By Nick Falana
The Houston Texans led most formats in team defense scoring last season and they have the only defensive player worth a #1 pick in startup drafts. But just how deep does the rest of their squad run? Let’s take a look at the key individual defensive players to watch on the Texans.
Linebackers are the lifeblood of IDP play. Yet this top defensive team had no LB’s score in the Top 20 in 2014. That will likely change this year with the introduction of second round rookie draft pick Benardrick McKinney.
McKinney is a well regarded Inside ‘Backer out of Mississippi State who should be a tackling machine in the middle for Houston for years. He doesn’t have a ton of upside but should be a more than solid LB2 even creeping into the low end LB1 some years. From a dynasty perspective, McKinney is still a good buy low candidate and one of the top Texans to own after the IDP god himself.
One of the reasons the Texans didn’t place a LB in the Top 20 was Jadeveon Clowney’s injury plagued rookie campaign. Clowney is a beast but still handling serious set backs with his knee. Even more unsettling from a dynasty perspective is the fact that the type of injury Clowney suffered could be expected to drastically reduce the length of his career.
As a former #1 overall pick, Clowney is a must own but he’s not someone for us to count on, the way the Texans were hoping they could. Further down the chart, Brian Cushing will still man the other inside spot but his best years have faded as he averaged only 7.4 fantasy points per game in 2014, good for 95th among all linebackers.
The Texans are a good spot to look for defensive backfield help. Jonathan Joseph was a Top 10 corner in 2014, averaging 10 fantasy points per game. If you’re trying to rebuild, he’s someone you could always try to flip as a throw-in deal sweetener as 2015 will be his 10th season.
After Joseph, Kareem Jackson is a top corner in the NFL but has never put up significant fantasy numbers while Kevin Johnson out of Wake Forrest is a 2015 first round rookie corner who bares watching. It remains to be seen whether he’ll be the type of first round talent who turns into a Kareem Jackson type that makes the coaches happy or actually becomes an NFL playmaker who excites fantasy owners. He’s worth stashing over Jackson, the actual starter.
Johnson’s presence has dumped a very intriguing player down the depth chart. Despite not really being a starter, A.J. Bouye averaged 9.7 fantasy ppg last season for the Texans. If he gets onto the field, it could be bad news for Houston but good news for your fantasy squad if you need a corner in a pinch. Of Houston’s last seven games in 2014, Bouye managed double digit fantasy number in five.
Showing the difference between Safety and Corner in fantasy, Kendrick Lewis (like Jonathan Joseph) also average 10 fantasy ppg but was a fringe S1, solid S2 type of player. And for that solid fantasy performance, he’s no longer on the Texans, replaced by Rahim Moore who average 6.6 points over 16 games for the Broncos last year.
I saved the best for last. JJ Watt. A man among boys. A man who inspired a hip hop song (I’m joking). While top LB’s are often compared to RB’s in terms of fantasy point production, Watt scores more along the lines of a PPR WR, a pace 50% stronger than even the best remaining DE’s like Jason-Pierre Paul and Robert Quinn.
Watt posted 7 games of more than 20 points, including the final four of the year during fantasy playoffs. He even dropped a Rodgersesque 36 point game on the Colts in Week 6, registering 4 tackles (3 for a loss), 2 sacks, a fumble recovery, and a touchdown to go with 3 passes defensed.
In short, Watt compiles scores in every category a defensive player can. Players like Watt are the ones who make IDP Dynasty fantasy football fun.
And he’s not alone on the D-Line. Houston made a splash by picking up Vince Wilfork and it’s possible he could eat in this defense. He’s not a significant fantasy player, though, especially in dynasty at 33. He averaged under 5 points per game in 2014, low for even a DT.
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