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IDP Training Camp Battles

By Jared Smola | Updated on Tue, 23 May 2023 . 1:27 PM EDT

by Matt Schauf

I’ll be honest with you. There’s a decent chance that none of these battles or situations impacts your IDP drafting at all. Each position is deep enough to keep you from needing to bother with uncertainty.

That doesn’t mean you can’t find value in the eventual answers to some of these questions. So even if you can’t imagine drafting any option in a particular battle, read on for names to stash. After all, how high did you have NaVorro Bowman at this point last year? Or Jason McCourty? The latter won a camp battle. The former was a deep sleeper at best.

As for 2012, let’s start with a few muddled situations that are tough to sort into neat battles ...

 

Carolina LBs

Here’s how it will probably go in your league: Luke Kuechly will go first among Panthers LBs. Jon Beason will follow a couple of rounds or so later. James Anderson might go as a late reserve. Frankly, that’s the way things should fall. Sorting out the LBs will be a primary focus in Carolina’s camp. An injured Beason allowed the rookie to man the middle in offseason workouts. The guess here is that holds into the regular season. If the team wanted to keep Beason in the middle and stick Kuechly on the weak side, coaches would have said so during OTAs and/or minicamp. Instead, even Beason has said he doesn’t know where he’ll line up. Translation: The kid will have to screw up to not get the MLB gig. Kuechly and Beason figure to be the passing-down LBs, which limits the value on Anderson. Further intruding on his outlook is Thomas Davis’ return. Davis has torn more ACLs than Astroturf, putting him beyond fantasy-draft consideration. He’s a talented player when healthy, though, and the Panthers didn’t keep him around to pose for trading cards. Davis’ playing time could also come at Beason’s expense, but it seems more likely to impact Anderson. The SLB has been a fantasy revelation each of the past 2 years, but injuries to others boosted his stock each time.

 

Denver LBs

Nate Irving is the exciting name for close defensive followers. He’s the tall, rangy, athletic LB the Broncos snagged in Round 3 last year. His blank rookie year was easy to shrug off in light of the lockout. It wasn’t encouraging, however, when the Broncos brought back Joe Mays. He signed a front-loaded 3-year contract in free agency that could turn into a 1-year rental like Tennessee did with Barrett Ruud last season. Ruud, of course, eventually turned the job over to then-rookie Colin McCarthy. Even then, though, it took injuries to knock Ruud out of the lineup. And he wasn’t that good. Mays rated as Pro Football Focus’ 12th-best ILB in run defense last year. That suggests he’ll at least split time with Irving in the middle. Irving remains the upside guy, but it might take a Mays injury to make him relevant this year. And reports out of Denver have Irving competing with Wesley Woodyard for the weakside job. That’s the spot that holds real fantasy intrigue. D.J. Williams will have to sit the first 6 games after showing up on the wrong side of 3 drug tests. Woodyard is the favorite to start in his place. He did so for the first 4 games last year and tallied 6, 13, and 10 total tackles as a full-time player the first 4 weeks. In PFF’s ratings, Woodyard outperformed Williams in every category -- albeit in one-third the snaps. He’ll apparently have to hold off Irving and 6th-round rookie Danny Trevathan for the nod. If Woodyard does and begins the season strong, he could keep the job even after Williams returns. The incumbent is 30 with 1 year at $6 million left on his contract and appears to be in decline on the field. If Irving’s time at WLB turns Mays into more of a 3-down player, it could turn the MLB into a fantasy sleeper.

 

The Battles

Now let’s get down to some of the players who will be squaring off for specific spots this summer ...

