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.
Full disclosure for those who don’t know already: I’m a Patriots fan. I don’t think that influences my assessment here given it’s all numbers-based, but it is a possibility.
The Pats are obviously an elite team in the NFL. Overall, as well as on a defensive level. As we’ve seen in previous versions of this article, that doesn’t necessarily mean that IDPs will be better or worse overall but it is something to bear in mind. The Patriots are also a very beneficial stat crew for assists, so certain positions get a nice little bump over the course of a season.
It’s basically inconceivable that the defense as a unit take a big backwards step this year. No big names left after last year, a couple of solid vets and promising rookies arrived and we’ve all seen that Matt Patricia can do wonders with limited resources anyway. If this isn’t a top-eight defense I’ll be surprised.
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None. The Pats defense (like many other top units) is unpredictable and can attack in various ways. Plays are spread around many players. This is especially true of New England as the defensive game plan changes so much week to week.
Malcom Brown, DT
Brown is #15 in my tackle rankings, but he has high variance. He could easily be an elite option with eight sacks, and he could just as well be frozen out (he was in the doghouse for part of last season). If you own him keep hold of him. I wouldn’t try to add him.
Key stats: 679 snaps, 28 solo tackles, 24 assists, three sacks, one pass defended.
Trey Flowers, DE
It’s New England so it could all go horribly wrong, but Flowers is a favourite of the coaching staff and should establish himself further as the top edge player on the team. He’s an unusual pass-rusher as he comes inside a lot rather than winning with speed but he can set the edge and has superior technique. I expect him to finish as the #10 end.
Key stats: 928 snaps, 38 solo tackles, 20 assists, seven sacks, four passes defended.
Kony Ealy, DE
Bizarrely my model has a second Patriots end up in the top positional tier at #12. This seems really odd but that’s what the numbers say. I love Ealy’s talent and the situation is good with Chris Long gone and Rob Ninkovich aging.
Key stats: 797 snaps, 33 solo tackles, 22 assists, eight sacks, two passes defended.
Stephen Gilmore, CB
This is one of those rankings that I’m not totally convinced of. The numbers have him at #13 but a significant portion of that is Logan Ryan’s tackling prowess inflating those numbers. The Patriots match corners up better than most teams and Gilmore will not be asked to do as much in the running game.
Key stats: 986 snaps, 47 solo tackles, ten assists, 15 passes defended, three Interceptions.
Malcolm Butler, CB
This is far more realistic and I do think Butler could finish at the #21 my model suggests. There’s obviously a decent chance he’s not totally right mentally with all the offseason shenanigans but it’s a nice example of a really good NFL corner being a good IDP too.
Key stats: 792 snaps, 49 solo tackles, 12 assists, 11 passes defended, two Interceptions.
Rob Ninkovich, DE
Alas poor Ninko; I knew him well. Unfortunately I think the days of him being a great IDP are past. He’s still a good player on the field but he just hasn’t got much explosiveness left and that’s going to limit his use. Remember the old days when he could set the edge and still cover the flat on his side? Not any more he can’t. He’ll still have days where he gets five tackles but they’ll be few and far between and tough to predict. He’s down at #41 for me.
Key stats: 562 snaps, 20 solo tackles, 24 assists, five sacks, one pass defended.
D’onta Hightower, LB
Contrary to Butler, Hightower is a case of a really good NFL player being a bad IDP. With Hightower it comes from the amount of time he’s asked to rush the passer. It’s right up at the upper end of what any off-ball linebacker is asked to do and it severely restricts his opportunities to put up stats. Again he’ll have some big days bit for me he’s a desperation play at linebacker at #51.
Key stats: 748 snaps, 52 solo tackles, 34 assists, three sacks, three passes defended.
David Harris, LB
I’m really surprising myself but I have Harris at #57. That’s way higher than I thought he’d be given his status as a slowed-down vet who got cut by the Jets. The reason being that the second linebacker spot for the Pats is gameplan-dependent. In 2016, Kyle Van Noy, Jamie Collins and Shea McClellan all got on the field when the team tried to cover up Collins’ departure. There’s still no one on the roster that can play like Collins so I see a mishmash of players frustrating IDP owners.
Long-term keep an eye out for Derek Rivers here. I expect a redshirt season but he’ll be a stash for me in a year’s time.
Key stats: 706 snaps, 55 solo tackles, 34 assists, three sacks, four passes defended, one interception.
As a Patriots fan I love Chung. He can play in the run game but he’s good enough in coverage to blanket tight ends. As an IDP fan I get really frustrated by him. He’s used so flexibly he doesn’t get the tackle opportunities I want a strong safety to get. He’s a great example that not all teams use safeties in the same way. It’s really worth spending some time watching how they line up and what jobs they’re asked to do. Chung is my #35 safety for 2017.
Key stats: 891 snaps, 53 solo tackles, 34 assists, one sack, five passes defended, one interception.
Conversely to Chung McCourty is surprisingly effective for a nominal free safety. I have him as my #37 safety and that’s only banking on seven passes defended and an interception. Those numbers could easily be higher (I think that’s the Pats fan in me peeping out).
Key stats: 992 snaps, 58 solo tackles, 17 assists, seven passes defended, one interception.
Mainly this is a split tale. I really like the starting ends and think they’ll both be good but elsewhere I mainly see good players being nowhere near as effective as IDPs as they probably should be.
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.