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 firstname.lastname@example.org or find me on twitter @SteveGalloNFL.
HC: Bill O’Brien
DC: Romeo Crennel
Base Defensive Scheme: 3-4
Scheme Change: Yes & No (3-4 remains the same but goes from 1-gap to 2-gap)
Gone is Wade Phillips and the 1-gap, 3-4 scheme that he ran with the Texans. Romeo Crennel is the new defensive coordinator and will run a 3-4 defense but the difference is he utilizes a 2-gap system. In Crennel’s 2-gap system J.J. Watt won’t be able to be as aggressive as he was in Wade’s system simply because he’ll have 2 gaps he’s responsible for. For this reason and this reason alone I think Watt is risky to take as the #1 DE off the board this year. Crennel is a smart guy so he’d be smart to still give Watt plenty of opportunities to do what he does best, get to and disrupt the QB. Fantasy wise; let someone else reach for Watt this year.
The big concern with Brian Cushing is his health, and that’s understandable since he’s only played in 12 of the Texans’ last 32 regular season games. When he’s on the field he produces for his fantasy owners. In those 12 games over the past two years he’s averaging 13.46 PPG but that includes each game he got injured in when he was lost for the season. Pull those games out and his PPG average would equate to 216.75 fantasy points, which would have made him a top-20 LB last year. With an ADP of LB19 he doesn’t present much value but if the Texans offense struggles this year I think – if he stays healthy – he can end up approaching the top-12 to top-15 range. The biggest change on the Texans defense is the addition of Jadeveon Clowney. Clowney and Watt should terrorize QBs for the foreseeable future but unless you are in a big-play scoring league Clowney’s fantasy value is capped with him being designated as a LB.
About the only bright spot for fantasy purposes in the Texans secondary is D.J. Swearinger. In the last month of the fantasy season last year, Swearinger ranked 32nd in DB scoring. That’s not much to rave about but with questionable QB play on offense Swearinger should only improve on his 2013 numbers. In a few expert leagues I’ve participated in he’s being drafted outside the top-24 DBs and I think his upside is as a high level DB2.
HC: Chuck Pagano
DC: Greg Manusky
Base Defensive Scheme: 3-4
Scheme Change: No
The Colts run a 3-4 scheme that makes their DL worthless for fantasy purposes.
Jerrell Freeman finished as the 10th ranked fantasy LB in 2012 and 11th in 2013. With D’Qwell Jackson in town now he might yield some stats but I still see Freeman as a safe low-level LB1 to high-level LB2. As for Jackson, Drew Brees and the Saints TORCHED him. With and ADP of LB34, Jackson present some upside, but long gone are the days of him being a top option at the LB position. If he’s your LB3 then you’re in an OK place. In big-play leagues it is worth noting that Robert Mathis will start the year our serving a 4-game suspension for violation of the league’s performance-enhancing drug policy. He can return to the field for the Colts week five game against the Ravens.
Last season, LaRon Landry finished as the 52nd DB with 142 fantasy points. He did miss four games or he would have easily ranked higher. Actually if you extrapolate out his 12.909 PPG average, Landry would have been good for 193.64 fantasy points and that would have ranked 7th among all DBs. Considering his ADP is outside DB29 at MFL he presents nice value/upside. A sleeper that I like is Delano Howell, however a neck injury has me pumping the breaks a bit. Reports are that the injury isn’t career threatening and if he’s able to suit up and get on the field for week 1 my guess is that he’ll be an early season waiver wire add for many IDP owners. As it stands now, Mike Adams is running as the other starting safety with Landry.
HC: Casey “Gus” Bradley
DC: Bob Babich
Base Defensive Scheme: 4-3
Scheme Change: No
The Jaguars pass rush in prior years has been much to be desired and fantasy wise it’s been a wasteland of epic proportions. This year that should change some. The Jaguars brought in former Seahawks and Eagles DE, Chris Clemons. While Clemons best years are clearly behind him, he’s a positive addition for the Jaguars and Andre Branch. I think that Clemons has spotty fantasy value at best this year, but where he’ll pay dividends is in his mentoring of Branch. I spoke with Branch’s mother during training camp and she said that Andre was very excited that Clemons was brought in and that he has been a positive in his development. If you are looking for a DL3 that could present DL2 upside that guy is Branch and you get him after 30+ DL are off the board. Branch is another guy that I expect to be an early season add in many IDP leagues. If you are in a DT mandatory league then you’ll want to keep an eye on Sen’Derrick Marks. Marks has already left his mark on the preseason and I think we’ll see that rollover into the regular season. I see his upside as that of a low level DT1.
Paul Posluszny 7th in LB scoring 2012 and he followed that up by finishing 1st overall among LBs in fantasy scoring in 2013. I don’t see Posluszny finishing 1st again this year, but I do think he has another top-5 season in him. He’ll come at a slight discount compared to Lavonte David and Luke Kuechly, which is a positive on the value front. If you are in a deep league, Telvin Smith is one to keep an eye on.
Last year I wrote the following about Johnathan Cyprien, “Cyprien currently has an ADP of DB24 and I think he puts up high level DB2 numbers, but wouldn’t be shocked at all to see him sneak into the top-12 at the position.” Well, he snuck into the top-12 alright, finishing 7th among DBs in fantasy scoring. This year he has an ADP of DB7…funny how that works. But for my money, I like him as a top-3 DB this year. The offense is heading in the right direction but there will still be enough struggles to ensure Cyprien gets plenty of opportunities to rack up fantasy points. Beyond Cyprien there’s really nothing else to see in the Jaguars secondary.
HC: Ken Whisenhunt
DC: Ray Horton
Base Defensive Scheme: 3-4
Scheme Change: Yes
Ray Horton is now the new DC in Tennessee and with him comes his 3-4 scheme that Calais Campbell flourished in. I’m not looking for Campbell’esque type numbers, but I do think that Jurrell Casey
With Horton bringing his 3-4 to Tennessee you won’t have to worry about Derrick Morgan breaking your heart this year. Not because he’s going to produce great fantasy numbers but because he’s been reclassified as a LB and has zero fantasy value this year. At LB, fantasy value can be had with Wesley Woodyard and Zach Brown. Woodyard will have better week-to-week value but Brown will have the big splash weeks as he has had in the past. If I’m building an IDP team I’m rostering Woodyard over Brown.
Bernard Pollard finished as DB10 in 2013 and this year I’m expecting another top-12 finish for the former Chiefs and Ravens safety. With an ADP of DB17 I think he represents great value for IDP owners. Even if the offense takes a step forward and doesn’t present the defense with as many opportunities I still like Pollard as a DB1, but if the offense struggles, then don’t be surprised if he finishes as a top-5 DB. Michael Griffin finished as a DB4 last year and this year he’s another depth play for IDP owners that need to play matchups on bye weeks.
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).