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 likely influence my rankings to a certain degree.
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 Lamarr Houston or Derrick Morgan as opposed to the safer, veteran players. 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 = 2011 NFL Rookie
(xx) = Previous Ranking
|1. RDE Trent Cole (PHI) - In my 2010 IDP Redraft Rankings, I wrote "Cole has been a model of consistency over the last four seasons." Well make that five. In those five seasons, he's averaged over 65 total tackles and 10 sacks a year. Cole is perhaps the safest selection at this particular fantasy position. With the signing of Jason Babin, Cole now has two capable pass-rushing threats playing opposite him. Add in 3 Pro-Bowl caliber cornerbacks to the mix and you have the potential for a few extra coverage sacks as well for Cole. If ever there was a year for Cole to put up career high numbers, this would be the year.|
|2. RDE Justin Tuck (NYG) -After a down 2009 campaign, Tuck rebounded nicely and finished in the top 5 for fantasy points scored by defensive linemen with 48 solo tackles, 27 assists, and 11.5 sacks in 2010. He also had 5 forced fumbles and 5 fumble recoveries. Being surrounded by three above average defensive ends in Mathias Kiwanuka, Osi Umenyiora, and Jason Pierre-Paul allows Tuck to face far less double teams than a player of his talent should face. Expect another top 5 finish for Tuck.|
|3. RDE Jared Allen (MIN) - The majority of IDP rankings you've seen probably have Allen as the #1 fantasy defensive lineman. In a typical year, I would agree with this ranking. However, the departure of Ray Edwards to Atlanta leaves a significant pass-rushing void opposite of Allen. Plus, you have to remember Allen struggled mightily in the first half of last season; during his first eight games, he only registered one sack. In typical Jared Allen fashion though, he rebounded with 9.5 sacks in his final 9 games to salvage his fantasy season and bring him into the top 5 for points scored amongst DLs. I wouldn't argue with someone if they took Mr. Mullet before Cole or Tuck as I have all three of them projected to produce very similar numbers.|
|4. RDE/ROLB Terrell Suggs (BALT) - I had Suggs listed as one of my top sleepers last season and told my readers to expect a bounce back year in 2010. Well, Suggs made me look good :). He had a career year with 68 total tackles and 11 sacks. "Suggs Knight" seems to have really come into his prime and was getting off the line of scrimmage quicker than he ever has before. I owned him in a majority of my leagues last season and I plan on trying to draft him again this year in any league I can.
*Make sure Suggs is listed as a DL in your league and not a LB. He doesn't hold much value as an LB.
|5 (8). RDE Julius Peppers (CHI) -Peppers didn't quite put up the statistical numbers the Bears thought he would when they signed him to a long-term, hefty contract last season. He did contribute to the team in other ways however that aren't as easily noticeable and, most importantly, he maintained a high level of play. After struggling to take down the quarterback early in the season, Peppers finished strong with 6 sacks in his last 8 games. Keep in mind that three of these six sacks came in one game, howver. Expect Peppers to expand upon his 8 sacks from last year and approach his usual double digit sack totals as he is now completely settled in with the Bears.|
|6. LDE Charles Johnson (CAR) - After putting up very solid numbers in limited playing time in 2010, Johnson catapulted himself into a huge payday (six years @ $76 million, including a whopping $30 million signing bonus). On the surface it looks like the Panthers grossly overpaid for Johnson, which they probably did since they had the money to spend. However, he put up top 10 fantasy numbers while missing out on quite a few snaps last season. He will now be an every-down pass rusher and will get plenty of opportunities to get to the quarterback as Carolina's defense will be on the field A LOT. Depending on the skill level of your IDP league, you may be able to wait on Johnson and grab him in later rounds as a better value. S|
|7. LDE Robert Mathis (IND) - Mathis often gets overshadowed by his teammate, Dwight Freeney; but he shouldn't. For fantasy purposes, Mathis is the better player. Because Indy rotates their line quite a bit, Mathis' tackle numbers tend to struggle at times. However, this also keeps him fresh and always makes him a threat for double digit sacks. With this said however, I would adjust this ranking down a bit if you play in a more tackle-heavy scoring system.|
