Following OTAs and headed into training camp, there are plenty of arbitrage opportunities throughout IDP leagues with value to be had both on the wire and/or via trade depending on league depth. Here are some players to target.
Brandon Graham, PHI DE
There has been a lot of talk about the Eagles’ and DC Jim Schwartz’s Wide 9 philosophy and how it will positively impact their defensive ends, but it’s not reflected in any of their current values. Part of that is attributable to there being three capable bodies on the roster with Graham, Vinny Curry and Connor Barwin. However, all three should see plenty of snaps and sack opportunities in a heavy rotation. Ultimately, it wouldn’t be surprising for all three to be somewhere in the seven to 10 sack range for 2016. Consider this – as a defensive coordinator across nine seasons, Schwartz’s defenses ranked in the top 10 in sacks in six seasons (i.e., 67 percent). That’s a very good indication of where this defense may be at the end of 2016, especially with the pass-rushing ability of his three ends. Fletcher Cox may be the x-factor to suppress the defensive ends’ sack ceiling, but this is arguably Schwartz’s best defensive line from pure pass-rushing perspective. There’s a good shot the Eagles’ defense finishes top five in sacks because of it.
Through OTAs, Graham was rotating in with Barwin and Curry the starters, but Graham still has the DE2 potential in 2016 in an equitable rotation at a nice reasonable low cost.
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Ibraheim Campbell, CLE SS
With Donte Whitner gone, Campbell should be the Browns’ starting strong safety in 2016. With marginal talent at inside linebacker with Demario Davis and Christian Kirksey the tentative starters, Campbell should eat quite well in an active role near the line of scrimmage in 2016. Add in the fact that the Browns’ should be playing from behind and we have a potential DB1 candidate who comes at a DB3 or DB4 price.
Mario Williams, DE MIA
Williams’ atrocious 2015 season left many IDP owners bitter. This should help keep his value deflated into 2016. It’s important to avoid recency bias with Williams, though, as he has never excelled as a 3-4 outside linebacker. Rex Ryan also misused him in 2015 much like he misused Quinton Coples in New York. Both were terrible fits in Ryan’s defense out of a two-point stance and struggled because of it. Add the rift between Ryan and Williams, and 2015 was a massive under-performing season for Williams. In fact, it was his worst as a pro. Again in a 4-3 edge role with Miami, Williams should bounce back with a double-digit sack season in 2016. Valued in the DL30 range at 31-years-old, Williams should still have DE2 production for the next few years with DE1 potential in 2016, at the very least.
De’Vondre Campbell, WLB ATL
I credit Eric Coleman with this find way back early in the pre-draft process around the East-West Shrine Game. After the Falcons selected him in the fourth round with limited talent on the weakside, it was a good bet to place Campbell as a rookie to experience the most appreciation in value into the summer. Post draft, both Dan Quinn and Thomas Dimitroff raved about Campbell’s skill set, athleticism and natural ability – another good sign. Into OTAs, Campbell was running as the Falcons’ starting weakside linebacker – again, a positive indicator. Despite all of this, Campbell is just starting to get some respect, however, not all are on board yet. There is still opportunity to poke around and see if you can acquire Campbell cheaply as all signs point to him playing in various situations and a high volume of snaps.
Sean Spence, ILB TEN
Many assume Wesley Woodyard will start next to Avery Williamson, but it’s not a forgone conclusion. Instead, Spence is a very viable option this season as he’s likely to push the aging Woodyard. Spence was a third-round pick of the Steelers in 2012, but has struggled with injuries missing both the 2012 and 2013 seasons. While he’s yet to earn a consistent starting gig, he’s proven capable in limited action. Most importantly, he’s a favorite of Titans’ defensive coordinator, Dick LeBeau, who drafted and spent several seasons with Spence in Pittsburgh. Considering Spence’s knowledge of the system, his athleticism and coverage ability, he’s a viable sleeper who costs pennies, if anything.
Zachary Orr, BAL ILB
The Ravens have a knack for finding ILB diamonds in a sea of undrafted rookie free agents – Bart Scott, Dannell Ellerbe and Jameel McClain to name a few. With Daryl Smith no longer in the picture, the starting spot alongside CJ Mosley is up for grabs. Arthur Brown is in the mix, but he’s proven to be a prospect whiff. While Kamalei Correa received some run inside during OTAs, Orr doesn’t have much competition. Many have been quick to add Correa as a serious threat to Orr as a starter with this news tidbit, but it appears the Ravens were rotating their linebackers and giving Correa looks at different linebacker positions.
