I believe that to properly analyze the 2017 IDPs you need to have an idea of how they’ll ALL perform so you can benchmark and compare them effectively. So I built a model using past performance, efficiency, scheme information and coaching tendencies to predict what will happen in 2017. I’ve applied that to my best estimates for how teams will use players this year which gives a projection and ranking for all IDPs. You can read more about what I did and how here.
A fact not bandied around too much is that the Jags benefit from a top ten stat crew. They were ninth last year in solo tackles, which explains how their linebackers and strong safeties were consistently so excellent through years of not being a very good team at all. Yes they had opportunities, but the fact the stat crew likes to put a name on most plays really helped too.
Of course, things are different now in Jacksonville with Gus Bradley gone. Or are they? They basically kept the coaching teams exactly the same, bar Bradley. I expect the defensive scheme to be very similar year-on-year, albeit with some fairly major personnel changes. It’s been fairly productive for IDPs over recent years (linebacker in particular) so I’m quietly confident it will continue to be so. A lot depends on how Calais Campbell is used, and the line might be the key to the season. The Jags have accumulated talent, but it’s how they fit together that will decide if this really is when they finally start to improve or if it’ll be yet another false dawn.
Malik Jackson, DT
Since his move to Jacksonville, it’s gone a bit quiet on Malik, but he’s still an excellent penetrator. He has 12 sacks combined over the last two seasons, which is excellent. He’s the #6 tackle in my system which is probably about his ceiling – but it’s very realistic.
Key stats: 764 snaps, 31 solo tackles, 11 assists, seven sacks, four passes defended.
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Telvin Smith, LB
Assuming nothing changes drastically scheme-wise, there is no reason why Smith cannot remain in the elite category where he’s been for the last few years. I’ve got him down as the #6 linebacker. Many people don’t realise he’s extremely lightweight at just 218 lbs (coming into the league), and Smith is a great example of what we need to be looking for in linebackers these days – mobile players who can play all three downs with enough speed to make plays in coverage. Without that, it doesn’t matter how good a run-stuffer they are – they’re going to be limited in the modern game. Telvin actually gave up the second-most receptions amongst linebackers in 2016 (behind Tahir Whitehead) but he also had the seventh-most tackles in the passing game.
Key stats: 951 snaps, 99 solo tackles, 32 assists, two sacks, six passes defended, one INT.
Barry Church, S
New team, new scheme, same old production. I’ll be very shocked if Church is not a direct and effective replacement for Jon Cyprien. Feel free to pick him up as an elite option with a true in-the-box role and high volume. He’s my #4 safety.
Key stats: 1,028 snaps, 85 solo tackles, 28 assists, one sack, four passes defended, one INT.
Calais Campbell, DE
This is the biggest question mark for me on the team. Will he play exclusively outside? Will he have a Michael Bennett role? Will he be a huge 3-tech? I expect him to be the sort of player they actually change the scheme to accommodate, so we’ll need to watch carefully. In the meantime I’ve evaluated him as an edge player, where I expect him to finish as the #26 end.
Key stats: 784 snaps, 28 solo tackles, 11 assists, seven sacks, four passes defended.
Myles Jack, LB
This is the one the people want to see isn’t it? I don’t actually own any shares because he was going too high for me and hasn’t really lost value, but it’s undeniable he’s a huge breakout contender. I have him as my #30 linebacker based on him taking over Paul Posluszny’s old spot. Given the difference in their skillsets, production could be fairly different and this might actually also have a knock-on effect on Telvin Smith too. Either way, treat him as a starter in deeper leagues with the opportunity to be elite in a year’s time.
Key stats: 914 snaps, 99 solo tackles, 25 assists, two sacks, four passes defended, one INT.
Sheldon Day, DT
Alright – useful is a bit of a stretch, but I like Day as a player and the Jags do rotate their line a fair amount. He’s a flier in huge leagues at tackle #25.
Key stats: 524 snaps, 25 solo tackles, nine assists, three sacks, two passes defended.
Dante Fowler, DE
The other great unknown. Yes – it’s possible that Fowler could be about to live up to the potential he showed in college, but I deal in evidence and data rather than hope. Fowler struggled to beat out Yannick Ngakoue last year (who was a liability in the run game), not to mention Jared Odrick. If he’s fully healthy then that could change, but there’s also a very real chance he never makes it back. We know how fragile pass-rusher careers can be. For players all about burst and bend and torque, a bad knee injury can really kill their ability. Fowler is my #46 end. He’s worth a roster spot in deep leagues but you need to have his valuation right: he’s a bench player who could be much better. You should not rely on him as a starter with some injury risk.
Key stats: 615 snaps, 24 solo tackles, ten assists, four sacks, two passes defended.
Paul Posluszny, LB
Alas poor Pos I knew him well. Here’s a reminder that Father Time is undefeated. Unless there’s an injury, his time as a viable fantasy starter is up I’m afraid. He won’t get the volume or the alignment to make plays like he used to. He’s my #91 linebacker. If you can find someone silly enough to give you a late pick, then take the deal and don’t look back.
Key stats: 463 snaps, 35 solo tackles, 17 assists, two sacks, three passes defended, one INT.
Jalen Ramsey, CB
Everyone will tell you Ramsey came in and looked like a Pro Bowl talent. He did in flashes, but he showed plenty of rookie mental fog too. I fully expect him to be much better in his second year and therefore be targeted less. On the other hand, with AJ Bouye on board the Jags have a great tandem on paper and someone is getting targets. He’s my #63 corner right now and you can likely do better but he’ll also have some big weeks. I just think it’ll be very tough to predict when they’ll be. If you own him, you probably overpaid for him, so you might as well hold on and cross your fingers.
Key stats: 979 snaps, 39 solo tackles, ten assists, one sack, nine passes defended, two INTs.
AJ Bouye, CB
Bouye was really, really good last year and deservedly got a great contract but don’t let that fool you into thinking he’s an elite IDP option. The Jags don’t actually get passed on that much because they haven’t been able to stop the run so there’s just not as many tackle opportunities as people assume. He’s my #57 corner right now and again take anything you can get for him based on hype and name value.
Key stats: 656 snaps, 43 solo tackles, four assists, 12 passes defended, one INT.
This is a pretty glowing report as a whole. Three are three elite options, and a couple more that could get up that sort of level in the best-case scenario (Myles Jack and Calais Campbell). My main caution here is don’t get suckered. Don’t expect them to suddenly be an elite defense because of a few signings. And don’t expect every player to be good because they’re a four win team again. Not every player on a team can be good. The linebackers and strong safety have historically been so good because they take plays away from those around them.
Those are my predictions as of right now. Obviously things will change as we get a better idea of who will play and how going towards the season. If you disagree with any assertions here feel free to leave a comment or contact me on Twitter (@TomDegenerate) and I’ll be happy to discuss.
Thanks for reading.
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