Every year there are new faces in new places – not just players, but coaches too. With those changes come scheme changes, and value changes with regards to fantasy football. In addition, many teams have new defensive coordinators – you can read about them in the 2012 Coaching Changes article. When you add up all of the player acquisitions, losses, and scheme changes, you will find that they can combine to have a profound effect on a player’s fantasy value. The following information should help you understand what to expect in 2012. If you have any additional questions please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or find me on twitter @IDPSteve.
HC: Ken Whisenhunt
DC: Ray Horton
Base Defensive Scheme: 3-4
Scheme Change: No
Key acquisitions: n/a
Finally a team that runs a 3-4 scheme that still gives us some fantasy value. Of course most if not all the fantasy value lies with DE Calais Campbell. Campbell is one of the rare 3-4 Des that has not just some fantasy value, but DE1 value. Last year, only three DEs finished with more fantasy points than Campbell did – Jason Pierre-Paul, Jared Allen, and Terrell Suggs. Not bad company to be in, especially for a 3-4 DE. I think that Campbell will be hard pressed to repeat what he did last year, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t like him, because I do, and think he does finish as a DE1 again. I’m just not sure a top 5 finish is in the Cards, but then again, with as bad as the Cardinals offense is, he could be on the field a ton. Opportunities will turn into fantasy points, so anything is possible, and with an ADP of DL9 I don’t think you can go wrong. There isn’t a ton of value but the return should match the ADP and provide some upside. The other thing you get with Campbell is a bit of consistency, something that many DEs are not. Reason being is that his stats aren’t as reliant on sacks, and tackles are easier to produce. So you should get less weekly variance from him.
I really do think that the Cardinals offense is going to be bad this year, and a bad offense means the defense gets to spend a lot of time on the field, that’s a good thing for IDP purposes. If Daryl Washington is your LB1, then it will be an especially good thing. Washington currently has an ADP of LB9, and I think that is a bargain for him. I wouldn’t be surprised in the least to see him finish as a top 5 LB; actually I expect it to happen.
Outside of Washington the fantasy value for the rest of the Cardinals LBs is pretty negligible. Stewart Bradley made a few plays this preseason, and it’s been so long since he has made a play that he actually celebrated with some goofy dance/pose thing. But fantasy wise, even in deep leagues, I don’t expect him to hold much value.
Paris Lenon isn’t flashy but he is a decent enough end of bench last LB to cover byes and injuries type player. Last year he finished 42 in scoring among LBs, which is smack dab in the middle of LB4 territory. What concerns me is that if Stewart Bradley does continue to play well and stay healthy, then he could be on the field just enough to kill Lenon’s fantasy value.
There used to be a time when Adrian Wilson wasn’t just the big dog in the Cardinals secondary, but also big dog among all DBs. Unfortunately those days are long gone. Now about all you are going to get from Wilson is a player that is going to average around 8-9 PPG and will be available on waivers if you need an injury replacement. Last year, he finished 67th in DB scoring, like I said, a long way from being the big dog.
Now the big dog in the Cardinals secondary is second year CB, Patrick Peterson. Peterson is loaded with talent and if he ends up with the ball in his hands, be it via interception or from a punt return, he is always a threat to take it to the house. His ADP at MFL is a mind boggling DB2, and there is no way in Hades he should be going that early in drafts. Last year he finished up ranked as the 31st best scoring DB. The problem that I see is that Peterson could end up being thrown at a lot less than he was last year, and if that happens it won’t be easy for him to put up fantasy points. For me, I wouldn’t even target him as my DB3, I just don’t see enough upside, and more than enough risk that he is basically undraftable for me.
Value at the CB position in the Cardinals secondary will belong to whoever can lock down the starting job opposite of Peterson. I don’t care who it is, William Gay, AJ Jefferson, Mike Adams, Greg Toler or Jamell Fleming. Whoever holds that job, and if they aren’t sharing many snaps should be able to put up DB3 numbers, with DB2 upside.
