The Death Of The True Pass-Rushing DE
The more and more I search for defensive lineman to insert into my starting lineups on a week-to-week basis, the more I realize that the true pass-rushing defensive end is starting to become a thing of the past. With more and more teams switching to a 3-4 defense, the role of lineman around the league is changing. The main objective of a lineman in a 3-4 defense is to stop the run, not rush the passer. Even in clear passing situations, many lineman are asked to occupy their specific offensive lineman, so that the speed-rushing OLB can have an unabated route to the QB. This is why you currently see many NFL teams, who run a 3-4 defense, drafting large, lengthy defensive lineman (e.g. Shaun Rogers) as opposed to quick, speedy offensive lineman (e.g. Jevon Kearse).
Ultimately, this switch in defensive trends in the NFL is having a serious impact on how we approach and play Fantasy Football from an IDP perspective. The top 3 pass-rushers last year were all OLB's who played in 3-4 defenses (Demarcus Ware, Joey Porter, and James Harrison). Although this trend has increased the amount of worthwhile LB's available to IDPers, it has also significantly reduced the amount of true defensive lineman available. The confusing part is that many of these "OLB's" are truly defensive end's in an upright position but are classified as an OLB.
As more and more teams adopt a 3-4 defense, the question of classification becomes more pertinent. Do we classify them as an OLB or DE or both? From a fantasy football perspective, this classification is very important because it determines position eligibility.
It will be interesting moving forward to see how Fantasy Football Management Websites (e.g. ESPN, MFL, Yahoo!) handle this situation.
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