One of the most important things to monitor throughout the off-season in IDP leagues is scheme changes. They can have a huge impact on the IDP landscape, present opportunities for value on the waiver wire, or kill an IDP stud’s value.
For example, when the Houston Texans switched from a 3-4 base to a 4-3 base scheme in 2011, it resulted in an IDP position switch for Mario Williams from a defensive end to an outside linebacker. As many of us know, that destroyed Williams’ IDP value as in tackle-heavy leagues as, generally, outside linebackers are tough to depend on in that format.
On the flipside, a switch from a 3-4 base scheme may find an outside linebacker swapping to a defensive end. That could result in a big spike in a player’s IDP value if it’s a move from outside linebacker given the handful of studs at defensive end.
These scheme changes are a huge thing to get ahead of on your leaguemates. This way, you get the first crack at the waiver wire, deal one of the lesser valued players before the rest of the league catches on, or target a player who will see a spike in the following season before others realize.
There are a number of IDP impacting changes that have happened thus far in the 2013 off-season. This is yet another example on why taking IDP studs early in a rookie startup may not be the best strategy. Philosophy changes have a significant and immediate impact on the defensive side of the ball as compared to the offensive side.
Right now, some scheme changes are clearer than others given the fact that many new coaching staffs are still refusing to commit to one over another, but here’s how things are shaking out:
Mike Pettine comes over to Buffalo from the Jets as their new defensive coordinator. Pettine recently coached a 3-4 base defense in New York, but says he will run the Buffalo defense to his players’ strengths. It sounds like he just doesn’t want to commit, but he did explicitly state that it’ll be a multiple-front scheme. The only thing both Pettine and new head coach Doug Marrone outwardly committed on is that this defense will be an attacking defense. The bottom line is that it sounds like the Bills will be a multiple front system with a 3-4 tendency (similar to the Jets). Here’s how a shift to a 3-4 heavy multiple-front defense will impact the Bills’ IDP players:
This would result in a downgrade to Williams. The big question will be his position eligibility. It’s likely that he’d move to a linebacker in most leagues. Williams specifically targeted a 4-3 defense in free agency last year, so he’ll probably go bananas with a switch, but he was adequate with the Texans as an outside linebacker in 2011 before getting injured. If like Terrell Suggs, he’s able to keep the defensive end tag and also plays a number of snaps at outside linebacker, it may actually boost his value since it’ll increase his tackle opportunities as a defensive end. Certainly, the position eligibility is something worth monitoring, but at this point things are a bit unclear as to this impact until we hear more from Marrone or Pettine. Williams owners should be concerned and make a decision if they want to roll the dice on Williams or cash in on his value now given the uncertainty.
Marcel Dareus / Kyle Williams
The likely situation will be the nose tackle spot being occupied by one of these two guys. Williams and Dareus both played nose tackle previously for the Bills before last season’s switch to a 4-3. While Dareus excelled at nose tackle as a rookie when Williams went down with an injury, my guess is Dareus plays the 3-technique defensive end spot and Williams plays nose tackle. Either way, the hiring or Pettine isn’t great news for owners of either player and especially those owners in defensive tackle required leagues. Again, this is worth monitoring until we hear more from the staff.
This is a deep impact item, but a move to a 3-4 base would leave Bradham as the primary backup to Nick Barnett and Kelvin Sheppard inside as opposed to on the strongside in a 4-3 defense. It’d take some time still for him to see impactful snaps, but he’d have the path to the inside spot with a departure of/injury to Barnett or continued struggles in coverage for Sheppard. The Bills may be targeting another inside/middle linebacker in this year’s draft given the subpar coverage ability that Sheppard has shown to date.
New head coach Marc Trestman hired Mel Tucker who runs a similar scheme to what the Bears have used over the past few years, but he does have experience running both a 3-4 and 4-3. At this point, we can assume things will remain consistent from a scheme perspective.
One thing that may be changing is the middle linebacker for the Bears. Brian Urlacher’s future in Chicago is unclear as he says he’d like to test free agency at the ripe age of 34. The Bears’ 2013 starting middle linebacker may not currently be on the team and could be filled through the draft. IDP circles will be all over this situation throughout the off-season and draft season given the production that will come out of this spot.
New Head Coach Rob Chudzinski says he will leave it up to his defensive coordinator (Ray Horton) to determine if the base defense will be a 4-3 or a 3-4. Horton’s coaching lineage is the 3-4 scheme as an assistant with the Steelers and recently the Cardinals. However, Horton claims he can coach a 4-3 defense as he played in the scheme years ago. Signs appear to point to a 3-4 given his coaching history, but nothing is finalized yet. A shift to a 3-4 base, like many are speculating, would have huge ramifications for IDP purposes and specifically on the following:
Rubin is often ranked as one of the top defensive tackles for IDP purposes. In a shift to a 3-4 base, he’d likely stay in the middle at nose tackle. That’d be a downgrade for IDP purposes as nose tackle traditionally put up lower numbers as compared to 4-3 defensive tackles.
Many originally suspected that JMJ was drafted as an ultimate replacement for D’Qwell Jackson in the middle of the Broans’ 4-3 defense. With a shift to a 3-4 base, JMJ would get first crack at ILB next to Jackson. Given that JMJ was playing on the strongside in limited time this past year, that’d be an upgrade. The only issue is that there are some questions as to if JMJ could be successful as a 3-4 inside linebacker.
