I would love to get feedback from my readers. Often times, we get stuck in our own philosophies and tendencies. So it's nice to get a different perspective on things. Your comments will definitely influence my rankings.
Defensive linemen are by far the most inconsistent fantasy point producers during the year. Many linemen will go three or four weeks without registering a sack and then, exactly when you drop or bench them, they have a multiple sack game. This can be extremely frustrating for fantasy owners. In addition, there aren't many unknown linemen that emerge during the season and consequently the waiver wire is usually not packed with worthwhile fantasy defensive linemen.
With this being said, in order to lessen my "cognitive dissonance", I try to use many of my early round defensive draft picks on defensive linemen. Obtaining guys like Jared Allen and Justin Tuck allows me to plug them in my roster and not worry about their ups and downs throughout the season, since they have proven their consistency throughout their careers.
Also, when you're trying to fill that last defensive lineman position, I prefer to go with younger, high risk/high reward players such as Michael Johnson, Kroy Biermann, or Matt Shaughnessy as opposed to the safer, veteran players such as Richard Seymour or Albert Haynesworth. This philosophy is reflected in my lower-tier rankings.
Solo Tackle = 2 points
Assist = 1 point
Sack = 7 points
Interception = 12 points
Fumble Recovery = 5 points
DSC = Possible Defensive Scheme Change
S = Sleeper/Undervalued Player
B = Bust/Overvalued Player
R = Injury Risk
ROOKIE = 2010 NFL Rookie
(xx) = Previous Ranking
|1. RDE Jared Allen (MIN) - This is an obvious one. Allen was the top fantasy lineman by a substantial margin in 2009. Not only does he get to the quarterback on a consistent basis, he seems to come up with a handful of big plays every year. Allen provides the largest relative fantasy value of any defensive lineman and should therefore be one of the first defensive players selected.|
|2. RDE Justin Tuck (NYG) - Tuck had his worst season in three seasons and he still finished as the eighth leading scorer for defensive linemen in my scoring system. Keep in mind that Tuck was struggling with injury problems the whole season and that the Giants defensive line severely underperformed, both of which greatly limited his production. Heading into the 2010 season, with a clean bill of health and an improved defensive line, Tuck should be able to return to top form. DSC, R
For a more in-depth look at Justin Tuck, click here.
|3. RDE Trent Cole (PHI) - Cole has been a model of consistency over the last four seasons. During that span, he has averaged over 10 sacks per season and over 60 total tackles. Defensive linemen are the most inconsistent fantasy producers. With this being said, Cole becomes a valuable commodity in the IDP world.|
|4. RDE Julius Peppers (CHI) - Peppers answered all the doubters this season by registering 10.5 sacks to follow up his 14.5 sack season of a year ago. This marks the fifth time in eight seasons that Peppers has registered double digit sacks. Peppers signed a six-year, $40 million contract with the Bears in the off-season. He has less wear on his tires than most 30-year-olds, but the odds don't favor him finishing this contract. His move to Chicago should affect his fantasy value.|
|5. RDE Mario Williams (HOU) - Williams had somewhat of an off-year in 2009 by compiling only nine sacks. However, over his last three seasons in the league, he has averaged 12 sacks per year. The possible emergence of Connor Barwin at LDE could take some pressure off of Williams and allow him to return to his double digit sack production of 2007 and 2008.|
|6. RDE/ROLB Terrell Suggs (BALT) - Suggs in one of the safest choices at defensive lineman. He is usually a lock for 65-80 total tackles and eight or more sacks. His 2009 sack numbers (5.5 sacks) seem a bit disappointing. However, keep in mind that Suggs missed three games due to injury which lowered his overall numbers. A healthy Suggs should be able to produce his typical fantasy numbers in 2010. S, R|
|7. LDE Robert Mathis (IND) - Mathis' 2009 numbers are bit deceiving. Yes, he did have 9.5 sacks. However, all 9.5 of those sacks were registered during the first 12 games of the season. Mathis only registered one tackle and no sacks during the last five games of the season due to injury issues. If he had played a full injury-free season, he probably would have had 13-15 sacks. As long as Freeney continues to draw the attention of defenses, Mathis will be a top 10 fantasy DL.|
|8. RDE Will Smith (NO) - Smith was sure "getting jiggy wit' it" in 2009 by sacking the quarterback 13.5 times. Personally, I think the "Fresh Prince" played a little over his head in 2009 and may be somewhat overvalued heading into the 2010 draft. However, he does have the advantage of playing on the Saints defense where he has plenty of sack opportunities since opposing teams are usually trailing the Saints and have to throw to catch up.|
|9. LDE Ray Edwards (MIN) - Edwards really exploded onto the IDP scene this season with 9 sacks. Obviously, Edwards benefited greatly from having the beast known as Jared Allen drawing double teams on the opposite side of the defensive line. Allen continuing to draw the attention of opposing offenses should free Edwards up to produce similar stats to his 2009 season. He may, however, see a slight decrease in numbers now that opposing offenses know about him. S|
|10. RDE Aaron Kampman (JAX) - From 2006-2008, Kampman was a top 8 fantasy defensive lineman. During this span he averaged 71 total tackles and 11.5 sacks per year and established himself as one of the most productive fantasy defensive lineman in the NFL. Kampman's numbers took a severe hit in 2009 however when he was moved into a rush linebacker position. After signing with the Jaguars in the off-season, Kampman will return to his natural defensive end position. He should be a great fit in Jacksonville and I can see Kampman putting up top 10 numbers next season. R|
|11. RDE Darnell Dockett (ARI) - Dockett's numbers have never been overly impressive. However, he did finish as the number 10 lineman in my scoring system by having both solid tackle (54 total tackles) and sack (7.5 sacks) numbers. The addition of NT Dan Williams from this year's draft should help Dockett replicate his 2009 numbers next year.|
|12. RDE Justin Smith (SF) - Words cannot describe how atrocious Smith was this season. Through 15 games of the season, he only had 2.5 sacks. He finished the year with six sacks because he registered 3.5 sacks against the lowly Rams in the final game of the season. With this being said, Smith still finished as the 12th highest scoring lineman. The fact remains that Smith is one of the better tackling lineman and is therefore a fairly safe pick to be a top 20 defensive lineman.|
|13. LDE Mathias Kiwanuka (NYG) - I really like Kiwanuka heading into the 2010 season. At this point in time, he looks to have a slight hold on the starting LDE position in New York. "Special K" has shown that he can produce when given the opportunity (8 sacks in 2008 as a full-time starter) and he will surely benefit from playing opposite RDE Justin Tuck. I figure "Kiwi" will get about 60-65% of the defensive snaps this season which should be enough to make him a solid DL2 next season. DSC, S|
|14. RDE Dwight Freeney (IND) - In my opinion, Freeney is overrated and always has been. As a like to say, there are three things in life that are inevitable: death, taxes, and someone taking Dwight Freeney too early in a fantasy draft. Yes, he has averaged 12 sacks over the last two seasons. However, he just doesn't generate enough tackles to warrant top 10 consideration. Excluding solo tackles obtained from sacking the quarterback, Freeney had only six solo tackles. In my scoring system, that puts him as the 20th ranked defensive lineman. Keep in mind though, if you're in a league that rewards heavily for sacks, Freeney may be of extra value to you. B|
|15. RDE Chris Long (STL) - I was high on Long coming into the 2009 season and he really disappointed. He failed to register a sack until Week 8; however he had five sacks the rest of the season. I think Long is going to carry over that late-season success into this year and finally prove his fantasy worth. S|
|16. RDE Kyle Vanden Bosch (DET) - If you read my articles, you probably know that I don't have much love for KVB. I think he is highly overrated as a standalone defensive lineman. However, I think KVB can be a very good player when surrounded with a strong supporting cast and this is exactly what he has in Detroit now that the Lions have drafted Suh and signed DT Corey Williams (and they have Cliff Avril on the left side as well). I think KVB can have a top 15 season. However, he is 32 and only has a couple years left which hurts his dynasty value.|
|17. RDE Greg "Stylez" White (TB) - The "(Sack) Artist Formerly Known as Greg" come through with a solid season and is one of my favorite sleeper picks next season. All of White's 6.5 sacks came after the Buccaneers traded RDE Gaines Adams in Week 5. The Bucs spent their 1st two draft picks on interior defensive linemen (Gerald McCoy and Brian Price) and White has said he is in the "best shape of his life." This is a guy you can grab late in drafts and someone I think has a chance for double digit sacks next season. S|
|18. RDE Alex Brown (NO) - Brown manages to fly under the radar every year. But, you will be hard pressed to find a more consistent defensive lineman. Brown has never had more than 7 sacks in a season, but he usually finishes in the 5-7 sack range with decent tackle numbers. These numbers may not seem very impressive but, in my scoring system, Brown scored the 21st most points for a defensive lineman. Brown's signing with New Orleans helps his fantasy value somewhat since he's playing on a very strong defensive line. S
For a more in-depth look at Alex Brown, click here.
