NFL teams are always on the lookout for pass-rushing defensive ends, and fantasy football owners are on the same search.
IDP (Individual Defensive Player) leagues are becoming more prevalent in the fantasy football world, so fantasy owners are paying closer attention than ever to pass-rushers who can get them 10-20 sacks. And considering so many of today’s pass-rushers are outside linebackers, it's harder than ever to find defensive ends who consistently pressure passers.
So here are 10 defensive ends who could break double-digit sacks in 2012:
Jared Allen, Minnesota Vikings
This is as much of a no-brainer as saying Drew Brees will throw for 4,000 yards. Allen has recorded double-digit sacks for five straight seasons, and in six of the last seven, and he led the league with 22 sacks last year despite having less help along the defensive line.
Allen has not lost a step, even though he just turned 30 and shows no signs of slowing his sack totals anytime soon.
Jason Babin, Philadelphia Eagles
Nnamdi Asomugha might not have been worth the millions he signed for last season, but Babin sure was. All Babin did was pile up 18 sacks, including a trio of three-sack contests, proving he was worth every penny.
Babin has been a late bloomer, and many experts were skeptical that he was a one-year wonder after his breakout 2010 campaign with Tennessee, but he's the real deal.
Jason Pierre-Paul, New York Giants
The dreaded sophomore slump was sacked by Pierre-Paul. JPP had a stunning second season, getting 16.5 sacks and leading the Super Bowl champions’ ferocious pass rush all year long while veterans Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora were sidelined at times with injuries. This kid will only get better and is a top contender for 20 sacks and the sacks' title in 2012.
Chris Long, St. Louis Rams
Chris is no longer just Howie’s son anymore. Long has shown durability (no games missed) and improvement (sack total has risen every year) during his first four seasons and has become one of the better all-around defensive ends in the NFL. Considering his sack numbers keep going up, that should mean he is in line for a 15-sack season in 2012.
Peppers is perennially a threat for double-digit sacks as he remains one of the best in the sack business, although he's not money in the bank by any means. He has failed to post double-digit sacks three times during his decade-long career and has surprisingly never had 15 or more in any single season.
Still, Peppers’ pass-rush moves are better than most, and something tells me a dozen-sack season is in his immediate future, especially now that Chicago’s offensive upgrades should keep Peppers and the defense a little fresher throughout the season.
Elvis Dumervil, Denver Broncos
Dumervil would have broken the 10-sack barrier last season if injuries did not cost him two-plus contests. He finished with 9.5, but this speed rusher sprinted around offensive tackles and sacked 17 quarterbacks in 2009 and has more swim moves than Michael Phelps, so fantasy owners know he can rack up sacks.
With super sophomore Von Miller rushing from the opposite side, Dumervil will be part of a Denver dynamic duo and should reach double digits as long as his brittle body holds up.
Jabaal Sheard, Cleveland Browns
This Pittsburgh product had a standout rookie season, compiling 8.5 sacks for an extremely underrated Browns defense that kept their team in most of its games. Sheard is undersized for an end and still has lots to learn, but his upside is off the charts, and he should turn into a 12-sack superstar as soon as this season.
Trent Cole, Philadelphia Eagles
Cole has been one of the most consistent pass-rushers over the last five years, with his yearly sack stats never going lower than eight or higher than 12.5 during that span.
Having Babin on the other end has really helped Cole avoid as many double-teams as he had in the past, so that should give him more room to operate again in 2012. There's no reason to think Cole will not put up another 10-12 sacks for fantasy owners.
Osi Umenyiora, New York Giants
Umenyiora has topped the 10-sack plateau on three occasions and recorded nine sacks in just nine games after coming back from knee surgery last season.
But the main reason Umenyiora is a double-digit sack threat is he will be highly motivated. He's entering the final year of his contract with the Giants, and he knows he will be tacking on millions to his free-agent offers next offseason with every quarterback he tackles.
Mark Anderson, Buffalo Bills
Anderson has had an interesting career. He had a dozen sacks in his rookie year with Chicago back in 2006, then only had 13.5 more over the next five seasons. But he came out of obscurity to have 10 sacks with the New England Patriots in 2011, which helped millions of fantasy owners who picked him up on their leagues’ waiver wires.
If Anderson can get 10 sacks with New England, why not with Buffalo, especially when Mario Williams will be freeing him up for countless sack opportunities? Anderson will be looking to earn all the millions he just signed for, and teaming with Williams will help propel him to another 10-sack output.