Frankly, the reps inside are likely due to the presence of Elivs Dumervil and Terrell Suggs outside, which should limit Correa’s outside snaps in the short-term. More conceivable is the staff was experimenting with various sub-package options. The situation should clearly be monitored through camp, but it’s far from a certainty Correa consistently plays inside. Instead, the better bet is he plays inside situationally (i.e., the third down pass rush special with the rush coming from all angles). It makes too much sense considering his versatility. I don’t currently believe Correa’s a legitimate threat to Orr’s starting spot and have Orr tabbed as a cheap option with starting potential.
Blake Martinez, ILB GB
The Packers’ inside linebacker situation is entirely unsettled. Sam Barrington is coming back from injury and one assumed starter, but Martinez impressed in OTAs with Clay Matthews, Mike McCarthy and Dom Capers offering praise. The Packers desperately need someone to step up and assume an every down role. Barrington, Martinez and Jake Ryan will duke it out through camp with Barrington a favorite, but it may be Martinez who has the best shot at emerging considering his athleticism, quickness and instincts. Even if he doesn’t earn the role immediately, Martinez appears to posses the skills to claim a three down role in long-term. The initial positive reports are encouraging.
Devin Taylor, DE DET
Danielle Hunter is all the rage right now and it’s warranted considering the skill set flashed and the production in limited action, but Taylor may be on his heels at a fraction of the cost. Situated to line up across from Ziggy Ansah, Taylor should see a nice volume of snaps in 2016. On 67 percent of snaps in 2015 in an equitable snap share with Jason Jones, Taylor finished second on the team in sacks with seven. In the last six weeks of 2015, Taylor accumulated four and a half (64 percent) of his seven sacks and 14 (52 percent) of his 27 tackles on the year. The last two weeks of the season when Jason Jones was out, he tallied three tackles and a sack in each game. Bottom line, and to use a popular cliché, something clicked for Taylor down the stretch in 2015. As a starter and with a slight increase in snaps, a breakout for Taylor is very realistic in 2016.
Frank Clark, DE SEA
As a rookie, Clark only played 34 percent of the team’s snaps. With both Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett 30-plus and Bruce Irvin in Atlanta, Clark’s snaps are on tap to increase. Bennett typically kicks inside in passing situations and with Irvin out of the picture, the edge should be occupied more frequently by Clark. Both Clark and Pete Carroll suggested he’s in much better physical shape coming into 2016 having lost 15 pounds during the offseason. With indications for increased snaps in 2016, a rarely talked about breakout opportunity is on the horizon with the potential for a double-digit sack season. Looking past 2016, Clark has long-term top five potential and comes at a significantly discounted price due to the log-jam he was drafted into in 2015. He’s a perfect buy headed into training camp.
Deon Bush, SS CHI
With Antrelle Rolle released soon after the draft, there is an opportunity at safety in Chicago. Three rookies will compete heavily for the job next to Adrian Amos, including Bush, DeAndre Houston-Carson and potentially Deiondre Hall. Hall began with cornerback reps in OTAs, but he may get thrown into the safety mix in coming weeks considering his college background. The veteran competition is highly mediocre, so Bush will receive plenty of opportunity to start as a rookie. Coming from a top college program, coupled with his physicality, he’s my favorite to win the job. There are coverage concerns requiring further development, but he’s a tone-setter with experience playing in various capacities. As a dirt cheap, Bush is a favorite deep league addition.
Justin March, ILB KC
Many people are on Ramik Wilson as the young, long-term option to start next to Derrick Johnson and assume his duties after his imminent retirement. While Wilson received a lot of buzz last summer, so did March. March doesn’t have the draft pedigree Wilson does as an undrafted free agent, but March also received reps with the first-team defense before ending his season in September with a knee injury. Now healthy, March is continuing to impress the staff early in the 2016 offseason. A superior athlete who can cover, there is building speculation that March may be earning coverage snaps. He is a must watch in all leagues and a favorable add in deeper leagues. Again seeing first team reps, depending on how he plays through camp and the preseason there is potential he starts. At the very least, he’s a viable long-term play.
Artie Burns, CB PIT
Burns is a primary rookie corner rule option. The likely starter opposite William Gay with Ross Cockrell and Senquez Golson as his only competition, Burns should see plenty of tackle opportunities in 2016. Not only will Gay help, but further contributing to the high volume of tackle opportunities is the Steelers’ offense. With the offensive playmakers they have, opposing defenses will be on their heels often playing catch up through the air. This is a prime situation for a rookie corner, especially one who is raw and isn’t afraid to get physical.