In dynasty leagues, the NFL free agency period can really alter the outlook of your fantasy squad. Nowhere is this truer than in IDP leagues. Every year we see defensive ends become outside linebackers, and vice versa. On the offensive side of the ball you don’t have to worry about your WR2 suddenly becoming a tight end or a quarterback. Today I’m going to talk about the IDP winners and losers of free agency.
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Danny Trevathan, ILB CHI
Defensive Coordinator Vic Fangio scored a major win the day the Bears landed Trevathan. The 6’1”, 240 pound inside linebacker is an incredibly versatile playmaker the team sorely lacked on their roster. He received positive marks from Pro Football Focus as their sixth ranked inside linebacker and will play the NaVorro Bowman role as the team’s every down linebacker and signal caller. He’s a massive upgrade on Shea McClellin and Christian Jones.
Mario Williams, DE MIA
For whatever reason, Mario Williams and Rex Ryan never hit it off. He wasn’t happy with being asked to drop into coverage last year and only wants to rush the passer. It’s pretty hard to argue with him after he recorded 10.5, 13, and 15 sacks his first three years in Buffalo before Ryan showed up. In Miami he’ll get his wish. On a line with Cameron Wake and Ndamukong Suh he’ll see very few double teams and should have little problem getting back into double digit sacks.
Christian Kirksey, ILB CLE
In a somewhat surprising move, the Browns cut their leading tackler in Karlos Dansby in an effort to get younger and continue their annual rebuild. Some may view Demario Davis, who they signed to make Dansby expendable, as the logical replacement to step in as the linebacker to own, but Kirksey is the man most likely to take over as the every down signal caller in Ray Horton’s 3-4 defense. He has big time sleeper appeal and should flirt with LB1 numbers.
Bruce Irvin, OLB OAK
For the first time in a long time, the Oakland Raiders are doing things the right way. They’re hitting on draft picks and complementing their roster through free agency. Reuniting with Ken Norton, Jr. who coached him in Seattle until 2015 was a big selling point in him choosing Oakland in free agency. He’ll form a nasty pass rushing duo with Khalil Mack and shouldn’t see nearly as many snaps in coverage as he did in Seattle. He could flirt with his first double digit sack campaign.
Olivier Vernon, DE NYG
A lot was made of the five year, $85 million with $40 million fully guaranteed contract signed by Vernon but he’s just 25 years old and was Pro Football Focus’ top ranked 4-3 defensive end last year with 81 combined sacks, hits and hurries. Vernon has only registered double digit sacks once in his four year career but is among the league leaders in tackles among defensive linemen every year. From a fantasy standpoint he has a rare high floor, high ceiling at a position usually filled with boom or bust prospects. His addition, along with Damon “Snacks” Harrison, should also help Jason Pierre-Paul become a more productive player as well.
Jordan Hicks, MLB PHI
Hicks has had two bumps so far this off-season. First, the Eagles released DeMeco Ryans, then they started their “Chip Kelly purge”, shipping Kiko Alonso to Miami. Penciled in as the starting middle linebacker in Jim Schwartz’s 4-3 defense, Hicks should see a steady diet of tackles week in and week out. He has legitimate LB2 probability moving forward.
Tyvon Branch, SS ARZ
The Cardinals defensive backfield has become a fantasy gold mine. Last year, Tyrann Mathieu and Tony Jefferson both finished in the top 24 among IDP safeties with Rashad Johnson not far behind. You could technically add Deone Bucannon but he was a safety in designation only as he played nearly all his snaps at linebacker, but more on that later. Branch was signed to replace the departed Rashad Johnson and should pair with Jefferson as the starting safeties while Mathieu recovers from ACL surgery.
Chandler Jones, OLB ARZ
Arizona’s acquisition of Chandler Jones came out of nowhere, but is a big time get for the Cardinals. The reason he finds himself on the losers list is his position switch. In New England he was a 4-3 defensive end and an elite option at the position. His 12.5 sacks ranked fifth among all defensive linemen. His role won’t change in Arizona as he’ll be asked to fill the role vacated by Dwight Freeney, but his IDP value takes a massive hit going from elite defensive end to boom or bust outside linebacker.
One of the greatest loopholes in IDP fantasy football last year was being able to play Deone Bucannon, and later Mark Barron, at safety even though they were both playing full time snaps at the linebacker position. It appears the gravy train has finally pulled into the station as Bucannon is now listed as the team’s starting inside linebacker and the Rams labeled Barron as a weak side linebacker when they handed him an eye popping five year, $45 million contract in free agency. Don’t get me wrong, I’m in no way expecting a regression from either player but they lose fantasy value by losing their safety designation. Both players go from top five weekly options at safety to solid LB2s.
Mario Edwards, OLB OAK
While it’s not fair to speculate, the Raiders signing Bruce Irvin is probably not a good sign for Edwards’ long term outlook after suffering a “significant neck injury” in week 15 of last year. The injury reportedly revealed a “possibly genetic” condition previously unknown. He was having a strong rookie campaign and looked like a solid bookend for Khalil Mack, but now even if he can return to form he’ll have to fight for playing time with Irvin. His dynasty outlook took a hit but the hope is he’ll get well enough to fight to regain it.
Nigel Bradham, LB PHI
A lot will ultimately depend on whether Bradham starts on the weak side or the strong side, but regardless, he’s going to leave the field in nickel situations. After struggling in Rex Ryan’s 3-4 defense last year in Buffalo, he’ll reunite with Jim Schwartz whose defense he excelled in two seasons ago. Now he has to find a way to prove his 105 tackle season in 2014 wasn’t a fluke. He has an uphill battle in front of him in Philly.
Follow me on Twitter @OlingerIDP.