At this point of the NFL off-season there tend to be a lot more questions than answers. Nowhere is this truer than on the defensive side of the ball. I always say the two most nerve racking times for IDP owners are the week after the regular season ends and Draft weekend. The week after the season ends, or “Black Monday” as it has come to be known, leads to coaching changes, which leads to defensive scheme changes, which can turn a legit IDP squad into a hot mess overnight. Draft weekend can also wreak havoc on IDP rosters when players are unexpectedly drafted to teams who weren’t expected to add talent at the position. Usually this only affects the fringe talent at the linebacker position, guys like Paul Worrilow.
In the “32 Teams, 32 IDP Questions” we’re going to break down each NFL division, team by team, and ask the most pressing IDP questions facing each club. It may deal with overall scheme changes, position battles or draft related strategy. Today’s focus is the NFC West.
[am4show have=’g1;’ guest_error=’sub_message’ user_error=’sub_message’ ]
“After a wasted rookie season, can Robert Nkemdiche turn it around in year two?”
In an earlier article I questioned the people who write off a prospect after a subpar rookie season. This was more than a subpar campaign. After missing time at the beginning of the season with an ankle injury, Nkemdiche quickly worked himself into the doghouse of Coach Arians who deactivated him weeks nine through 14. He also called Nkemdiche out in a post game press conference questioning his work ethic and maturity, something he was also accused of while at Ole Miss. It was quite the fall for a player who once carried the potential to be the draft’s number one player overall.
So what does he have to do to improve on his 2016 season? Not much. He totaled one assist on the season. One. Assist. Total. Yuck! With Calais Campbell leaving town and joining the Jacksonville Jaguars, Nkemdiche finds himself with a great opportunity to show the Cardinals coaching staff and IDP players how serious he takes his job. He enters the spring buried on the depth chart, no doubt a motivational ploy as nothing is promised in this league, even with draft pedigree. As much as IDP players who invested in him last summer want him to pan out, it is nothing compared to what the Cardinals are hoping for. You cannot expect Calais Campbell type numbers from everyone, especially for a guy who finished with half a tackle last year, but the position breeds IDP value and if he can get his head on straight he has a chance. He’s more than likely a cheap add at this point.
Los Angeles Rams
“What does the shift to a 3-4 do to the IDP assets of the Rams?”
Quite frankly, it hurts more than it helps. The biggest losers are Robert Quinn and Aaron Donald. Quinn moves from elite defensive end, albeit coming off back to back rough years, to outside linebacker and Donald goes from arguably the game’s most dominant defensive tackle to defensive end in this 3-4 scheme. Quinn will still play with his hand in the dirt on obvious passing downs but losing the defensive end designation is what hurts so bad in IDP leagues unless your league offers “EDGE” designation, which few do from what I’ve seen. A lot of leagues have adapted a defensive tackle premium scoring designed to make the often lower statistical production of defensive tackles more impactful. In these leagues, Aaron Donald was a fantasy gold mine with 28 sacks through his first three seasons. He also loses value but will still put up DE1 numbers.
As far as Alec Ogletree and Mark Barron go, I expect practically no change to Ogletree’s value while Barron might see a slight dip in production. My only concern with Barron is him having to take on more blocking and fighting through more trash in a 3-4. Playing the WILL linebacker role in a 4-3 left him playing more run and chase ball and at 6’2” and 215 pounds, he is going to have to be technically sound. I haven’t moved him much in my rankings and I still consider him a solid LB2 but I’ll be watching him pretty closely to make sure he can handle the switch. This one should be a lot easier than the switch from safety to linebacker though.
“Can Frank Clark take another step forward in year three and enter DE1 territory for IDPers?”
Frank Clark was one of my biggest buy low prospects entering last season and he paid off in a big way. He finished his sophomore season with 47 total tackles and 10 sacks as a situational pass rusher and part time player. With Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril both 31 years old, it’s going to be increasingly difficult for the both of them to hold off the 23 year old up and comer. Clark is easily and clearly the IDP guy you want to own and seems to have shed the personal baggage he carried into the league while at Michigan.
Being drafted by the Seahawks and Pete Carroll might have been the best thing to ever happen to him as they have a track record for “parenting” players with baggage. Clark could definitely be in the DE1 tier this year if he continues to see snaps at SAM linebacker while being designated as a defensive end. The Seahawks are as good as anyone in the league at getting their best pass rushers on the field at the same time in as many formations as possible.
San Francisco 49ers
“What does a switch to a 4-3 mean for former first round picks Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner?”
Switching to a 4-3 defense from a 3-4 defense is great news for defensive ends, right? Not always. The 49ers have spent first round picks on Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner in the last two drafts as 3-4 defensive ends. During their seemingly annual team overhaul, they have decided to switch to a 4-3 front under new defensive coordinator Robert Saleh, a la Seattle and Jacksonville. The majority of the time a defensive end will see a bump in IDP value when switching to a 4-3 but in this case the players are both 6’7” and questionable fits for the scheme.
Armstead is flirting with bust status after back to back disappointing campaigns to start his career and now he’ll be asked to learn a new scheme but with 34 tackles and 4.5 sacks total in his career, there really isn’t anywhere to go but up. Hopefully the surgery he had on his shoulder will fix whatever it was holding him back and he’ll deliver on being the 17th selection of the 2015 draft.
Buckner will actually take a bit of a hit statistically because he was producing at an incredible rate from the 3-4 defensive end position with 73 total tackles and six sacks as a rookie. That’s more tackles than Calais Campbell has had in any single season of his career and he’s long been the benchmark 3-4 defensive end. In order to maintain his IDP value he’ll need to get to the quarterback more often and that could be difficult without another pass rushing threat unless he’s slapped with a defensive tackle designation and then he becomes a top five player at the position. This makes sense because they could then get Aaron Lynch on the field with Quinton Dial, Buckner and Armstead.
The real kicker to all this is the Niners haven’t even come out and publicly stated what their base formation will be in 2017 so the depth charts at RotoWorld have gone unchanged, leaving the players hanging in the balance. This stinks because at anytime our IDP rosters can be jumbled up and a lot of leagues start drafting as soon as the NFL draft concludes. Stay tuned sports fans!
Follow me on Twitter @OlingerIDP.