The good: Justin Gilbert, CB, Cleveland Browns
“Here’s Johnny” screamed the headline in the Cleveland Plain Dealer after the Browns selected Manziel with the 22nd pick overall.
Turns out the Browns also picked another guy, 14 picks higher, who didn’t get the headline. Justin Gilbert, the 6’0” cornerback who ran a 4.37 40 at the Combine, became a Brown. I believe he’ll be one of the best CBs for Individual Defensive Player fantasy leagues in 2014.
There are two rules I’ve often followed in IDP leagues: the “rookie corner rule” and the “whoever is opposite Revis rule.”
Put simply, IDP cornerbacks rack up points by getting in the stat book. Guys like Revis are capable of shutting down half the field and making quarterbacks look elsewhere to throw the ball. That’s fabulous for NFL football, but not for fantasy. You want a guy who sees a lot of action, and whoever is opposite a stud CB is going to see a lot of action. Certainly Joe Haden has reached “almost-Revis” status, and Pro Football Focus IDP guru Ross Miles recently wrote that Haden is one of only four corners in the league who regularly move around the field to cover the opposing team’s best WR. This means Gilbert will draw a lesser WR.
That brings us to the rookie corner rule, which states that rookie cornerbacks are always going to be tested by quarterbacks. Again, this bodes well for Gilbert seeing a lot of passes thrown on his side of the field, which will result in tackles, interceptions and passes defensed.
The bad: Jadeveon Clowney, OLB, Houston Texans
I know, naming Clowney, one of the best defensive prospects to come along in years, as a bad development for IDP fantasy football seems counterintuitive.
It’s that OLB thing.
If Clowney had gone to a 4-3 defense and been classified as a defensive end, he would have to be in the conversation as the first pick overall in IDP fantasy leagues, depending on scoring system. Instead, he lands in Houston’s 3-4 defense under Defensive Coordinator Romeo Crennel. Let’s again separate real NFL football from fantasy. As a fan and student of the game, I couldn’t be more thrilled to see how Crennel uses JJ Watt and Clowney together. I’m sure opposing quarterbacks are less thrilled. But for fantasy IDP, there are many, many linebackers who score a lot of points in a variety of ways. There are very few defensive linemen who can consistently put up big numbers.
Clowney makes the “bad” list because this once-in-a-generation player’s stats will be wasted in IDP. That’s sad for fantasy players.
So instead of being Robert Quinn or Greg Hardy, Clowney will be more akin to Aldon Smith, hopefully minus the off-the-field issues. That’s not terrible, and in some big-play scoring systems, Clowney will still be a good LB to have on your roster.
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Adding more hope, Crennel was coy about what defensive scheme he’s going to run. He alluded to using “multiple fronts” in an interview in January. Also, as I wrote recently, whether Clowney is classified as a defensive lineman/end or a linebacker isn’t universal and some sites already offer dual-eligibility at both positions. Plus, if you’re in a dynasty league, schemes change and players move around. He could easily be a defensive end at some point in his career.
It’s imperative you check how your fantasy hosting site classifies Clowney, and understand your scoring system to see how weighted toward big plays it is.
The huh: Anthony Barr, OLB, Minnesota Vikings
First, a confession. I’m a huge Vikings fan, and after the Barr pick, and especially later in the draft when it looked like the Vikings would fail (again) to address the quarterback position, I may have used each of George Carlin’s 7 dirty words. Repeatedly.
The Barr pick perplexed me. I wasn’t entirely enamored with Barr and listed him around the 20th best draft prospect. I had him pegged as a rush OLB in a 3-4, much like the Clowney/Aldon role mentioned above.
Plus, Barr projects to be a SAM linebacker in Zimmer’s system, which is already occupied by one of the only guys I don’t worry about on the Vikings’ D: Chad Greenway.
All of that said, I think Mike Zimmer is the ideal coach in this league to take someone raw like Barr and turn him into a star. Zimmer’s mind was already drawing X’s and O’s Thursday night.
“I’ve never had a linebacker, even thinking back to my Dallas days, that has the size and speed and all the things that this guy has,” Zimmer said. He said he could envision using Barr all over the field. “I’ve got him penciled in at like three positions.”
The admiration was mutual. “I know he’s a very smart defensive coach, so I’m looking forward to pick his brain,” Barr said.
If Zimmer molds this kid like he did with so many defensive players in the past, and he finds unique spots to use him in subpackages to keep him on the field, he could have a ton of upside. But that doesn’t change that everyone’s initial reaction was, “huh?”
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