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IDP Draft Tiers -- DL (Updated)

By Matt Schauf 1:08am EDT 8/29/18


You've probably already seen our 2018 DL rankings (including some updates today), but do the projections really tell the story of where separation lies?

Not always.

Khalil Mack's continue absence leaves us questioning his rank. J.J. Watt's health will remain a question until we see him in season. And plenty other question marks reside throughout the position.

So who should you target and where? Let's get into that with this tiers for fantasy football drafts.

Joey Bosa, DE, Chargers
Chandler Jones, DE, Cardinals
Khalil Mack, DE, Raiders
Myles Garrett, DE, Browns

As of this writing, the news on Mack is that other teams are asking about him -- not that the Raiders are nearing a deal or that he's back on the field. So I'd still draft him this weekend. But I wouldn't do so with Bosa and Jones on the board. Honestly ... right now ... I might have a hard time on draft night selecting Mack over Garrett. There's clearly no shortage of upside to either guy.

Overall, this group presents 4 players capable of leading the league in sacks while also delivering strong tackle production.

Melvin Ingram, DE, Chargers
J.J. Watt, DE, Texans
Cameron Jordan, DE, Saints

A full-strength Watt would belong a tier above, but we haven't seen that guy in a while. Will we ever again? I'm not sure we'll know before the season begins. That said, I still have no problem betting on him fairly high among D-linemen.

Any of these 3 is also capable of leading the position in scoring, but they don't quite match the ceilings of the quartet above (again, unless Watt is back to full strength).

Trey Flowers, DE, Patriots
Calais Campbell, DE, Jaguars
Jason PIerre-Paul, DE, Buccaneers
Aaron Donald, DE, Rams
DeMarcus Lawrence, DE, Cowboys
Everson Griffen, DE, Vikings

Any member of this group could deliver a 10+ sack season. Everyone but Flowers has already done so at least once, and Flowers tied for 7th in the league in QB hits last year -- his 1st season as a full-time starter.

Campbell has been a terrific IDP performer throughout his career, but he might be overvalued a bit this summer. He beat his previous career high by 5.5 sacks last year and posted the 2nd largest tackle tally of his career. He'll turn 32 on Sept. 1.

Bruce Irvin, DE, Raiders
DeForest Buckner, DT, 49ers
Carlos Dunlap, DE, Bengals
Muhammad Wilkerson, DE, Packers

We all cheered when Mack gained DE status on MyFantasyLeague.com (and other commish sites). But Irvin enjoyed a much quieter -- though arguably larger -- boost in fantasy value. The same score that left him outside the top 45 LBs last season would have ranked 10th among linemen.

Buckner is the guy to pay attention to here if you need to start a DT. The next guys at that position reside 2 tiers lower on this list. Buckner's sacks fell from 6 to 3 last season, but his QB hits increased from 18 to 22. The Niners clearly believe he possesses further pass-rushing upside, giving him snaps on the edge this summer.

Danielle Hunter, DE, Vikings
Mario Addison, DE, Panthers
Ezekiel Ansah, DE, Lions
Cameron Heyward, DE, Steelers
Yannick Ngakoue, DE, Jaguars

You might think Ansah belongs higher than this after his 12-sack 2017, but 6 of those came in the final 2 games. He remains a highly inconsistent producer, with a bothersome injury history.

Hunter has a chance to jump into the upper tiers this season. Just 23 (until Oct. 29), he's likely still ascending as he heads into Year 4. At the same time, he notched just 11 total QB hits (including 7 sacks) last season.

We're still in a range here where any player could reach double-digit sacks.

Akiem Hicks, DE, Bears
Ndamukong Suh, DT, Rams
Kawann Short, DT, Panthers
Vic Beasley, DE, Falcons
Brandon Graham, DE, Eagles
Jurrell Casey, DE, Titans
Frank Clark, DE, Seahawks
Cameron Wake, DE, Dolphins
Jabaal Sheard, DE, Colts
Emmanuel Ogbah, DE, Browns
Takkarist McKinley, DE, Falcons

This tier carries us through the end of the top 30, and most IDP leagues aren't drafting past that level. You can see a mix of "floor" candidates (Hicks, Casey) and high-upside sack collectors (Wake, McKinley). Sticking a boom/bust guy on your bench late can be a good idea.

I moved Graham down to this range recently after he spent most of camp and the preseason on the PUP following ankle surgery. Even if he's moving fine when the season begins, Philly has more than enough D-line depth to limit his snaps early in the season -- and reason to do so.


Other DTs worth chasing

Damon Harrison, Giants
Geno Atkins, Bengals
Malik Jackson, Jaguars
Fletcher Cox, Eagles
Gerald McCoy, Buccaneers
Tom Johnson, Seahawks

Need to start a DT but missed out on the 3 listed among the tiers above? This crew should produce at least 5 weekly starters for such a format. Harrison's overall fantasy value jumps in leagues with tackle-heavy scoring. We'll see what the Giants' new defensive scheme does to his numbers, though.

Johnson is the least familiar name on this list, but he's worth noting because of the 12 sacks he tallied across his 1st 2 seasons as a Viking. Johnson's sack production dropped off the past 2 years, but he appears headed for the 1st full-time starting role of his career in his age-33 season.


Reserves with upside

Robert Quinn, DE, Dolphins
Leonard Williams, DE, Jets
Julius Peppers, DE, Panthers
Derek Barnett, DE, Eagles

The projections didn't quite get these 4 into the top 30 among D-linemen, but each is certainly capable of vaulting into that range this season.

Quinn has generated buzz since landing in Miami via offseason trade. He quietly bounced back for 8.5 sacks with the Rams last season after losing 15 total games to injury over the previous 2 years. Now he appears set to start across from Cameron Wake. That can't hurt.

Williams might not ever deliver us a bunch of sacks. But his 3-year low (2) in that category last year coincided with a 3-year high in QB hits (25). So there's at least upside back to his 7 sacks from 2016.

A 38-year-old lineman doesn't seem like someone to bet on, but Peppers racked up 11 sacks at age 37 a year ago. He doesn't bring the tackle floor he once did, but the veteran only once went consecutive games without a sack in 2017.

Barnett flashed a bit as a 1st-round rookie for last year's champs, but DC Jim Schwartz reportedly considers him a candidate to take a big leap in Year 2. Barnett delivered 32 sacks and 52 total tackles for loss over 3 college seasons -- notching at least 9 sacks every year.

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