Dynasty IDP Rankings Decisions: Who Should You Keep?
Are we about to watch Dolphins S Jevon Holland leap past Bucs S Antoine Winfield Jr. in dynasty value?
Is Patrick Queen ascending, or settling into a disappointing plateau?
There are many ways to play – and win – at dynasty fantasy football. But the hardest part of the process just might be the sheer valuation of players.
How much does age matter?
Did we just witness a breakout year or an outlier season?
Am I giving up too early on this dude I loved as a rookie?
None of us will ever get all those answers right, but getting more right than wrong is the key to sustaining dynasty success. And we’ve heard you ask us to spend more time addressing such questions with our content throughout the year. Going forward, we promise to do just that.
We recently made significant updates to the dynasty rankings – across positions. You can check the overall or individual offensive positions to see where we settled on any players you might be pondering this offseason.
IDP remains my personal playground around here, though, and I have also overhauled the dynasty rankings for DL, LB and DB. But these rankings will certainly continue to evolve even through the offseason, and considering comparisons between individual players can often reveal to me that I believe something different than the existing rankings indicate.
So when I started getting the annual postseason “this guy or that guy” questions, I figured it’d be good to turn them into an article. And if we do it right, these considerations might just help us apply the decision-making tools to some other situations as well.
I put out a call on Twitter for player vs. player offseason conundrums and selected these 8 to break down here (with credit to the askers) …
@jacobo_moses: Falcons LB Deion Jones vs. Ravens LB Patrick Queen
This strikes me as a good place to start, because it’s a classic dynasty decision: Do I stick with the vet or take the younger talent?
Queen certainly wins on age. Despite having 2 NFL seasons behind him already, he won’t turn 23 until August. It’s certainly fair to assume that his best football remains ahead of him. But he falls short of beating Jones in my dynasty rankings.
Even though Jones will be heading into Year 7 this fall, he only just turned 27 in November. So the Falcons vet should still be in the midst of his playing prime. And although it might seem like he’s been dinged plenty during his career, Jones has actually missed just 1 total game over the past 3 seasons. More importantly, Jones has given us more to like over the past couple of years.
Let’s start with the most important factor: staying on the field. Jones has had just 3 total games among the past 3 years in which he has failed to reach 80% playing time. Last season found just 1 game short of 90%. He has played every snap in 21 of 32 contests over the past 2 years.
Queen’s playing time, meanwhile, has wavered. He did improve on a slow-ish start to his rookie year by going over 80% playing time in 10 of his final 13 outings for 2020, including both of Baltimore’s playoff games. Queen followed that by playing 84% or more in 4 straight games to open the 2021 season, but then came 7 straight at 75% playing time or less – with just 2 of those contests reaching 70%.
There was some injury stuff mixed in, but Queen also simply found journeyman Josh Bynes staying on the field ahead of him at times. To be fair, Queen rebounded to play 74% or more in each of the final 6 games. But he has yet to reach Jones’ weekly full-time status.
The former 1st-round pick also has underwhelmed statistically to this point. That’s less true if you score tackles for loss in your league. Only 3 non-edge LBs have more TFLs than Queen over his 2 years in the league. Otherwise, however, he has lagged in tackle production and offered little in the big-play categories. Both were also true for Queen’s college career, which found him spending just 1 year as a starter at LSU. And even beyond the stats, PFF hasn't graded the former 1st-round pick well to date ...
Jones’ fantasy production dipped in 2019 – the year following a 10-game foot fracture – but he has bounced back for top 15 finishes among LBs each of the past 2 campaigns.
You don’t need to quit on Queen just yet if you have room to stash him. But I sat below-consensus on him as a prospect and remain unexcited.
@Rosco15068: Cardinals LB Isaiah Simmons vs. Bengals LB Logan Wilson
This is the kind of decision you shouldn’t make unless you need to. I had both of these guys among my top 5 rookies 2 years ago, and each is coming off an encouraging season.
Wilson jumped into the starting lineup as an NFL sophomore and is closing out the year as a full-timer, despite having to come back from a 3-game December shoulder injury. Wilson’s top-20 fantasy scoring average was inflated a bit by his 4 INTs, but he has been delivering coverage numbers since college. Wilson snagged 10 INTs across 4 years at Wyoming and picked 2 in limited time as an NFL rookie. We can’t expect that production annually, but he’ll continue to carry upsie in that area.
