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THE SCHEMES THEY ARE A CHANGING: IDP Impact of Defensive Scheme Changes in 2017

We haven’t even hit the month of June yet, and already a shockwave has been sent across the IDP landscape. A pair of players who were arguably the finest IDP options at their respective positions have seen their fantasy value decimated.

Not by injury, mind you. Or even by changing teams or losing their starting job. No, these players were ‘victims” of the ever-changing defensive landscape across the NFL.

Earlier this week, My Fantasy League changed the positional classification of Aaron Donald of the Los Angeles Rams from defensive tackle to defensive end because of the Rams moving to a three-man front under new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips. This came after Khalil Mack of the Oakland Raiders was flipped from defensive end to linebacker because Oakland will run a similar front under John Pagano.

For Donald, it’s not the end of the world – unless, of course, you play in a DT-required IDP league, in which case you probably want to jump out a window. If you do you’ll likely land on Mack’s owners, who went from possessing perhaps the most valuable d-lineman in the league to rostering a so-so fantasy LB3.

Those aren’t the only scheme switches in the NFL this year – or even the only scheme switches in California, where every team in the state will be running a new front in 2017.

Here’s a breakdown of those changes and what they could mean for the fantasy value(s) of players on those teams.

 

BUFFALO BILLS

2017 Defensive Coordinator: Leslie Frazier

As Robert Quinn wrote for Bills Wire, Buffalo will move to a relatively straightforward 4-3 scheme under new head coach Sean McDermott in 2017. “McDermott’s scheme,” he said, “that is rooted in concepts from the late Jim Johnson is far less complex than Rex Ryan’s and doesn’t require as many adjustments or as much on-the-fly thinking by his defenders. He wants to generate pressure with a four-man rush, let his linebackers fly to the ball and rely on his secondary to play intelligently and with good spacing.

This switch is good news IDP-wise, at least on the defensive line. Both veteran Jerry Hughes and second-year pro Shaq Lawson should receive positional eligibility as defensive ends, while Marcell Dareus will maintain his DT eligibility.

This is also a scheme that generally favors the WILL linebacker, although at this point there’s more than a little question as to who that will be. At first glance it would appear that second-year man Reggie Ragland will man the middle while Preston Brown slots on the weak side. However, there have been rumblings that McDermott isn’t especially high on how either player fits his system, so the situation will need to be monitored as we move into training camp.

 

CLEVELAND BROWNS

2017 Defensive Coordinator: Gregg Williams

Head coach Hue Jackson told Patrick Maks of the team’s website that Williams has wasted no time leaving his mark on the defense. “He is probably the biggest recruit I’ve had thus far. He’s done a tremendous job thus far,” he said. “I think the players have all gravitated to his style, truly believe in what he’s selling and he’s one of the greatest salesman I’ve ever been around. He’s really detail-oriented, he has expectations for our players, he’s really going to push and prod them, they’ve done a great job. I’ve never witnessed a group transform as fast because he spent two weeks not talking about scheme, he spent two weeks talking about how you play in the National Football League.”

Williams is a veteran defensive coordinator who has enjoyed success with multiple teams running an aggressive 4-3. Actually, aggressive may be putting it mildly. There are two things you can take to the bank with Williams. He will yell at his players, and he will blitz all…day…long.

The Browns should field a pair of solid young bookends up front this year in Emmanuel Ogbah and No. 1 overall pick Myles Garrett, who landed in an ideal spot where his IDP value is concerned. Veteran Desmond Bryant, if healthy, is the likely three-technique tackle, with Danny Shelton manning the nose.

At linebacker, it’s a safe bet that Demario Davis, Jamie Collins and Christian Kirksey will start, with my guess at alignment Davis in the middle, Collins on the strong side and Kirksey at WILL. Davis will all but certainly be the odd man out in sub-packages, and I expect Collins to rush the passer with quite a bit or regularity in 2017.

 

LOS ANGELES CHARGERS

2017 Defensive Coordinator: Gus Bradley

Coming off a Defensive Rookie of the Year 2016 season, Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa told Ricky Henne of the team’s website he’s thrilled by L.A.’s switch to Gus Bradley’s 4-3 “Under” front in 2017.

“I like Gus a lot,” Bosa said. “Once I met him during the draft process when he was the head coach at Jacksonville, I liked him from the start.  When I heard he was going to be our defensive coordinator I couldn’t have been happier with the decision. I feel what we are running this year fits me better. I came from a 4-3 defense (in college). Going back to that is going to be nice. There really isn’t too crazy of a difference.  I’m playing the five technique.  I’m playing the six technique, (but) I really won’t be in the three much this year. They are going to work on getting me in the nine technique a lot on the edge.”

That last part from Bosa is interesting, in that he mentioned the five and six technique spots before the nine-tech, who is the “Leo” pass-rusher who lines up wide of the formation. In a perfect IDP world, Bradley will use Melvin Ingram in that nine-technique spot enough to get Ingram eligibility as a defensive lineman. It hasn’t happened yet, and might not happen at all – but if it does be ready to pounce on Ingram as a sneaky value add.

The linebacker situation is murky, as both Ingram and Jeremian Attaochu could figure in there. Prevailing wisdom at this time has Jatavis Brown and Denzel Perryman the leading candidates to start, but the depth chart at LB may not solidify until later this summer.

About Gary Davenport

A member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association and Pro Football Writers of America who resides in Columbus, Ohio, Gary has been featured on a number of fantasy websites and in nationally circulated publications. These publications include the USA Today Fantasy Football Preview and the magazines distributed by Fantasy Sports Publications Inc., for whom Gary is a both a contributing author and associate editor. Gary is a four-time FSWA Award finalist, a finalist in 2016 for Fantasy Football Writer of the Year and the winner of the 2015 FSWA Award for Print Article of the Year. Gary also appears regularly on Sirius XM Radio (including live from Radio Row at Super Bowl XLIX), KDUS Radio in Phoenix, Arizona and is the co-host of The Fantasy Football Feeding Frenzy, a weekly podcast on Blog Talk Radio. Gary was one of the co-founders of, and Head Writer at, Fantasy Football Oasis before joining Fantasy Sharks as an IDP Senior Staff Writer in 2011. He knows football. Or so he's heard.