2022 IDP Rookie Rankings (Updated 5/24)
The IDP landscape is changing in one key way … (though it’s doing so a lot slower than it should). And this year, that’s altering these rookie listings.
For years we split defenses into 2 buckets: 4-3 or 3-4.
Rush the passer from the outside of a 4-3 defense? You’re a DE. Do so in a 3-4 defense? You’re a LB.
We coveted the DL/DE designation for those players, because the comparative scarcity at DL and the tackle-heaviness of off-ball LBs added significant value.
Now we talk about all these guys as “edge” players. We know many (most?) defenses around the league run hybrid schemes. We know that there’s really no difference between 4-3 DE and 3-4 OLB, at least in terms of what they do on a given play.
Commissioner sites are slowly coming around to this shift as well. So rather than break the positions down into the 3 traditional parts, I’ve added an “EDGE” group this time.
Depending on where you play, of course, a particular player might still carry a DL or LB designation – and that will probably still matter for his valuation in your league. Even in that case, however, I’d caution you not to overrate that factor. Three years ago, I grabbed Jaguars 1st-round EDGE Josh Allen late in Round 3 in a dynasty format that makes the top rookie DEs sensible options near the Round 1-2 border. Allen slipped an extra round-and-a-half or so because he carried a “LB” designation. A year later, though, Jacksonville had a new coaching staff … and he was suddenly a DE.
If you’re trying to break a tie between 2 players, you might use the position tag to help decide. But just like we don’t want to overrate a seemingly good or bad landing spot, don’t crush a defensive stud just because his initial position designation seems suboptimal.
Now let’s get to the reason you’re here …
1. Devin Lloyd, LB, Jaguars
It might make more sense in your format to grab an edge player 1st here, and I wouldn’t have any problem with reaching over Lloyd. You’d be doing so for a player who went nearly a full round earlier in the NFL Draft. Frankly, I even began these rankings with the next 2 players ahead of Lloyd.
I changed, though, because I think there’s more separation at LB than among the EDGE group. Lloyd might have gone after Georgia’s Quay Walker on Thursday night, but he blew away the former Georgia defender in college production.
Lloyd led this LB class in career tackles for loss per game. He also ranked among the top 7 in solos and total tackles per game and in total passes defensed. In his final season, Lloyd nabbed 4 INTs.
The 2-time Butkus Award finalist (nation’s top LB) earned 1st-team All-America status as a senior. And his tackle numbers would have been even larger had he not played more than 15% of his snaps at EDGE in each of his 4 seasons.
He’ll almost definitely shift to full-time off-ball LB in the pros, which leaves room for even more production in the tackle and coverage categories. And even though the Jaguars spent big on LB Foye Oluokun in free agency, there’s still room for Lloyd to also grab an immediate full-time role.
2. Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE, Giants
3. Aidan Hutchinson, EDGE, Lions
Wait. Where’s Travon Walker … the guy who plays the same position and got drafted ahead of both of these players? Well, Walker might be the best athlete among the trio. But when all 3 stand above-average in that area, I’ll lean toward the 2 that also bring production.
Hutchinson racked up 68 total pressures last season, according to Pro Football Focus, doing so on 18.9% of pass-rushing snaps. Thibodeaux delivered 44 pressures at a 16.9% rate. Walker’s numbers: 21 and 8.2%.
The former Bulldog may very well end up the best of the bunch in the pros. But they all went closely together at the top of the draft. So I feel comfier chasing the proven production.
Why Thibodeaux over Hutchinson? He tested better athletically and led the class in career tackles for loss per game (1.18 vs. Hutchinson's 0.76).
4. Travon Walker, EDGE, Jaguars
5. Jermaine Johnson II, EDGE, Jets
6. George Karlaftis, EDGE, Chiefs
Walker probably has a higher ceiling than Johnson or Karlaftis, each of whom went significantly later in Round 1. But there’s also downside risk to the lack of college production.
