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2015 IDP Hits and Misses

By Matt Schauf 9:44am EST 2/18/16

I've always been impressed by the work that Jared puts into the year-end DS Report Card, and I like how it holds us accountable. It would be easy to just move on to the next season when the previous one ends, but looking back is important -- to show you that we check up on ourselves and to help us learn from our mistakes.

The IDP realm is my baby, and I think it's just as important to look back on how our preseason expectations fared in this area. You won't see the full Report Card treatment here for a few reasons, however.

For starters, generally less than 20% of fantasy leagues use defensive players. And even among those that do, nearly all start (and thus draft) significantly fewer defenders than offensive guys. This not only thins the audience but also changes the way you can/should approach IDPs.

Drafting some risk/reward guys can turn a solid season into a championship run in any format, but such chances become easier to take in most IDP leagues. The abundance of fantasy analysis on the market at this point makes true offensive sleepers hard to find, but it's still fairly easy to target a few IDPs that aren't getting much summer love. And if you miss on a couple such players at draft time, you'll probably be able to find solid replacements on your waiver wire.

With all that in mind, let's look back at some key hits and misses from our preseason IDP rankings, compared with where they finished and/or were generally drafted/regarded before the season. It's tough to nail down trustworthy ADP numbers for defensive players, so we'll use a mix of measures in grading these guys -- starting with a few misses that weren't specific to DS ...


Robert Quinn, DE, Rams

We ranked Quinn #2 among linemen heading into 2015 ... but so did most other IDP folks. Unfortunately for all of us, the St. Louis star endured arguably his worst season in the pros. He compiled just 21 tackles (13 solo) and 5 sacks before hitting IR after 8 games. We didn't find out for a while that Quinn had been playing through a back injury for most of the year. He finally had surgery in December. We'll see how his offseason goes.


Cameron Wake, DE, Dolphins

A top-10 fantasy lineman for all of us heading into the season, Wake joined the whole Miami D (and team) in looking lost through the 1st quarter of the year. Then he welcomed the coaching change with a 4-sack Week 6 and 3 more sacks over the next 2 games. Unfortunately, that last game found him leaving with a torn Achilles' tendon. Now 34, Wake will have a tough time returning to form -- probably ever.


DeAndre Levy, OLB, Lions

No defensive player delivered more top-24 or top-36 fantasy weeks in 2014 than Levy, who finished every game but 1 in starter range. But then he spent summer 2015 dealing with a mysterious hip injury that we couldn't get any info about. We all wound up underrating it's seriousness. Levy didn't see the field until the 5th game and played all of 17 snaps before hitting IR. We'll see how this offseason goes, but HC Jim Caldwell at least told the Oakland Press this month, "He looks great right now."


The Bills

Take 1 of the league's best defenses -- including arguably the NFL's top D-line -- add Rex Ryan, and you should find e-a-s-y IDP success ... right? Nope. The D, on whole, disappointed big time. Individually, DEs Mario Williams and Jerry Hughes and DT Marcell Dareus all let IDP owners down -- big time. (DT Kyle Williams at least missed 10 games after playing others with a knee injury.) I'll mention another miss at LB in a minute, but we all got the D-linemen wrong.


MISSES

Vic Beasley, DE, Falcons

I projected 52 total tackles (42 solo) and 8 sacks for this rookie back in the preseason. He delivered exactly half of each number.

Playing through a torn shoulder labrum probably didn't help, but he reportedly also dealt with it in his final year of college. And the guy only registered 5 total QB hits. If the shoulder did that, he should have been on the sideline.

Either way, I put too much faith into his impressive speed off the ball at Clemson and HC Dan Quinn's chances of turning Beasley into Chris Clemons right away. Olivier Vernon, Aaron Donald and Geno Atkins sat disturbingly behind the rookie in the preseason rankings.


Mychal Kendricks, ILB, Eagles

Kendricks' talent remains well worth the #11 spot in our default preseason LB rankings. A Week 2 hamstring injury, however, kept us from seeing whether Chip Kelly would keep him from delivering.

Our ranking put Kendricks 5 spots ahead of his ADP in MyFantasyLeague.com drafts last summer, and he fell short of each expectation level by finishing just 23rd in fantasy points per game. Even that's impressive, however, when you consider how his season went.

After the Week 2 injury, Kendricks returned for just 11 snaps in Week 4 before a tweak benched him again. He got back to 85.2% playing time in Week 7 but would reach 72% just 1 other time. Kendricks then played less than 57% of the snaps in 4 of the season's final 5 contests.

Eagles LBs got weird after Kendricks and Kiko Alonso went down in the same game. Jordan Hicks emerged as a surprise in both real life and fantasy. Demeco Ryans went in and out of the lineup. And now the new staff appears headed for a 4-3 base that throws all the LBs' roles into question. Let's see where things go this offseason.


Clay Matthews, LB, Packers

He said he didn't want to play inside. The Packers said they needed him to anyway. Matthews' numbers over the 2nd half of last season in the inside-outside role pointed to some serious upside. But then he finished 48th in points per game among LBs (depending on your format). Guess he didn't wanna stay there.

We'll see how Green Bay treats the position this offseason. The LB corps seems like it could use some fortifying both inside and outside.