|19. LDE Calais Campbell (ARI) - Campbell took advantage of teams focusing on Pro-Bowl RDE Darnell Dockett by getting to the quarterback 6.5 times. Campbell is only going into his 3rd season and is a talented player who should only improve with time. The addition of NT Dan Williams should only help Campbell's numbers and he could prove to be a great fantasy option.|
|20. LDE Osi Umenyiora (NYG) - Even though Umenyiora is currently behind Mathias Kiwanuka at right defensive end, he will still see ample playing time. The Giants are going to rotate their defensive linemen quite a bit and I would expect Umenyiora to see about 60% of the defensive snaps. I see his value being comparable to that of Kiwanuka's. DSC
August 1 Update: I've moved down Osi a few spots since reports out of camp have said that he has been quite bothered by a hip injury. These type of injuries are hard to overcome and I feel like it may bother him for a significant part of the season. Kiwanuka and Tuck are the guys to target in IDP leagues.
|21. RDE Cliff Avril (DET) - Avril was one of my top sleepers heading into the 2009 season and, man, did he make me look like a jackass. However, I'm still a believer in Avril and his value has definitely increased since the Lions added KVB, Suh, and Corey Williams. Also, the Lions released LDE Dewayne White which should improve Avril's chances of getting decent playing time. I may have had Avril ranked a couple spots higher if he had not burned me so badly last season :).|
|22. RDE Antwan Odom (CIN) - Odom had 8 sacks in his first five games of the season before going down with a season-ending knee injury. I think Odom is going to be severely overvalued heading into the 2010 fantasy draft. The Bengals' defensive line hasn't been a very fruitful place for fantasy players lately and, keep in mind that, 5 of Odom's 8 sacks came against Aaron Rodgers and his offensive line (at the time approximately named "Baby Swiss"). B, R|
|23. NT Jay Ratliff (DAL) - Ratliff is one of the few nose tackles in the league who is actually a viable fantasy option. Ratliff has finished in the top 25 for defensive lineman in each of the past two years. With this being said, he has pretty much maxed out his upside. However, he is a pretty safe bet to finish in the top 30 for defensive lineman.|
|24. NT Kelly Gregg (BALT) - Kelly Gregg, similar to Jay Ratliff, is one of the few interior lineman that are worthy of a fantasy roster spot. Gregg is a tackling machine and can provide consistency to fantasy owners which is something hard to find with defensive linemen. Gregg is almost always good for 65-80 total tackles.|
|25. RDE John Abraham (ATL) - This year was, perhaps, the worst season of Abraham's career. Abraham is getting older and is starting to be relegated to passing situations only. Many owners think Abraham is done and consequently his perceived value will be greatly diminished heading into 2010. However, many forget that it was only one year ago when Abraham had 16.5 sacks. I think Abraham may still be worth a late-round flier. R|
|26. LDE Shaun Ellis (NYJ) - Ellis had a nice year and seemed to thrive under new, defensive-minded, head coach Rex Ryan. I'm always a little bit skeptical of 3-4 DEs such as Ellis. However, Ellis has proven throughout his career that he is a top 30 defensive lineman.|
|27. LDE William Hayes (TEN) - Hayes is now the #1 defensive lineman in Tennessee with the departure of KVB to Detroit. He had quite a few QB hurries in 2009. If he can improve his game and turn those QB hurries into sacks, he's going to be a solid DL2 next season. The drafting of Derrick Morgan should help Hayes in this task. S|
|28. LDE Derrick Harvey (JAX) - Owners have been waiting for Harvey to breakout since he was drafted with the 8th overall pick in the 2008 NFL draft. This has failed to happen yet but Harvey did play well down the stretch last season and if he can manage to put things together, he could be a top 20 lineman in the future. Also, the addition of Aaron Kampman finally provides the Jaguars with a serious pass-rushing threat opposite Harvey. If you're feeling risky, this is a good pick for you. S|
|29. LDT Sedrick Ellis (NO) - The Saints spent the 7th overall pick of the 2008 draft on Ellis and so far he hasn't panned out (largely due to injury issues). In the games in which he's played, he's put up nice tackle numbers and even thrown in a few sacks. Assuming he can stay healthy for a majority of the season, Ellis could be fantasy viable and be a top 35 defensive lineman. R, S|
|30. RDT Kevin Williams (MIN) - Williams' sack totals weren't off-base with his previous year's accumulation. However, he had a career-low in tackles. I attribute these low tackle numbers to Williams being unhealthy for a large part of the 2nd half of the season. Tackle-wise, I think Williams will substantially improve next season and I foresee a similar sack total. R|
