One of the easiest ways to do well in IDP is to simply avoid players from last season who had unrepeatable, obvious-outlier statistics.
Our natural assumption is to assume that this year’s numbers will look quite like last season’s final numbers, and that’s just not true. We see enormous variation in IDP every season – much more so than with offensive positions.
In this article we highlight a number of players at all five defensive positions who are very unlikely to repeat their 2021 heroics. This doesn’t mean you need to sell them at all costs. You still need to get good value and these guys aren’t all suddenly going to be terrible. There’s a big difference between not sustaining outlier, elite efficiency and not being any good at all.
Quinnen Williams, NYJ
Williams is a big name due to his draft capital, but after three seasons he’s yet to hit 40 pressures in a season. Eighteen different DTs hit that benchmark in 2021 alone.
He was still likely a top ten DT in your league last season, but it’s tough to see him staying at that level.
In 2021 he finished:
- 42nd in DI pass rush snaps.
- 26th in DI pressures.
- 11th in DI sacks.
Efficiently converting pass rush snaps into pressures is a good sign, but he still was outside the top 24 at his position in pressures. He scored well because he converted a very high proportion of them into sacks, which is not a sticky, sustainable metric. Expect his pass rush to fall back next season
Chris Wormley, PIT
Wormley managed eight sacks in 2021. Only five players at his position had more and those guys are all studs. On top of this Stephon Tuitt should be back and healthy.
It’s common to assume that season like this are “breakouts”, but that implies breaking through a glass ceiling before repeating those heroics. This is not going to be the case here.
A’Shawn Robinson, LAR
Robinson is a big name due to his draft hype and long career. But his tackle numbers from 2021 stand out as being unrepeatable. He recorded 65 total tackles (fifth among all DTs) from just 517 snaps (65th among DTs).
The four DTs with more tackles than him averaged over 900 snaps. Robinson’s tackle efficiency was 12.9%. Average for the 50 DTs with most snaps in 2021 was 6.3%.
It was a brilliant season in leagues that reward high-tackling DTs, but one he is extremely unlikely to repeat.
Christian Wilkins, DT
Similarly, Wilkins posted absurd tackle numbers in 2021. He led all interior linemen with 80 combined tackles but was just 17th in snaps.
Wilkins also chipped in with a very respectable five sacks, but even that was high for his pressure total. Calais Campbell had the same pressures, but just one sack.
In the following chart you can see Wilkins (aqua) and A’Shawn Robinson (blue) highlighted against their peers.
TJ Watt, PIT
Well, this name is going to generate some angry comments, isn’t it?
Watt had a fantastic season and won the Defensive Player of the Year award. He’s overwhelmingly likely to play well again. Having said that, if you delve deeper into what made his season so good you start to spot some loose threads.
The main one is Watt’s absurd finisher ratio. On average, edge rushers convert around 20% of their pressures into sacks. In 2021, Watt hit slightly over 35%.
It’s very possible that Watt avoids injury and plays more in 2022, but the history of players following seasons like this is not good. Over the past 15 years, edge rushers with at least 40 pressures and a finisher rate of 30% or higher averaged 18 sacks each. The season after, those players averaged just under nine sacks each.
Robert Quinn, CHI
Quinn was in a similar place to Watt: not that much pressure but a ton of sacks. This was actually true of the Bears as a whole. They were 30th among NFL teams this season for total pressures, but joint third for sacks – and a lot of that was down to Quinn, who recorded 46th pressures (28th among all edges) and 18 sacks (second among edges).
To put that into more context he had the same number of sacks as Myles Garrett, but just 57% of the pressures. His supporters (and there are many) will argue that maybe he’s just good at converting pressure into sacks, but that’s not a consistent stat at all. Here you can see how anomalous Quinn’s 2021 was compared to the rest of his career.
Haason Reddick, PHI
Reddick was also in the same boat as Watt and Quinn and it just shows how unreliable sacks are as a stat. Hopefully, if you’re reading this you already know this, but sacks are a very poor stat in terms of predictivity.
Reddick piled up 15 sacks in 2021 from just 47 pressures.
It’s actually even worse than that. Reddick recorded six sacks in the first three weeks of the season (about 8% of his pass-rush snaps ended in a sack), but then just nine sacks over the remaining 13 weeks of the season (about 2.5% of his pass-rush snaps ended in a sack).
It’s fun to think that some players are just boom-bust pass rushers, but that’s nonsense. It’s just that finishing is a wildly unstable metric.
Here you can see those three edge rushers in terms of pressure to sacks. Their outlier status is clear.
Micah Parsons, DAL
Parsons had an incendiary season as a rookie when he was one of the most effective pass rushers in the NFL – at any position. He generated pressure on about 22% of all his pass-rush snaps. Most top pass-rushers hover around the 14-16% range. Maxx Crosby led edges last year with a hair under 17%.
Parsons is certainly a fine talent, but it’s simply unfeasible that he keeps this up. There’s a huge difference between being really good and being drastically better than all other elite players.
The other facet that points to a tough 2022 is the effect his role has on his tackling numbers. The more time linemen and linebackers spend rushing the passer, the fewer tackles they record. That’s exactly what we saw with Parsons in 2021.
With his dual role, he rushed way more than any other LB. Parsons had over 300 pass-rush snaps last season, with no other LB hitting 170 or more. That opened the door to his pressure, but it hurt his tackling. He recorded a tackle on just 7.7% of his snaps – the lowest efficiency figure of the top 74 linebackers by volume.
Denzel Perryman, LV
Perryman was a top-six LB in 2021 and was a fantastic asset after having virtually no value preseason. In many circles, this is called a breakout. However, there are significant red flags for why Perryman may not repeat that sort of production.