|8. RDE Elvis Dumervil (DEN) - Over the past several seasons, us IDP owners have lost many a solid defensive lineman to scheme changes as teams are switching from 4-3 defenses to 3-4 defenses (e.g. Mario Williams). So it's nice to see us add another top-end defensive lineman to the ranks for a change. The Broncos will be moving to a 4-3 system this year under new defensive coordinator Dennis Allen. With this change, Dumervil will be moving from ROLB to RDE. Elvis "left the building" in 2010 after tearing his pectoral muscle early in the year. Missing an entire season will likely allow Dumervil to fly under the radar of some owners this year and you can bet that I will be taking advantage of this value if he does indeed fall. Dumervil had 16.5 sacks the last season he played. Even though he's undersized for a lineman, he's got definite DL1 potential. DSC|
|9 (19). LDT Ndamukong Suh (DET) - I'll admit, I doubted Suh's potential to be an elite IDP. Last year, he proved me wrong. He finished in the top scorers among defensive linemen in my scoring system. We've seen DTs have top 10 fantasy value in past years (e.g. LaRoi Glover, Warren Sapp) and Suh has enough talent to beat double teams and maintain a high level of production from year-to-year. Additionally, the Lions plan to bump him outside to the end position more frequently than they did last year which should help his sack production.|
|10 (17). RDE Jason Pierre-Paul (NYG) - It's clear to most people that JPP is going to be an elite pass rusher in some point in the near future. He's got "freakish" measurables and a skill-set similar to that of Jevon Kearse in his hay day. Pierre-Paul had 4.5 sacks in his last 6 games in 2010 and has continued that type of production into the preseason. If he weren't currently blockaded by Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck at the end positions, he would have DL1 potential. However, since his snaps are going to be a somewhat limited, he fits more into the DL2 range for now. S
August 31st Update: Jason Pierre-Paul has been skyrocketing up my rankings. With Umenyiora's knee injury likely sidelining him for a few weeks (or at least slowing him down), JPP will receive a bulk of the snaps at LDE and has a good chance to establish himself as a low-end DL1.
|11. RDE Justin Smith (SF) - Smith has become a trusted IDP resource for veteran Fantasy Football owners. He's one of the least flashy players in the league and has never registered more than 8.5 sacks in a season; however he always sneakily finishes in the top 20 for points scored at his position due to his consistent tackle numbers and decent sack totals. He actually had his best season as a pro last year at the age of 31. My one caveat with Smith is that he tends to be quite inconsistent throughout the year with his point scoring. You just have to ride him out (not in that way) and trust that he will ultimately finish the year where he typically does.|
|12. RDE John Abraham (ATL) - Even though he's an antique 33 years old, Abraham just keeps on producing. The addition of Ray Edwards will surely take some pressure and double teams off Abraham which will help keep him a bit fresher throughout the season. The Falcons will rotate Abraham out on run situations which will hurt his overall tackle numbers, but Abraham is still a top 15 defensive end in the majority of fantasy leagues. R|
|13. RDE Matt Shaughnessy (OAK) -"Shag Nasty" finished as the 21st scoring defensive lineman in this scoring system last year in a limited role as he only played in 60-65% of the snaps. Expect his role to be expanded this year to 70-75% of the snaps. With this expansion, should come an increase in production. I wouldn't be surprised to see him put up 60-70 total tackles and 8-10 sacks if he gets the proper amount of playing time. S|
|14 (10). LDE Ray Edwards (ATL) - Edwards should really do something nice for Jared Allen. If it wasn't for Allen, Edwards would have never likely gotten a big, fat contract this year. It will be interesting to see how Edwards performs now that he doesn't have the benefit of playing opposite the most tenacious defensive end in the league and along two of the better interior lineman in the league in the Williams brothers. The good news for fantasy owners is that Edwards still has the benefit of playing opposite a great pass-rushing defensive end in John Abraham. I see a slight dip in numbers, but nothing to get too concerned about.|
|15. RDE Darnell Dockett (ARI) - Dockett is one of the few 3-4 defensive ends that I trust to select this high, the other one being Justin Smith. Similar to what I said about Smith, Dockett never puts up monster numbers and his production seems modest at first glance. However, he's been a solid DL2 for the last four seasons. If you are looking for a safe, reliable pick, Dockett is a good choice.|
