Top IDP Rookies: Defensive Linemen

Top IDP Rookies: Defensive Linemen


Top IDP Rookies: Defensive Linemen


Dion Jordan – DE

6’6” 248 lbs Oregon
Pick 3, Round 1 (3)  Dolphins
Twitter: @Dionj96

The Dolphins pulled the trigger on the first draft day trade by giving up the 42nd overall pick to move up 9 spots to draft Jordan 3rd overall. Few are surprised that he went in the top 5. After all, he boasts rare athleticism for a man of his height and stature. His combine was stellar, posting top 5 rankings in 40 time, broad jump and shuttle amongst DEs. However, many (including myself) were surprised that the Dolphins of all teams were the ones to take the former Oregon Duck given their 4-3 base defense. Jordan has more experience as a hybrid end-linebacker than most in the draft and his skill set is ideal for the position. In Oregon, Jordan played from a three-point stance at times and from a stand-up position at others. He moved from defensive end to outside linebacker and even split out into the slot to cover inside receivers and tight ends. He rarely looks lost in space and has fluidity that much smaller men wish they were blessed with. From a defensive end standpoint, Jordan has pass rush skills that will help him excel in the league. He is fast to the outside and can bend around a tackle to get a sack. He also incorporates spins and inside swims to mix up his rush. In addition, he uses his long arms (33 7/8”) well to be disruptive and his motor is very solid for what many consider to be a “finesse player”. A criticism I have on Jordan is a lack of bull rush. He is not big in the upper body and will need to add strength in order to not be overmatched at the pro game. Despite possessing the speed to run down edge plays and excelling in back-side pursuit, he can be over-aggressive at times and will wash himself out of plays and be susceptible to draws. It remains to be seen how the Dolphins will use Jordan. Early indications are that the coaching staff really isn’t sure what weight they’d like Jordan to be at. Compound that with his recovery from a torn labrum and the possibility of entering camp on the PUP list and Jordan presents some position and injury risk out of the gate for IDP drafters.
Fantasy Impact/Value
Redraft: In redrafts, I don’t think I trust Jordan all that much. In big play leagues, he carries DL3 with upside value but in standard leagues the highest I’d look for him would be DL4.
Dynasty: Despite the injury and positional risk, he is my DE2 in rookie drafts that could slide into a DE2/3 role in near future with DE1 long-term upside.

Ezekiel “Ziggy” Ansah – DE

6’5” 271 lbs BYU
Pick 5, Round 1 (5)  Lions

Twitter: n/a
A native of Ghana and a player with a total of 3 years football experience (1 as a starter), Ziggy Ansah is one of the best stories this year’s draft had to offer. A walk on to BYU’s football team after a stint on the track team and two failed attempts at the basketball team, he played two years of special teams before emerging this year as a defensive end/outside linebacker. Ansah has had to develop both his mind and his body to meet the demands of the positions he asked to play. Spending time as a base down defensive end, passing down outside linebacker and three-technique defensive tackle all in the course of a game, his versatility is a big asset. Ansah enjoyed a rocket ride up the draft boards starting with a dominant performance at the Senior Bowl where he racked up 7 tackles, 1.5 sacks and a forced fumble. As a pass rusher, his long arms and strong punch enable him to create separation from would-be blockers. This shedding ability gives him great potential to be decent against the run once his consistency improves. His burst is also one of the best in this year’s defensive line class as evidenced by his combine best shuttle time (4.26 seconds). From a negative standpoint, his football experience level is low and as such, he can be victim to simple mistakes and consistency problems as not all that he does comes naturally. However, there is much room to improve on this going forward. Stamina (both on individual drives and entire games) was an admitted weakness of Ansah. Minicamps and training camps will be crucial to ensure that this is somewhat rectified. The Detroit Lions lost Cliff Avril, Kyle Vanden Bosch and Lawrence Jackson this year with Jason Jones being the only signing to help replace them. Ansah is likely to be counted on to be a difference maker at DE this year and with quality DTs Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley in the middle, the potential on situational alone is very high for the former Cougar.
Fantasy Impact/Value
Redraft: Ansah is my highest ranked rookie in redrafts with mid-to-lower DE2 value with upside for me.
Dynasty: He is my number one ranked defensive lineman and an easy choice for DE1 in rookie drafts. He represents long term DE1 upside on dynasty leagues if you can tolerate some growing pains.

Sheldon Richardson – DT

6’2” 294 lbs  Missouri
Pick 13, Round 1 (13)  Jets
Twitter: @Godforshort

Sheldon Richardson might be the most athletically gifted defensive tackle in the draft this year but despite that praise, not many people expected Richardson to be the first defensive tackle off the board.  His speed (5.02 combine 40-yd dash time, 4.95 on his pro day) and non-stop motor made him a terror for Missouri’s opponents last year. I’ve heard comparisons of JJ Watt mentioned in regards to Richardson but I believe that to be in motor only. Richardson possesses elite pass rush ability as a three-technique defensive tackle with pursuit abilities that many defensive ends wish they had. His burst and ability to use leverage allow him to take on (and sometimes defeat) double teams but yet he also has the athleticism to drop into short coverage zones which he displayed as a Tiger. On the negative side, Richardson has had some slight character issues in the past regarding a team-rules violation suspension as well as GPA problems. He also does not display elite upper body strength and an ability to “anchor down” to avoid being moved out of the hole. Due to these weaknesses, any deficiencies in terms of poor pad level, bad leverage or bad footwork will cause him to be defeated in engagements at the NFL level. The New York Jets (and their 3-4 defense) were not the best fit for Richardson. A traditional 4-3 with Richardson as the three-technique tackle would be been ideal to exploit his pass rush abilities but his athleticism should allow him to adjust well. He is also joining fellow first round picks in Muhummad Wilkerson and Quinton Coples on the Jet’s defensive line which could allow for some splash plays as they play off of each other. That said, in the Jets’ 3-4, Richardson will face a high likelihood of being moved to defensive end in many leagues.
 Fantasy Impact/Value
Redraft: Richardson shouldn’t be on your draft boards unless he is DT eligible (check with your FF provider). If he is, he presents mid DT2 value in big play formats.
Dynasty: If Richardson hangs onto his DT tag longer than he should, he might hang around your rookie draft longer than he should. I wouldn’t take him to be any higher than the DE7 in your rookie draft but I’d heavily consider him as DT1/2.

Star Lotulelei – DT

6’2” 311 lbs  Utah
Pick 14, Round 1 (14)  Panthers

Twitter: n/a
When Star Lotulelei was selected at 14, it was the first time in 26 years that two players from college out of the state of Utah were taken in the first round. Lotulelei probably shouldn’t have lasted as long as he did on the draft board but a heart condition scare rattled teams at the combine. It has since been cleared by multiple team doctors but the damage was clearly done. Star was mocked as high as 1.01 to the Chiefs but saw his stock fade down the stretch. It saw an undeserved outcome for a player I thought belonged in the top 10 at least, if not top 5. The former Ute is a prototype defensive tackle who will be a dominant run-stuffer for the Panthers. He has the ability to play anywhere on the line but will show his true worth at nose tackle as well as five-technique tackle (3-4 DE). He won’t generate many sacks but he can prevent push from the offensive and fill gaps to stop running plays very effectively. He uses his agility and power to defeat interior offensive lineman with his bull rushes and create penetration well. Early on, I expect Star to be in a heavy rotation with Dwan Edwards and Kawann Short amongst others.
Fantasy Impact/Value
Redraft: Star should not be targeted in any redraft leagues.
Dynasty: The absolute best you will see from Star is Haloti Ngata stats. Target him on a flier as a late round pick in the deepest of tackle-heavy DT-required leagues. If you don’t play in those leagues, steer clear.

Sharrif Floyd – DT

6’3” 297 lbs  Florida
Pick 23, Round 1 (23)  Vikings
Twitter: @sharriffloyd

Once mocked as high as 2nd to the Jaguars, Sharrif Floyd suffered his one freefall in the first round as many of the top defensive tackles expected to go early in the draft were passed over. No real comprehensive reasoning has been goven out as to why Floyd fell as far as he did but the assumption is that defensive tackle simply wasn’t as high on the wish list for many teams as draft pundits originally thought. Floyd will be a quality pro as he combines the burst and speed of an end (4.87 second 40 yd dash time) with the power of a tackle. He is versatile and has played standing up or on the end many times in college. His footwork is top notch compared to many of his peers in this class and used his hands well to shed blocks and put himself in position to make plays. His pad level can be inconsistent at times which will cause him to be moved out of the hole on running plays. He also hasn’t established an ability to deal with double teams yet. Being drafted to a team that will very likely employ him as a three-technique in the Vikings, this is a great fit for his skillset. Tough to expect much out of him early as Kevin Williams and Letroy Guion will still be in the mix heavily but the future will be bright for Floyd.
Fantasy Impact/Value
Redraft: Floyd should not be targeted in any redraft leagues.
Dynasty: I think Floyd has potential in sack heavy leagues but only if they are DT-required. If you play in one of these leagues, draft him as your DT1 rookie but be prepared to wait a year or two to see full return on investment.

Datone Jones – DE

6’4” 283 lbs  UCLA
Pick 26, Round 1 (26)  Packers
Twitter: @IAM_Dat_One

The Packers got a quality five-technique lineman in Jones. As a UCLA Bruin, Jones was frequently moved from end to tackle multiple times during the game given the down and distance. Although he was a tweener that seems too big to play 4-3 end but too small to play 4-3 tackle for an entire game, Jones was wildly productive for UCLA racking up 57 tackles (17.5 for loss) and 6 sacks. That versatility will be key in exploiting Jones’ value to the Packers defense. Sliding into a spot that seems built for him, he should add some pass rush element to the Green Bay defensive line. Jones’ strengths include a great burst and getoff from the snap. His quickness and good hands can often disrupt a play before it even begins. He is a sure tackle on running plays, frequently shedding and using his agility to get into the running lanes and wrap up the ball carrier while keeping his feet moving. Maybe most valuable of all is that Jones is a proven leader of a defense. He won’t be asked to lead too much early on with a team full of recent Superbowl champions but character cannot be understated. His balance can be poor at times as he can be thrown to the ground by a pull from an offensive lineman if he is leaning too much. Also uses the lean to compensate for poor anchoring at times.
Fantasy Impact/Value
Redraft: I might consider targeting Jones as your last DE in the deepest of redraft leagues, nowhere else.
Dynasty: 3-4 ends can be valuable given the right player and the right scheme (see: JJ Watt). However, I don’t think that Jones warrants major consideration as a top DE. I would consider him as the DE6 in this class and would not count on him for any more than my roster’s DE4 in any scoring format.

Sylvester Williams – DT

6’3” 313 lbs  North Carolina
Pick 28, Round 1 (28)  Broncos
Twitter: @Sylwil92

Williams wasn’t the flashy pick that many Broncos fan were clamouring for but he is the smart pick. The Denver Broncos run a 4-3 defense on paper but it behaves more like a 3-4 defense where the blind side end is playing out of a three point stance. As such, the other three defensive linemen are responsible for many of the gaps that true 3-4 nose tackles and five-technique ends are responsible for. This is why Williams will fit in well. He can play nose tackle effectively and two gap if need be which will be instrumental in allowing Denver to do what it wants on defense. He can split double teams at times by using good burst quickness off of the snap. In addition, he plays wider than he is and uses good balances to pitch and roll where he needs to for creating pressures and attacking the ball carrier. He has a mean streak that I like as well. However, I don’t really like how he uses a spin move more than I think he should. As a big guy, I’d rather him try to develop a better bull rush. He’s not as athletic as you’d like and can over pursue at times. All in all, the Broncos grabbed a guy who will feed their DT rotation and give them subpackage options when they need it.
Fantasy Impact/Value
Redraft: I wouldn’t recommend Williams in any redraft league.
Dynasty: I also wouldn’t recommend Williams in a dynasty league either.

Cornellius “Tank” Carradine – DE

6’4” 276 lbs Florida State
Pick 8, Round 2 (40)  49ers
Twitter: @TankCarradine

The rich get richer. The 49ers were blessed with a myriad of picks and few holes to fill. That dream situation allowed them to take a couple gambles in the draft and Tank Carradine was one of them. Coming off of a torn ACL late in the year at Florida State, Carradine represents some decent injury risk. He was a terror for Seminoles’ opponents when thrust into starting duty last year, piling up 11 sacks in as many games including 7 in the first 4 games he played opposite first round OLB Bjoern Werner. Carradine plays with an explosive nature that exposes would-be help from the outside like smaller tight ends or running backs. He exhibits prototypical bend around the corner and excellent closing speed to finish the sack or provide backside pursuit. He possesses agility that belies his frame which allows him to change direction quickly and make moves to stay in his gaps despite attempts to block him otherwise. His hands are ok and his pass rush repertoire is not elite but he certainly looks the part and can make plays on motor and physicality alone at times. Being drafted by the 49ers, I am slotting him in as the heir apparent to Justin Smith as a 3-4 DE. That said, he may look the part but nothing has been said about his future so he carries some positional risk.
Fantasy Impact/Value
Redraft: After tearing his ACL in late November, I think it is a stretch to expect much out of Tank this year.
Dynasty: I think that his projected position as Justin Smith’s successor in San Francisco gives him future DE2 potential in all leagues. He is still developing and getting better. I have him tied as my dynasty DE4 in rookie drafts.

Jamie Collins – DE

6’3” 250 lbs  Southern Miss
Pick 20, Round 2 (52)  Patriots
Twitter: @KinG_8_JamiE

I’m not really sure what Bill Belicheck was thinking here. Collins likely could have gone a round later. That said, far be it from me the criticize the Hoodie, I write columns and he coaches for a living. All that aside, my honest evaluation of Collins is that he was liable to be available in the late 3rd/early 4th round. The Patriots like to draft those smaller DEs that have experience with standing up and playing a little linebacker with the 3-4 they sprinkle in now and again. While Collins is a little lighter than the guys they normally draft to fill those roles, I fully expect the Patriots to play him at DE. Collins possesses quality speed and burst as evidenced by his stellar combine numbers in both shuttles and both jumps. That quickness should allow him to become a quality rotational end. He also exhibits solid coverage abilities when pressed into duty. He isn’t the strongest player in the world and will struggle to shed blocks and disengage if a guard or tackle gets their hands on him. In the limited tape I’ve watched on Collins, he also tends to disappear for a few plays. If the Patriots rotate him in as a hybrid end/linebacker, I think Collins will be effective, but for now, I don’t see the 2nd round pick upside.
Fantasy Impact/Value
Redraft: Collins shouldn’t appear on your draft boards even after the positional risk associated with him is settled. He is a part-time player at best.
Dynasty: I wouldn’t spend more than a 6th/7th round flier pick on Collins in dynasty. I think it will be an uphill battle for him to be a reliable fantasy contributor.

