We’re in the heart of training camp, which means frequent news updates and plenty of ensuing questions. It also means we’re only a few weeks until rosters and depth charts are set for week one. On the IDP side, we’re analyzing all 32 teams separately to address a related question about each team.
There are position battles and injury concerns in the AFC North with potentially significant IDP implications. Today, we will take a look at four of those situations and assess the IDP impact.
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Who will win the job next to C.J. Mosley at the other inside linebacker position?
The battle to line up next to C.J. Mosley is currently being fought by two players, third year undrafted free agent Zachary Orr and second round rookie Kamalei Correa. The battle has been fought all summer and looks to finally be coming to a close. Orr started Thursday night’s game against the Panthers and played almost the entire first half. Afterwards, Ravens linebacker coach Don Martindale praised his performance and went as far to state Orr was “in the lead” in the linebacker competition. It wasn’t just Martindale who noticed the strong performance by Orr. Coach Harbaugh complimented Orr’s dedication and work ethic stating “He gets better every practice. The wisdom is in the results, and the results are how he played. He sure played, everybody saw it, he played really well.”
Even though Orr is coming off a strong performance in week one of the preseason, he has to keep it up because Correa and Arthur Brown have flashed in training camp as well and they were both high draft picks of Ozzie Newsome’s. Correa is an edge rusher by trade but has been cross training at inside linebacker and the coaching staff likes what they’re seeing. His long term outlook is to take over for Terrell Suggs or Elvis Dumervil once the aging vets move on, but in the meantime he’ll be a bit of a jack-of-all-trades.
Brown has yet to live up to his second-round draft selection and has been a massive disappointment through three lackluster seasons. Once pegged to replace Hall of Famer Ray Lewis at inside linebacker, Brown has had to fight to keep his roster spot the last two seasons and is no longer worth holding onto in dynasty leagues.
For all intents and purposes, Orr has catapulted himself to the forefront of this “battle” and should be the player drafted in IDP leagues. This role was a valuable position with Daryl Smith in the past and Orr carries some solid mid-to-low end LB3 value with upside for 2016 without having to invest much into it.
Reggie Nelson has been one of the steadiest and un-sexiest safeties in IDP since 2011. He has always been one of those guys you grab in the last couple of rounds or off the waiver wire and just throw him into your lineup. He would get enough tackles to be serviceable week in and week out but also offered a high weekly ceiling because of his ball-hawking nature. This off-season the Bengals were faced with the dilemma of re-signing Nelson or going with youth at the position with Shawn Williams and George Iloka. They chose to sign Williams to a four-year extension and Iloka to a five-year pact.
Williams was drafted out of Georgia in the third round of the 2013 draft and carried a lot of IDP sleeper appeal coming into the league. While it hasn’t paid off yet, it now appears he will finally get his opportunity to deliver. In a rotational role in 2015, Williams recorded a career high 32 tackles and two interceptions. He’s a prototypical in-the-box safety playing behind a less than stellar group of linebackers. He has plenty of potential to step right into this role and deliver for both the Bengals and IDP owners alike.
That’s the plan. In a bit of a shocking move, the Browns allowed Gipson to depart in free agency without any sort of a fight and then just flat-out released their starting strong safety in Donte Whitner. Gipson landed a massive five-year, $35.5 million contract with the Jaguars, a steep price for a player coming off of an injury-riddled 2015. Ultimately, it may prove to be the right move by the Browns but without a replacement behind him, it’s definitely a risky one. Jordan Poyer, the man tasked to replace him, is a former seventh-round cornerback selection of the Philadelphia Eagles in the 2013 draft. He is coming off of a career-high 43 total tackles in 2015 with a sack and two interceptions. He’ll now be asked to man center field on a defensive unit which probably won’t be very good and one that will struggle to manufacture a pass rush.
Ibraheim Campbell was selected in the fourth round of the 2015 draft out of Northwestern and was a big reason the Browns decided to move on from Donte Whitner. Campbell has earned praise from the Browns coaching staff for his hard off-season work and for taking on a much-needed leadership role among this very young group. He has the respect of his teammates, which helps, and coaching staff, which helps even more. In Ray Horton’s defensive scheme the strong safety is put in position to achieve statistical success. Unfortunately, we’ll have to draft Campbell based on potential and scheme production. There’s not a lot of tape or production to say he’ll succeed or fail but based on the work he’s putting in, the defensive scheme and the amount of time this defense should be on the field, Campbell is a great sleeper in IDP leagues and a cheap enough investment you can walk away from if he doesn’t produce.
Have the Steelers finally found a capable cornerback to line up across from William Gay?
After finally admitting defeat in foolishly giving Cortez Allen a five-year, $26 million dollar in the spring of 2014, the Steelers moved on from him this spring. He never lived up to the huge contract he signed and it seemed like he lost his competitive fire. He was routinely torched in 2014 and missed most of 2015 with a knee injury. The Steelers cut him loose and will move forward with third-year corner Ross Cockrell and first round rookie Artie Burns competing to line up across from William Gay in the Steelers secondary.
Cockrell started seven games in 2015 after Allen went down and earned positive grades from Pro Football Focus. He is 6’0” and 191 pounds and played his college ball at Duke University. He seems to be locked into the starting gig across from Allen because Burns isn’t ready to be playing meaningful snaps and is better off getting his experience in sub packages as a rookie. What this means for IDP purposes is targets. Opposing quarterbacks will be more likely to make Cockrell beat them than test the more proven Gay. One theory in IDP leagues when it comes to cornerbacks is to draft rookies and corners opposite shutdown guys. Why? Because those guys will be baptized by fire.
We often get criticized for ignoring cornerbacks here, me specifically. I often refer to them as “the kickers of IDP.” I always wait until the last round or waivers to acquire them because training camps and preseason is a great time to identify cheap streaming options. I believe Cockrell is good enough to start for the Pittsburgh Steelers all year long, good enough to defend his fair share of passes, even good enough to get the occasional turnover if the Steelers can help with a pass rush. I do not believe he is good enough for opposing quarterbacks to fear and that is a very cheap recipe for success in my opinion and if I’m wrong. I’ll drop him and move on to another. Hooray corners!
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