|16. RDE Chris Long (STL) - Fantasy Football owners have been waiting for Long to bust out since he entered the league in 2008. With 8.5 sacks last year, he satiated the appetite of most owners. Although he didn't have a fantastic year, he's definitely on the right track and is progressing at a good rate. His sack numbers have increased every year he's been in the league and I think this is the year he breaks double digit sacks. He needs to improve his tackle production before he can enter into DL1 range, however. S|
|17. RDE Kyle Vanden Bosch (DET) - KVB was lighting up the fantasy world before he got injured in Week 12 last season. He had 4 sacks through 11 games, but more importantly, he was putting up very appealing tackle numbers. The good news is he seems to be healthy and will return to one of the most dangerous front fours in the league. The bad news is he's going on 33 years old. If it weren't for the age concerns, I would have Vanden Bosch ranked higher. He will make a nice middle tier DL2. R|
|18 (13). LDE Osi Umenyiora (NYG) - Umenyiora has established himself as one of the more whiny players in the league over the last couple of seasons and is now demanding a trade out of New York. He's likely to get it. The Ravens or Patriots are likely landing spots. I think his value ultimately will go down if he leaves the Giants as he probably won't be surrounded by as talented of a defensive line. Although there's no denying his talent, I'd feel more comfortable with Umenyiora as my DL2 than my DL1. B
September 5th Update: With the way JPP is playing, it's making me think that Umenyiora is going to be second fiddle this season. With this said, he's still likely a viable DL2/DL3. I've moved him down my rankings a bit to reflect this change.
August 26th Update: Osi just had surgery on his knee and some beat writers are speculating that he could take 4-6 weeks to recover. He may miss a game or two, but when Umenyiora gets on the field, he will make his presence known. He obviously wants a long-term deal and will be extremely motivated to play well this season in hopes of garnering this type of contract. The Giants use enough unique packages and rotate their linemen enough to ensure that Umenyiora, Tuck, and JPP all get enough snaps to be DL1/2s.
August 19th Update: Umenyiora has ended his "holdout" and had been back practicing with the Giants until he became sidelined after having surgery on his knee. He will miss up to three weeks to recover from this surgery. Assuming Osi stays healthy, he's a solid bet for DL1 status and should get enough snaps to have top 10 upside even with 2nd year standout Jason Pierre-Paul cutting into his playing time a bit.
August 9th Update: The Giants have rescinded Umenyiora's right to seek a trade. I take this as a signal that the G-Men want Osi back for at least another year while they bring along Jason Pierre-Paul. As long as he stays out of Tom Coughlin's doghouse, Umenyiora has DL1-/DL2 value if he stays with the Giants.
|19. LDE Cliff Avril (DET) - It's no surprise that Avril had the best year of his career in 2010. Being surrounded by talents like Kyle Vanden Bosch and Ndamukong Suh took the pressure off Avril and allowed him to get to the QB 7.5 times. Injuries slowed him down a bit and caused him to miss a few games which kept him out of the top 35 in most leagues. If he can stay healthy, he has a decent chance for double digit sacks with 30+ solo tackles.|
|20. LDE Jason Babin (PHI) - Do I think Babin's 12.5 sacks last year were a fluke? Yes. But this doesn't mean he still can't be a decent DL3+. Babin's move to Philly should benefit him. Trent Cole is one of the most talented DEs in the league and will garner a lot of attention on his side thus freeing up Babin for isolated play against opposing offensive tackles. I have a feeling novice IDP owners will reach for Babin based off his 2010 performance. Don't do this. You must remember the previous 5 years when he failed to register more than 5 sacks in any particular season. B|
|21. LDE Calais Campbell (ARI) - Campbell is a fairly easy player to project. You can expect 50-6o total tackles and 6 or 7 sacks. This is good enough to make him a low-end DL2. He's likely to finish around the top 20 and provide fairly consistent numbers for you throughout the year. Nothing overly exciting, but he can be a solid piece of your overall IDP lineup. We all need players like Campbell on our team.|
|22 (19). LDE Carlos Dunlap (CIN) - Dunlap is a first round talent, but due to off-the-field concerns the were able to draft him in the middle of the second round in last years draft. Dunlap didn't see playing time as a rookie until week 7 last year, but once the opportunity arrived he took full advantage, finishing the season with a team high 9 sacks in 11 games. Dunlap has serioud DL1 potential if he receives an every-down role. S
September 5th Update: I've dropped Dunlap back a few spots as he will start the season as a situation pass rusher only. To everyone outside of the Bengals coaching staff this move seems ridiculous as Dunlap is by far their most talented defensive linemen.
