In case you missed it, here are the divisions we’ve covered in previous installments:
Having traversed most of the IDP landscape, we arrive at our penultimate destination: the NFC South. Be it a change of scenery, another year of experience or increased opportunity, the following three players stand to see a prominent uptick in stats in 2016.
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Tre Boston, S, CAR
Gone is Roman Harper, a safety known as much for his poor on-field performances as his gaudy stats. In his place, the Carolina Panthers look primed to turn to a third-year safety who could post nice numbers while actually making a positive impact on the field.
Tre Boston has limited experience – last year he was only on the field for 226 snaps – but in his small sample size he has shown an ability to make a difference. Pro Football Focus gave Boston positive marks both in coverage and against the run, showing that he is capable of holding his own on all downs.
The front office clearly liked what they saw as well, otherwise they would have made a stronger effort in free agency to bring in someone worthwhile to contend with Boston for the starting safety role next to Kurt Coleman. With the Panthers needing more help in other areas of their roster, it also seems unlikely that the team drafts a safety high in the draft, leaving Boston’s only competition a possible mid-round rookie.
Assuming he earns the starting gig, Boston should have no trouble matching Harper’s 73 tackles from last year, putting him squarely on the DB2 radar.
Vic Beasley, DE, ATL
Penned as a likely IDP breakout in his rookie season, Vic Beasley managed to only post 26 tackles and four sacks across 16 games last year. Needless to say, some of his luster may have worn off a bit.
Going beyond the stats, however, it is clear Beasley made more of an impact than it first appears. Across 547 snaps, he managed five quarterback hits and an impressive 33 quarterback hurries. In total, his pressures-per-snap ratio was 12th best among all 4-3 defensive ends who played at least 500 snaps. Essentially, he came close to sacking the quarterback more times than his stats suggest, which makes him an ideal candidate to see a significant leap in sacks during his sophomore campaign.
The team also plans to play Beasley in more of a hybrid role this year, lining him up as a defensive end in the nickel while moving him to linebacker more often in the base defense. This new role should help him see an uptick in snaps while also helping create mismatches he can exploit.
All told, Beasley is likely looking at 8-12 sacks and 50 tackles in 2016, which will be enough to warrant DL2 consideration while setting him up nicely as a dynasty DL1 in future years.
Robert Ayers, DE, TBB
For someone coming off a nine-sack, 41-tackle season with the Giants, Robert Ayers isn’t getting much love in IDP circles. Of course, that’s what happens when your breakout season comes at age 30. Still, there is a lot to like about Ayers entering 2016. Consider if you will:
- His previously mentioned stats from last year came in 12 games, putting him on pace for 54 tackles and 12 sacks over a full slate of games.
- He was PFF’s seventh-best defensive end despite playing only 581 snaps.
- He and Gerald McCoy are likely the only players that can be counted on for consistent pressure on the Buccaneers’ defense.
Ayer’s new three-year, $19.5 million contract with Tampa Bay all but assures that he will be the team’s starting left end for the next few years. He should be seeing the field plenty and, barring injury, should see a healthy uptick in snaps from last year.
Ayers himself is expected a double-digit sack performance in 2017, and with the opportunity he has in front of him, it is tough to come up with valid reasons why he won’t accomplish that goal. Low end DL1 numbers are a very distinct possibility.