Many owners struggle to differentiate between IDP prospects once the well known targets are off the board. They get caught in the trap of checking the waiver wire for the past week’s top scorers and wind up adding a player whose performance in the previous game was an outlier, not a sign of sustainable future success. The result of this “dart-throwing” approach is often disappointment with the new player’s performance and even worse, losing games for our fantasy teams.
DLF’s IDP Report Card will aid owners who wish to see beyond the box score and focus on trends rather than events. Understanding when to avoid a pickup because the player’s perceived value is based more on circumstance than skill will help you improve your scoring efficiency and stack up wins. So, with a special thanks to Dan Meylor, proprietor of DLF’s Rookie Report Card, here is the IDP version.
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Sheldon Rankins, DT NO
On August 15th, Saints’ rookie defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins suffered a broken fibula in training camp. It required surgery, and a stint on the Injured Reserve list. NFL rules stipulate that only one player per season may be designated to return to the team from the IR list. With a struggling defense, and close to ten players on IR, most from their secondary and defensive line, the decision on who to bring back was not an easy one for the the Saints. Ultimately, Rankins was designated to return, and after spending the mandatory eight weeks on IR, the rookie rejoined the team in week nine, to face the the 49ers.
He played on 36 out of 60 possible snaps in that contest, logging just a single tackle. In the four games since, he’s totaled seven tackles, two tackles for loss, a forced fumble, and three sacks. Rankins has maintained a fairly consistent 63% share of the snaps during this stretch. His impact has been felt in the run game, where the Saints went from allowing 117 yards per game in the seven games without Rankins, to giving just 80 yards per contest in the five games since he returned to the line-up.
Defensive line, defensive tackle in particular, is a difficult position to find good help in IDP fantasy football. One of the reasons to believe that Rankins can provide solid future production is that he’s shown the ability to pass rush from the position. At Louisville, Rankins tallied 14 sacks over his final two seasons, (his only two years as a starter,) to go with 26.5 TFLs, and two interceptions. With the Saints, he already has three sacks and two TFLs, in just five games played as a pro.
His pass rush versatility is also backed-up by the fact that New Orleans not only leaves Rankins in on third and long situations, but also allows him to shift outside and rush from a “five technique,” aligned on the offensive tackle’s outside shoulder. Rankins shares the pass rushing duties with veterans Nick Fairley and Cameron Jordan, forming a more formidable front than the Saints have had the privilege of boasting in recent years.
The future of the Saints’ front seven is even brighter, with Hau’oli Kikaha returning from IR next season, to help Jordan and Rankins get after the quarterback. Free agency looms for Fairley, which may or may not spell an exit from the Big Easy. Should Fairley wind up finding a new address in 2017, the door to playing time will be left wide open for Sheldon Rankins, who was the Saints top pick at number 12 overall in the 2016 draft.
There are two main components of a viable pass rush – speed off the edge, and power up the middle. Rankins provides the latter. It isn’t as flashy as the play you’ll get from a guy like Khalil Mack, but it pays the bills. Without question, Rankins has the talent to put up top 24 numbers. In a sack-heavy scoring system he could achieve even more. Ultimately, your valuation will depend on your league, but Sheldon Rankins has the look of a player who could help keep the “goose eggs” out of your scoring column for the next five, or so years.
Sheldon Rankins Student Grade (Instructor’s Notes)
Player Evaluation #2
Nick Kwiatkowski, LB CHI
The Chicago Bears made a major investment in their middle linebacking corps this off-season, by bringing Danny Trevathan and Jerrell Freeman into the fold. The pair were plugging along, having solid individual seasons, despite the team’s lack of success. Then, Freeman was suspended for a violation of the NFL’s policy on performance enhancing drugs. The following game, Trevathan went down with a ruptured patella tendon. Without their two veterans in the middle, Chicago was forced to turn to rookie linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski, their fourth round pick out of West Virginia.
Kwiatkoski stepped in for Freeman in week 12, playing 53 snaps (93%) against the Titans. He made two tackles and two assists in that contest. Last week, he exploded with nine solos, two TFLs and a pair of passes defended against the 49ers. IDP fans took notice. This performance must be taken with a grain of salt due to the monumentally poor quarterback play from Colin Kaepernick and Blaine Gabbert, and the limiting effect it had on San Fran’s offense. None of that is Nick Kwiatkoski’s fault, however.
The rookie showed an ability to scrape his way across the line of scrimmage and find the ball carrier. He is not a physically imposing player, or one with exceptional athleticism. At the Combine, Kwiatkoski posted a solid, 4.22 seconds in the 20-yard shuttle, highlighting his short-area quickness, which translates well to the tape. But he’s not going to win battles with interior offensive linemen with his quickness. He missed a handful of tackles, which is always troubling, but again, this all goes back to his limited physical prowess. Ultimately, Kwiatkoski is a volume tackler, who will get his fair share by being at the right place, at the right time.
It’s a safe bet the rookie will be a producer for the remainder of 2016. However, Kwiatkoski’s ability to secure a starting job for 2017 will be the subject of debate over this off-season. Jerrell Freeman will be 31 entering next season with two years remaining on the three-year pact he signed last off-season. He’s due $4 million dollars, $2 million of which was guaranteed (without knowing if there will be any implications to that guarantee following the PED suspension.) Trevathan’s deal carries a $3.35 million dollar cap hit, and has $5.75 million in guarantees left to be paid out over the three remaining seasons. He’ll only be 27 years-of-age, come kick off of the 2017 season.
For Kwiatkoski to displace one of these players, he’d have to have a tremendous final four games. Given the fact Chicago spent a fourth rounder on him, and invested in the two veterans last off-season, it’s not likely a rookie will enter the picture. Freeman and Trevathan each played well prior to losing their spots in the line-up. It’s unlikely either will find themselves on the bench next season, leaving Kwiatkoski stuck in a special teams/reserve roll, which does nothing for your roster, aside from take up a spot that could be used for a producer. But should Freeman wind up being released, or either player miss time next year, Kwiatkoski should be snatched off waivers immediately.
Player Evaluation #2
Nick Kwiatkoski Student Grade (Instructor’s Notes)