Last week, I covered the IDP dynasty fantasy impact of the four defenders taken in the Top Ten of the 2016 NFL Draft. Let’s see if we can’t bang out the rest of the first round now.
Eli Apple, CB, New York Giants (The Ohio State) he’s a corner. Important NFL position. Unimportant fantasy position. Do you need a corner? My only arguments for this guy are that the Giants receivers could be torching the opposition all season long so he could be kept busy in some offensive shootouts if he even sees the field. The Giants certainly needed an upgrade in the defensive backfield but at the moment it’s questionable how much field time Apple really sees right away and carrying an extra corner is even more questionable. Keep your eyes on him as he develops but he should ride the waiver wire for now.
Vernon Hargreaves, CB, Tampa Bay (U. Florida) has a little more upside than Apple, especially if you get any returner bonuses. He’s a little bit more of a playmaker than Apple and could be worth rostering as he could also see an eventual move to the more consistent safety position. I like to buy rookie corners (because they often get picked on and opportunities equals points in IDP) who have the skills and body to eventually move to safety later in their career (then they’ll produce more consistently). Last year’s Philadelphia duo of Malcolm Jenkins and Walter Thurmond (both former corners) are great examples of this. Hargreaves is this type of player. If he proves too fast to move to Safety, he’ll likely be a playmaking corner. If he proves to slow to keep at Corner, he’ll be putting up consistent numbers at Safety. This makes him a very safe fantasy flier in the later rounds in my mind. Unlike Apple, Hargreaves is penciled in as the Day One starter.
Sheldon Rankins, DT, New Orleans Saints (Louisville) Rankins has a real shot to be a real contributor at a really unimportant position. If your league requires a DT position he’ll be worth taking a fourth round flier on and stashing as a backup until he develops.
Karl Joseph, S, Oakland Raiders (West Virginia) Now we’re finally getting back into some real fantasy discussion. I’ve been seeing Joseph go in the third which surprised me a little given how little differentiation there is between safety scoring. However, having a heavy hitting safety who can consistently rack up the points and create turnovers can really smooth out your IDP corps. For that reason, I certainly like Joseph. I just think he’s a little overvalued at the moment in IDP circles. I do think Oakland did a classic Raiders reach on the guy and he’s just not super star talent that I’d need to take a safety in the spots where I’ve seen him going. So my personal grade on the guy is as a late fourth rounder but if you want him, you may have to spend a third round pick in your rookie draft.
Keanu Neal, SS, Falcons (Florida) If you want a safety in your rookie draft, the best stragety might just be to wait until the (slightly) overvalued Joseph goes then grab up this guy. People who like Neal over Joseph really like Neal. I won’t say I love the guy (like oh, say Landon Collins from 2015) but I do like him more than Joseph. He’s a Day One Strong Safety starter playing opposite an offense that will put up a ton of points. There are very few things not to like about this guy as a Safety from an opportunity or talent perspective. Personally, paying a third round pick where you could be grabbing WR prospects like Charone Peake is a little risky, especially when there’s so many points every week at Safety on the waiver wire. But if you want that cream of the crop guy to plug and play with those couple extra points per week for the next 7 years, it can be a worthwhile investment.
Shaq Lawson, DE, Buffalo Bills (Clemson) Standing 6’3″ and 269 lbs, Lawson has ever so slightly flown under the radar. A fair number of people are pretty big on him from a fantasy perspective and with good reason. The Bills have a solid defensive track record, an inconsistent offense, and Lawson will be a Day One starter for them at LDE next to Marcell Darius. It’s dangerous to expect much out of a rookie defensive end but Lawson has been a sneaky value flier in the third and even fourth round. If you have the ability to stash or develop him, he’s a major upside backup who could contribute with some tackles sooner than later at the DL/DE position.
Darron Lee, OLB, New York Jets (Ohio St.) Darron Lee was the second LB off the board at the 2016 NFL draft after Leonard Floyd but has been the first (even before Myles Jack) in the hearts of many IDP fantasy players. And IDP fantasy players love their linebackers. The 6’1″ 232 lbs Lee is not actually yet a starter but he’s certainly been drafted like one. He has all the tools to be an IDP machine for years and years to come. He easily gets a mid-second round rookie draft grade.
William Jackson III, CB, Cincinnati Bengals (Houston) Six foot tall, 190 pounds, ran a 4.37 40 yard dash. Plays corner. Mockdraftable.com says he compares to Asante Samuel and Eli Apple.
Artie Burns, CB, Pittsburgh Steelers (Miami) Six foot tall, 190 pounds, ran a 4.46 40 yard dash. Plays corner. Mockdraftable.com compares him to Darius Slay.
Kenny Clark, DT/NT, Green Bay Packers (UCLA) Clark is a true nose tackle, a position best avoided from a fantasy perspective. As good as he might or might not end up being as an NFL player, it’s doubtful he’ll rack up the stats to contribute as a starting fantasy defensive tackle. His fantasy upside is at best a low end starting DT so unless you start two DT (and who does that?) he can be pretty safely ignored. He’ll likely work his way into the starting lineup slowly if you’d like to keep an eye on the guy simply because he is a first round talent.
Robert Nkemdiche, DT/DE, Arizona Cardinals (Mississippi) Nkemdiche fell in the draft because of “off the field” concerns. Adding a guy with this talent to an already stacked Cardinals D seems a little unfair. It’s only camp but the reports are already a little insane. Talent-wise, he belongs in the conversation with Bosa and I would personally easily pass on Buckner to grab this guy later. Fantasy rookie drafts around the same time as the NFL draft were mimicking the NFL a lot with Nkemdiche falling into the fifth round as more of a sleeper pick. The closer we get to the season, however, I can see this guy creeping up into the third round as he’s already getting press. It won’t be easy to overtake the guys in front of him like Calais Campbell for playing time. Nkemdiche certainly isn’t having the opportunity handed to him like Bosa. But the harder thing may be for the Cardinals to keep him off the field.
Vernon Butler, DT, Carolina Panthers (Louisiana Tech) The Panthers have a consistently solid track record with interior defensive linemen so I’m inclined to take an extra look at Butler as a long term defensive tackle stash in the leagues where I need to play a DT. He’s obviously nothing better than a stash for now as he’s listed behind Kawaan Short. For my money, though, he’s got a little more talent than Short and it shouldn’t be too long before he’s finding a way to contribute. Will eventually move into that starting role so he’s worth a sixth/seventh round rookie draft flier/free agent pickup/taxi squad but only if you play a DT and have the space.
We’ve now hit on every single defensive player taken in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft and what we can expect of them from a fantasy perspective both short term and long term. I’ll look at some more 2016 IDP Rookie highlights next week.
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