Welcome to another installment of “Over/Under” where I highlight a player, determine some projections based on past tendencies, then state whether I think they will go “over or under” those projections. The criteria will be different for each player based on position and situation.
This week’s article will be a little bit different. A lot of people have asked for an IDP Over/Under, so as the preseason comes to a close we’ll take a look at not just one individual defensive player, but 20! Last year there were 20 players with at least ten sacks. I’m going to run down all twenty of them in blitzkrieg fashion, giving you an over/under for each player in 2013. I know this won’t be for everyone, but for the IDPers out there, this one’s for you!
The one thing holding IDP leagues back from really exploding into the mainstream, in my opinion, is the lack of a “standard” scoring system. For this article, I used Jeff Ratcliffe’s (@JeffRatcliffe) IDP scoring system. Jeff is the Assistant Managing Editor of ProFootballFocus.com and RotoWorld’s IDP guy. He runs incredible redraft IDP mock drafts every offseason for ADP tracking data. Here is a link to one of the mock draft’s scoring rules.
J.J. Watt, DE HOU
Line: 14.5 sacks
Why he can: He’s the premier dominant defensive player in the NFL right now and nobody knows how to slow him down, let alone stop him. With the return of Brian Cushing to man the middle of this defense and the additions of Ed Reed and D.J. Swearinger on the back end, the Texans team defense will cause quarterbacks to hold onto the ball long enough for Watt to wreak havoc. His ability to swat passes at the line of scrimmage adds a whole other element to his fantasy awesomeness.
Why he can’t: Last season was absolutely amazing for any defensive player, let alone a 3-4 defensive end. In my opinion, what we saw from Watt was equivalent to a running back rushing for 2,000 yards in season. Now coaches have an entire year’s worth of film to develop a game plan to limit Watt’s impact.
I’m taking the: OVER. Watt has a hunger only seen in the all-time greats. His ability to disrupt the game by any means necessary leads me to believe we will see him atop the sack leaders for years to come. I really like the fact he plays the Jaguars, Colts, and Titans twice a year too.
Aldon Smith, OLB SF
Line: 15 sacks
Why he can: He arguably plays on the best team defense in the NFL. With Pro Bowlers at every level, Smith has the ability to pin his ears back and attack every single play. With Patrick Willis, NaVarro Bowman, Justin Smith and Ahmad Brooks running around making plays, Smith is rarely asked to do anything other than rush the passer. He has also developed a keen ability to knock the ball loose from quarterbacks and runners alike.
Why he can’t: As truly dominant as Smith looked last year, he looked very ordinary once Justin Smith started playing through a triceps tear. Once teams no longer had to double team Smith, they were able to focus more on Aldon and he failed to record a sack from week 14 through the Super Bowl.
I’m taking the: OVER. With a healthy Justin Smith returning for another year, look for Aldon to pick up where he left off last season. I expect the forced fumbles to rise also. Another year under Vic Fangio can only help the talented youngster. It would be shocking if he wasn’t contending for the league lead in sacks in 2013.
Von Miller, OLB DEN
Line: Eight sacks
Why he can: The number might look low at first glance, but remember his six game suspension was upheld last week so he’s only going to have ten games to achieve this number. The reason I think he can achieve eight sacks in ten games is because he has registered 30 sacks in 31 career regular season games. This Bronco team should be playing with the lead for most of the season which will give him the green light to get after the quarterback.
Why he can’t: It’s hard to predict what kind of rust he will have when he returns from his six game suspension. It could take him a week or two to get back into game shape. He will also be playing without defensive end Elvis Dumervil who is now a Baltimore Raven. Averaging almost a sack a game could prove to be difficult.
I’m taking the: UNDER. First off, there is no guarantee he even returns after six games. He entered the league in the substance abuse program after failing a drug test at the combine. It’s hard to predict how players respond to adversity. Some people see the light and some people continue to be hard headed. Only time will tell with Miller. This year I wouldn’t expect him to approach double digit sacks.
Cameron Wake, DE MIA
Line: 13 sacks
Why he can: The Dolphins drafted Dion Jordan to bookend and draw attention off the explosive Wake. They also have Olivier Vernon who has had an excellent preseason and a couple of disruptive defensive tackles in Paul Soliai and Jared Odrick. With improvement on the offensive side of the ball, I expect Wake and Co. to see an increase is sack opportunities this year while defending the occasional lead.
Why he can’t: By improving the supporting cast, he will undoubtedly be competing with fellow teammates for sack opportunities. Once Dion Jordan gets healthy, I expect him to become a big factor in the Dolphins pass rush.
I’m taking the: OVER. Simply put, playing the Bills, Jets, and even the Patriots twice excite me. Wake has been a so solid since returning from the CFL in 2009 and defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle recently said he wouldn’t trade Wake for anyone in the league. That might not be true but I get what he’s saying. I expect him to continue to be the Dolphins’ featured pass rusher.
Clay Matthews, OLB GBP
Line: 12 sacks
Why he can: Lions, Vikings and Bears…twice! Oh my! With the NFC North touting out a collection of turn styles at the tackle positions, every team ends up with a double digit sack guy. Since entering the league, Matthews has registered double digit sacks in three out of his four years. The Packers also hope they have found their version of the Niners’ Justin Smith by drafting Datone Jones to play the 3-4 defensive end.
Why he can’t: Ever since Matthews entered the league the Packers have been searching for another linebacker to draw attention away from him. That role is currently being filled by the underwhelming Nick Perry. Life will remain difficult until another pass rushing force steps up.
I’m taking the: OVER. As long as he plays Jay Cutler twice a year I will always take the over. A lot of time his sacks come in bunches and he might go a few games without recording any, but at the end of the season he always ends up around a dozen.
Charles Johnson, DE CAR
Line: 12.5 sacks
Why he can: With Johnson and Greg Hardy on the ends and Star Lotulelei and Dwan Edwards in the middle, the Carolina Panthers have built one of the premier defensive lines in football. All four players have pocket collapsing abilities and you can’t double team everyone. Johnson has been as consistent as they come over the last three years.
Why he can’t: The emergence of Greg Hardy on the other side of the defensive line puts Johnson on notice as the Panthers defensive end to own in fantasy leagues.
I’m taking the: UNDER. Even though I expect the Panthers to be among the league leaders in team sacks this year, I believe it will be a collective group effort. Johnson should again flirt with a dozen or so sacks but I believe the attention he receives from offenses and the defense as a whole improving, he will have fewer opportunities.
Geno Atkins, DT CIN
Line: 10 sacks
Why he can: Rarely do we see a defensive tackle register double digit sacks, but Atkins is a rare beast. He has morphed into the most disruptive defensive tackle in the NFL – a title I thought would be held by the Lions’ Ndamukong Suh for a very long time. Defensive Coordinator Mike Zimmer knows how to maximize his player’s abilities and Atkins is his prized pupil. The Bengals should have one of the best front sevens in the league this year, giving Atkins ample opportunity to get to the passer.
Why he can’t: Like I said, rarely do we see a defensive tackle register double digit sacks. As incredible as Atkins is, teams will do their best to make him a non-factor while dealing with the collateral damage of others.
I’m taking the: OVER. After being franchised by the Bengals, Atkins will be paying for a huge payday in 2014. He’s a young, dedicated, talented player with rare ability. If he is able to repeat his 2012 numbers he will cash in as one of the highest paid defensive linemen in football, regardless if it’s in Cincinnati.
Jared Allen, DE MIN
Line: 14 sacks
Why he can: It was just two years ago he fell half a sack short of breaking Michael Strahan’s single season sack record of 22.5. There is still a lot of talent in these old legs and it speaks volume to your ability when 12 sacks is considered a down year. Not to continue beating a dead horse but he also plays in the NFC North.
Why he can’t: I believe the biggest factor holding Allen back from achieving 14 sacks will be opportunity. The Vikings overachieved last season and are expected to take a step back this year. With teams playing with a lead and in clock killing mode, how many chances will he get?
I’m taking the: OVER. Some things just can’t be explained, like Mark Sanchez’ head band. Jared Allen’s ability to constantly get to the quarterback regardless of surrounding cast or situation is one of them. You would think double or triple teaming him would work but it doesn’t. I don’t know why but I can’t take the under here. I just can’t.
