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).