Monday - Jul 22, 2019

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WATT TO DO: Exploring the J.J. Watt Conundrum in IDP Leagues

When I first started writing “Watt to Do?” articles here at Fantasy Sharks several years ago, there was no question regarding J.J. Watt‘s value in IDP leagues. It was the eighth-year defensive end’s world, and everyone else was just living in it.

Watt was the best defensive player in football, the top IDP overall by a country mile and a legitimate first-round pick in some formats.

An IDP. In the Top 10 – overall. Unheard of.

Over the last two seasons, it’s been a much different story. After winning Defensive Player of the Year honors in 2015, multiple back surgeries limited Watt to three games, eight tackles and just 1.5 sacks in 2016. Last year was even worse – Watt clearly wasn’t himself early in the season, and just when it appeared he might be rounding into form Watt suffered a season-ending tibial plateau fracture.

Suddenly the player who appeared on a collision course with becoming one of the best defensive linemen to ever play the game (if not the best) had lost most of two seasons and was 29 years old.

The grumbles began. The questions. Was Watt finished? Could he ever recapture past form? And where does an unprecedented combination of talent, potential and risk leave Justin James Watt in IDP leagues in 2018?

It’s that last question we’ll endeavor to answer here.

THE CASE FOR J.J. WATT AS AN IDP STUD

For what it’s worth, Texans head coach Bill O’ Brien told John McClain of the Houston Chronicle that he’s bullish on the possibility of a bounce-back year from Watt in 2018 – largely because Watt himself seems to be.

“I feel good about J.J. because J.J. feels good about J.J.,” he said. “He’s in a good place. He’s been here every day. He’s very positive about where he is from a rehab standpoint. He’s committed to the cause of what we’re trying to do.”

Per Mark Lane of Texans Wire, Watt was a bit more guarded with his optimism, choosing to go with the “actions speak louder than words” approach.

“Like I said earlier in the off-season, I could tell you I’m feeling unbelievable (or) I could tell you I’m feeling super (bad) – you won’t know until I hit the field,” Watt said. “Just show up to training camp, watch how I play and then you can decide for yourself how I look.”

Watt’s comments are heartening. He wants not to tell you how he’s feeling, but to show you. To show you that he’s back to being himself.

Make no mistake. If Watt is close to 100 percent, he’s an elite IDP option in every sense of the word.

From 2012 to 2015, Watt peeled off a four-year run of dominance the likes of which we’ve never seen before. Over that stretch, Watt’s average season was 78 total tackles, 17 sacks and change and almost four forced fumbles.

That was the average. A season better than anything Khalil Mack of the Oakland Raiders or Joey Bosa of the Los Angeles Chargers (the top two defensive linemen on most IDP cheatsheets in 2018) have done to this point in their careers.

Twice, Watt topped 80 stops and/or 20 sacks. He was named Defensive Player of the Year three times—one of just two players in league history to accomplish that feat. Watt was the No. 1 defensive lineman in fantasy football three times in those four years – in the fourth he came in second to Robert Quinn. He was the top scoring IDP overall at least twice over that span – in scoring systems that aren’t set up to benefit his position. There were leagues in which he outscored everyone – on offense and defense.

That Watt – a healthy one in his prime – wasn’t just the No. 1 defensive lineman. Or the No. 1 IDP overall. He was the most dominant player at any position in fantasy football.

And it wasn’t close.

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 an eight-time FSWA Award finalist and two-time winner who has been a finalist for that organization's Fantasy Football Writer of the Year award each of the last three years. He won the honor in 2017. Gary also appears regularly on Sirius XM Radio (including live from Radio Row at Super Bowl XLIX) and over-the-air stations across the country. 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.