DeMarcus Ware, DE DAL
Line: 13 sacks
Why he can: When the Cowboys hired Monte Kiffin to run the defense in Dallas, every IDP player cheered. Ware goes from a pass rushing outside linebacker to a defensive end where his IDP value nearly triples. No longer will he be asked to drop into coverage, not that he often did. Instead, it will be 100 mph all the time.
Why he can’t: Any time a team switches schemes, offensive or defensive, there are growing pains. A lot of times teams are forced to put square pegs in round holes. The Cowboys’ square pegs are at the defensive tackle position. Jay Ratliff and Jason Hatcher form the league’s lightest tandem of 4-3 defensive tackles. Without a big man to command double teams, offenses will be able to chip away at the defensive ends.
I’m taking the: OVER. I can’t wait to see Ware in this defense. Playing across from Anthony Spencer will definitely help, even if the defensive tackles are going to be a work in progress. Kiffin will design ways to get Ware one on one opportunities and I have little doubt he’ll shine in this defense.
Chris Long, DE STL
Line: 11 sacks
Why he can: The Rams led the league in team sacks last year and they have a very real chance in defending their crown. With up-and-comers all over this defense, Long is able to attack while seeing a limited number of double teams.
Why he can’t: When everyone on your team from the defensive tackles to the cornerbacks are registering sacks, a lot of times it turns into a foot race to the quarterback. The Rams attack like a pack of hungry dogs and only the fastest dog eats.
I’m taking the: UNDER. I’m not taking the under by much, but I believe teammate Robert Quinn has become the team’s best pass rusher. Long and Quinn will both finish in the 10.5 to 13 sack range but I believe Long will be on the low end.
Michael Johnson, DE CIN
Line: 10 sacks
Why he can: With Geno Atkins commanding the most attention on this defensive line and Carlos Dunlap lining up on the other end, Johnson sees plenty of one on one opportunities. He’s also in a contract year and expected to sign with the highest bidder after the Bengals locked up Dunlap for $40 million.
Why he can’t: 2012 was a breakout year for Johnson. He had never had more than 5.5 sacks in a season and he doubled it last year. Look for the Bengals to also rotate in rookie defensive end Margus Hunt as Johnson’s eventual replacement.
I’m taking the: UNDER. Money is a heck of a motivator but I need to see it more than once from Johnson before I consider him a lock for annual double digit sacks.
Julius Peppers, DE CH
Line 10.5 sacks
Why he can: He always does. Over his 11 year career, he has averaged ten sacks a season. He could be playing his last season in the Windy City and looking to go out with a bang. He’s one of the safest veteran names for sack production.
Why he can’t: You can only avoid Father Time for so long. He’s now 33 years old and the lone pass rushing threat on Chicago’s defense. He will see plenty of double teams and chips from running backs and tight ends.
I’m taking the: UNDER. It’s hard to take the under her because he’s so trustworthy as a double digit sack guy. He should flirt with10-11 sacks this year, but it wouldn’t shock me if this is the beginning of the end for Peppers.
Chris Clemons, DE SEA
Line: 6 sacks
Why he can: He won’t be asked to be an every down player in 2013 after tearing his ACL and meniscus in the Wild Card round of the playoffs last winter. Playing behind Cliff Avril and Red Bryant should help ease in the 31 year old defensive end.
Why he can’t: When week one rolls around, he will only be eight months removed from a very serious knee injury. There is still debate on whether or not he’ll be ready for week one, but regardless, if he’s out there he’s not going to be as effective.
I’m taking the: UNDER. You can call it the “Curse of Adrian Peterson”. Since he returned from a destroyed knee in eight months to have a historic season, everyone thinks they can too. I can’t see Clemons regaining the explosion needed to be a big factor this year.
Elvis Dumervil, OLB BAL
Line: 13 sacks
Why he can: Every week he’ll be the third option for offensive coordinators to game plan. With Terrell Suggs and Haloti Ngata being the focus, look for Dumervil to threaten his career high in sacks.
Why he can’t: Injury. Act of God. Boredom. I don’t know how he won’t playing on this defensive unit.