|31. NT Haloti Ngata (BALT) - Ngata had a down year last season mainly due to lingering injury issues. He returns in 2010 fully healthy and I expect him to regain his fantasy form. He surprisingly finished 27 overall in points scored for defensive linemen in 2008 and is surely capable of putting up those type of numbers again. In tackle-heavy leagues, he's a nice option. R|
|32. RDE Glen Dorsey (KC) - There is no doubting Dorsey's talent. However, he is severely miscast in Kansas City's 3-4 defensive scheme. He's managed only 2 sacks in 2 years. For as bad as Dorsey's been though, he still ranked as the 38th scoring lineman in my scoring system in large part due to his above average tackle numbers. With Romeo Crennel coming to town as KC's new defensive coordinator, I expect Dorsey to generate more than 1 sack next year and to produce a good amount of tackles. Dorsey could be a nice late-round steal. S|
|33 (34). LDE Charles Johnson (CAR) - Johnson has had 10 sacks in the last two seasons as a backup and, now, with Julius Peppers gone, it looks as though he may become the starter at right defensive end. He doesn't do much for you at all in the tackle department, but I wouldn't put it past Johnson to register 8 sacks or more this season. S|
|34. LDE Mark Anderson (CHI) - Anderson pretty much completely fall off the map after registering 12 sacks in his rookie year (2006). The only reason why I have him in the top 50 is because he is playing opposite of RDE Julius Peppers (on passing downs) and this makes Anderson a definite worthwhile late-round flier. There's little risk taking him this late in drafts and he has nice upside. S|
|35. RDE Derrick Morgan (TEN) - I'm usually hesitant to put rookie defensive linemen in my top 50 rankings due to the higher required learning curve at this position. However, with more and more teams switching to 3-4 defensive schemes, there is a significant scarcity of true 4-3 defensive ends. Morgan will get a chance to start right away and he has a solid DE playing opposite of him in William Hayes. If any rookie defensive end has a chance of making a fantasy impact in 2010, it's Morgan. ROOKIE|
|36. LDT Jonathan Babineaux (ATL) - Both Jonathan Babineaux and Kroy Biermann emerged this season for the Falcons. It's difficult to tell which player (if any) is the real deal and which one is the fluke. Even though he is a defensive tackle, I would bet on Babineaux being the slightly better play in 2010. He was a standout at Iowa and was fairly highly touted in the draft. He was fairly consistent throughout the 2009 season and registered a nice sack total of six from his interior position and finished with the 19th most points for a defensive lineman in my scoring system. I don't think he'll have quite as good of a year next season, but he's still should be a solid low DL3/high DL4.|
|37 (44). LDE Michael Johnson (CIN) - I'm not a huge believer in either Antwan Odom or Robert Geathers and I think Michael Johnson will have plenty of opportunities to unseat one of these guys for a starting job. Johnson is kind of a wildcard in that we haven't seen much from him yet and I'm a little weary of this pick since the defensive line position in Cincinnati always seems to be up in the air. The Bengals have been experimenting with Johnson at strong side linebacker though and he could be the sneaky LB at DL play this season (ala Trevor Scott of last year). Johnson is a high risk/reward pick and could be a nice selection in the right situation.|
|38 (45). RDE Kroy Biermann (ATL) - Biermann is a great name and he had a solid season. In fact, he finished 19th overall in my scoring system for defensive lineman. He played a decent amount of snaps even playing behind John Abraham and I see no reason for a reduction in playing time for "Beer Man." He's had a great preseason with sacks in each of his first two games.|
|39 (43) . RDE Matt Shaughnessy (OAK) - "Shag Nasty" had a good 2nd half of the 2009 season. In that time period, he registered 4 sacks in eight games and throw in decent tackle numbers. With the addition of Richard Seymour and another year under his belt, Shag Nasty enters 2010 as a potential sleeper candidate. He's worth a shot in later rounds if you need to fill spots. S
August 23 Update: Even though it looks like Shaughnessy is only going to be a two-down player to start the season, he had two sacks in his preseason game against the Cowboys and could end up being the Raiders best defensive lineman.
|40. RDE Darryl Tapp (PHI) - IDP owners have been waiting for Tapp to blossom into a top 15 defensive lineman for the last couple of years and it just hasn't happened. Tapp had an off-year last year by only registering 2.5 sacks. Tapp will probably start the season as the starting LDE in Philadelphia. However, I expect rookie Brandon Graham so steal away a decent amount of snaps from him. I'm hoping that a change of scenery will improve Tapp's performance and production.|
|41. LDE Richard Seymour (OAK) - Seymour has always been a bit overrated in fantasy-terms. However, with him now in Oakland, he should see an uptake in his tackle numbers since the Raiders defense is constantly on the field. He's usually got for 4 or 5 sacks as well.