St. Louis Rams
HC: Jeff Fisher
DC: Gregg Williams (Suspended indefinitely)
Base Defensive Scheme: 4-3
Scheme Change: No
Key acquisitions: DB Cortland Finnegan ,
DL Michael Brockers,
DB Janoris Jenkins,
DB Trumaine Johnson
The biggest acquisition the Rams made on their DL is big in more ways than one. For starter, Michael Brockers stands 6’6” tall and tips the scales at 322 pounds. Brockers may not have much real fantasy value but he will be a main contributor to the fantasy value of others. The big man is going to eat up OL and allow Chris Long to actually play one on one with an OL.
As soon as Brockers was drafted I know a Chris Long owner and he was probably as ecstatic as Brockers and his family was when he was drafted.
Long has put up viable fantasy numbers in the past, but he has never really delivered the way that many thought he would. Now with Brockers and also Robert Quinn along the DL, we could see Long finally put it all together and show us exactly what he is made of. A top 12 season wouldn’t surprise me in the least. It seems that most fantasy owners agree with me too, because Long’s ADP is DL10.
Don’t be surprised if Long has company near the top 12 as second year DE Robert Quinn has the talent to put up top level numbers. The key will be if Jeff Fisher can get Quinn’s production to meet or exceed his talent level. I for one think that he not only can, but will. Mark me down as a buyer for Quinn, his ADP of DL21 might be a bit hard to stomach, but the upside is there, and that is why you have to take him that high if you want him on your team. In the SOFA IDP draft I just snagged him as my DL3 with pick 18.12, making him the 21st DL off the board.
At LB, in St. Louis, it is all about James Laurinaitis, and rightfully so, because not only is he the only fantasy viable LB on the Rams, but he is also a top tier fantasy LB. Last year he finished as the 3rd highest scoring LB, and his PPG average was 17.00. This year, Laurinaitis has an ADP that is equal to his fantasy finish last year. I don’t think you can go wrong with him, but I am not in love with him as a top 3-5 pick. I know that he had 133 total tackles, with 36 of them being of the assisted variety, and that right there is where my concern lies. Laurinaitis plays half his games in St. Louis, of course he does, but the point is that the home scorer in St. Louis is very, I mean VERY stingy when it comes to doling out assisted tackles. Of his 36 assists, only 6 came at home. The alternative view is that even with that working against him he was able to finish top 3. At the end of the day I still think he is a LB1, I am just not 100% sold that he can stay in the top 3, top 10 yes, top 3, maybe.
Both Quintin Mikell and Darian Stewart put up viable fantasy numbers last year. Mikell finished as a tail-end DB1, coming in as the 12th highest scoring DB, while Stewart finished as a tail-end DB2, finishing 24th in DB scoring. If not for missing week 13, it is very likely that Stewart would have actually outscored Mikell. For the season Stewarts PPG average was 12.357, and Mikell only outscored him by 12 total points. It just goes to show how closely bunched the DB tier can be. This year I think both should be fantasy starters, but if the offense improves under the direction of Jeff Fisher then there could be slightly fewer opportunities for the duo to make plays, and the difference from DB2 to DB4 is just around 20 points. The thing that I find funny is that Mikell has an ADP of DB27, while Stewart, who had a higher PPG average, even if ever so slight, doesn’t show up on the ADP report. That my friend is what you call value, and is in large part why it is best to wait on drafting DBs.
While the Brockers acquisition was big, I also think that the acquisition of former Titans CB, Cortland Finnegan is just as big. Finnegan may not be as large size wise as Brockers but he plays with a chip on his shoulder and he was an immediate upgrade for the Rams secondary. Also, remember that Finnegan played under Jeff Fisher when both were with the Titans. Finnegan will have fantasy value this year, DB3 type numbers are very possible, but where I really like him is in CB mandatory leagues. In those leagues I think he is a solid DB2 with DB1 upside.
