The names at the top of this list won’t surprise you.
We had 4 off-the-ball LBs go in the 1st round of the 2018 NFL Draft, along with just a pair of DEs. Spoiler alert: Those 6 guys rank among the top choices for your rookie draft in your IDP dynasty league.
Beyond that, a lot will depend on your format -- as well as your specific needs.
Play in a tackle-heavy setup? Then you’ll find a bunch of mid-round LB options who could find early opportunity.
Does your league lean more heavily on sacks and/or other pressure stats? Then you’re going to have to incur some risk to chase that area in a shaky pass-rushing class.
And if you’re pretty well set in the front 7 but in dire need of a safety, then feel free to reach a little earlier for Derwin James -- and then skip down to the DBs whenever you don’t like the offensive options at your turns in Round 3 and beyond.
Here are the top 30 defenders (with a fairly balanced scoring system in mind), plus extended lists for each position group. If you play in a particularly deep league and this list doesn’t go far enough for you, then feel free to email me at Schauf@DraftSharks.com.
Top 30 IDPs
1. Roquan Smith, LB, Bears
Smith’s the most proven package among this year’s top LBs. We saw him star in coverage. We saw him make plays coming forward. We saw him deliver top-level play in a role similar to what he’ll do in the pros. And now Chicago will place him in a 3-down role immediately that has supplied strong IDP production for Jerrell Freeman and Danny Trevathan the past 2 years.
2. Bradley Chubb, DE, Broncos
Chubb wrapped up a highly productive 4 years at N.C. State with 2 straight seasons of 10 sacks and 21+ tackles for loss. And then he delivered the 7th-best speed score among EDGE players in this class. Throw him into a defense that already threatens QBs with OLBs Von Miller and Shane Ray, and I don’t see anything to dislike about him.
3. Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Bills
Edmunds hit the Combine 17 pounds larger than Smith but just as fast. And he has yet to turn 20. There’s tremendous size and athleticism here, and now a home in the middle of a Buffalo defense that needs him right away. The only think Smith has on Edmunds is more time as an off-the-line LB.
4. Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Cowboys
Vander Esch rocked a 97th-percentile SPARQ score this spring at 6’4 and 256 pounds. And he filled the stat sheet with 141 tackles, 4 sacks, 5 passes defensed, 2 INTs and 4 forced fumbles in 2017. It wouldn’t be shocking if he turns into the most productive LB from this class. But he spent just 1 season as a college starter and is a little older than the 2 LBs ahead of him. Any of these 3 LBs should treat your dynasty roster well for years.
5. Marcus Davenport, DE, Saints
Many of us thought the Saints were leaping up from 27th to 14th for QB Lamar Jackson. Nope. Instead they made Davenport look like the clear #2 pass rusher in this draft. And the next EDGE player didn’t go until Harold Landry with the 9th pick of Round 2. At an imposing 6’5.5 and 264 pounds, Davenport posted the EDGE class’ #3 speed score. That followed 15 sacks and 27.5 tackles for loss over his final 2 seasons. He’ll likely need more development time than Chub after playing in Conference-USA, but Davenport’s tape is more fun to watch than Harold Landry’s.
6. Derwin James, S, Chargers
James spent 2 full seasons starting at Florida State, losing 11 games to injury in 2016. He finished each of those complete seasons as THE top-gaded safety in Pro Football Focus’ charting. Not top 10 or top 5. Number 1. And the versatile defender added numbers to that: 175 total tackles across those seasons, 15 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks, 3 INTs, 15 passes defensed.