Defensive linemen are by far the most inconsistent week-to-week fantasy point producers. Many linemen will go three or four weeks without registering a sack and then exactly when you drop 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 IDP options.
With this being said, in order to lessen my "cognitive dissonance", I try to use a couple of my early round defensive draft picks on defensive linemen. Obtaining guys like J.J. Watt or Robert Quinn 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 and value.
DeMarcus Ware is not included in these rankings as he has been re-classified to LB in most league management systems. If he is designated as a DE in your league, draft him in the DL10-15 range in balanced scoring systems.
Solo Tackle = 1 point
Assist = 0.5 point
Sack = 3 points
Interception = 4 points
Forced Fumble = 2 points
Fumble Recovery = 2 points
Pass Deflection = 1 point
Defensive TD = 6 points
S = Sleeper/Undervalued Player
B = Bust/Overvalued Player
R = Injury Risk
1. RDE J.J. Watt (HOU) - What else is there to say about Watt that hasn't already been said? He's averaged 80 total tackles and over 15 sacks per year since entering the league. He's only 25 and entering into his prime. Consensus top IDP in virtually all fantasy formats.
2. RDE Robert Quinn (STL) - There's no doubt that Quinn's 2014 numbers were a fairly major disappointment to fantasy owners. However, he still managed a 40/10 stat line for the year. If that's truly his floor, then he's definitely still worthy of a top 5 selection at the position. He's still young and surrounded by arguably the best group of linemen in the NFL, so he remains one of the safest DE selections while still possessing great upside.
3. RDE Chandler Jones (NE) - From an absolute perspective, Jones' numbers look drastically down year over year. Keep in mind he missed six games last season due to injury, however. On a per game basis, Jones was as productive of a player as ever (i.e. a top 5 fantasy end). The off-season hip injury isn't a huge issue as he seems to have fully recovered heading into the preseason. Jones remains one of the best young pass-rushing talents in the league. Continue to draft with confidence.
4. LDE Calais Campbell (ARZ) - Of this entire group, Campbell has the longest track record of elite/near-elite production. Although he's failed to have a double digit sack season so far in his career, he's a very reliable option to provide you with six to nine sacks and elite tackle numbers, making him a strong DL1 candidate year in and year out.
5. LDE Carlos Dunlap (CIN) - Dunlap is an underrated talent who has improved every season. He set a career high in snaps with 964 and should be a fairly safe bet for a 35-40 solo/8-10 sack season. He needs to improve his consistency before being considered in the same realm as Jones and Quinn, but he's close. Solid DL1.
6. LDE Mario Williams (BUF) - Williams hasn't traditionally been an upper echelon tackle-producing end (although his numbers were up last year), but he did set a career high in sacks in 2014 with 14.5. The arrival of Rex Ryan shouldn't change Williams' role much, so we can continue to expect double digit sacks with enough tackle production to keep him in the DL1 tier.
7. RDE Ezekiel Ansah (DET) - We saw definite improvement from Ansah in his sophomore season. He managed 7.5 sacks and 35 QB hurries on limited snaps, placing him third in points per snap among all linemen with 500 snaps or more. Expect those snap counts to increase in 2015 and for Ansah to reach double digit sacks with above average tackle production.
8. RDE Everson Griffen (MIN) - Griffen was one of my top sleepers heading into last season and consequently I owned him in most of my leagues. That decision paid off in spades for me as he registered 12 sacks and a respectable 55 total tackles. Mike Zimmer has a way with getting the most out of his defensive ends, so I don't think last year was a fluke. Draft with a similar expectation to last year.
9. LDE Rob Ninkovich (NE) - Ninkovich isn't a flashy player or someone most people consider a top-notch pass-rushing threat. But he's been an extremely productive fantasy player over the last five seasons averaging a 40/30/7 annual stat line. He's fairly bankable to produce 60+ total tackles and 7+ sacks.
10. LDE Cameron Wake (MIA) - Wake, a late bloomer, continues to play at a high level - he was the top ranked 4-3 defensive end according to Pro Football Focus last year (and by a fairly wide margin). Although he had 11.5 sacks, that total could have been much higher if not for some bad luck. At age 33, his tackle levels aren't likely to bounce back to 2012 levels, but the strong pressure stats keep him in the elite tier. He's a player that will be slightly undervalued heading into the year as he’s currently ranked by most outside the top 10 at his position.
11. LDE Muhammad Wilkerson (NYJ) - Wilkerson is a bit more inconsistent in comparison to his teammate Sheldon Richardson, but he does bring more to the table in terms of sack production capability. With the Jets secondary likely to be much improved, Wilkerson should benefit as he will likely see at least a couple coverage sacks added to his production.
12. LDE Cameron Jordan (NO) - Jordan's numbers took a hit in 2014. It's not all that surprising given that 3-4 DEs have a harder time putting up big numbers year in and year out (unless you are JJ Watt or Calais Campbell). The sheer amount of turnover on the Saints defense is a bit concerning, but Jordan has been seeing more time as a stand-up pass rusher which should bode well for his numbers this year. S
13. RDE Jerry Hughes (BUF) - Hughes has had back-to-back 9.5 seasons and, in somewhat of a surprise, re-signed with Buffalo for a fairly substantial amount of money. He should do well in Rex Ryan's system as an outside pass-rusher.
14. LDT Aaron Donald (STL) - After a slow start to his rookie season, Donald showed everyone why the Rams made him the 13th overall pick. He rattled off seven sacks in his final nine games and finished the year with a respectable 34/10 tackle line. Playing along the league's most talented defensive line should keep Donald free to build on his 2014 numbers. High upside DL2.
15. LDT Gerard McCoy (TB) - Although he missed three games last year, McCoy still managed to finish among the top 30 defensive linemen in fantasy points scored. If he can stay healthy, he’s a good bet to reach double digit sacks this season along with a 35/15 tackle line. This should easily place McCoy in the top 15 fantasy defensive linemen and justify this ranking. S
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Last Updated: August 26, 2015 Related Posts: