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 regard to fantasy football. Which is why drafting off stats from the previous year isn’t a wise thing to do. However, reading each divisional IDP preview update would be a wise thing to do. If you have any additional questions please feel free to email me at email@example.com or find me on twitter @SteveGalloNFL.
HC: Doug Marrone
DC: Jim Schwartz
Base Defensive Scheme: 4-3
Scheme Change: Yes
Another year, another scheme change for Mario Williams. For some reason it just doesn’t seem like the start of another NFL season if Williams isn’t going from a 3-4 to a 4-3 and vice versa. In any event, the 4-3 defense that Jim Schwartz will employ means good things for Williams’ fantasy value this year. With an ADP of DL11 he comes at a bit of a value too. A lack of tackles in the past has been something that limited his ceiling and it most likely will once again. Still I expect him to finish as a top-10 DL that puts up top-5 numbers at times this year. If we are going to talk value, we have to talk about Jerry Hughes who will be playing RDE opposite of Williams. Last year, Hughes quietly had a fantastic year, posting 9.5 sacks. Fantasy wise he scored 112.5 points, which in and of itself isn’t much to write home about, however, from week 5 on he scored 97.5 points (8.86 PPG) and extrapolated out that would have equated to DL12. Considering you can get him after 24 DL are off the board in drafts he presents a great value with DL1 upside. In DT mandatory leagues both Marcel Dareus and Kyle Williams are top options and are so productive that they are rosterable in combined leagues too.
The loss of Kiko Alonso is a huge blow for both the Bills and fantasy owners. The guy that I have in my eye on is Nigel Bradham. Bradham is suspended for week 1 but once he’s back on the field in week 2 I foresee solid LB3 numbers with LB2 upside. Another sleeper, and one that could torpedo Bradham’s value is Preston Brown but I’m banking on Bradham being the one to own.
Jairus Byrd is no longer a Bill and Da’Norris Searcy is slated to play SS and as long as he keeps that job for the entire season a top-10 or better fantasy season is there for the taking. My issue with Searcy is his coverage skills and if at the end of the day that’s going to end up limiting his snaps. For me, Searcy is a bit of a risk/reward player this year. Aaron Williams will be manning the starting FS position. As a FS his fantasy upside will be limited, but based on being able to get him after 40-50 DBs are off the board mitigates any risk associated with him not producing fantasy points. Full disclosure, I have drafted Williams in multiple expert leagues this year.
HC: Joe Philbin
DC: Kevin Coyle
Base Defensive Scheme: 4-3
Saying that Cameron Wake’s 2013 was disappointing is putting it mildly. It was evident that injuries were a major factor in Wake’s lack of numbers last year. This year, I’m expecting a bounce back. Last year he sported an ADP of DL3, this year it’s DL9 and that’s after finishing as DL35 last year. Looks like I’m not the only one expecting a bounce back. While Wake disappointed, Olivier Vernon burst on the scene and finished as DL11 for 2013. His ADP of DL19 might seem low but I actually think that’s a nice spot for him.
Dannell Ellerbe was a big acquisition for the Dolphins on defense last year, but he struggled mightily. It showed not just on the field but also in the box score where he was a disappointment for IDP purposes, finishing as LB36. This year the big news with regard to Ellerbe is that he’s been moved from MLB to SLB. That move will make him pretty much a non-factor for fantasy purposes this year. Koa Misi has taken over at MLB and looks like he’ll be playing a three down role. Misi is a player you can land well after 40 LBs are off the board and one that I think has LB3 value at the worst and LB2 upside. Maybe I’m buying the kool-aide but I’ve drafted Misi in each of my expert drafts.
Reshad Jones will miss the first four games of the season due to violating the league’s performance-enhancing drug policy. Once he returns for week 5 he’ll immediately be a DB2 with DB1 upside. If you have a deep enough bench he’s worth drafting and waiting for but if not nab him off waivers two weeks prior to his return. In CB mandatory leagues I think that Cortland Finnegan is going to have CB2 value this year.
New England Patriots
HC: Bill Belichick
DC: Matt Patricia
Base Defensive Scheme: 4-3
Scheme Change: No
Chandler Jones had a fantastic season in 2013, finishing as the #3 overall scoring DL. This year his ADP matches his end of season ranking from 2013. What I like about Jones is that you can generally nab him about five rounds after J.J. Watt is off the board and about two rounds after Robert Quinn. As much as I like Jones, I was only able to land him on one team this year. I sure hope missing on him doesn’t burn me in my other leagues. With J.J. Watt playing under Romeo Crennel I won’t be surprised if Jones outscores him. If you don’t want to spend an 8th round pick on Jones you can look to invest in Rob Ninkovich. Ninkovich can be had about a round later but he clearly doesn’t present the type of upside that Jones does.
While it’s hard to call a guy with an ADP of LB14 a value, that’s exactly what I see Jerrod Mayo as – a great value! To me, as long as he stays healthy, he’s a lock for LB1 status and I won’t be the least bit surprised if he finishes top-5 overall at LB. Draft with the utmost confidence when it comes to Mayo. Another LB on the Patriots I like is a second year player by the name of Jamie Collins. Collins is listed on the depth chart as a SLB and normally a SLB isn’t someone you want to rely on for fantasy purposes, but Collins is different. He can rush the passer and is good in coverage and I don’t see how he isn’t a 3 down player for the Patriots this year. His upside is most likely capped as a LB2 but he’ll have some big weeks here and there so I’ve been buying him when possible. His upside is nice and his cost is cheap enough that there really isn’t any risk even if he doesn’t meet my expectations.
If you want to wait on DB this year, like you should! Keep the name Duron Harmon high up on your “DBs to draft late list.” Harmon looks to have secured the starting SS spot and has +DB2 upside if he keeps the job. My biggest concern is that he could get bumped in favor of Kyle Arrington in certain sub-packages. His cost to own is so cheap it won’t matter if you have to cut him loose at some point but my guess is that he ends up being one of the early season waiver wire adds by many IDP owners.
New York Jets
HC: Rex Ryan
DC: Dennis Thurman
Base Defensive Scheme: 3-4
Scheme Change: No
He’s not flashy and his scheme limits his upside but Muhammad Wilkerson is a solid DL1 option in 2014. If you are in a DT mandatory league then Sheldon Richardson is a guy that will provide fantasy relevant numbers again in 2014.
I’m breaking up with Demario Davis! There, I said it. I had high hopes for Davis last year but he failed to deliver. Sure, he finished as LB37, but when you’re expecting a LB2 type production it stings some. This year, I’m not saying you can’t own him, you can, just make sure he’s no better than your LB4. David Harris has flashed his upside earlier in his career but at this point in time he’s really nothing more than a LB3/4 type player. I won’t ridicule you for rostering either player, but I’d rather allocate a roster spot to a player with more upside instead.
Earlier in the summer I was a bit cool on the fantasy prospects of Calvin Pryor. Mainly because I wasn’t sold on the fact that he’d be used as the team’s strong safety. Well, I’m warming up rather quickly to Pryor and think he’s in for a very solid year that presents plenty of upside too. I’d feel great with him as my DB3 knowing he has DB1 upside but more than likely you’ll need to tag him as your DB2 if you really want to land him. His current ADP sits at DB25.
Scoring system used for this article: solo tackle (2), assisted tackle (1), sack (3), forced or recovered fumble (3), interception (3) and pass defended (1).