The top 20 IDP rookies and when to draft them

Former Alabama linebacker CJ Mosley is looking good in Ravens' camp, and is my overall top rookie IDP pick.

Former Alabama linebacker CJ Mosley is looking good in Ravens’ camp, and is my overall top rookie IDP pick.

Dynasty rookie drafts are getting underway in IDP dynasty leagues, and the two perennial questions that need to be answered are who to draft, and how soon to draft the first IDP player in mixed leagues. We’ll handle those questions in order.

Here are my top 20 rookie IDP players for 2014, with a bit of analysis on each:

1. CJ Mosley, LB. The Alabama product is getting first-team reps at middle linebacker for the Ravens, according to Baltimore beat reporters. He’s a strong, sure tackler who is getting snaps as a three-down ‘backer. He may become what the Ravens hoped 2013 linebacker pick Arthur Brown would be.

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2. Ryan Shazier, LB. Shazier is a nasty, hard-nosed player – perfect for the Pittsburgh Steeler defense. If Mosley is 1a, Shazier is more like a 1b. Should see a big role right away and has star upside.

3. Jadeveon Clowney, LB. I let out a long groan when the Houston Texans stayed put and selected Clowney first overall. Since they play a 3-4, the prediction that Clowney would be classified as a linebacker and not a defensive end came true. He’s freakishly athletic, and there’s always a chance he plays later in his career as a DE. If he were a lineman, he’d be number 1 on this list with no hesitation.

4. Khalil Mack, LB. Scoff at Oakland all you want, but their potential linebacker corps of Mack, Nick Roach and Sio Moore is exciting and dynamic. Mack should be good for 8-10 sacks and is instinctive enough to rack up a lot of tackles in his rookie campaign.

5. Telvin Smith, LB. Smith makes up for a slight frame with speed to spare. The Jaguars will likely trust him to run the field side to side as well as cover, so he could stay on the field for subpackages and be one of the jewels of your fantasy draft too.

6. Aaron Donald, DT. All signs point to Donald being the next Geno Atkins. He’s already blowing up the middle of the defensive line for the Rams, and with St. Louis already having one of the best lines in the league, Donald should be able to penetrate to the backfield often.

7. Deone Bucannon, S. Many have Pryor or Clinton-Dix higher than Bucannon, but I don’t agree. Not only does Bucannon have a soft middle of a defense in front of him with Karlos Dansby gone and Daryl Washington suspended, but there are rumors Bucannon might take nickel snaps at linebacker. That seals the deal for Bucannon to be my top safety (and top defensive back.)

8. Anthony Barr, LB. A raw, athletic freak, Barr had a slow start to training camp but has been coming on quickly for the Vikings. It was clear that new head coach Mike Zimmer coveted Barr in the draft, and he has plans to make the UCLA standout a stud in the NFL.

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9. Christian Kirksey, LB. He has a chance to win a starting job for the Browns right away, and could thrive in Mike Pettine’s multi-front defense. He’s the last of the linebackers that I like both long-term and short-term.

10. Preston Brown, LB. Brown might see a good opportunity in 2014, but he’ll have to beat out Nigel Bradham to get snaps in place of the injured Kiko Alonso. But Brown’s more natural position at his size is middle linebacker. Brandon Spikes is currently in that role. I also have concerns about how many tackles he’ll get when Alonso returns next year. Watch this one in preseason games. Could be a bit hit or a big miss for 2014.

11. Calvin Pryor, S. Pryor got a late start getting reps at safety for the Jets because he was dealing with a concussion. It’s never a good sign when a rookie fails to get enough work in camp, but Pryor has the skills and intelligence to pick it up now that he’s back.

12. Justin Gilbert, CB. If you were an NFL quarterback, would you rather throw in Joe Haden’s direction or Justin Gilbert’s direction? Yeah, me too.

13. Dominique Easley, DT. Huge upside, but Easley still isn’t practicing for the Patriots after tearing his ACL in 2013. You’ll have to wait on him but waiting may be worth it.

14. Demarcus Lawrence, DE. Lawrence would have been knocking on the door of my top ten before he broke his foot in camp. That’s a huge blow to the rookie, who could have slid nicely into a big role with the Cowboys. He’s still the best long-term hold DE in my mind.

15. Kyle Fuller, CB. The Bears’ secondary is pretty crowded, but Fuller is making his case to have a big role with fiery play on the field.

16. HaHa Clinton-Dix, S. Green Bay is a good landing spot for Clinton-Dix, being able to learn under Morgan Burnett. Once he carves out his role, Clinton-Dix could be a good producer for years for your fantasy team.

17. Prince Shembo, LB. I would love to plug Shembo into injured Sean Weatherspoon’s role in Atlanta, but I just can’t do it. Maybe it’s because the team brought oft-injured Pat Angerer into camp to compete for the job. I just think there are better options at linebacker.

18. Chris Borland, LB. It will be interesting to see if Borland or Michael Wilhoite get Navorro Bowman’s snaps while the All-Pro linebacker recovers from injury. If it’s Borland, he could be a sneaky good pick – someone who can deliver 7 weeks of good production. Great compliment to a suspended or injured LB already on your roster.

19. Dee Ford, LB. The biggest “huh?” of the draft for me. Here’s another edge rusher who not only will most likely be tagged as a linebacker in your league, but he’s buried behind Tamba Hali and Justin Houston on the depth chart. I’m afraid he’s 2014’s Bjoern Werner.

20. Lamin Barrow, LB. If Barrow can beat out Nate Irving for the middle linebacker job for the Broncos, he should be ranked much higher. “If.” I’m not convinced a team that made the SuperBowl is ready to hand the “quarterback of the defense” job to a rookie. Still worth a pick here for the upside.

Now that we’ve covered the “who” to draft, we need to talk about the “when.” This is going to be entirely dependent on your league’s scoring system.

Even in leagues where defensive players are on par with offensive players, I couldn’t imagine taking Mosley or Shazier before Jordan Matthews, Eric Ebron or Odell Beckham, Jr. So in that type of league, we’re probably talking about 10 picks in before you should start with IDPs.

If IDP players are more of an afterthought in your league, it’s much better to wait as much as a round or two more to pick your first. Targets like Telvin Smith or Christian Kirksey are very good options, and in this type of league, it’s better to let others pick the top linebackers.

If you happen to be in a league that classifies Clowney as a defensive end, jump on this earlier. I could see picking Clowney as high as fifth overall in that case.

Good luck with your rookie draft, and if you have a specific question, try out the message boards or find me on Twitter: @SteveIDP. Happy drafting!




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