San Francisco 49ers
HC: Jim Harbaugh
DC: Vic Fangio
Base Defensive Scheme: 3-4
Scheme Change: No
Key acquisitions: n/a
For the most part 3-4 DEs aren’t the best fantasy options, but the top 12 was comprised of three such players. Two of them hail from the NFC West, one was already covered in Calais Campbell, and the other is a member of the 49ers, Justin Smith. Smith, like Campbell is a player that doesn’t rely on sacks as much as other DL1s do. Instead, his sack numbers supplement his stat line. Last year, Smith finished 11th in DL scoring, the previous year he finished 18th and 3 years ago he finished 25th. His three-year progression shows he has gone from a DL3, to DL2 to a DL1. That looks to be a very nice progression for a player, especially one that is 32 years old. However, if you look deeper at the numbers what you will see is that in 2009, Smith had a 6.7 PPG average. In 2010, his PPG was 8.433, and in 2011, it was 8.50. The reason I point this out is because he hasn’t really progressed over the last three consecutive years, it is just that DL scoring was down some in 2011 and that is what helped him to land in the DL1 tier. Smith’s ADP is DL18, which when compared to his DL11 finish last year looks like a bargain. However, because we looked deeper at the numbers it is apparent that Smith could just as easily finish as a mid to low level DL2, and if he falters at all, high level DL3 wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility.
News flash; Patrick Willis is human and not some super-human. Last year was the first year since Willis came into the league in 2007 that he finished outside the top 3 in LB scoring. Actually it marked just the 2nd time he didn’t finish 1st overall, the other time was in 2010 when he ranked #3. Another way to look at it is that in his first three season in the NFL Willis was the highest scoring LB, then he slipped an ever so small amount and came in 3rd – nothing to sneeze at, but then last year, his 5th in the league the wheels fell off and he ended up as the 17th ranked LB. Of course the “wheels fell off” because he was injured and didn’t score a single fantasy point over the final four games of the fantasy season. I should point out that thru 12 weeks last year – the week prior to being injured – Willis was the top scoring LB, and only LB to have scored in excess of 200 fantasy points. That is probably the exact reason why Willis has an ADP of LB1. You can argue if you think Willis will end up as the LB1 this year, but I doubt you find many people outside of me that think Willis will end up outside of the top 10. On twitter, I proclaimed just that, tweeting, “Patrick Willis will NOT be a top 10 LB this year, there I said it.” After making that statement, the following twitter discussion took place, and it should help to explain my thoughts on Willis (Willis twitter timeline). I am sure I will receive plenty of hate mail at my gallo@thehuddle email address, and that is ok, I know I am out on my very own flimsy limb, but just realize, I’m not saying that Willis won’t be a viable fantasy LB, just that I think he shows us that he is human. Oh and I guess I should say that my logic is three fold; I’m concerned with some metrics, the supporting cast will siphon tackles, and the 49ers offense should continue to improve and that means fewer defensive snaps to pad the stats with.
The supporting cast that I am talking about is mainly NaVorro Bowman. Last year, thru 12 weeks Bowman was right on Willis’ heels, ranking 2nd in fantasy points scored. For the season, Bowman did outscore Willis in points scored, but in PPG average it was almost a dead heat but Bowman’s 16.733 PPG average was .184 less than the PPG of Willis. Marginal to say the least. But like Willis, I don’t have Bowman in my top 10. He’s close, just not there. That doesn’t mean that he like Willis won’t be a solid LB, maybe even LB1, but I just have a feeling that he is more likely to be a high level LB2 or low level LB1. Don’t forget to factor in that Bowan has an ADP of LB4, so if you do take him expecting top production there is little room to err. For me I would rather wait and get much better value later from players like Sean Lee, Sean Weatherspoon and even Karlos Dansby, a trio that actually happen to comprise my three starters in SOFA IDP.
The only other LB that is worth looking at for fantasy purposes outside of Willis and Bowman is Aldon Smith. However, in tackle heavy leagues, Smith is a risky proposition, and really his value comes largely in big play leagues. However, there is one other type of league were a player like Smith can have nice value – best ball leagues. In a best ball league when Smith has a killer week you get to reap the rewards. I actually employed that strategy in one of the mocks that I did this summer by targeting and drafting both DeMarcus Ware and Smith. I don’t expect either to be weekly starters, but in a best ball format you just know each player is going to have those weeks that their production is thru the roof, my hope is that they combine to give me LB1 stats.
