The 2012 NFL Draft is over and fantasy fanatics crave rankings, any type of rankings. With sweet memories of the draft still ringing in our ears, listen closely and Mike Mayock can still be heard saying, for the fifth time “This kid is my favorite guy in this year’s draft.”
It is time to get some rankings out there, and what better way to start than with the top rookie Individual Defensive Player (IDP) prospects for 2012? OK, so there are probably a few better ways to start, especially for folks that don’t participate in any IDP leagues, so we will let this be the bell ringing for everyone to join an IDP league! Let’s get to it.
No. 1 Luke Kuechly, MLB, Carolina: Move over Jon Beason (literally, this kid is playing in the middle for the Panthers), there is a new sheriff in town, and his name is Kuechly! He is a fantasy No. 1 linebacker from Day 1.
No. 2 Lavonte David, OLB, Tampa Bay: The kid will be the WILL linebacker for the Buccaneers from Day 1 and could post more than 100 tackles his rookie season. Solid No. 2 fantasy linebacker with No. 1 upside.
No. 3 Mark Barron, SS, Tampa Bay: Two rookie Buccaneers already? Yeah, their defense was that bad in 2011. Barron will team with Ronde Barber, who is switching to a free safety position this season, and be the run stuffing safety in Tampa Bay. Very solid No. 2 fantasy defensive back with big play potential.
No. 4 Mychal Kendricks, ILB, Philadelphia: Philadelphia has been searching for quality linebacker play for the past few seasons. Hello DeMeco Ryans and Kendricks, problem solved. High end No. 2 fantasy linebacker, with No. 1 upside should Ryans go down.
No. 5 Andre Branch, DE, Jacksonville: Traditionally, Jacksonville is where rookie defensive ends go to disappear. Remember Derrick Harvey and Quentin Groves? Don’t worry, nobody else does either. Sheer volume of time on the field for a bad Jaguar team makes Branch a viable fantasy option. Steady No. 2 fantasy defensive lineman.
No. 6 Bobby Wagner, LB, Seattle: The Seahawks just need to figure out where to start Wagner and turn him loose. He is a tackling machine with the athleticism to drop into coverage. Fantasy gold. Another high end No. 2 fantasy linebacker with definite No. 1 linebacker potential.
No. 7 Courtney Upshaw, OLB/DE, Baltimore: The Terrell Suggs injury vaults Upshaw into this ranking. The Ravens will utilize the threesome of Paul Kruger, Pernell McPhee and Upshaw all over the place on the outside to create mismatches and get to the quarterback. The luxury of easing Upshaw into the defensive scheme disappeared when Suggs went down. Until we see exactly how he is lining up in Baltimore, consider Upshaw a solid No. 2 fantasy linebacker, with the possibility to go up or down.
No. 8 Chandler Jones, DE/OLB, New England: The Patriots lost 20 total sacks with the departures of Andre Carter and Mark Anderson via free agency. Carter could be brought back, once he is deemed healthy. In the meantime, Jones will get his chance to make some noise off the edge. Another case of, let’s see where he lines up, and until we know consider him a No. 3 outside linebacker with No. 2 potential.
No. 9 Nick Perry, OLB, Green Bay: Perry won the ‘who gets to line up opposite Clay Mathews and draw the isolation blocking, while Clay is doubled? lottery.’ Perry will be an immediate three down linebacker for the Packers and have excellent fantasy value. A fantasy No. 3 fantasy outside linebacker, with No. 2 upside if he keeps his motor running on high all season.
No. 10 Melvin Ingram, OLB/DE, San Diego: Ingram can bring pressure from the inside, as well as off the edge. The Chargers need someone to complement the resurgent Antwan Barnes, and they took Ingram 18th overall to be that guy. Think early Shawne Merriman potential, without the goofy sack celebrations. Slot him in as a solid No. 3 fantasy outside linebacker, who if he plays up to his potential, has the ceiling of a No. 1 fantasy option.
There we have it folks. Some early edition rankings to sink our collective teeth into. These rookies have an excellent opportunity to step right into your fantasy lineups and help your team immediately. Oh baby! It is indeed that time of year, and I am smiling like the butcher’s dog!