In Part Two of this series (out of five) we will look at the defensive end position and which NFL players have the best chance to make an impact in Individual Defensive Player fantasy football leagues.
Ignoring specific scoring settings, as they vary widely in the IDP world, the focus here is on which players stand to be in the best position to maximize their talent to accumulate worthwhile stats.
Of course, the list will weigh much greater towards those Outside Linebackers in 3-4 defenses that are still listed as defensive ends by your fantasy game engine. Alternatively there will be very few DE in the 3-4 that will make this list, despite their talent, as the opportunity for them to make high scoring plays on a regular basis is very limited.
I really am not a fan of what the Jacksonville Jaguars are trying to do defensively this season, it seems very similar to the changes the Chicago Bears made last year, and it will backfire just the same. Also longtime DE standby's Jason Taylor and Greg Ellis do not make the list.
They will be situational players despite their talent but their age will work against them this season. I don't like Tamba Hali and Elvis Dumervil's move to OLB in new 3-4 defenses.
While theoretically both could have huge season's in their positions, I think the struggle this season to convert into coverage will result in their playing time being limited.
So, here are the top 30 Defensive Ends:
30. Derrick Harvey, Jacksonville - Okay, I'll bite. Derrick Harvey was supposed to be a stud pass-rusher, but the Jaguars are putting him into coverage in certain situations thus limiting his upside. He is lucky to make the list.
29. Robert Geathers, Cincinnati - The Bengals' D-line should be healthy and better than recent seasons, but the only fantasy value comes from the flexibility of Geathers and the scheming of Mike Zimmer to use him properly.
28. Igor Olshansky, Dallas - Very few DE can make a fantasy impact from the 3-4 DE position. Olshansky is on a talented team and his brute strength rush will result in a very good season.
27. DeWayne White, Detroit - The Lions have upgraded their secondary and linebacking corps, but their D-Line is still thin and barely average in talent. White will draw the attention of the offense, but should still produce solid stats.
26. Kyle Vanden Bosch, Tennessee - The Titans secondary is so good that they will create coverage sacks. But Kyle struggled when Jevon Kearse left the first time and he will struggle with Albert Haynesworth gone this season.
25. Aaron Schobel, Buffalo - I am not as optimistic as most that Buffalo will get Schobel back to 80 percent of his former self. Of course, 80 percent of the old Schobel is still better than zero percent of Aaron Maybin, but don't reach too far for what used to be there.
24. Mathias Kiwanuka, NY Giants - It is unfortunate that he will be a backup DE this season but his flexibility and talent will get him on the field any chance the Giants can get. If Tuck or Osi go down just replace them with Kiwanuka.
23. Calvin Pace, NY Jets - Twenty-five percent of the season will be spent on the bench. He could give Terrell Suggs a run for his money if he was on the field, but we won't ever know that now. Once back on the field he is a top 10 DE.
22. Adewale Ogunleye, Chicago - The Bears pass rush was a mystery disappearance last season. Prior to last season they were one of the league's elite D-lines. Play the odds that they return to form and Ogunleye will also.
21. Antonio Smith, Houston - Smith performed admirably in Arizona but was out of position in their 3-4 alignment. With the Texan's 4-3 and opposite Mario Williams he will be a big factor in 2009.
20. John Abraham, Atlanta - The Falcons defense restored their tenacity last season and the biggest reason was the return to form of Abraham. But there is a lot of work to be done in Hotlanta this season
19. Alex Brown, Chicago - The Bears pass rush was a mystery disappearance last season. Prior to last season they were one of the league's elite D-lines. Brown and Co. will be back in '09
18. Aaron Kampman, Green Bay - I don't know what to do with Kampman. Don’t be surprised, he doesn't know what the season holds either. He might get replaced on passing downs, limiting him to few sack opportunities.
17. Leonard Little, St. Louis - If he is healthy this season, he will be a sack machine once again. The mid-grade is a testament to his age, health concern, and adjustment to a new coaching staff.
16. Brian Orakpo, Washington - The high-speed rookie rusher will get plenty of playing time between DE and OLB. The 'Skins have the talent (Albert Haynesworth, Cornelius Griffin, Andre Carter, and London Fletcher) that Orakpo will have room to roam.
15. Justin Smith, San Francisco - I didn't think Smith would adept well to his 3-4 DE position, but his motor just can't be contained. With the Niner's very good LB corps backing him up Smith can still create havoc in the backfield.
14. Robert Mathis, Indianapolis - The Colts finally brought some beef up the middle to solidify their front seven. Both Dwight Freeney and Mathis will flourish once the team adjusts to the new scheme.
13. Julius Peppers, Carolina - Peppers finally got his big contract, but in my opinion he always needed a "bookend" pass-rusher to be effective, as he is only great one-on-one. Unless Charles Johnson shows something, he will struggle to remain top 10, especially with Kemoeatu out for the majority of the season.
12. Chris Long, St. Louis - While Little has the experience as a pass rusher in St. Louis, Long has the pedigree and now the coaching (Steve Spagnuolo) to excel. This year will be his coming out party, don't miss out.
11. Trent Cole, Philadelphia - The Eagles are always a defense that spreads the wealth, but Cole proved that he is an every down threat and will produce consistent numbers, especially if someone emerges opposite him.
10. Patrick Kerney, Seattle - Kerney is a solid force and is the "gatekeeper" for the elite DE's in the league. Seattle was a team in turmoil last season but Kerney was a rock that they can build their foundation on.
9. Chike Okeafor, Arizona - Forget Bertrand Berry, Okeafor will be the new king of the desert sack. A move to the weak-side LB position in AZ's 3-4 defense and that this is his "contract year" will mean a steal in Okeafor as a DE on draft day
8. Gaines Adams, Tampa Bay - The Buc's young stud will continue to rise to the top of the league's pass rushers. The only thing holding him back is the lack of any other sack threat on the squad.
7. Andre Carter, Washington - Carter was already an IDP star at DE. The Skins have added superstud DT Albert Haynesworth and pass-rush stud Brian Orakpo. You do the math on how much Carter will benefit.
6. Osi Umenyiora, NY Giants - Don't talk yourself into pushing him down your draft list. He is the single most dangerous D-linemen for the G-men. Osi will get the double teams more than Tuck, but both will rock the QB.
5. Dwight Freeney, Indianapolis - The Colts finally brought some beef up the middle to solidify their front seven. Both Freeney and Mathis will flourish once the team adjusts to the new scheme.
4. Terrell Suggs, Baltimore - One of the only "true" hybrid DE/LB's in the league, he is the mold all coaches look for. Suggs is very talented, very rich, and on a very good defense that feeds into his talents.
3. Justin Tuck, NY Giants - I am speechless when I see the depth of the Giants defensive line. My jaw drops when their on-field talent is on full display. Tuck will vault to the league's elite leading this pack of wolves.
2. Mario Williams, Houston - The Texans young and talented D-line is a year more mature and now helped by the adding Antonio Smith opposite Williams, and with the good LB corps behind him, Mario will be Super.
1. Jared Allen, Minnesota - With both Williamses looking OK to play this season and still with a top-tier secondary behind him, Allen remains the King of the Pass Rush hill.