Margus Hunt – DE

6’8” 277 lbs  SMU
Pick 21, Round 2 (53)  Bengals
Twitter: @Margus_Hunt

The Bengals love their tall defensive ends. Along with Michael Johnson (6’7”) and Carlos Dunlap (6’6”), the Bengals have one of the largest defensive end corps in the league. Margus Hunt is an interesting prospect. A native of Estonia, Hunt was a world class shot putter, hammer thrower and discus thrower before getting into football at SMU. He didn’t intend to get into football, but the track team was dropped at the time and he didn’t have anything else to do. Athletically, Hunt is a freak. A man that is 6’8” should not be able to run a 4.6 second 40 yd dash but he can. A man that fast shouldn’t be able to put up 225 lbs 38 times but he can. As you might expect, Hunt’s length makes him an elite special teams player on the kick block team. In his college career, Hunt blocked a staggering 17 kicks. While his size, strength and speed make him an elite athlete with immeasurable potential, he is still very raw (not unlike Michael Johnson was). He needs to work on not standing upright when engaged as he gives up leverage. He seems to be a straight line player more than an agile end which keeps him from adjusting when he needs to. I don’t really see him naturally bend around the corner during his pass rush either. Most of the sacks I saw were him beating inferior tackles with athleticism rather than finesse. I’m not saying that won’t work in the NFL but he won’t run into cupcake offensive lineman in the big show. Ultimately, Hunt’s presence is both a developmental pick as well as an insurance policy as both Carlos Dunlap and Michael Johnson are free agents after this year.
Fantasy Impact/Value
Redraft: I still expect Dunlap and Johnson to take the lion’s share of the work this year so Hunt is super deep leagues flier at best.
Dynasty: Hunt is a project no doubt but his ceiling is incredibly high. It would not surprise me if Hunt becomes the far-and-away best player (offensive or defensive) from this draft. Similarly, it also wouldn’t surprise me if he amounts to nothing more than a rotational player. I have him tied as dynasty DE4 in rookie drafts. Carradine is the safer player, Hunt is your boom/bust pick.

Damontre Moore – DE

6’4” 250 lbs  Texas A&M
Pick 19, Round 3 (81)  Giants
Twitter: @tmoore94

One of the cardinal rules of IDP play is that you need to pay attention to defensive ends that the Giants draft or sign. Damontre Moore was a gift in the 3rd round that I thought could have been 1st round material. Moore is an explosive player whose getoff and initial bull or punch can get him the upper-hand when he engages tackles. A strong tackle, he wraps and sinks his body weight to take down would-be ball-carriers instead of arm-tackling or leaning. He exhibits pass rush moves that few ends in this class can match and has enough counter moves to go to when his first move fails that he is never truly defeated. He has natural pass rush bend to allow him to turn the corner and collect the sack. Many of Moore’s highlights feature him on stunts or delays. If the Giants use him similarly, I think he could be very effective. He also has enough coverage experience that they could leave him out there to cover a flat or shallow zone to disguise the play now and again. He needs to work on having good enough discipline to be dependable on backside contain as well as stretch plays to his side. He can over-run the quarterback/runningback on standard pass rush/run defense plays from time to time. Good tackles will also find ways to get underneath him and use leverage against him as his pad level tends to rise later in games. Unless Mathias Kiwanuka moves back to DE permanently, Moore will take Umenyiora’s spot in the Giant rotation of ends. I see lots of potential here.
Fantasy Impact/Value
Redraft: It’s difficult to recommend Moore in redraft because he is a rookie playing in a rotation of veterans. You have to believe that Coughlin will shade towards the vets and limit the rookie’s ability to make a mistake. JPP didn’t break out until his 2nd year, Moore won’t be any different in my eyes. Take him as a flier at best in the deepest of leagues.
Dynasty: Like with Hunt, I wouldn’t be surprised if Moore ends up being one of the better players from the draft. He is in the ideal situation to hone his craft with some of the best in the business. NYG DEs find ways to be great, from Strahan to Umenyiora to Tuck to JPP, Moore is following a great lineage of star DEs. As such, I like him as the DE3 in rookie drafts despite being a 3rd rounder. Only the two DEs from the top 5 are ahead of him in my books and it’s not by much.


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