Simmons went from a shockingly quiet rookie campaign to playing 92.4% of Cardinals defensive snaps in 2021. He ranked just 3rd on the team in tackles, but trailed leader S Jalen Thompson by a mere 9 solos and 7 assists. Simmons also tied for 2nd on the team with 7 passes defensed and forced 4 fumbles. That’s the kind of cross-category production we hoped to get from a guy who played myriad positions at Clemson.
If you absolutely have to choose between them, I’ll take the talent of Simmons. But both players sit among my top 15 LBs at the moment and look like desirable dynasty pieces.
@SethStair: Patriots Matt Judon vs. Titans Harold Landry vs. Saints Cameron Jordan
This one’s interesting for a couple of reasons. The obvious is the player comparisons, and we’ll get to that in a minute. But the other part is that this comparison doesn’t work for every league.
You might be reading this wondering why one would be deciding between 2 LBs and a DE. But I hope we’re drawing closer to a world where this is just 3 EDGE players.
For our purposes here, we’ll just treat it as such. Whereas I dismissed the age difference between Deion Jones and Patrick Queen above, I believe it plays a much bigger role for this decision.
Jordan has never missed a game in his NFL career. But he will be 33 the next time he starts an NFL game.
Judon might be older than you realize. He’ll be heading into his 7th pro season this fall, vs. Year 12 for Jordan. But Judon will turn 30 in the middle of August. He hit the league 2 years older than both Jordan and Landry.
The young Titan, meanwhile, will turn just 26 in June. Because they all hit this offseason as productive players, that factor alone makes me lean pretty easily toward Landry in this decision. But let’s not just leave it there.
To be fair, Judon has been the best at generating pressures over their shared seasons in the league. This chart shows how frequently each guy has generated a pressure vs. total pass-rushing snaps by year …
You should know that sacks can be volatile and not simply judge any of the 3 on his 2021 sack total. But the Pro Football Focus numbers show that Judon also fared best among the trio by generating a pressure once every 6.72 pass-rushing snaps in 2021. Jordan, on the other hand, has trended down for 2 straight years.
If Judon and Landry were the same age, I’d lean pretty strongly toward Judon. But they’re nearly 4 years apart. Further, the chart doesn’t show that Landry has operated as a full-timer whereas Judon has topped out around 80% playing time.
It will be interesting to see where Landry goes after tallying career-best per-game numbers in sacks, QB hits and tackles for loss in 2021. He fell just short of his personal high for pressures per game but ranked 9th among all players in total pressures.
@ErixonNathan: Jaguars S Andre Cisco vs. Jaguars S Andrew Wingard
This one is even easier for me, but more as a knock on the position than Wingard himself. If you’re choosing between a pair of DBs, chase upside. That could mean age, talent or situation. But it’s simply a position that behooves chasing upside over whatever appears proven.
Why? Year-to-year scoring is more volatile among DBs than any other position group. Even when you guess wrong and find your in-season roster falling short of production, you’ll nearly always be able to find options on waivers – even in most dynasty formats. Just look at this year’s final rankings, and you can find players such as Cowboys S Jayron Kearse and Packers CB Rasul Douglas. Neither was in an NFL starting lineup to open the year, but each finished as a top-20 fantasy contributor.
In this case, Cisco is the upside path. His near-silent rookie campaign shouldn’t be all that surprising. The 3rd-round pick lost nearly all of his final college season to an ACL tear, an injury he was still working back from last offseason. Cisco managed to avoid any setbacks during the year, and made his way into the starting lineup by the end. The former Syracuse safety played 90% and 100% of Jacksonville’s snaps over the final 2 games.
We’ll see what Cisco’s role looks like for 2022, at some point after we find out exactly who will coach him. For what it’s worth, the 22-year-old (come March) hopes to move around the field rather than settling as a deep safety. Coverage certainly looks like a strength, though, for a guy who grabbed 12 INTs over his 1st 2 college seasons. That included Cisco becoming the 1st freshman in 20 years to lead the nation in INTs.
Wingard, meanwhile, looks like more of a depth player. Jacksonville seemed to settle on him – rather than covet him – as a 2021 starter. We’ll see whether he sticks with the team, as Wingard hits restricted free agency in March.
Most importantly, there’s no real downside risk to choosing Cisco over Wingard, who finished outside the top 50 in fantasy points per game in his 1st starting turn.
Keep that aspect in mind as you make decisions in other situations. You’ll obviously consider what the upside for any players involved. And you should know that you will get some of these decisions wrong. But what’s the downside risk to letting go of either guy?