All 3 delivered strong speed scores in pre-draft testing, though. (Walker, of course, fared best in that category.) Johnson, meanwhile, ranked 3rd in the class in final-season sacks per game. Karlaftis checked in 3rd in final-season tackles for loss per game.
All 3 landed in spots with immediate need for pass-rushing help.
7. Nakobe Dean, LB, Eagles
8. Quay Walker, LB, Packers
9. Troy Andersen, LB, Falcons (***UPDATED 5/24***)
I’ve gotten myself in trouble before by ignoring draft capital – specifically at LB. Just last year, I opened rookie draft season downgrading Micah Parsons vs. the other top LBs for his opt-out (COVID) year and some questions about his play awareness.
Perhaps I’m making the same mistake here, but this looks like a totally different situation.
Walker’s popularity climbed through pre-draft season, thanks at least in part to his strong testing: 95th percentile speed score at 6’4, 242 pounds.
He sports the clear size advantage over his college teammate, and Dean (5’11, 229) slid all the way to Round 3.
Walker is probably the “safer” option here, and I wouldn’t fault you for going that way. But it seems the primary reason for the large draft-capital gap between these 2 players is league-wide concern over a shoulder injury for which Dean declined surgery.
Your fantasy team isn’t an NFL franchise, though. You should feel more comfortable taking a risk in a high-ceiling player with red flags. If it doesn’t work out, you’ve lost only the opportunity to pick a different player who may or may not have worked out. And that’s why I don’t mind taking a shot on Dean.
Dean arrived at Georgia a year later than Walker, yet he started 25 career games to Walker’s 17. With both starting 15 games in the same LB corps last year, Dean edged Walker in total tackles while beating him handily in other categories:
– 10.5 to 5.5 in tackles for loss
– 6 to 1.5 in sacks
– 2-0 in both INTs and forced fumbles
Dean has been lauded for how quickly he learned the playbook at Georgia, and Eagles GM Howie Roseman has already said he believes Dean will be able to avoid surgery on that shoulder and should be ready for training camp. That would give the rookie a chance to immediately take over a Philly LB corps that has spent at least several years cycling through middling-to-poor players.
Walker, meanwhile, joins a Green Bay LB corps that just spent big to keep De’Vondre Campbell from leaving in free agency. That doesn’t mean Walker can’t join or even overtake Campbell in playing full-time snaps. But it’s more of a situation hurdle than Dean faces.
***Update: Andersen looks particularly intriguing, and I moved him up to this tier after reading that Jeff Schultz of The Athletic expects the Falcons to dump Deion Jones this summer.
Andersen began his Montana State career playing RB and QB, and has just 1 full season of defense behind him. But he’s a top-shelf athlete – 4.42-second 40 at 6’3.5, 243 pounds – and racked up big numbers in that lone season. Andersen ranked 3rd in this LB class in final-year solos per game (5.5), 2nd in solo-tackle share (14.9%) and 4th in total tackles per game (9.8). He added 14 tackles for loss, 7 passes defensed and a pair of INTs.
The potential for Jones leaving town even earlier would obviously open up opportunity that much more quickly.
10. Kyle Hamilton, S, Ravens
Hamilton went a half-round ahead of any other safety in the class, and it’s possible even his 14th-overall draft position proves to be later than it should have been.
Hamilton showed position versatility in the Notre Dame secondary and a bit of cross-category production (led by 8 career INTs). He’s not near the level of Chargers S Derwin James in this area, but perhaps a “light” version.
Landing in Baltimore clouds his immediate path to playing time. The Ravens threw money at S Marcus Williams in free agency and return S Chuck Clark. But I’m not downgrading this highly regarded rookie just because I don’t know his immediate role.