This move would be most impactful to Sheard’s IDP value as he’d move to outside linebacker given his athleticism and pass-rushing ability. That’d be a huge downgrade for a young defensive end with promise. Sheard himself already voiced his opposition to a move to a 3-4 scheme.
A deeper impact, but a move to a 3-4 would result in Winn moving to defensive end. He’s been struggling to get snaps at defensive tackle throughout his rookie year due to the logjam there, but he’d fit nicely as a defensive end in this scheme. He’s worth a stash in deeper leagues if still available on the wire.
With the departure of Rob Ryan and the hire of Monte Kiffin it looks like the Tampa-2 will be installed in Dallas. That’s going to bring on some changes:
Sean Lee / Bruce Carter
Kiffin hasn’t said so yet, but Sean Lee is likely play the middle in this defense given his coverage skills and the increased coverage responsibility of a middle linebacker in a Tampa-2 scheme (think Hardy Nickerson and Brian Urlacher). Bruce Carter is likely to play the weakside linebacker position, which is arguably the more appealing position for IDP purposes given the number of tackle opportunities it presents (think Derrick Brooks and Lance Briggs). There isn’t a terrible amount of impact on their value overall as both players should continue see plenty of tackle opportunities, but I’m suspicious of a slight downgrade in production from Lee given the increased coverage snaps and a slight upgrade to Carter.
Kiffin may obviously swap the above and play Lee on the weakside and Carter in the middle, but we’ll have to wait on quotes from Kiffin. Right now, it seems that Lee fits best in the middle and Carter on the weakside.
Ware will put his hand in the dirt as a defensive end and see a spike in IDP value as he should be one of the top ranked defensive ends in 2013. The only thing holding back is value will be his age (30).
Spencer, like Ware, will shift to a defensive end. This will impact Spencer similarly to Ware with a spike in IDP value. Spencer played defensive end in college and continues to exhibit solid pass rushing skills. He’d represent a solid defensive end option if he ends up re-signing with the Cowboys as he’s currently a free agent. However, recent reports suggest the Cowboys may let him go elsewhere. If so, there’s going to be an opportunity for value on this defense across from DeMarcus Ware who will demand a ton of attention.
Kansas City Chiefs
There was some initial talk that Andy Reid would consider a transition to a 4-3 base defense given his background. However, he publicly stated that the team has invested in the 3-4 base defense and that’s what they’ll continue to go with. It’s too bad — Justin Houston could become a dominant strong-side linebacker in a 4-3. He’d stand up on first and second down, and play with his hand in the dirt in passing situations. That would have been a big boost to his IDP value. Stay tuned.
It’s unclear who the defensive coordinator is going to be under Chip Kelly, but Kelly is reported to favor an aggressive attacking 3-4 scheme.
Trent Cole / Vinny Curry
Both Cole and Curry may struggle to find a spot on this defense given their skill sets, which are more aligned with a 4-3. It’s likely that outside linebacker would be their best spot, but many suspect they’d struggle in that capacity. With the move to OLB, this significantly decreases both players’ IDP value.
Graham is likely to stand up as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme, which would destroy his recently promising IDP outlook as a 4-3 defensive end outside of big-play leagues, but he should be able to make the transition given his athleticism.
Coxwould move to defensive end, which also knocks his value down a bit in defensive required leagues. Most 3-4 defensive ends are unreliable as they’re largely inconsistent.
The biggest beneficiary of a move to a 3-4 would be Mychal Kendricks as he’d move inside next to Ryans. Right now, he’s playing the strongside in the 4-3 defense and not seeing as many tackle opportunities as he would inside.
Ryans is a better 4-3 middle linebacker than an inside linebacker in a 3-4 defense, so this move would hurt his IDP value. This wouldn’t be the first time he played inside as he played the same spot for Houston a few years ago. Unfortunately, he’s a better fit as a middle linebacker in a 4-3 defense, so I’d downgrade him if this move happens.
New Orleans Saints
Coach Sean Payton fired defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo and will be transitioning to a 3-4 base defense. That will impact the following:
David Hawthorne / Curtis Lofton
These two will likely play inside, which results in a spike in value for Hawthorne as he previously was playing on the strongside in the 4-3 defense. There shouldn’t be much impact on Lofton’s value, but he is a better fit as a 4-3 middle linebacker.
A move from a 4-3 defensive end to a 3-4 defensive end hurts Jordan’s fantasy value.
Wilson is a decent pass rusher who is a bit of a tweener and should fit in nicely as an outside linebacker in the new 3-4 scheme. His fantasy value increases as compared to last season, but it’s limited as a 3-4 outside linebacker.
Bruce Arians was hired as the new head coach and Todd Bowles as the defensive coordinator. Bowles has experience with both a 3-4 and 4-3 scheme and given the Cardinals’ personnel it’s hard to imagine a shift in philosophy at this point.
St. Louis Rams
Rob Ryan was hired as the team’s defensive coordinator. While Ryan is partial to the 3-4 base defense, he’s also previously coached a 4-3 scheme in Oakland. Jeff Fisher is partial to the 4-3, so that’s likely to stick in 2013. A move to a 3-4 base defense would be a knock to the promising IDP value of both Robert Quinn (move to outside linebacker) and Michael Brockers (move to defensive end), so keep an eye on this.
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