In this instance, the worst-case scenario for dropping Cisco would be then watching him turn into something like Kevin Byard for another dynasty squad. The downside risk on choosing Wingard? That he hangs on as a decent tackle collector while Cisco never pans out.
Gimme Cisco and hope.
@joshraymer: Dolphins S Jevon Holland vs. Buccaneers S Antoine Winfield Jr.
Holland arrived as an early 2nd-round pick (36th overall) in April and quickly ascended to a full-time role. Despite opening the year as a reserve, he snatched a starting spot by Week 5 and then played 97% of snaps or more in 11 of the final 12 contests. And the rookie played well.
Holland actually finished the year as the 4th-best safety by Pro Football Focus grades. He defensed 10 passes and even notched 2.5 sacks.
Winfield, meanwhile, checked in 2nd at the position in PFF grades. Fantasy wise, he also followed a nice rookie year by delivering the 4th most points per game among all DBs. Take the 12 starts for Holland, and the Dolphin checked in somewhere around DB24 in points per game, depending on your format.
But there’s more to the comparison than how they scored in 2021. Where they played, for example, is a key reason I’m favoring Winfield.
Both safeties got pass-rushing shots this past season. Holland more than doubled Winfield in that category, though, racking up the 2nd-most pass rushes among all safeties. His 65 total opportunities in that area trailed only teammate Brandon Jones, according to PFF.
If that continues, it’ll enhance Holland’s upside. But don’t bet on it. For one thing, Miami is headed for a new coaching staff. For another, Holland wasn’t even as involved in the pass rush last season as you might think. Of his 65 chances, 22 came in the Week 10 win over Baltimore. He had 7 the week before that and 8 the game before that. From Week 11 to the end of the year, Holland totaled 15 more pass rushes over 6 games.
The rookie spent most of his time at deep safety, which is the toughest spot at which to produce consistent fantasy numbers. (Tackle opportunities aren’t so plentiful when you’re farthest from the ball.)
Winfield played 66.5% of his snaps at deep safety last season, down slightly from his 70% mark as a rookie. He also has played more slot snaps in each of his 2 seasons (9.7% and 12.5%) than Holland did last year (4%). Slot and box snaps get safeties closers to the ball and help stat production.
There’s plenty of overall upside to Holland, and we’ll see how the new coaching staff plans to deploy him. But I’ll take Winfield, who carries just as much upside – as a fellow 2nd-rounder – has already produced and already had a better role.
@thedukeofchu (supplied the next 3): Lions EDGE Charles Harris vs. Lions EDGE Julian Okwara
This one’s a little tougher. Harris finally enjoyed a breakthrough type season in his 5th year in the league and with his 3rd team. His 7.5 sacks more than doubled his previous high. His 16 QB hits matched his combined total for the previous 3 years. According to PFF, Harris’ 52 total pressures tied for 21st among edge players, beating players such as Brian Burns, Cameron Jordan and Josh Allen.
Harris is headed for unrestricted free agency in March, which obviously adds uncertainty. He’ll turn just 27 the same month, though, and has time to show 2021 wasn’t a fluke. After all, the guy did enter the league as a 2017 first-round pick.
So what about Okwara? There was some flashiness to his play at Notre Dame. There was decent production: 13 sacks, 19.5 tackles for loss in 22 games over his final 2 seasons. Then he landed in Detroit as a 3rd-round pick … and hasn’t played much. Even this past year, with (brother) Romeo Okwara and Trey Flowers each losing 10+ games to injuries, Julian Okwara managed to play just 40% of the snaps over his 13 outings.
We’ll see whether Detroit brings back Harris and what else happens at the position. But Flowers and the elder Okwara don’t look like they’re going anywhere, which makes it tough to see opportunity or Okwara Part 2.
So if I’m deciding ahead of free agency, I’ll take a shot on Harris’ encore over chasing the former 3rd-round pick.
Lions LB Derrick Barnes vs. Broncos LB Jonas Griffith
Here’s 1 for deeper leagues, and each player has a chance to be fun.
This is how Lions GM Brad Holmes described Barnes late in the 4th-round pick’s rookie campaign:
"He was learning how to play linebacker last year," Holmes said, referring to Barnes’ final college season. "Then he makes the jump to the NFL and he’s still learning how to play linebacker. Now I will say, the growth that he’s made from the start of the season until just this past game has been tremendous. ... I’m encouraged by the growth that he’s shown."