11. Sam Williams, EDGE, Cowboys
12. Boye Mafe, EDGE, Seahawks
13. Arnold Ebiketie, EDGE, Falcons
14. Christian Harris, LB, Texans
How to sort this crew might differ by format, but there’s intriguing upside to all of them. Williams set the Ole Miss single-season record with 12.5 sacks last season and rocked a 99th-percentile speed score at 6’4, 261 pounds in pre-draft testing. He might have been pushed down the board for off-field factors. Williams was suspended in July 2020 after being charged with sexual battery. Ole Miss reinstated him that September, however, after the charges were dropped. He now joins a Dallas defense desperate for pass-rush help opposite Demarcus Lawrence. Williams just might compete for a starting gig right away.
Mafe (97th percentile) also showed out in speed score, while Ebiketie checked in a little above average (58th). Ebiketie enjoyed the more productive 2021, however, averaging 1.5 tackles for loss per game vs. Mafe’s 0.8.
Harris’ numbers don’t pop quite so much … likely because he played at Alabama instead of the FCS level. But he arrived there as a 4-star recruit and then spent 3 years as a starter. Harris earned freshman All-America honors in 2019 and tallied 7+ tackles for loss in each of his 3 seasons. Harris’ size is fine (6’0, 235), and his speed is also top-notch (97th percentile). Landing in Houston only enhances his opportunity for early impact.
15. Logan Hall, DE, Buccaneers
16. DeMarvin Leal, DE, Steelers
Hall and Leal are the 1st non-edge D-linemen on this list. Each projects as a 3-4 DE type. Each brings significant tackle upside for the position, some pass-rushing potential and the draft capital to suggest early shots at starting.
17. David Ojabo, EDGE, Ravens
18. Nik Bonitto, EDGE, Broncos
19. Josh Paschal, EDGE, Lions
Ojabo is a “decision” player. Had he not torn his left Achilles’ tendon, he likely would have gone well inside Round 1 and sat higher in these rankings. But the injury obviously adds challenge to the already challenging task of succeeding in the NFL. This seems like a good level at which to take a shot. Ojabo looks like a terrific athlete for the position (116.7 speed score). He does also come with just 1 season of starting duty and production at Michigan.
Bonitto increased his production each year at Oklahoma, going from 0.5 tackles for loss per game to 1.15 and then 1.36 over the past 3 seasons. He then beat Paschal in speed score (116.8 vs. 103.5) in pre-draft testing.
Paschal profiles as at least a quality run defender. His career-high 15 tackles for loss last season could signal more pass-rush juice than his mere 13 career sacks indicate.
20. Lewis Cine, S, Vikings
21. Daxton Hill, S, Bengals
22. Jalen Pitre, S, Texans
23. Jaquan Brisker, S, Bears
After Hamilton, it’s tough to differentiate among this next group of safeties. Hill followed Hamilton as the 2nd safety off the board – 15 slots later at 31st overall. Cine went at the very next pick. Pitre became a Texan with the 5th pick of Day 2, and then came Brisker 11 spots later.
Hill probably faces the toughest path to immediate starting duty, with Jessie Bates III and Vonn Bell in place for the Bengals. But Bates is currently on the franchise tender and doesn’t seem to have a great relationship with the front office. Hill also has potential to play some slot CB while waiting for a starting safety role. All 4 of these players have paths to immediate contribution.
24. Drake Jackson, EDGE, 49ers
I’m not sure what to make of Jackson, to be honest. His best college production came in his freshman season. The former Trojan dropped weight for his final campaign, but word is that NFL teams want him to get back up into the 270s rather than then 250 he measured at the Scouting Combine.
We didn’t get a 40 time for Jackson, so I don’t know how he stacks up in speed score. But enough draft analysts pointed to him as a guy with potential that I’m willing to take a shot in this range on the late-2nd-rounder.
25. Leo Chenal, LB, Chiefs
26. Chad Muma, LB, Jaguars
27. Brian Asamoah, LB, Vikings
28. Channing Tindall, LB, Dolphins
29. Brandon Smith, LB, Panthers
30. Malcolm Rodriguez, LB, Lions
The first 5 LBs in this range would have looked better if the draft had treating them a little differently.