I’m taking the: OVER. If a talent like Paul Kruger can register 8.5 sacks in this defense, I fully expect Dumervil to eclipse 13 for the season.
Anthony Spencer, DE DAL
Line: 10 sacks
Why he can: Transitioning back to his college position, Spencer should thrive on the defensive line. Teams will focus on DeMarcus Ware and he’ll see plenty of one on one opportunities.
Why he can’t: As I mentioned when talking about DeMarcus Ware, Dallas defensive line is going to be the lightest in the league. Also, playing against running quarterbacks like Michael Vick and Robert Griffin III four times will limit his chances to accumulate sacks.
I’m taking the: OVER. I’m really looking forward to see Spencer as a defensive end. I always felt he was miscast as a linebacker. Coming out of Purdue I thought he had the potential to be special.
Greg Hardy, DE CAR
Line: 11 sacks
Why he can: Coming off a breakout year, Hardy is just 25 years old and entering the prime of his career. He will benefit from playing on one of the game’s up and coming front sevens. He has his personal goal set for 50 (!) sacks this season, so he remains focused.
Why he can’t: 2012 was a breakout year for Hardy. He had never recorded more than four sacks in single season, but was nothing more than a rotational player.
I’m taking the: OVER. Greg Hardy is my favorite candidate to have a huge breakout year in 2013. I expect him to flirt with 15+ sacks on this impressive defensive unit.
Mario Williams, DE BUF
Line: 11 sacks
Why he can: The Bills made “Super” Mario the highest paid defensive end in league history to be a dominant force from the outside. He is 100% healthy for the first time in Buffalo and looking to prove he was worth the money.
Why he can’t: The Bills are flirting with transitioning to a 3-4 defense. Williams wasn’t a fan of playing in the 3-4 while in Houston so I wonder if he’ll fully buy into the change.
I’m taking the: OVER. I’m only taking the over based on the assumption the Bills will play the majority of their snaps in the 4-3 this year. I don’t think they have the personnel to effectively make the transition this season.
Robert Quinn, DE STL
Line: 12 sacks
Why he can: Robert Quinn’s outlook shares a lot of similarities with Greg Hardy of the Panthers. He is playing with one of the league’s up and coming dominant front sevens and across from an established stud, Chris Long. Entering his third season, look for him to take another step forward.
Why he can’t: As the collective unit improves there might be fewer opportunities to collect sacks. An increase in three and outs or turnovers would decrease his chances. This offense should be able to sustain better drives this year also which could limit his time on the field.
I’m taking the: OVER. Along with Hardy, Quinn is another young defensive end ready to take the step into super stardom. A dozen sacks won’t be easy, but I would be shocked if he didn’t approach 15 for the season.
John Abraham, OLB ARI
Line: 9 sacks
Why he can: He’ll be playing as the primary pass rusher for the Cardinals and have plays designed especially for him. As a 13 year vet and the active sacks leader, he might not play every down but will see every pass rushing opportunity.
Why he can’t: He’s 35 years old and playing in the 3-4 for the first time of his career. The Cardinals have very solid inside linebackers and an above average 3-4 defensive line but lack pass rushers.
I’m taking the: UNDER. I believe the switch to a 3-4 defense will be the least of his issues. Playing on the Cardinals defense without a complementary pass rusher will prove to be the biggest hurdle for the aging vet. He no longer has the ability to take a game over.
Justin Houston, OLB KC
Line: 10 Sacks
Why he can: The Chiefs have playmakers at each level of their 3-4 defense. With Derrick Johnson in the middle and Tamba Hali on the outside, Houston rarely sees a double team. He’s entering his third season and has shown marked improvement in each of his first two years.
Why he can’t: Even though the Chiefs have committed to remain in the 3-4, they have a new defensive coordinator, Bob Sutton. Will he dial up as many blitzes as Romeo Crennel?
I’m taking the: OVER. I think it will be close but Houston and Hali have both shown elite pass rushing skills and with an elite secondary giving them time to get to the passer, the odds are in his favor. I would expect Hali and Houston to combine for 25 sacks.
What do you think? Do you see anything you agree or disagree with? Is there someone you’re excited to see this season? Let me know in the comments section below.