Stephone Anthony, ILB, Saints

Anthony turned immediately into the top tackler after New Orleans booted veteran Curtis Lofton, but he didn't absorb quite as many of Lofton's tackles as we hoped he might. The rookie's 112 total stops tied for a solid 20th in the league, however, and he showed some of the big-play flair that you'd hope to find in his speed.

Anthony checked in outside the top 30 in points per game for the season, falling way short of our preseason #14 ranking. But we remain intrigued for his future.


Nigel Bradham, LB, Bills

Here's that promised Buffalo LB miss.

Bradham looked quite promising in finishing top 25 back in 2014 despite dealing with a knee injury. But then he stumbled in the 1st season under Rex Ryan. Bradham didn't suffer for playing time. Perhaps he suffered for the D-line failing to mesh with Ryan's system. Whatever the case, he wound up outside the top 60 in points per game -- adding an ankle injury that cost him the final 5 contests.

Bradham will be interesting to watch in free agency this offseason, heading into his age-27 year.


Calvin Pryor, S, Jets

HC Todd Bowles arrived from Arizona, where he'd helped turn safeties Tyrann Mathieu and Rashad Johnson into fantasy assets over the previous couple of seasons. The new defense promised to play Pryor in more of the true "strong" role for which he seems best suited, rather than Rex Ryan's preference for interchangeable safeties.

So we took a chance and projected him 12th among DBs at draft time. A DB66 finish found Pryor falling slightly short of that. Two straight disappointing seasons under proven defensive coaches will push the former 1st-round pick way down our 2016 IDP draft board ... assuming Pryor even retains his starting job with the Jets.


HITS

Ziggy Ansah, DE, Lions

I'm happy to say that I remained wary of the oft-injured Ansah heading into 2014 but then jumped fully aboard for last season.

MFL drafting found him going 14th on average heading into his 2nd season, but Ansah finished outside the top 20 in most formats. That didn't quell drafters' optimism a year ago, when Ansah climbed to 10th in positional ADP on MFL. But we vaulted him to 5th in our preseason projections -- and he outperformed even that expectation by finishing the season among the top 3 in many formats.

Ansah also proved wonderfully consistent at a position that often lacks consistency. He delivered sacks in 12 of 16 contests and finished just 4 games with fewer than 2 QB hits. You can count on another lofty projection for him here in 2016.


Fletcher Cox, DE, Eagles

Cox really started generating buzz as an emerging talent in 2014, his 3rd season in the NFL -- despite numbers that hadn't rocked anyone's IDP league.

That buzz spilled over into fantasy drafting last summer, where you could regularly find him taken among the top 20 linemen. But our #11 projection for him beat his MFL ADP by 5 places. And then Cox exceeded our expectations by finishing top 5 -- albeit with nearly 20% of his season points coming in a big Week 5 vs. New Orleans.


Malik Jackson, DE, Broncos

Unlike Ansah and Cox, Jackson didn't outperform our expectation for him. Depending on your scoring format, he might have matched it exactly.

Our default site numbers pegged him 26th among D-linemen, and that same scoring system found him 25th at season's end. I didn't see anyone else projecting Jackson inside their top 40 at the position heading into the season.


NaVorro Bowman, ILB, 49ers

Bowman started the summer with significant questions about the repaired knee that ended his 2013 prematurely in the playoffs and then wiped out his 2014. But he took the field for the 2nd and 3rd preseason games and posted a Bowman-style, 2-sack performance in the latter to make us feel comfier in trusting him.

IDP owners bought in overall, taking him 7th among LBs, on average, in MFL drafts. But we projected Bowman 3rd, even after knocking him down from 1st at the start of the preseason. He finished #3 and figures to line up in the same range when our 2016 numbers debut.


Telvin Smith, OLB, Jaguars

Smith stands out as the biggest sleeper hit on this whole list. He had his fans among IDP analysts last summer, but our #10 ranking for him at the position should have landed the 2nd-year Jaguar on a lot of DS teams -- considering his MFL ADP stood all the way down at 23. Turns out we should have liked him even more.

In his 1st full turn as a starter, Smith proved awesome. He finished just 3 of his 14 active weeks outside the top 30 fantasy LBs. For the year, he ranked 4th in total points and 2nd in points per game.

Smith's diminutive size for the position -- 223 pounds, officially -- might make durability a regular issue. But his cross-category scoring ability and enviable speed also makes him look like an IDP stud-in-the-making.


Ron Parker, DB, Chiefs

Parker didn't win you a title last year. But he also didn't lose you weeks with the kind of drastic peaks and valleys that make fantasy DBs so frustrating.

Going by our default scoring, Parker averaged 6.8 fantasy points per game for the year. He posted just 4 weeks of fewer than 6.0 and exceeded his average 7 times from Week 6 on. His biggest score came in Week 17, which didn't help most of us in our fantasy pursuits. But even if you take out that game, Parker's resulting average would have produced the position's #18 point total over 16 weeks. His actual total matched his 2014 tally almost identically. The fact that Parker did it with varied stats -- fewer tackles in 2015 but 5 sacks and 2 more INTs -- leaves me expecting continued production from him.

We had Parker 14th on our preseason DB board. He finished 11th (depending on your format). He floated somewhere outside the top 20 for just about everyone else -- outside the top 30 in general.

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