Muma and Chenal each bring stellar testing and college production. But each also landed in an LB corps crowded with young players. Muma would need to push past either Foye Oluokun or classmate Devin Lloyd to find a full-time role. Chenal would need to topple either Nick Bolton or Willie Gay Jr. I’d give Chenal the edge there. But I won’t argue if you prefer Muma. Both look good as players.
Asamoah and Tindall each ran great in pre-draft testing. Tindall might not have had a chance to show his full potential yet, with Nakobe Dean and Quay Walker gobbling playing time in the Georgia LB corps. Pro Football Focus graded him 11th in coverage last season among 449 LBs who played at least 200 snaps.
Smith was a heralded recruit who didn’t quite seem to live up to his billing but still left Penn State a year early. If he can put it all together – 4.52 speed at 6’4, 250 pounds – in the pros, there’s a path to quick impact in a Carolina defense soft at LB.
Rodriguez didn’t find a home until Round 6 of the NFL Draft, 2-3 rounds later than the other 5 LBs listed with him here. But he just seems like a player worth betting on at this stage.
Before arriving at Oklahoma State, Rodriguez won 3 straight Oklahoma state titles as a high school QB, also earning state defensive player of the year honors as a senior. He was a state-champion wrestler and entered the Cowboys’ starting lineup as a sophomore. Although he’s a little short (5’11), Rodriguez delivered a 90th-percentile speed score and checked in 21st in PFF coverage grade among 449 LBs with 200+ snaps.
He could challenge for a starting spot right away in an unexciting Detroit LB corps. I'm tempted to move Rodriguez higher in this tier, but I'm trying not to underrate the fact that he lasted until Round 6. Ultimately, I guess I'd treat him as a guy you can wait and grab.
31. Jordan Davis, DT, Eagles
32. Devonte Wyatt, DT, Packers
33. Phidarian Mathis, DT, Commanders
34. Travis Jones, DT, Ravens
None of these DTs promises difference-making stat contributions. They’re likely just factors for DT-required formats, though there’s potential for any of the 4 to collect solid tackle numbers. I wouldn’t go out of my way for any 1 vs. the other 3. Davis’ freakish athleticism makes him enticing, but keep in mind that he managed to stay on the field for less than one-third of Georgia’s defensive snaps last season.
35. DeAngelo Malone, EDGE, Falcons
36. Cameron Thomas, EDGE, Cardinals
37. Dominique Robinson, EDGE, Bears
38. Micah McFadden, LB, Giants
39. Damone Clark, LB, Cowboys
40. Chance Campbell, LB, Giants
Whaddya need? Whaddya want? Whodya like?
I’m not going to make a strong argument for or against anyone in this range. And if you need a CB, feel free to reach for any of them ahead of this whole group. I didn’t bother including any corners because I wouldn’t bother taking 1 in a rookie draft. That’s the most fungible position in all of fantasy football. Yes, even more so than kicker. (At least there’s some scarcity to kickers.)
As for the guys I did rank … there’s upside and red flags to all 3 edge players here. Robinson’s progression will be interesting to watch. He arrived at Miami (Ohio) as a dual-threat QB and then spent 3 years at WR before playing EDGE the past 2. He didn’t start a single game at the position but produced enough as a part-timer last year (8.5 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks) to garner 3rd-team All-MAC and get drafted in the middle of Round 3. You’ll likely need to be patient with him if you select him.
McFadden and Campbell each bring upside, and they join a LB corps that could be wide open by 2023. McFadden was the Florida high school player of the year as a senior, when he racked up 211 tackles, 39 of those for losses. He tallied 12.5 sacks among 26 tackles for loss in 20 games at Indiana over the past 2 years. That included delivering 43% of the Hoosier’s sacks and 28.2% of the tackles for loss in 2021.
Campbell registered a 79th-percentile speed score in pre-draft testing and tallied 16.7% of team tackles for loss in his lone season at Ole Miss, after 3 at Maryland.