August 9 Update: There is some speculation by Bengals beat writers that Dunlap will not be a starter this season and will instead assume a nickle rusher role. Given the Bengals track history with ends of Dunlap's talent, this news isn't outside the realm of possibility. This current ranking is a hedge that Dunlap will receive starter snaps. If Dunlap doesn't start, he quickly falls out of the top 30.
|23. RDE Aaron Kampman (JAX) - After back-to-back seasons of knee surgery, Kampman is an obvious injury risk (especially considering his age). However, he was off to to a got start last year before he got injured and he's capable of putting up 40+ solo tackles and 7 or 8 sacks over the course of an entire season. The position starts to get a bit thin around this point in the rankings, so Kampman is worth the risk as he has a higher ceiling than some of the other players surrounding his ranking. R|
|24 (15). RDE Will Smith (NO) - After a career year in 2009, Smith came plummeting back down to Earth. He struggled a bit with injuries throughout the season, but even outside of that, he seemed a bit sluggish and slow off the ball. This was likely due to his weight increase up to 280 pounds. He's shed 10 pounds heading into this season and I expect this will help his production. Some owners are wary that rookie Cameron Jordan will cut into Smith's playing time this year. Although it's possible, it's highly unlikely he affects Smith's playing time that much. Defensive end is one of the more difficult positions for a rookie to learn and it usually takes a couple of years even for the top rookies to entrench themselves at the position.
*Smith is likely to miss the 1st four games of the season due to a suspension stemming from a positive 2008 drug test. If your league doesn't have a bench, I would adjust this ranking accordingly. For leagues that do have a bench, Smith could have some nice value when he returns back from his suspension.
|25. RDE Haloti Ngata (BAL) - Ngata has established himself as one of top defensive tackles in the league. With "Mount" Cody plugging up the middle and Terrell Suggs bringing constant pressure from the outside, Ngata should be able to repeat his 2010 performance. 60+ total tackles and 5-6 sacks are reasonable expectation for Ngata this season.|
|26. RDE Chris Clemons (SEA) - This undrafted free agent out of Georgia took the fantasy world a bit by surprise when he put up 10.5 sacks last season. He's more valuable in big-play/sack heavy leagues as he is a situational pass-rusher (e.g. Dwight Freeney, Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila) and therefore struggles to generate the amount of tackles needed to crack the top 20 in a lot of leagues.|
|27. RDE Michael Johnson (CIN) - Since drafting Johnson in the 3rd round of the 2009 draft, the Bengals have experimented with him at strong side linebacker along with playing him on occasion at an end position. Cincinnati seems to be over the experiment and have permanently installed Johnson at right defensive end. Carlos Dunlap is the more talented of the two young pass-rushers, however Johnson is currently receiving more snaps. I would expect both of them to be the primary starters by year end. If Johnson lives up to his potential on the field, he has solid DL3 value. S
For more defensive linemen sleepers, click here!
|28. LDE Lamarr Houston (OAK) - Houston had a solid season for a rookie defensive end. He plays a combination of end and tackle which provides him with a healthy amount of both tackle and sack opportunities. He's a talented player who will only get better as he learns his position more. Much of Houston's value will depend on how well Matt Shaughnessy plays on the other side. S|
|29. RDE Andre Carter (NE) - Before signing with the Redskins, Carter established himself as one of the more reliable DL2s in fantasy football. He was obviously miscast in Washington's 3-4 defense and his box score numbers plummeted as a result. New England has been running a majority of their plays in a 4-3 defense with Carter starting at left defensive end. He is 32 years old, but New England has a way of getting the most out of there veteran players. I wouldn't be surprised to see Carter put up DL3+ numbers this year. DSC, S|
|30 (28). NT Kyle Williams (BUF) - Williams may not seem very studly, but he produces in the tackle department. He had 74 total tackles and 5 sacks last season in large part due to the high number of opportunities provided from playing on the Buffalo defense. I don't expect the Bills to be any better this year and Williams should see a similar amount of opportunities making him a fairly safe DL3 or DT1 selection in tackle-heavy leagues.|
Last Updated: September 5, 2011
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