Barnes collected 54 tackles over just 6 games in his final year at Purdue. Before that, he tallied 7.5 sacks among 11 tackles for loss as a DE his junior season. Clearly sized better for an off-ball LB role – 6 feet tall, 238 pounds – Barnes’ well-above-average speed score is likely a key reason coaches have moved him around to try to maximize his impact.
This offseason will be interesting to watch for insights into Barnes’ development – along with Detroit’s other moves at LB. Alex Anzalone and Jalen Reeves-Maybin are set to hit free agency in March. So whether the Lions bring either or both back could start to signal how they feel about Barnes.
Griffith, on the other hand, came kinda out of nowhere in 2021. He signed with the 49ers as an undrafted free agent in 2020 but failed to stick on even the practice squad. After a brief stay on Indy’s practice squad that October, however, he returned to a practice-squad role with San Francisco and then signed a reserve/future contract after the season.
That kept him by the bay until August, when Denver acquired him and a 2022 seventh-rounder for a 2022 sixth and a 2023 seventh. So the Broncos didn’t give up much to get him, but it was something.
Still, Griffith didn’t play a defensive snap until Week 14. But myriad injuries to Denver LBs allowed him to start the final 4 games, and he racked up 40 tackles over that span.
So is he just some dude that lucked into late-season opportunity and will soon disappear back into oblivion?
At 6’4 and 250 pounds, Griffith sports an even stronger speed score than Barnes – even if you tack the 0.05-second penalty on to his 4.62-second pro day 40 time (for the historically favorable timing of pro days). Griffith also recorded above-average measurements in the bench press, vertical, broad jump, short shuttle and 3-cone drill. And he produced in college.
Playing at FCS Indiana State, Griffith led his conference in tackles each of his final 2 years. He topped 100 total stops in each of his final 3 campaigns and collected 14 sacks and 28.5 tackles for loss for his career.
Among Denver LBs, likely only 2021 rookie Baron Browning is locked into a role. Alexander Johnson, Josey Jewell and Kenny Young are all in line for unrestricted free agency. Micah Kiser will be a restricted free agent. Even Griffith will be an exclusive-rights free agent.
Griffith is an interesting stash for deep leagues. Odds are still against him being an impact player going forward, though. So don’t go nuts trying to make room for him.
As for Griffith vs. Barnes, let’s see what free agency tells us. If you have to decide before then, Barnes is better positioned for opportunity.
Raiders S Trevon Moehrig vs. Falcons S Richie Grant vs. Broncos S Caden Sterns
Let me start by saying that you shouldn’t sweat your safety decisions too much. Everyone at the position is more likely to be inconsistent year to year at best, rather than turning into a can’t-cut weekly starter.
All 3 of these DBs entered the NFL as 2021 draft picks. Only Moehrig earned a regular starting gig in their shared 1st season. He did so as a deep safety, though, spending 92% of his snaps in that role, according to PFF. That furthest-from-the-ball alignment makes it especially tough to score regular fantasy points.
Grant landed with the Falcons in Round 2, after Atlanta traded down from the pick Denver spent on RB Javonte Williams. He didn’t log a single start as a rookie but “evolved most as a nickel” corner, according to the team website, spending the final month working exclusively there. We could see Grant take over that role in 2022 or compete for a starting safety spot. Veterans Erik Harris and Duron Harmon controlled those this past season, but each arrived on a 1-year deal.
Sterns joined the Broncos as a mere 5th-rounder but cracked the starting lineup twice when S Kareem Jackson was out. Jackson now faces unrestricted free agency heading into his age-34 campaign, while Denver welcomes a new coaching staff.
So who are we keeping? If you can wait until May, then do so. That should give us a chance to see what chances Grant and/or Sterns might have at starting this year. And I’d lean toward a guy expected to start in 2022.
That could be all 3 of them. And although Moehrig holts the advantage of already being in the lineup, Grant looks like he’d occupy a more favorable role. Sterns, meanwhile, is an elite athlete – even among NFL DBs …
He also played more than half of his 2021 snaps in the box or slot. We’ll see what the new coaching staff has in store. But if all 3 start this fall, Moehrig would probably land 3rd among the group in my projections.
If you have to decide early, it’s honestly a dart throw. You could make an argument for any of the 3. I’d lean Grant 1st in that case, as the highest-drafted of the trio.