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.
Things have got to get better, right? I was one of those poor benighted souls who thought the Chip Kelly hire in San Francisco was a good idea. Now we know it was emphatically not. The offense was figured out, the defense didn’t get close to stopping the run, and almost no one looked good for the season.
It’s over, and the team somehow managed to hire the most exciting prospect on the market in Kyle Shanahan. The offense should move on even with Brian Hoyer throwing the ball, but what we really care about is the opposite side of the ball. Last year wasn’t just ineffective – it was muddled. Theoretically the inside linebacker spot on a defense that can’t get off the field is a goldmine for IDP purposes, but the 49ers couldn’t settle on starters and so plays were shared around – which was very frustrating.
There were some bright spots. The high picks on the D-line looked good in particular, and the draft seemed excellent to me in bringing potential playmakers to town. Let’s see how their prospects look as immediate returns.
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Eric Reid, S
My model says he’ll be the #2 safety. I think that’s very high and it’s heavily influenced by the success of Jon Cyprien in the system, but on the other hand it’s certainly possible he’s a top option. He himself and the coaching staff have confirmed he’ll play the Kam Chancellor role in this system and there will certainly be tackle opportunities. This fantasy game of ours is all about upside ultimately and Reid certainly has it.
Key stats: 1,019 snaps, 83 solo tackles, 37 assists, five passes defended, one interception.
DeForest Buckner, DT
We’ve spent the off-season arguing in the DLF IDP voxer chat about how this line will come together. It’s finally starting to take shape and I’m fairly sure that Buckner will be the starting 3-tech. This is great news for him even if (as expected) he takes a significant drop to his ridiculously high snap count where he led all ends as a rookie.
I think he’ll become a dominant force inside even at his size. We know he can stay effective for longer than many interior pass rushers so he’ll have every opportunity to compile stats. He’s my #12 tackle but I could easily see him doing better than that.
Key stats: 664 snaps, 29 solo tackles, 15 assists, six sacks, two passes defended.
Navorro Bowman, LB
Reuben Foster, LB
I’m writing these up together because there’s a lot of uncertainty to me. Bowman is obviously in control of the lead dog spot but I also don’t expect him to be close to his previous excellence. At some point I expect Foster to pass him by. Probably not this season but it’s a possibility. Foster is after all prodigiously talented. He was top of my linebacker rookie rankings by a considerable distance. For him to fall into an excellent spot after being a first round pick is even more confirmation that he’ll likely be a top LB option.
Currently I’m expecting Bowman to be the best option, and he’s my #9 linebacker with Foster at #30. So they’re both likely to be starter-quality and both would be a very nice asset on most teams.
Key stats: 907 snaps, 91 solo tackles, 38 assists, two sacks, six passes defended, one interception.
Key stats: 868 snaps, 73 solo tackles, 29 assists, two sacks, four passes defended, one interception.
I’ve tried to avoid too much jargon in this series but this role is the anchor role 5-tech across from the penetrating 3-tech in the 4-3 under scheme. It’s the big bloke who stops the run whilst everyone else is attacking gaps.
It’s really not that productive for IDP terms and you’d only want to roster either of these in deep DT-premium leagues. Whichever of these wins the starting job is my #22 tackle.
Key stats: 508 snaps, 23 solo tackles, 13 assists, three sacks, one pass defended.
Solomon Thomas, DE
This is the big question of course. How are they going to use Thomas? He’s versatile and clearly extremely talented, but it’s tough to see how he and Arik Armstead both fit into this scheme. For now, I’ve got him down as the top candidate to play outside and see some sub package snaps inside which should be fairly productive for him even as a rookie. He’s my #31 ranked end.
Key stats: 742 snaps, 24 solo tackles, 12 assists, eight sacks, three passes defended.
Arik Armstead, DE
I like Armstead but I just struggle to see him getting a high snap count. He’s not a natural Leo at all. He’s not as good as Buckner as an option inside and the coaching staff clearly brought Solomon Thomas in for a very specific role. As EC likes to tell me, Armstead was extremely productive on a per-snap basis but I think he’ll be a part-time player this year. I have him down at #50.
Key stats: 571 snaps, 19 solo tackles, 11 assists, five sacks, three passes defended.
My calculations have not been kind to the 49ers corners and Robinson is the top option at #37 with either Johnson the talented rookie at #64. Witherspoon is the dark horse to do much better here but it’s a situation to watch carefully in camp.
Key stats: 972 snaps, 41 solo tackles, ten assists, 12 passes defended, three interceptions.
Key stats: 593 snaps, 37 solo tackles, four assists, 12 passes defended, three interceptions.
Jimmie Ward, S
Ward will play at free safety and is not someone you’ll need to roster unless you play in very large leagues. I have him at #38.
Key stats: 930 snaps, 53 solo tackles, 20 assists, one sack, four passes defended, three interceptions.
I can’t wait to see this D line in camp and preseason. I strongly advise keeping an eye on it as Armstead will be very cheap. If he has a big role in the scheme, he’s an excellent buy. Buckner and Solomon Thomas will both very likely be overvalued by someone who drafted them earlier than they should have gone, so you’re best off just watching if you don’t already own them.
Linebacker is the other major spot. How good Bowman is will ultimately define a lot of how the season goes for this whole defense.
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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