It might be funny to see a team that runs a 3-4 scheme have a DL that is more valuable than both starting safeties. That is exactly what you get with the 49ers. Dashon Goldson led the secondary in fantasy scoring last year and he ranked just 43rd. He did miss two games at the start of the season, and had he not he probably would have ended up being a very high DB3. He very well may finish as a DB3 this year, but for my taste, he doesn’t present enough upside to warrant rostering. I would much rather have my bench DBs be players that have big upside, something that Goldson doesn’t possess.
The next highest scorer was Goldson’s running mate at safety, Donte Whitner. Whitner, after finishing as the #1 scoring DB in 2010 playing or the Bills saw his fantasy value, in his first season with the 49ers, fall off the face of the Earth (60th in fantasy points scored).
When it comes to the 49ers secondary, you would be best served to just keep moving and look for fantasy options with much better upside elsewhere.
HC: Pete Carroll
DC: Gus Bradley
Base Defensive Scheme: 4-3
Scheme Change: No
Key acquisitions: LB Bobby Wagner,
LB Barrett Ruud (Traded to Saints on 8/20),
DE Bruce Irvin
The Seahawks defense in general was pretty good last year, ranking 7th in points allowed, 9th in yard allowed/game, but they only sacked the QB 33 times, which tied them for 19th with a gaggle of teams. To give you an idea of how close they were to the bottom of the rankings, just one fewer sack and they would have ranked 23rd and four fewer would have had them at 31st. So the fact that they spent an early draft pick on Bruce Irvin seems to make sense. I know that many question how they could spend such and early pick on a pass rush specialist that won’t be on the field for three downs. Guess what, the NFL is all about specialty/role players and Irvin has a clear and defined roll, and one that very well could help to take the Seahawks defense to a new level this year. I don’t think you would ever get the Seahawks brass to admit this, but I think the success that Aldon Smith had last year very well could have influenced their decision to select Irvin. Fantasy wise, Irvin is going to be one of those players that is boom or bust, and really should only be rostered in big play leagues or best ball leagues (as a LB5/6).
The player on the Seahawks defensive line that is fantasy relevant is DE Chris Clemons. Clemons finished last year as a DL1, ranking 12th overall in fantasy points scored among DLs. DL1 production is nice, but Clemons like many other DEs is inconsistent, as evidenced by his 5 games with fewer than 3 fantasy points. Weeks like that will kill you, and is a good argument for why reaching for the top tier at the position is a viable strategy. That inconsistency coupled with the drafting of Irvin – who will not affect Clemons’ snaps – is probably a large reason why his ADP at MFL is just DL22. Fantasy wise if you can get Clemons that low I see no reason to buy him, you just have to understand the wild swings to expect with him. In best ball leagues he makes a fine DL2. So like with everything, know your league scoring, overall parameters and draft to exploit them.
Outside of Clemons the Seahawks have a nice defensive line for NFL purposes but fantasy wise they don’t provide much if any upside. Brandon Mebane was the next best fantasy scorer on the DL and he came in at #42 overall, everyone else ranked in the 80s or worse.
As much as I like the Seahawks defense this year, and I like them a lot – I think they will finish top 5 – their linebackers, outside of Leroy Hill are young and could end up being their Achilles Heel.
Earlier this offseason the Seahawks did bring in veteran Barrett Ruud, most likely because they felt they needed to add a veteran presence to the mix too. Fantasy owners were mostly excited, thinking that Ruud had fallen into a place where he could be fantasy relevant again. Ruud had a couple of things working against him, one being that he just isn’t the same player that he was a few short years ago, the other, the development of rookie LB, Bobby Wagner. Coupled together those things are most likely the reason behind the Seahawks trading Ruud to the New Orleans Saints.
