Rookie IDP Rundown: Week 1
Hello and welcome to the first edition of the weekly rookie IDP rundown here on FakePigskin, THE go to place for IDP content on the world wide web. Every Friday throughout the season I will take a look at the rookie superstars from the previous week and any potential breakout players for the upcoming week.
As we eagerly wait for Week 1 of the NFL season, we will take a look at some of the young IDPs to take a look at and some bona fide superstars that you must own if you want to be a champion in 2014.
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Rookie defensive lineman often struggle in their first years in the league and this draft class looks no different. With Jadeveon Clowney being robbed from the defensive line pool, the class lost its one potential fantasy defensive end. In actual fact, the Clowney position change shows that the 2014 draft class is particularly sparse when it comes to rookie pass rushers. There is however one name who can be a true rarity in fantasy football, a defensive tackle worth starting as a fantasy DL.
Aaron Donald was taken in the first round by the Rams in May’s draft and he has truly elite upside as a pass rusher. Donald compares favourably to Geno Atkins and has a first step that few defensive ends posses, let alone an interior defensive lineman. Donald is a must-own in all leagues and by season’s end he figures to be an every week starter in big play leagues.
Donald is the one rookie who should impact from a fantasy perspective immediately, there are however some other rookies on the defensive line who are worth watching. Dominique Easley was taken in the first round by the Patriots and has elite upside. He is however coming off of two torn ACLs and will be eased into the pro game by New England. By season’s end however, Easley may be someone owners can get some joy from in big play leagues. Kony Ealy, Demarcus Lawrence and Rashede Hageman are other rookies who are worth monitoring by owners throughout the season but early on, due to injury in the case of Lawrence and crowded depth charts in front of Ealy and Hageman.
Best of the rest: Scott Chrichton, Chris Smith, Jay Bromley & Will Sutton.
Thankfully for fantasy players, the rookie linebackers entering the league are much more ready to make an impact than their defensive line counterparts. Headed by two first rounders Ryan Shazier and CJ Mosley, this is a deep class of rookie linebackers that can give fantasy owners joy in both big play and tackle heavy leagues.
Shazier landed in a great spot for fantasy and for on field impact, Dick LeBeau’s defensive scheme will allow Shazier to utilize his athleticism, fly around the field and make tackle after tackle. With near elite speed, the Ohio State product will be a near LB1 in tackle heavy leagues for years to come. Due to his impressive coverage ability, Shazier will be a three down linebacker and will rarely be off the field.
Mosley was also drafted into an excellent situation, slotting straight into the Ravens starting lineup next to Daryl Smith. The Ravens 3-4 defence has regularly produced fantasy studs at the linebacker position and I am more than confident that he won’t have a rookie season like his teammate, Arthur Brown. Mosley will again be a three down linebacker as he is adept in pass coverage and is an effective blitzer, whilst he doesn’t possess the physical gifts of Shazier, they will have similar impact as rookies.
The rest of the rookie linebackers can be divided into two distinct groups, off the ball linebackers (ILBs and 4-3 OLBs) and edge rushers. Out of the group of off the ball linebackers there are three players who I’ll focus on this week; Khalil Mack, Christian Kirksey and Telvin Smith.
Mack was drafted in the top five of the NFL draft by the Raiders and figures to be a versatile weapon in their 4-3 defence. Mack was an excellent pass rusher whilst in college at Buffalo as well as being a tremendous tackler, his role in the Raiders defence figures to be similar to Von Miller’s usage in Denver, potentially moving to defensive end in nickel situations.
Kirksey and Smith are both currently backups on their teams but they will get playing time early on. By the mid season they should both be full time fixtures in their respective teams’ starting lineups, Kirksey as an ILB in the Browns 3-4 and Smith at weakside linebacker for the Jaguars 4-3. Both should put up big tackle numbers when they become starters, fantasy owners should roster both of them in anticipation of them making that leap.
The edge rushers in this rookie class feature the headline act from the 2014 NFL draft, Jadeveon Clowney. Clowney is a physical freak of nature and possibly the most hyped defensive player entering the league in a generation. He played as a defensive end in college at South Carolina but has already showed incredible promise as an edge rusher in a 3-4 scheme throughout the preseason. Clowney is a must own in big play leagues already.
Anthony Barr, Dee Ford and Marcus Smith are all the three other first round edge rushers from May’s draft and all figure to start the season as situational rushers for their teams. Barr will get the most playing time early but with the depth of linebacker this season, there’s no reason to own these guys other than as depth in big play leagues. They will however definitely be in play come season’s end and should be watched closely.
Best of the rest: Prince Shembo, Kevin Pierre-Louis, Kyle Van Noy, Lamin Barrow and Preston Brown.
As all good IDP owners know, defensive backs are the most replaceable of all IDPs and streaming them is a more than viable option (Check out Matt Lane’s column on DB streaming for more information.) There are however two rookies going into great situations that may make you think twice about churning them in and out of your roster. Calvin Pryor and Deone Bucannon have both landed on teams where they will be used as in the box safeties and will have plenty of opportunities to make tackles. Pryor will open the season as the starting strong safety for the Jets and has even featured as a linebacker in some nickel packages they have run, he is a must own in all leagues. Bucannon has featured largely in the Cardinals nickel packages throughout the preseason and this is the role he will start his NFL career in. By season’s end he should be a starter for the Cards and a DB2 worth holding onto for fantasy owners.
Best of the rest: Haha Clinton-Dix, Kyle Fuller, Jason Verrett, Brock Vereen and Jimmie Ward