As with most years, don’t look for much immediate help from the DL position as it pertains to fantasy football. What is a bit different is that this year, unlike years past, the dark side (3-4 defense) didn’t claim the top talents in the draft. Instead it looks like Dante Fowler, Vic Beasley and Randy Gregory most likely will garner a DE designation and not that of an OLB. That doesn’t mean that the three don’t come with any risk, because they do. While I don’t expect any of the trio to be classified as a LB there’s always that outside chance, especially with a guy as light as Gregory. Those three aren’t the only DL carrying risk, Frank Clark brings a doozie of a domestic abuse issue with him to Seattle. Then there is also Leonard Williams and Owa Odighizuwa who both have the risk of splitting snaps due to the lines they’ll be playing for. Oh, and lastly we have to hope that Shane Ray’s career doesn’t go up in smoke.
Dante Fowler – DE
6’3″ 261 Florida
Pick 3 Round 1 (3) Jaguars
Fowler is one of those tweener/edge rushers that can play DE in a 4-3 or OLB in a 3-4. Lucky for IDP players he landed on a Jaguars squad that plans to use him as their “Leo.” That means he’ll be lining up similar to how Philadelphia lined up their DEs when they were playing wide 9. If you are curious as to how the Jaguars will use Fowler look into head coach, Gus Bradley’s not so distant past when he was he DC for the Seahawks.
Redraft: In redraft leagues, Fowler should have DL2 value in tackle heavy formats and in big-play formats I think he could peak in to DL1 territory. One thing he has going for him should be an above average number of defensive snaps I expect the Jaguars D to be on the field for this year.
Dynasty: In dynasty leagues, I see Fowler having overall the same sort of value with regard to tackle heavy and big-play scoring. Long term he should be Cliff Avril with a bit more upside. Of course there is always the risk that the Jaguars change schemes some day and his value evaporates as an OLB in a 3-4.
Vic Beasley – DE
6’3″ 246 Clemson
Pick 8, Round 1 (8) Falcons
The only team with fewer sacks than the Falcons (22) last year was the Bengals (20). Beasley is a huge upgrade that was sorely needed. NFL wise he’ll impact the defense in a positive way, on the IDP side of things he’ll need to maintain a DE designation. Yes, he’s another tweener/edge rusher that presents risk to anyone that drafts him.
Redraft: With no premier pass rusher on their roster – sorry, Adrian Clayborn – to keep the rookie on the bench I’m expecting we see him play enough snaps to have fantasy value in 2015. DL2 production with peaks of DL1 upside is what I’m expecting to see.
Dynasty: Like Dante Fowler, there is always going to be the risk that at some point a shift to a 3-4 could kill Beasley’s fantasy value. However, with that said, with Dan Quinn as the newly hired head coach for the Bird Gang I think that Beasley will have a solid 3 to 4 years in Quinn’s 4-3 defense. Also, just like Fowler, Beasley is playing for a former Seattle DC and should prove to be a bit more valuable in big-play scoring formats.
Randy Gregory – DE
6’5″ 235 Nebraska
Pick 60, Round 2 (28) Cowboys
Last year my 3rd ranked DL (Kony Ealy) was drafted 60th overall, just like Gregory was. Just a coincidence that I thought I’d point out. What I love about Gregory is that he landed on a Rod Marinelli defense. Considering the Cowboys defense ranked 28th in sacks a season ago (not due to scheme), Gregory can help provide a much needed punch for the pass rush. At 235 pounds, Gregory is a bit light in his shorts but I see him playing DE for the Cowboys. Still, like other tweeners/edge rushers, there’s always the looming risk that his designation could be changed to LB.
Redraft: In the real short-term, due to Greg Hardy’s suspension, I’m expecting Gregory to get on the field early and often. If it plays out that way I’d be looking to deal him as soon as he had a big game because at some point Hardy will return and then he’d likely be in a rotational role with Demarcus Lawrence
Dynasty: As much as I want to really fall in love with Gregory I just can’t. Why? Because I see limited ceiling due to Greg Hardy and Demarcus Lawrence being. Add in the facts that he very easily could be converted to LB and has a self proclaimed penchant for smoking marijuana and you’ll understand why I’m not willing to get into a long-term relationship with Mr. Gregory.
Frank Clark – DE
6’3″ 271 Michigan
Pick 63, Round 2 (31) Seahawks
You’d have to have been living under a rock, or working in Seattle Seahawks front office, to not know the tough year that NFL had last year with regard to domestic abuse. Clark pleaded guilty to a felony in 2012 and his latest incident saw him charged with misdemeanors for assault and domestic violence. He later pled down to a lesser charge that had no jail time and hit him in the pocket for less than $300.
Redraft: If you are of high moral standard then unlike the Seahawks, you’ll take Clark off of your draft board this year. If you aren’t like the Seahawks then take him off because at best he’ll be a situational player that you won’t be able to rely on for consistent fantasy production.
Dynasty: I hope I’m wrong but based on Clark’s past I see him as a suspension risk. Hopefully the Seahawks organization will be good for Clark on both an NFL and personal level. Fantasy wise, he has stash and cash value for dynasty league owners.
Owamagbe Odighizuwa – DE
6’3″ 267 UCLA
Pick 74, Round 3 (10) Giants
I don’t think that I’m quite as high on Odighuzuwa as others in the fantasy community are. With Jason Pierre-Paul, Robert Ayers and Damontre Moore to share snaps with I think “Double-O” will have a hard time carving out much more than a rotational role. With some development he could also see snaps as an edge rushing LB, too. Yeah, you know what that means for fantasy value.
Redraft: Double-O will be hard pressed to hit DL4 status this year. As a bit of perspective, Damontre Moore finished 2014 as DL63
Dynasty: I’ve seen Justin Tuck used as a comp for Double-O and that isn’t a bad thing. What I should point out, if you don’t remember, is that Tuck didn’t live up to expectations his first two years in the league. Then in his third year he exploded for IDP owners. My recommendation is to stash and hope for a Tuck like cash in 2-3 years.
Leonard Williams – DT
6’5″ 302 USC
Pick 6, Round 1 (6) Jets
Just because Williams is viewed as the best defensive player in the draft doesn’t mean he’ll come close to being the best IDP to come out of the 2015 draft. The DL for the Jets is going to terrorize opposing offensive lines but I’m not expecting that to translate into solid fantasy production. Both Mo Wilkerson, and Sheldon Richardson will contribute to cannibalizing Williams’ fantasy value. Should the Jets deal Wilkerson then Williams’ fantasy value takes a step forward.
Redraft: I think that his draft status will impact his ADP and many owners are going to take him way, way, way earlier than I’d feel comfortable with and that’s in DT mandatory leagues. DT scoring, for the most part is poor in IDP leagues so there’s no reason at all to reach for Williams in a draft.
Dynasty: At some point in his career he could be shed of teammates that cannibalize his fantasy value, but there’s very little value in the DT position so he isn’t someone I’m going to stash for the future. Use that roster spot for a player that provides much more upside.