If I had to pick one of the two biggest reasons, I would say it is that the rookie has shown that he can take the starting MLB job and run with it. Wagner was a favorite among dynasty IDP owners earlier this year, and now we are going to see why. At worst I think we see Wagner put up very high level LB3 numbers, but more likely, if he can stay on the field in a 3-down roll, is that he puts up LB2 numbers.
Joining Wagner in the Seahawks young linebacking unit is KJ Wright. Prior to the draft many IDP owners were speculating that Wright could be the heir to the MLB spot that David Hawthorne’s departure for New Orleans left open. Wright would probably be in line for the same type of fantasy value as Wagner if he had been tabbed as the starting MLB, instead he will man the SLB, or “SAM” as it is also called. Playing the strong side is going to seriously hinder Wright from being able to put up consistent and viable fantasy numbers. In deep leagues that start 3-4 LBs he is probably still in play, but in normal 12 team leagues he is someone that I wouldn’t bother rostering at this point in time.
The last piece to the Seahawks LB puzzle is veteran Leroy Hill. Hill is a player that just doesn’t get much respect in fantasy circles, much like Daryl Smith. Smith does produce better fantasy numbers, make no mistake about that, but Hill can be a viable depth LB. Last year he ranked 37th in fantasy points scored by LBs, his PPG average was 11.0, as a comparison, Smith’s was 12.7, and Smith ranked 22nd in fantasy points scored. There is a difference but it’s not that great. The thing is, Hill doesn’t present much upside, and when you fill out your bench filling it out with upside isn’t a bad idea, but then again, a player like Hill that you know you can plug and play and get consistent points from should one of your starters go down can be golden too. I try to find a balance and have no problem stashing a player like Hill on the end of my roster as pure insurance.
While the Seahawks LBs are young and could be their Achilles Heel, the secondary is also young, but could be the best unit on the entire team. They have two fantastic safeties, both of whom are fantasy relevant, and their CBs are highly underrated, and like the safeties are also fantasy relevant. What’s not to like with that? Nothing, that’s what!
My favorite fantasy play in the ‘Hawks secondary is SS Kam Chancellor. Chancellor had one heck of a season last year, ranking 8th in fantasy points scored, and if it wasn’t for missing week 4 he very well could have challenged for the top overall spot. The top 20 DBs from year to year always has a ton of turnover in it, so there is some risk associated with taking Chancellor as one of the first DBs in your draft, and with an ADP of DB3, you won’t be able to wait on him if you want him. I like Kam a ton this year, and have no reservations taking him early, but that is also because he is the #2 DB on my board, behind Eric Berry of the Chiefs.
Chancellor’s running mate at safety, FS Earl Thomas doesn’t quite have the upside the same upside, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be a solid DB2. He finished last year as the 20th ranked DB in fantasy scoring, and in big play leagues I think he has some upside. He only logged 2 interceptions last year, and I think the added pass rush helps him to bump that total into the 4-6 range this year. His ADP of DB18 is a bit high for my taste, as there just isn’t much value drafting him at that point. I do think he should be a safe DB2, but wouldn’t be shocked to see him fall into DB3 territory either.
The Seahawks don’t just have two young and productive safeties, but also two young – ok so Brandon Browner at 28 isnt’ all that young—CBs in their secondary. If you just look at the end of year rankings you won’t be very impressed with Browner or Richard Sherman. However, take a look at what they did from weeks 12-16 and you will see why they are targets of astute fantasy owners. Over that span of time Browner ranked 4th among all DBs in fantasy scoring, and Sherman came in at 30th overall. Positionally, over that timeframe, Browner was the #2 CB, and Sherman was the #11 CB. So while Browner is the more valuable of the two and probably ends up at worst as a DB3 with DB2 upside, they each are CB1 material in CB mandatory leagues.
Note: Huddle IDPScoring system: solo tackle (2 pts), assisted tackle (1 pt), sack (3 pts), forced or recovered fumble (3 pts), interception (3 pts) and pass defended (1 pt).