backs in fantasy points in 2010, IDP owners have been waiting for Griffin to back those numbers up. Well, in 2014 the ninth-year veteran captured lightning in a bottle again, racking up 112 stops and finishing in the Top 5.
However, look a little deeper (and I do mean a little deeper) and it isn’t hard to start seeing reasons why last year’s explosion could be 2010 all over again. For starters, when a free safety is leading your team in tackles, it’s usually a sign that defense is, what’s the word …
Big changes are also in store in 2015. Ray Horton is still the defensive coordinator, but in name only – as he now answers to legendary defensive guru Dick LeBeau. Griffin also has a new batterymate in Da’Norris Searcy, who is 26 and a Top 20 safety per Pro Football Focus.
By weight of comparison, Griffin was the fifth-worst qualifying safety in the NFL in 2014.
Two flukes in five years does not a fantasy asset make, especially when that asset is the wrong side of 30 and staring at a much less favorable IDP situation. Overall improvement from the front seven. A younger, better running mate.
Don’t pay for last year’s production. That’s no bueno, either.
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.