The IDP Off-Season

Steve Wyremski


The regular season is over, we’re creeping up on the Super Bowl and I’m back from hibernation – just in time for the off-season. The IDP changes continue to mount and there are diamonds to be uncovered. The question is how we find them and what indicators we should be looking for.

Through the remainder of the playoffs, early off-season and free agency, here are some key items to watch from an IDP perspective:

What scheme changes will occur in 2015?

Just as we do every year, we’ll put together a feature to walk through the implications of the most relevant scheme changes, but as coaching changes for the 49ers, Jets, Bears, Raiders, Bills, Falcons, scheme changes and IDP value changes are guaranteed. Most notably, defensive ends, defensive tackles and outside linebackers stand to see the most significant value changes over the ensuing months and should be watched closely.

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Notably, with the hire of Rex Ryan in Buffalo, Jim Schwartz is out and the switch to a 3-4 is coming. This is an immediate downgrade for defensive ends Mario Williams and Jerry Hughes. These two are likely make the transition to outside linebacker. Now the question will be if Preston Brown will be aside Kiko Alonso on the inside, or if Ryan will look elsewhere via the draft or free agency.

The 49ers fired defensive coordinator Vic Fangio earlier this month and, since, he signed with the Bears. This is expected to result in a scheme change and negatively impact the value of Jared Allen who is likely to transition to outside linebacker and/or be a situational pass-rusher. Christian Jones is a player to watch as there is a good chance he’ll be one of the two who man the middle of this defense in 2015.

These changes are yet another example as to why IDP rookies should not overdrafted. Scheme changes are frequent and impactful.

Will Brandon Graham re-sign in Philly?

Currently an outside linebacker in the Eagles 3-4 base defense, a move to a 4-3 defense would significantly boost Graham’s value. He’s better situated as a 4-3 defensive end (he was drafted as such) and could see a significant increase in sacks and tackles in that role. Recent quotes from Graham suggest that he’d prefer a 4-3 defense, as well, which makes now a potential buy low opportunity prior to free agency. Though, many IDP owners are well aware of Graham’s preference and potential in a 4-3. The greatest beneficiary to a Graham exit would be Marcus Smith who struggled as a rookie.

What happens with the Lions’ two big men?

Both Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley are slated to be free agents this offseason.

Suh is a fixture in defensive tackle-required leagues and while the Lions are likely to pursue him, he’s more likely to follow the cash and leave town. If a team’s going to pony up a large sum of cash, you’d think it would be a 4-3 base team. So, his value is unlikely to change significantly. An unexpected signing with a 3-4 base defense would be a huge hit to his value.

As for Fairley, he’ll be the second best free agent tackle on the market and is likely to get a lot of attention despite his injury history. Whether he re-signs with Detroit or signs elsewhere, he’s unlikely to be with Suh next year, which should mean more tackle opportunities. He just needs to stick in a 4-3 defensive to maintain or increase his value.

What will the Jets do with David Harris?

Harris is situated to be an unrestricted free agent. He wants to be back with the Jets and finish his career in New York. While contract discussions occurred with former GM John Idzik, with a fresh coaching staff and GM, as well as the fact that Harris will be 31 this month, it’s unclear what direction the front office wants to take. It’s quite possible there’s an open spot in the middle of the Jets defense in 2015. Harris is an average IDP linebacker option, but if he leaves, the Jets would likely bring in an inside linebacker via free agency or the draft. A Harris departure could also mean increased value and tackle opportunities for Demario Davis.

What will a healthy Jerod Mayo mean in New England?

Second year linebacker Jamie Collins broke out in 2014 and proved strongside linebackers are just as valuable as middle or weakside linebackers. With Mayo shutdown for the season following a week six injury, Dont’a Hightower picked up Mayo’s volume and excelled. With two budding young linebackers, Mayo’s re-introduction could muddy IDP values.

With Mayo conceivably healthy for training camp, there should be a limited number of tackle opportunities to share among the three. Before jumping to that assumption, though, there are a few scenarios to consider and watch over the coming months.

With a torn patellar tendon in 2014, an increasing injury history and a $10 million plus cap number, it’s possible the Patriots cut Mayo loose given his recent injury struggles. If Mayo is cut, it would leave Collins and Hightower as New England’s linebacker fixtures. If he does return, though, he may not be the same player. Many who suffer a patellar tendon tear aren’t. In fact, it’s considered a more severe injury than an ACL tear these days. Finally, if Mayo does return to form, it’ll be either Collins or Hightower who leave the field in certain packages like Collins did in early 2014.

This is a situation to monitor closely, but my money is on Collins and Hightower to take this defense forward due to a combination of their production the second half of the year, their youth and Mayo’s recent injuries.

Does Jabaal Sheard head back to a 4-3 defense?

As a 4-3 defensive end in 2012 and 2011, Sheard was a DE2 and DE1, respectively. After a stellar rookie year in 2011, many believed he was a cornerstone defensive end in IDP leagues. A scheme change in 2013 driven by the addition of Ray Horton crushed the promise as Sheard transitioned to outside linebacker. The position change served to half his IDP production tendering him virtually useless in IDP leagues. A free agent this spring, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Sheard sign with a 4-3 defense as he was vocal about his preference for a 4-3 and his hand in the dirt when originally transitioning to linebacker. At only 26, he’s a nice dynasty buy prior to free agency. He shouldn’t cost much to acquire at this point.

Do the Giants tag JPP?

It’d be quite pricey for the Giants to tag JasonPierre-Paul, but if they decide not to there will be immediate IDP implications. Not only for Pierre-Paul and his new team, but for Damontre Moore. A popular sleeper headed into 2014, Moore only played a situational role with the Giants seeing only 30 percent of the team’s snaps. He finished with 25 tackles and five and a half sacks, though, which didn’t meet expectations, but is solid on a per snap basis. Opportunity and an 80 to 90 percent snap share would put him in DE1 discussions with top five to 10 potential. This is one of the top situations to monitor.

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