 

Jets safeties

Favorites: Yeremiah Bell and LaRon Landry

Contender: Eric Smith

Our take: A key weakness for the Jets defense in 2011 was at free safety. So naturally the team went out and signed a couple of veterans who don’t play the deep ball particularly well. Huh? Frankly, we don’t care how things work out for the Jets’ pass D overall. We’re simply concerned with fantasy production, and every competitor here is capable of it. The top option is LaRon Landry. He produced like a good fantasy LB over the first half of 2010 but then suffered a season-ending Achilles tendon injury from which he has yet to fully recover. Opening training camp on the PUP certainly won’t help him in this battle, and it could wind up rendering the whole thing moot.  Along with Landry, the Jets signed Yeremiah Bell after he got the boot in Miami. Like Landry, Bell is a big-tackle, no-cover safety. Unlike Landry, he has been able to take the field with his new team and has impressed seemingly everyone. Bell probably has the best chance to start among the 3 contenders. The 3rd is Eric Smith, about whom Jets DC Mike Pettine actually said: “You’ll love Eric Smith at 300 snaps. You don’t like him at 1,000.” The snap count might depend on what Landry’s body will allow, and we can’t begin to know that yet. If Landry is ready to start the season, he’s worth the IDP gamble. Bell deserves a look as well.

 

Dallas ILB

Favorite: a timeshare

Contenders: Bruce Carter and Dan Connor

Our take: You may remember Bruce Carter from such draft talk as “if he didn’t have the knee injury, he would’ve gone top 15.” Well, Carter has more than a year between him and the college ACL tear. It’s time for us to see what he can do. The problem is that the Cowboys also went out and signed Dan Connor away from the Panthers in free agency. Connor is no stud, but he is a strong run defender. The expectation among team observers is that he’ll start and play the run downs, giving way to Carter in passing situations. That stinks. It takes two guys who could contribute to fantasy lineups and neuters them. (You know, figuratively, of course.) Carter has the kind of talent that is worth stashing on a deep roster, though. Dallas drafted him in Round 2 despite an ACL tear. There’s a chance that he proves the decision so right that coaches can’t keep him off the field. The situation simply makes such a move not worth the draft pick if your league isn’t sufficiently deep.

 

Pittsburgh ILB

Favorite: Larry Foote

Contender: Sean Spence

Our take: The Steelers are as patient as any franchise in the league with developing young players -- probably more so than any other. James Harrison didn’t start regularly until his 5th season. LaMarr Woodley didn’t start a game as a 2nd-round rookie in 2007. Lawrence Timmons logged just 2 starts over his first 2 seasons after being drafted in Round 1. All that said, Pittsburgh likely hopes that Sean Spence bucks the trend. Larry Foote is 32 with 1 year left on his contract and started just 5 games over the past 2 seasons. Spence is a 3rd-round pick who was quite productive at Miami and drew strong reviews through offseason workouts. LB coach Keith Butler said after OTAs, "He's picking up our system as good as anybody has at this point." If Spence can push Foote out of the way, he can realize fantasy value even with a bounce-back season from Timmons. With Timmons putting up top-5 numbers at the position in 2010, fellow ILB starter James Farrior still managed 109 tackles and a top-20 profile himself. Spence is more than 10 pounds lighter than Farrior and 2 inches shorter than Timmons. Pittsburgh might see the need to develop him physically a bit before throwing him into the middle of the defense. He’ll be interesting to watch if he gets his shot though.

 

Baltimore CB

Favorite: Jimmy Smith

Contender: Cary Williams

Our take: Williams started every game for the Ravens last season, right through the playoffs. That might make the designations above seem unfair. Our guess, though, is that Baltimore coaches would like to see last year’s 1st-round pick unseat Williams as the starter. The incumbent was solid in coverage last year, finishing among the position’s top half in completion rate and yards allowed per catch. But he didn’t pick a single pass for a D that tallied its fewest INTs since 2005. Smith’s year started with a high-ankle sprain and included a concussion late. He started just 3 games but still managed 2 INTs and 8 pass breakups. That followed a college career in which he totaled just 3 INTs, but that number is a bit deceiving. Smith scared away opposing game planners. He saw just 20 targets in his 12-game final season at Colorado and earned All-Big 12 honors despite finishing without a pick. A starting gig in Baltimore would likely send a lot more work his way. Williams saw the 6th-most targets of any CB in the league last year. On the other side, Lardarius Webb rated as the 2nd-best cover man at the position, according to PFF. Opponents will test Smith, making him a potential upside sleeper. (He also led Colorado in solo tackles his final college season.) That’s if he wins the job, of course. Smith reportedly showed well in offseason workouts, while Williams worked back from injury.