Clark led this class in share of solo tackles (15.4%) and total tackles (15.5%), racking up 52 more stops and 3 more tackles for loss than any of his LSU teammates. He looks like a player who would have been drafted earlier, but Clark had neck-fusion surgery that’s expected to keep him out for the 2022 season. That Dallas still drafted him in Round 5 points to the Cowboys expecting him to return from it beyond that.
1. Logan Hall, DE, Buccaneers
2. DeMarvin Leal, DE, Steelers
3. Jordan Davis, DT, Eagles
4. Devonte Wyatt, DT, Packers
5. Phidarian Mathis, DT, Commanders
6. Travis Jones, DT, Ravens
7. Zachary Carter, DL, Bengals
8. Perrion Winfrey, DT, Browns
9. Eyioma Uwazurike, DE, Broncos
1. Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE, Giants
2. Aidan Hutchinson, EDGE, Lions
3. Travon Walker, EDGE, Jaguars
4. Jermaine Johnson II, EDGE, Jets
5. George Karlaftis, EDGE, Chiefs
6. Sam Williams, EDGE, Cowboys
7. Boye Mafe, EDGE, Seahawks
8. Arnold Ebiketie, EDGE, Falcons
9. David Ojabo, EDGE, Ravens
10. Nik Bonitto, EDGE, Broncos
11. Josh Paschal, EDGE, Lions
12. Drake Jackson, EDGE, 49ers
13. DeAngelo Malone, EDGE, Falcons
14. Cameron Thomas, EDGE, Cardinals
15. Dominique Robinson, EDGE, Bears
16. Myjai Sanders, EDGE, Cardinals
17. Alex Wright, EDGE, Browns
18. Micheal Clemons, EDGE, Jets
19. Amare Barno, EDGE, Panthers
20. Kingsley Enagbare, EDGE, Packers
21. Daniel Hardy, EDGE, Montana State
22. Tyreke Smith, EDGE, Seahawks
1. Devin Lloyd, LB, Jaguars
2. Nakobe Dean, LB, Eagles
3. Quay Walker, LB, Packers
4. Troy Andersen, LB, Falcons
5. Christian Harris, LB, Texans
6. Leo Chenal, LB, Chiefs
7. Chad Muma, LB, Jaguars
8. Brian Asamoah, LB, Vikings
9. Channing Tindall, LB, Dolphins
10. Brandon Smith, LB, Panthers
11. Malcolm Rodriguez, LB, Lions
12. Micah McFadden, LB, Giants
13. Damone Clark, LB, Cowboys
14. Chance Campbell, LB, Giants
15. Terrel Bernard, LB, Bills
16. D’Marco Jackson, LB, Saints
17. Kyron Johnson, LB, Eagles
18. Darrian Beavers, LB, Giants
19. Devin Harper, LB, Cowboys
1. Kyle Hamilton, S, Ravens
2. Lewis Cine, S, Vikings
3. Daxton Hill, S, Bengals
4. Jalen Pitre, S, Texans
5. Jaquan Brisker, S, Bears
6. Nick Cross, S, Colts
7. Bryan Cook, S, Chiefs
8. Derek Stingley, CB, Texans
9. Ahmad Gardner, CB, Jets
10. Trent McDuffie, CB, Chiefs
11. Kyler Gordon, CB, Chiefs
12. Kaiir Elam, CB, Bills
13. Andrew Booth Jr., CB, Vikings
14. JT Woods, S, Chargers
15. Cam Taylor-Britt, DB, Bengals
16. Dane Belton, S, Giants
17. Kerby Joseph, S, Lions
18. Percy Butler, S, Commanders
19. Alontae Taylor, CB, Saints
20. Delarrin Turner-Yell, S, Broncos
21. Tycen Anderson, S, Bengals
22. Martin Emerson, CB, Browns
23. Cordale Flott, CB, Giants
24. Marcus Jones, CB, Patriots
25. Coby Bryant, CB, Seahawks
26. Damarri Mathis, CB, Broncos