Rookie Drafts: Top 10 IDP Players for Dynasty Leagues
As fantasy football drafts are coming into full swing, many dynasty leagues have yet to hold their annual rookie-only drafts. For those of you in IDP leagues, you’re likely tired of seeing “top rookie lists” with only offensive prospects included.
While guys like Andrew Luck, Trent Richardson and Robert Griffin III will be mainstays on dynasty rosters for many years to come, it’s important not to overlook the value of defensive players in this year’s class.
Let’s take a look at the Top 10 IDP options in rookie drafts this summer.
Note: The rankings are based on a balanced scoring system.
These guys didn't quite make the cut, but are options in the later rounds of your rookie draft:
Bruce Irvin, DE, Seattle Seahawks
Zach Brown, OLB, Tennessee Titans
Andre Branch, DE, Jacksonville Jaguars
Brandon Taylor, S, San Diego Chargers
Chandler Jones, DE, New England Patriots
Sean Spence, OLB, Pittsburgh Steelers
10. Courtney Upshaw, DE, Baltimore Ravens
Selected: Round 2, Pick 35
With the injury to Terrell Suggs, many fantasy experts are expecting Upshaw to step into Baltimore’s hybrid 3-4 OLB/4-3 DE role and flourish.
However, it’s still very unclear how Upshaw will be used in the NFL. There was a great debate on his positional future going into the draft and that debate continues.
Upshaw isn’t great in coverage and likely will not be asked to do much pass coverage, at least early on. What we do know, however, is that he’s a great rusher from a two-point stance and is strong at the point of attack on running plays.
At this point, Shea McClellin (more on him next) is a more well-rounded talent and will be a more consistent fantasy producer.
Note: Currently, Upshaw is classified as a DE in most leagues. If he is designated as a LB, he would drop out of the top 10.
9. Shea McClellin, DE, Chicago Bears
College: Boise State
Selected: Round 1, Pick 19
Projected by draft pundits as a 3-4 OLB, the Bears selected McClellin to be a 4-3 end opposite of Julius Peppers.
McClellin is an extremely intelligent defender, playing multiple positions all over the field for Boise’s defense last season.
Just because he’s versatile enough to be a 3-4 OLB doesn’t mean he’s undersized or incapable of playing defensive end in a 4-3 scheme. He holds up well against the run and there’s no denying his ability to get after the QB.
McClellin is relentless, and will be the best fantasy DE of this draft class.
8. Demario Davis, LB, New York Jets
College: Arkansas State
Selected: Round 3, Pick 77
Not many fans knew about Demario Davis coming out of college, but he is an outstanding player who will be a great fit in the Jets’ defense.
When you look at the tape, you can’t miss Davis. He’s all over the field and is a very above-average run defender. He’s instinctive and always seems to be around the ball.
When you watch this video, you’ll notice that Davis lines up in a multitude of positions. Jets’ coach Rex Ryan has indicated that Davis will play ILB in their 3-4 scheme, but his versatility will allow him to stay on the field for all three downs.
Davis may not start right away, but he’s a talented linebacker if you can stash him for a year.
7. Dont'a Hightower, LB, New England Patriots
Selected: Round 1, Pick 25
Hightower enters a murky situation in New England, but there’s no denying his talent.
He’s a dominant run-stuffing force in the middle of the field and projects well to a 3-4 ILB next to Jerod Mayo. The big question is how he will be used on third downs.
He’s not exactly fluid in pass coverage, but he was used an edge rusher at Alabama in most passing situations. He has the ability to be a great pass rusher, but it remains to be seen if he will be used in that capacity in New England.
His inconsistent motor won’t be welcomed with the Patriots, but if there’s anyone who can motivate him, it will be Bill Belichick.
6. James-Michael Johnson, LB, Cleveland Browns
Selected: Round 4, Pick 120
The latest NFL draft pick on this list, Johnson could force the Browns’ MLB D’Qwell Jackson to the outside.
He is very quick to decipher plays, as evidenced by his impressive tackle in the backfield at 1:27 in the video.
He is solid both in coverage and versus the run, and could very well be the IDP steal of your fantasy rookie draft.
5. Mark Barron, S, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Selected: Round 1, Pick 7
For fantasy purposes, it’s unfortunate that Barron is a defensive back. He is one of the most NFL-ready players in the draft due to the combination of his hard-hitting nature and ability to always be around the ball.
He’s always in the right place in pass coverage and even though his strength isn’t turning and tracking the football, he won’t be asked to do that very often as a strong safety.
I normally don’t advocate drafting DBs in rookie drafts because you can normally get them off the waiver wire over the course of the season. However, Barron is a sure thing and will likely be a top 20 DB for a while.
4. Mychal Kendricks, LB, Philadelphia Eagles
Selected: Round 2, Pick 46
I’m still undecided on how well Kendricks’ game translates to the pros due to his size, but his relentlessness and physicality is unquestioned.
He’s short and not very heavy, which makes it hard for him to shed blockers when they get to the second-level (this can be seen in the video).
However, he has great range and instincts, and should be a good fit in Philadelphia’s defense.
He’s a great talent, but his size prevents me from putting him any higher on this list.
3. Bobby Wagner, LB, Seattle Seahawks
College: Utah State
Selection: Round 2, Pick 47
Wagner is one of my favorite players in this draft, but it’s unclear whether he’ll play MLB or WLB, at least to start his career.
He is a plus-tackler with good range and the strength to shed blocks.
You’ll notice him overrun tackles a couple times in the video, so his play diagnosis could use some improvement.
One thing that helps his chance of staying on the field for all three downs is his ability to rush the passer. In Seattle, he will likely play LB on base downs, and we could see him being used in Pete Carroll’s “Elephant” role on passing situations.
2. Luke Kuechly, LB, Carolina Panthers
College: Boston College
Selected: Round 1, Pick 9
What? I don’t have Luke Kuechly ranked first, like every other expert out there? While I certainly understand their arguments, I don’t think that Kuechly has the ceiling of the No. 1 guy on this list.
If you’re looking for safe, go with Kuechly. He has the highest floor of any player in this draft class, and will likely step in from day one and produce 100 tackles.
He is a tackling machine, a great leader, understands angles, and is one of the smartest players on the field.
The only thing that bothers me is his inability to shed blockers at times, which will limit his upside in the pros if he doesn’t add weight and learn to consistently fight off lineman.
If you want a low-end LB1, high-end LB2, draft Kuechly.
1. Lavonte David, LB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Selected: Round 2, Pick 58
David grabs the top spot in my rankings due to his coverage skills, his speed, and his ability to find the football.
There’s no doubt that he will be a three-down backer from day one in Tampa Bay and will remind many fans of former Buccaneers’ star Derrick Brooks.
When watching the video, you ALWAYS notice David and that will not change in the pros. How many linebackers do you see tackling Denard Robinson in the open field?
His size will limit him to being a weak side LB for likely his entire career, but his speed, tackling, instincts and athletic ability give him one of the highest ceilings in this class.