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Six Two Stack Monster: A Look at the Top DT options for 2014

If you got the meaning of the title of this article right off the bat, a hearty tip of the cap to you. It is my homage to one of the best football movies ever made in my humble opinion, “All the Right Moves” starring Tom Cruise, Craig T. Nelson and the late Christopher Penn.

When faced with the tall task of playing cross-town rival (and undefeated) Walnut Heights, the Ampipe Bulldogs decide to install a drastic defensive game plan. They will employ a version of the goal line defense for the entire game in order to contain the potent rushing attack of their opponents.

The defensive call for that alignment was “Six Two Stack Monster” and I could think of no more fitting title for a piece dealing with the defensive tackle position and those big men who battle in the trenches.

GENO ATKINS, CINCINNATI

This ranking is a bit shaky as of June because there is still not a definitive answer as to if Atkins will be ready for the start of the season. Atkins is approximately six months removed from the torn ACL that ended his 2013 campaign.

Before seeing his year come to an end, Atkins had put up six sacks and 20 total tackles in nine games (actually eight full games and 15 snaps during the game he was injured).

While Atkins started the season slowly, amassing only a single solo tackle with one sack in the first three weeks, he was picking up the pace and had recorded at least half a sack in five of the next six games. Before injuring his knee, Atkins had a pair of solo tackles and a sack against Miami in Week 9.

Injury concerns aside (there is still a lot of optimism that he hits the field for Week 1), Atkins remains the top dog at defensive tackle heading into 2014.

New defensive coordinator Paul Guenther figures to utilize Atkins in the same role that former defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer did. As long as the knee heals properly, Atkins remains an explosive force on the interior with the ability to blow up any given play with his gap shooting skills and pure strength.

More consistent pressure from the defensive end position would be a bonus for Atkins. That will require more consistent play from

Carlos Dunlap

,

Wallace Gilberry

and

Robert Geathers

. Second-year defensive end

Margus Hunt

should also make strides as a pass rushing threat, which will benefit Atkins.

The gap between Atkins and the rest of the defensive tackle options may not be as large as it was following his standout 2012 season, but there is still no one better. He is the first name off the board in leagues that require the defensive tackle position and also holds value in formats that do not differentiate between the defensive line designations.

Atkins’ current average draft position (ADP) is that of the 14th overall defensive lineman off the board, and, if healthy, he brings solid DL2 production at a position of value.

Scorned owners that had Atkins last season (nobody holds a grudge like IDP fantasy owners) are likely to avoid him this season and that will leave the savvy IDP owner in an excellent spot to get a premier interior defensive line presence.

GERALD MCCOY, TAMPA BAY

McCoy has put together back-to-back 16-game campaigns after missing a combined 13 games in his first two NFL seasons. He is coming off a dominant performance in 2013 and is finally delivering on the promise he showed when Tampa Bay took him third overall back in 2010.

Finally healthy and playing at a lighter weight, McCoy finished with career highs in total tackles (50), sacks (9) and also tied his previous high of four passes defended last season. He also led all Buccaneers defensive linemen in snaps (985), which was second in the league to Kansas City’s

Dontari Poe

(1,004).

McCoy graded out as the No. 1 defensive tackle according to

Pro Football Focus last season and finished in the top 5 for fantasy scoring among defensive tackles.

Only 26 years old, McCoy has established himself as an elite defensive tackle for fantasy purposes as well as an option to be selected in leagues that combine defensive tackle and defensive end. The signing of former Cincinnati defensive end

Michael Johnson

to join

Adrian Clayborn

in bringing pressure off the edge will only help McCoy’s fantasy value moving forward. Double-digit sacks are hard to come by from the defensive tackle position (only three players accomplished it in 2013) in a given year, but McCoy could achieve this in new head coach Lovie Smith’s and defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier’s defense.

After torn biceps ended his rookie and sophomore campaigns, McCoy has rebounded to become a force in the middle for fantasy purposes. Already solid in run support at the point of attack, he has added a serious pass rushing aspect to his game, having amassed 14 sacks over the past two seasons.

McCoy is in line to be a top 3 draft option in defensive tackle-required leagues and is a top 35 pick in standard IDP formats among all defensive linemen. Expect at least solid DL3 numbers from McCoy as he continues his ascent up the fantasy ladder.

NDAMUKONG SUH, DETROIT

Suh finished sixth in scoring for defensive tackles using Fantasy Sharks Default IDP scoring last season and 30th among all defensive linemen. He also graded out as the second-ranked defensive tackle according to

Pro Football Focus behind the aforementioned

Gerald McCoy

.

Suh can become a free agent after this season and created a mini controversy by skipping organized team activities. In reality it was a non-story as Suh has always stayed away from these ‘voluntary’ activities and was in contact with head coach Jim Caldwell throughout the off-season.

Controversy has followed Suh since his outstanding rookie season when he hit double-digit sacks (10) and racked up 65 total tackles. There have been stomping issues as well as fines for low blocks and the whispers that Suh undercut former head coach Jim Schwartz’s authority in the locker room.

While all that makes for juicy stories and polarizes the public’s view of Suh, it does nothing to affect his fantasy value. He remains a dominant force along the defensive front and will be playing for a new contract this season.

Suh is a physical disruptive force from the interior and is still only 27 years old. In four seasons he has posted 27.5 sacks, 135 solo tackles while adding two forced fumbles and an interception. Those, fellow IDP lovers, are nice fantasy totals from the defensive tackle position even if Suh does play a bit out of control from time to time.

It is a bit of a double-edged sword that Suh plays with such a mean streak as suspensions are always in play and that cripples an IDP squad that rosters him. It is also the reason that he wreaks havoc on opposing offenses and was voted the “most feared” player in the league last season by 320 active players.

Love him or hate him, Suh gives 100 percent on every play and is a leader on a defense looking to establish itself this season under new defensive coordinator Teryl Austin. It is unlikely that he’ll ever duplicate the numbers that he put up as a rookie due to the extra attention he now draws from linemen and the weaker supporting cast around him.

Suh is going to benefit from fellow defensive tackle

Nick Fairley‘s

recent weight loss and rededication to the game as he also plays for a new deal. He may be hindered by a lack of edge pressure from young defensive ends Ziggy Ansah and Devin Taylor. A wildcard in the equation is defensive tackle/defensive end

Jason Jones,

who is returning from a ruptured patella tendon.

When healthy, Jones commands attention from offenses as an early down defensive end that can kick inside on passing downs and bring extra pressure along the defensive line. To better his production from last season, Suh will need his fellow defensive linemen to create pressure and ease the number of double teams he regularly faces.

Suh rounds out the top 3 defensive tackles that I consider the cream of the crop and should be first off of draft boards in IDP drafts. Look for high-end DL3 production as the floor for Suh in 2014 with solid to high-end DL2 numbers within his reach as he plays for his next payday.

About Fantasy Sharks

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