As any Individual Defensive Player (IDP) fantasy owner can attest, the defensive lineman position has become quite the fickle mistress. With the proliferation of hybrid 3-4 defensive schemes leading to the position designations of players once deemed to be a defensive end being switched to outside linebacker, it is becoming harder and harder to secure high-scoring defensive lineman talent in IDP formats.
Even more difficult to find are rookie defensive lineman prospects that have a relevant fantasy impact on their IDP squads.
Adjusting to the speed of the NFL game as well as getting the number of snaps to put up decent numbers is a difficult task for most rookies and it generally takes a year or two for them to develop and blossom into viable fantasy options. While each of the players on this list is a dynasty draft selection for certain, some may be avoidable in redraft formats depending on the size of the league and roster limits.
1. Dion Jordan, DE, Miami:
The Dolphins traded up to the third position to land the athletic 6-foot-6, 250-pound Jordan and will be able to utilize him in a number of ways. First and foremost, he can be the edge rusher lining up opposite defensive end Cameron Wake that the Miami defense has lacked the past few seasons.
Jordan already possesses excellent edge rush skills, and, while he needs to add some bulk to his frame, he has also shown the versatility to be able to drop into coverage. The ability to hold his own in coverage will serve him Jordan well in both Miami’s 4-3 base defense as well as a hybrid 3-4 should the Dolphins employ it. He will see a lot of snaps as a rookie and holds solid DL4 fantasy value with the definite upside to reach high-end DL2 numbers.
2. Ezekiel “Ziggy” Ansah, DE, Detroit:
Ansah fills an immediate need on the Detroit defensive line, as the Lions are desperate for an edge rushing threat from the defensive end position. With his limited exposure to football having been well documented (dare I say, beat to death), Ansah does know one thing already and that is how to get up the field.
He is freakishly athletic at 6-foot-5 and 271 pounds with an explosive burst off the snap and will have little competition from Jason Jones, Willie Young and Ronnell Lewis in landing a starting job for Detroit. The duo of Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley at the defensive tackle position will force offensive lines to focus attention on the interior, freeing up Ansah to do what he does best in 2013 – get after the quarterback.
Ansah is more valuable as a dynasty pick with tremendous upside as he continues to learn the nuances of the game. Ansah is already solid in run support, will see the field a lot as a rookie due to the dearth of defensive line talent in Detroit and has a high ceiling. As a rookie in 2013, he’ll enter the season with DL4 fantasy value.
3. Datone Jones, DE, Green Bay:
With age, injuries and looming free agency hovering over the Packers’ defensive front, Jones steps in with the very realistic chance of being the starting right defensive end. He is an excellent fit in the base 3-4 Green Bay likes to implement and versatile enough to kick inside as a one-gap penetrating interior linemen in a 4-3.
Jones posted 148 total tackles (36 1/2 for a loss) with 12 1/2 sacks and four forced fumbles during his days at UCLA. He has quick burst speed off the snap with the ability to bring inside as well as outside pressure while also being disruptive against the run.
The Packers are hoping that Jones will bring the interior pressure they have lacked, and, with offensive lines focusing on outside linebacker Clay Mathews, Jones could post decent sack totals as a rookie. Jones will be in line for a significant number of snaps in the Packers’ defensive line rotation as second year defensive lineman Jerel Worthy may not play at all in 2013 due to the torn ACL he suffered in January.
Jones is a decent late-round dynasty draft selection but in redraft leagues there are just too many proven defensive end options out there that will post better numbers. Keep an eye on his early season playing time and performance as a possible waiver wire addition in redraft formats.
4. Damontre Moore, DE, New York Giants
: Once considered a Top 10 prospect, Moore saw his draft stock plummet after a poor combine showing where he ran a slower than hoped 4.95 40-yard dash and managed a paltry 12 bench press reps. His free fall down the draft board saw him selected 81st overall by the Giants.
While his workout numbers were disappointing, Moore did rack up 12 1/2 sacks with 21 tackles for loss last season for Texas A&M and is able to provide excellent off the edge pressure. He has shown the ability to rush from both a stand up outside linebacker position as well as a hand in the dirt pure edge rush option.
While his snap count may be limited early in the season as the third defensive end utilized in the Giants’ defensive line rotation, Moore is talented enough to make use of those snaps and should see a gradual rise in his usage as the season progresses. He’s a pure pass rusher that has landed with the perfect unit to have that skill set honed to work to his fantasy owner’s advantage.
He’s an excellent selection in dynasty leagues and a DL4 option in redraft leagues who should see a boost in value as the season wears on and he garners more snaps.
5. Margus Hunt, DE, Cincinnati:
Hey, I already mentioned that the defensive lineman rookie prospects are very limited for IDP purposes in 2013. The fact that I couldn’t find a better option than Hunt at this high of a spot supports that claim.
I would have preferred to put “Tank Carradine” here but I believe the San Francisco 49ers will take their sweet time in bringing him along as he recovers from his knee injury. Long term I like Carradine, but for the upcoming season I like the 6-foot-8 and 280-pound project out of Southern Methodist here.
Hunt has room to add bulk to his frame and football knowledge to his resume, as he’s another latecomer to the dance. What Hunt does have is freakish athletic ability and the size and strength to wreak some havoc even as an unpolished rookie. Hey, the bull in the china shop doesn’t know what it’s doing either, but it sure does break a lot of things.
Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer will have the chance to work with Hunt as he backs up incumbents Carlos Dunlap and Robert Geathers at the defensive end position early next season. Hunt may be raw but he is also ‘country strong’ and has the wingspan to bat down passes with a J.J. Watt frequency.
A recent report from bengals.com stated that Hunt could be a game day inactive for much of his rookie season, but, as is the case with most early May reports, I am taking that view with a huge grain of salt. The Bengals are not in that deep of a position along their defensive line that they will ‘red shirt’ the 53rd overall pick in the draft.
I’m of the belief that Hunt does see snaps from Day 1 in a rotational role along the line for Cincinnati and could surprise us a bit fantasy wise. Not to the point he deserves being selected on fantasy draft day in redraft leagues, but he does have interesting dynasty value.
These five names are likely to change as mini-camps, organized team activities (OTAs), training camp and preseason games more clearly define the roles that the defensive lineman Class of 2013 will play for their respective teams.
Stay locked in here as the entire FantasySharks crew will continue to keep covering the IDP landscape as well as every other aspect of fantasy football from all angles as we head in to the 2013 season.
Of course, as always … have fun!