His tackle efficiency was a little over 18% which is unrepeatably, weirdly high. It’s a stat that’s rising over time, but it’s still at around 13% for top linebackers, and it’s not a stat that tends to be sticky across seasons. It’s absolutely not a stat that belongs to individual players.
Here’s a chart to show how much it changes season by season:
Perryman has had a decent career as a journeyman, and he’s likely to see the field a decent amount in 2022. But he didn’t suddenly turn into a superstar. Even if you believe that tackle efficiency is stable (you’re wrong and it’s not), then you have to believe it will significantly drop for him next season.
And lastly, the Raiders’ new defensive coordinator is Patrick Graham who tends to use his linebackers in a different way. Under Graham, Perryman will be asked to rush the A-gaps and smash holes rather than hang back and try to make plays in space. This hurts efficiency and is why we so rarely see effective LBs in that family of defensive scheme.
Nick Bolton, KC
Bolton was the only major LB in 2021 to have an even higher tackle efficiency than Perryman, Bolton hit an absurd 19.1% which meant that he was an excellent IDP scorer, even on just 623 snaps (53rd among LBs).
As above though, tackle efficiency is just not a stat that repeats year after year for the same players. It does not indicate some personal ability to cut through traffic or whatever other cliches you’ve heard.
On top of that, it’s not very feasible that Bolton or any other Chiefs LB gets to play significant volume in 2022. Bolton led the unit with his 623 snaps in 2021, and no Chiefs LB has played 1,000 snaps since 2015.
The obvious answer from Bolton stans is “well that’ll change now, because he is amazing”. In his 19 games last season, Bolton averaged just 38 snaps per game. In the last five games, just 32. In his final ten games, it was 33. The idea that Bolton somehow seized a full-time role and ran with it is entirely false.
Alex Singleton, DEN
This will sound a bit like a broken record, but Singleton has the same issue as the last two linebackers in this article. His tackle efficiency was up near 18% which is almost certain to come down.
The other issue facing Singleton is he has left the Eagles and looks to be stuck in a mess of different LBs in Denver. There’s likely to be only one full-time LB role on the Broncos and several players fighting for it. Singleton will surely see the field, but the chances of him playing the 900+ snaps we’d like to see from him are low.
He’ll have some good weeks, and be useful as we go through the season, but he’s not a good bet to be a top 36 or even 48 LB over the season.
Trevon Diggs, DAL
In some leagues, Diggs was a superstar last season with his incredible 11 interceptions. He also had nine PDs to go with those for a huge 20 cover plays. Only Marshon Lattimore had more of those among all corners in 2021.
Unfortunately, this is one of the least stable statistics in football. Over the last 15 seasons, a corner has snagged eight or more INTs a total of 18 times. They have matched that total the following season just twice: Richard Sherman in 2012 and 2013, and J.C. Jackson in 2020 and 2021.
This means luminaries such as Champ Bailey, Charles Woodson, Marcus Peters, Nnamdi Asomugha, and Asante Samuel. never managed this feat. In fact, the average number of picks the season after one of those years was just four.
In the same period, we’ve seen a corner hit 20 or more coverage plays 27 times (including both the players to manage it in 2021). None ever managed to repeat the feat the following season. The average number was slightly under ten.
I know you think Diggs is a special talent and he might be different but expecting him to perform feats that Hall of Fame corners never managed is very likely to disappoint you.
Kenny Moore II, IND
Every season one corner stands out among his peers with a huge total of tackles, and every year that corner is drafted way before his peers. Nine times out of ten, it’s a huge mistake.
Moore was that corner last season with a huge 103 total tackles. That’s the second-highest since 2007 (bearing in mind the 17-game season in 2021). Only 17 corners have even managed to hit 90 in a season and none of them managed it the following season. In fact, the average was just 73.
Cornerback is the least stable position in fantasy football. Every season, just 24% of top 12 corners, and 32% of top 24 corners repeat.
The odds are enormously against any given player managing it. For corners coming off distinct statistical outlier seasons, it’s even less likely.
Minkah Fitzpatrick, PIT
Fitzpatrick led all safeties in tackles in 2021 with 121. Incredibly, he managed this while playing free safety. He lined up deep on 80% of snaps. That was comparable to other specialist deep safeties like Quandre Diggs (87%), Antoine Winfield Jr (71%), and Marcus Williams (78%).
However, Fitzpatrick recorded a tackle on slightly over 11% of his snaps which compares to box safeties like Adrian Phillips (10.3%), Johnathan Abram (11.1%) and Jeremy Chinn (10.2%). In his previous three seasons, his tackle efficiency had never hit 8%.
It was an amazing season for him, but this is not something to rely on and you can expect big regression in 2022.
Jalen Thompson, ARI
Thompson came out of nowhere to finish as the number five safety in fantasy with 114 total tackles, and he did it while playing the 30th-most snaps among safeties.
However, there was really no reason for this to happen. He wasn’t playing a dedicated box role, his volume wasn’t huge, he wasn’t being targeted abnormally. It just looks like a massive anomaly of a season.
While corner is the least stable fantasy position, safety is not much better. Every year just 2.9 of the top 12 (24%) repat on average, and just 9.9 of the top 24 (41%). The pool of safeties is so large, that these sorts of weird seasons happen all the time, and the chance of any given safety doing it twice is low.
In the last 12 seasons, 89 different safeties have recorded at least one top-12 season and the average number of times they each did it was just 1.35. Safety is a position of one-shot wonders, where everyone has decent options all the time, and every roster thinks their guys are great. Don’t fall into this trap. It’s fungible and fragile. Trade away anyone you can and replace them with waivers.
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