2013 Season Review: Defensive Tackles

Kyle Williams led all DTs in fantasy last season

This is the first article in a series looking at what happened this past year for the best Individual Defensive Players. We’ll look at each individual IDP Position in turn, remarking at the big names, those who outperformed their pre-season billing, and those who fell short of their expectations. This week we look at Defensive Tackles.

 

Top 5s:

Kyle Williams, BUF, 156.5 points

Jason Hatcher, DAL 145.5 points

Jurrell Casey, TEN 135.5 points

Gerald McCoy, TB 130.5 points

Marcell Dareus, BUF 121.0 points

Almost made it: Ndamokung Suh (DET), Nick Fairley (DET), Michael Brockers (STL)

 

Stats Breakdown:

#

Name

Sys

T

TFL

As

Hit

Sck

FF(R)

PD

INT

TD

FPT

FPPG

1

Kyle Williams

3-4

24

14

25

17

10

1(1)

1

0

0

156.5

9.8

2

Jason Hatcher

4-3

34

15

7

7

11

2(0)

3

0

0

145.5

9.7

3

Jurrell Casey

4-3

37

11

16

7

9.5

1(1)

2

0

0

135.5

9.0

4

Gerald McCoy

4-3

35

15

15

14

9

0(1)

4

0

0

130.5

8.2

5

Marcell Dareus

3-4

46

8

25

4

7.5

1(0)

3

0

0

121

7.6

6

Ndamokung Suh

4-3

36

9

11

13

5

1(0)

6

0

0

118.5

7.4

7

Nick Fairley

4-3

24

9

12

14

6

2(2)

1

0

1

115

7.7

8

Michael Brockers

4-3

38

7

8

6

5.5

1(0)

0

0

0

102.5

6.4

9

Jared Odrick

4-3

34

9

9

13

4.5

1(0)

2

0

0

94

5.9

10

Clinton McDonald

4-3

19

7

16

11

5.5

0(1)

2

1

0

93

6.2

Sys: System, T: Tackle, TFL: Tackle For Loss, As: Assisted tackle, Hit: Hit on the QB, Sck: Sacked the QB, FF(R): Forced Fumbles (Recovered), PD: Pass Defended, INT:  Interceptions, TD: Any defensive touchdown, FPT: Fantasy Points in Total, FPPG: Fantasy Points Per Game (On Average)

 

As you can see from this list, there are two Buffalo Bills in the top ten, with a combined 277.50 points last year. Looking into the rushing stats, the Bills faced 412 rushing attempts last year (5th most), and so this may have something to do with it. Kyle Williams himself made a nuisance of himself on the way to 10 sacks and 14 Tackles For Loss, helping himself to the top of the pile. In fact, the top 4 players all have 9 sacks or more, showing that in this scoring system, a DT who can get penetration into the backfield is worth his weight in gold. In fact, when we delve further into the list the sacks drop off almost immediately, leaving just tackle counts to make up the fantasy points. The spread of points is gradual, with 12th placed Kendall Langford scoring 90.50 points, and 29th placed Domata Peko scoring 60 points. In this final ranking, it’s the sacks that separate the men from the boys so it seems. It’s also worth pointing out that Kyle Williams is likely to be listed as a DE next year. Last year he was listed as a DT, but Pro Football Focus lists him as a 4-3 DE. The rest of the list is filled out by DTs on 4-3 defences, rather than Nose Tackles on 3-4 defences.

Furthermore, this position is volatile week to week, amongst the top 5 players there were 36 weeks when 5 points or less was scored, with each player averaging around 6 or 7 of these lows per season. That’s almost half of the regular fantasy season. At this position it has become clear that minimising risk is not a viable option as all players carry risk. It may be prudent to stream DT considering this unpredictability.

Disappointments:

This season was marked by injuries to the likes of Geno Atkins, Vince Wilfork and Henry Melton – but some guys just lost their production and fantasy value. Haloti Ngata was ranked as the 5th best DT by me last year in the Fake Pigskin Draft Guide, however he only managed 57.5 points. This is marked by a low solo tackle count (23, his worst since his rookie season in 2006), and just 1.5 sacks on the season. However, one thing that strikes me is his abnormally high number of assisted tackles. Ngata had 30 assisted tackles, the second most at his position behind Joe Vellano with 34. Ngata had a habit of getting to the QB, scoring 5 sacks or more in his 3 previous seasons, so why did he suddenly become a DL2 at best?  I believe the answer here is the wholesale changes made to the defence between last year and this year. The likes of Dannell Ellerbe, Paul Kruger and Bernard Pollard all left the Ravens last season, along with two guys named Ed Reed and Ray Lewis… Now whoever you bring in to replace these guys (And the Ravens made quality additions through the draft and Free Agency), it is going to impact a defence to have half of it changed from one season to another. I think this has disrupted the performance of Ngata. As we can see Ngata is still involved in plays, he had 55 plays where he recorded a tackle, assist, sack or pass defensed, not bad for a modern DT, (Kyle Williams had 78 plays involved). Ngata needs to be changing assists into tackles, tackles into TFLs and pressures into sacks (Ngata had just 15 QB hurries last year, 22nd most at DT). So I am not prepared to write off Ngata yet. He will be undervalued next year for sure.

Overachievers:

There were plenty of overachievers at this position, as is expected for DTs, and this focus could’ve been about several different players, but I’m going to talk primarily about the Raiders DT Vance Walker, who finished up with 69.50 points despite a rough start to the season (10.5 points scored in his first 5 games). Walker managed just 3 sacks on the year, but he had 40 total tackles (29/11) and pressured the opposing QB relentlessly with 32 hurries (5th most) from 436 pass-rush snaps, his Pass Rush Percentage was 7.2, putting him 15th on that list among the likes of Linval Joseph and Nick Fairley. I think Walker is able to make big steps next season, and if he can convert some of those hurries into sacks then he could be breaking the 100 points barrier. Other notable mentions include rookies Chris Jones, Star Lotulelei and Joe Vellano. Jones and Vellano took over at DT in New England once Wilfork went down and provided a superb buffer in both rushing and passing. Joe Vellano finished with the 9th highest Run Stop %, whilst Chris Jones managed 7 sacks on the season. It’s certainly been a promising start for the pair. Seattle’s Clinton McDonald proved effective in both run defence and pass defence on his way to 5.5 sacks on the season. McDonald also managed an Interception which boosted his points total by 10. Damon Harrison is also a name to look out for, as his unspectacular but solid performances left him 22nd in total points for DTs. Harrison had just one sack on the year but was phenomenal in run defence, recording 67 tackles in total (37/30) and 7 for loss. Harrison also boasts the best Run Stop % last year with 13.2%.

The Raiders’ Vance Walker (#98) Showed promise last season – photo from www.commercialappeal.com

Summary:

Some big injuries to key DTs this year meant a scramble to the waiver wire for many owners, and several young contenders have appeared and will be looking to make the next step in the coming season. Buffalo’s pairing are going to be hot property next season as that Defensive Line takes its place amongst the best, but don’t forget about the likes of Kendall Langford and Nick Fairley. All in all it can pay to stream your DTs, as each and every one can be prone to dramatic fluctuations each week. Drafting a pair of solid DTs (assuming you start only one per week) who will get the snap numbers can pay off, rather than accepting a boom or bust DT earlier in the draft. Even if you get the best DT in fantasy, he’s likely to disappoint you half of the time

 

Next time we’ll take a look at Defensive Ends.

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