August 23 Update: Seymour has been moved to RDT and becomes a great play in DT-require leagues in which he is still classified as a defensive end.
|42. RDT Tony Brown (TEN) - Mr. Brown has increased in sack total each year since he entered the league in 2004. Last season he had 5 sacks and with the departure of Kyle Vanden Bosch, Brown may be able to increase those numbers. He puts up fairly mediocre tackle numbers though, especially for a defensive tackle. Brown is a decent DL4 option.|
|43. NT Kyle Williams (BUF) - Williams had an exceptionally underrated fantasy year in 2009. He finished as the 23rd leading scorer for defensive linemen with 66 total tackles and 3.5 sacks. He produced fairly similar numbers the year before so it makes me believe this production was not a fluke. The Bills are moving to a 3-4 defensive scheme next season, which may hurt Williams' number's a bit. He's still a solid DL4 though. DSC|
|44. LDE Tyler Brayton (CAR) - The last two seasons, Brayton has averaged 40 total tackles and 4.5 sacks which ranks him around #40 in this scoring system. However, he figures to be the odd man out when Everette Brown is ready to assume a full-time role at RDE. Charles Johnson would probably slide over to LDE and Brayton would move to a nickel rushing-role. That probably won't happen until later in the season, so Brayton still has some value.|
|45. NT Albert Haynesworth (WASH) - "Fat Albert" came back down to earth after his monstrous 2008 season. I've always thought Haynesworth was overrated in fantasy terms. Haynesworth new role as a 3-4 NT in the Redskins new scheme will probably adversely affect his numbers especially since he's dropped 30 pounds in the off-season (not what you typically want your nose tackle to do). He makes the top 50 solely because he always has the potential to turn the light on and explode with some nice numbers. B, DSC|
|46. LDT Mike Patterson (PHI) - Patterson has been one of the more underrated tackling defensive linemen in the league since entering the league in 2005. He won't get you many sacks, but he can be useful in a tackle-heavy league. I would expect around 50-55 total tackles.|
|47. RDE Randy Starks (MIA) - Starks came out of the woodwork this season and strung together a solid year of production with 42 solo tackles and 7 sacks. Starks surprisingly finished as the 9th best lineman in my scoring system. However, the Dolphins have moved him to nose tackle where he will have a hard time replicating those numbers. This is a guy to sell high. B|
|48. LDE Brandon Graham (PHI) - I think Graham is overrated as a player and that the Eagles reached when they traded up to draft him. However, the Eagles really like him and, although he won't be an immediate starter, he should be able to garner a decent amount of playing time. He has the advantage of playing opposite Pro Bowler Trent Cole, which should help ease his transition to the NFL and help his 2010 fantasy numbers. I'm not expecting much though this season. ROOKIE|
|49. LDT Gerald McCoy (TB) - I see McCoy as a slightly lesser version of Warren Sapp. He's a good 3-technique, who has the power and speed to explode through gaps and disrupt plays. The Bucs are going to have one of the younger and better defensive lines in the conference and I fully expect McCoy to be the best rookie fantasy defensive tackle this season. He's got the potential for a decent amount of tackles and 5 or 6 sacks. ROOKIE|
|50 (40). LDE Lawrence Jackson (SEA) - The Seahawks lost Patrick Kerney to retirement and traded away Daryl Tapp. They also failed to draft a replacement for those two players in the draft. This makes it seem to me that Pete Carroll is putting a lot of faith into his former USC standout Jackson. He will see a lot of snaps and I think he could have a nice season (8 sacks or so). He's a good sleeper candidate.
August 1 Update: I've moved Jackson down quite a few spots since the Seahawks annouced that converted DT Red Bryant would be starting at left end over Jackson. He still has a chance to be productive, but this isn't a good sign.
August 23 Update: Jackson has been traded to Detroit where he figures to play behind Cliff Avril as a situational pass-rusher at best.
Last Updated: August 23, 2010
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