In the last article I covered the importance of linebackers in building a powerful IDP dynasty roster, today I will cover defensive linemen- in my opinion, the toughest one to build with and definitely the most manic as far as scoring. Defensive linemen, the ones that fill a stat sheet consistently, are tougher to come by and there are many less available. Tackles are important and even the best DL players don’t consistently put up tackle numbers. A good IDP league will often have scoring skewed to give DL players more points for tackles and sometimes more for sacks and forced turnovers as well.
I want to focus on some rookies to watch for that didn’t perform as well as expected or have a big of a role, as well as a few players with some time under their belt that are in a prime position to excel and step into a starting role in your IDP lineup.
Shaq Lawson, Defensive End, Buffalo Bills
Shaq entered his second season and looked to be a key part in a defense that would be tough but has been largely disappointing. Who would have thought the defense would suffer after trading their best cornerback and defensive lineman (Ronald Darby and Marcell Dareus)? Shaq started strong out of the gate and posted 2 sacks in the first three games and then in Weeks 10-13 seemed to be re-emerging with 14 tackles, a forced fumble, and a few sacks- then it was reported there was an issue with Shaq and coach Sean McDermott that led to a benching. Shaq finished the season on IR with an ankle issue, ending the season with 33 tackles and 4 sacks. Shaq possesses a rare blend of power and speed, year 3 will be critical for him and a make or break type of year for his career. The draft pedigree and spot in the defense sets him up to succeed- he needs to put the effort in and take the step forward. Shaq should be able to target for your team going forward in 2018.
Derek Barnett, Defensive End, Philadelphia Eagles
One of the players I was most excited about was Derek Barnett, coming into a defense with some great players to work with and loads of talent. Derek displayed tremendous energy and phenomenal handwork coming out the University of Tennessee and looked to carve out a role on a tenacious defense. Derek posted 5 sacks and 21 tackles while playing 41% of the defensive snaps on the season, also forcing a fumble and recovering two more- returning one for a touchdown as well. Derek will see an increase in Year 2, hopefully Jim Schwartz stays in Philly, and Derek will be a valuable asset for your defensive line going forward. Derek is a player I am targeting everywhere I can for 2018.
Noah Spence, Defensive End, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Big things were expected in 2017 for the entire Buccaneer squad and particularly the defense that surged toward the end of 2016. Noah Spence was set to be a key contributor on the defensive line before a dislocated shoulder ended his season. Noah showed flashes of his outstanding motor in his rookie season of 2016 with 5.5 sacks in a limited role and will carve out his spot on a line that needs a standout DE. Noah fought through a lot of adversity in his time at Eastern Kentucky and the shoulder has been a nagging injury that hopefully has been addressed. Noah will look to grab a huge share of the defensive end snaps in 2018, and should be poised to put up 40-45 tackles and 10-12 sacks- numbers that will put him in DL1/DL2 territory going forward for your IDP squad.
Takarrist McKinley, Defensive End, Atlanta Falcons
The man that won a lot of fans at the 2017 draft, coming on stage with a framed picture of his grandmother, Takarrist McKinley was drafted to be the next great pass rusher in a Dan Quinn defense. Tak posted 6 sacks and 20 tackles with 2 forced fumbles in a rotation on the defensive line that ended up with him playing 38% of the defensive snaps as a rookie. Going forward in a defense that also boasts Vic Beasley and Adrian Clayborn as pass rushers, Tak is going to have an opportunity to wreak some havoc in opposing backfields for many years. In a league where ‘big plays’ are rewarded more Takarrist could be a more valuable option as well. Tak has a relentless approach to the game and will be a force on the DL for years to come.
A’Shawn Robinson, Defensive Tackle, Detroit Lions
A’Shawn flashed his potential to the IDP and football world in Week 6 versus the Saints, posting 7 tackles and an interception returned for a touchdown. A’Shawn is a great run stopping defensive tackle and has opportunities to get a big play here and there due to Ziggy Ansah and Anthony Zettel on the ends. A’Shawn gets consistent snap counts, on the field for 67% of the defensive snaps in the Motor City. He enters his third year and will get his Lions share of tackles (couldn’t resist) and the potential for more is definitely there. A’Shawn has a higher floor than some on the defensive line due to the tackles garnered stopping the run game and will be a reliable starter for your IDP squad that can flash with a big game here and there.
Malik McDowell, Defensive Tackle, Seattle Seahawks
This one comes with a little of a disclaimer, injuries suffered offseason before he started his rookie season could derail him going forward but Malik is a name to watch going into 2018. Malik will step into a rotation on a talented defensive line and under the tutelage of Kris Richard and Clint Hurtt, has the opportunity to excel Seattle. Malik was a force at Michigan State in college until his junior season, where injuries and drawing double teams limited production greatly. Malik possesses a ferocious combination of size and athleticism, with the coaching in Seattle and the opportunity to play alongside some excellent defensive linemen, Malik is a great buy low candidate and a personal favorite of mine if he regains his health after a freak offseason accident.