 

Philadelphia SS

Favorite: Kurt Coleman

Contenders: O.J. Atogwe and Jaiquawn Jarrett

Our take: This was supposed to be Jarrett’s job by now. If anything, though, he’s already looking like a 2nd-round bust. The Eagles shuffled from Coleman to Jarrad Page back to Coleman last season, never deeming Jarrett even worth a shot in a struggling secondary. He wasn’t active until Week 9 and finally saw starting action only because multiple injuries forced it. Philly showed such confidence in Jarrett’s development this spring that the team signed free-agent O.J. Atogwe after minicamp. The only chance of this job not sticking with Coleman seems to be if Atogwe proves healthy and wows in training camp. Coleman proved a solid tackle producer last year when securely in the lineup and can be a decent IDP play in tackle-friendly leagues. Atogwe is more of a big-play type.

 

Bengals SS

Favorite: Taylor Mays

Contenders: Robert Sands, George Iloka and Jeromy Miles

Our take: IDP folks have been waiting for this since the oversized safety -- or undersized LB? -- slipped to Round 2 out of USC. His coverage issues mean nothing to us. Mays is a 6’3, 230-pounder who will play his snaps next to Reggie Nelson. There’s no truth to the rumor that Nelson is made of glass. It’s porcelain. Seriously, though, that guy likes tackling about as much as helicopter moms do -- which could leave plenty of the hitting to his position mate. Mays would also line up behind an LB group that didn’t place a starter higher than 35th in the league in tackles last season. Mays is a guy you snag at the end of an IDP draft just to see how many tackles he attracts. The right format could give him top-15 potential. The other “contenders,” will likely need Mays to disappoint or get hurt in camp to have a real shot.

 

St. Louis WLB

Favorite: Jo-Lonn Dunbar

Contender: Josh Hull

Our take: We’re now really getting into the land of guys who won’t be drafted but should be watched. Dunbar never really got a shot with the overrated Jonathan Vilma clogging the middle in New Orleans over Dunbar’s first 4 seasons. Last year brought a Vilma injury, Dunbar’s greatest exposure -- with starts at 4 different LB spots in Gregg Williams’ fluid system. It also brought poor PFF ratings: 5th-worst overall among 4-3 OLBs and among ILBs. The year before, however, found Dunbar primarily working as a 4-3 OLB. He rated 19th overall among the group and played the run particularly well. Dunbar figures to get the first crack at WLB under Jeff Fisher in St. Louis. As long as no one pushes him off the field for passing downs, Dunbar should be in for a career best in tackles.

 

Washington safeties

Favorite: opposing QBs

Contenders: Tanard Jackson, Madieu Williams, Reed Doughty, and Brandon Meriweather

Our take: Meriweather reportedly looks like the best bet among this quartet to start. He was once a 1st-round pick and a Pro Bowler, but he also got dumped twice last season. First was by the safety-needy team that drafted him. Second was Chicago, which preferred 3rd-round rookie Chris Conte. Meriweather is just 28 and should retain the big-play upside. He grabbed 12 INTs over 3 mostly starting seasons. His most productive season still put Meriweather on the fringes of the position’s top 20 in fantasy. Jackson, meanwhile, was suspended multiple times by the league and eventually dumped by Tampa for failing a physical. The odds are long on him delivering for any significant stretch. Williams is solid, but you can find solid anywhere. Doughty might be somewhat of a dark horse, considering all of the new DBs Washington acquired. He has filled in adequately for injured starters at both safety spots over the past couple of years. Like with Williams, though, decent isn’t something you chase too far as a fantasy drafter. It’s a fallback option.

 

Other less impactful battles to watch

San Diego ILB: Takeo Spikes vs. Jonas Mouton

Arizona ILB: Stewart Bradley vs. Paris Lenon

Chargers SS: Atari Bigby vs. Brandon Taylor

Jets ILB: Bart Scott vs. Demario Davis

Jared Smola Author Image
Jared Smola, Lead Analyst
Jared has been with Draft Sharks since 2007. He’s now Lead Analyst, heading up the preseason and weekly projections that fuel your Draft War Room and My Team tools. He currently ranks 1st among 133 analysts in draft rankings accuracy.
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