With the 2017 season rapidly disappearing in our rear-view mirror, everyone’s attention seems to be firmly on the draft process. The tape is being watched, rookies are being pored over (and grubbily pawed), and old friends are falling out over hasty takes. I’ll be getting involved in all of that, of course, but right now I wanted to spend a bit of time on one of the underappreciated aspects of being an IDP dynasty player: Free agency.
Every season, the teams that manage to identify the impact players that “come from nowhere” have a huge advantage. The insider tip is that they don’t “come from nowhere” at all. That’s just how it seems to people who aren’t paying enough attention. Spending time early on finding emerging players in new schemes and roles will be a huge benefit to you in 2018. Now’s the time to start.
Hitchens stepped in for the Cowboys last season when Sean Lee was injured and Jaylon Smith proved not to be fully recovered. I thought Hitchens was excellent and showed he could be an every-down LB in the NFL. Stats-wise, he finished 17th in tackle efficiency with 15.4%. if you include only players with over 300 snaps, he was fifth. I could easily see him turning into a really good asset. He’s a prime candidate for picking up.
I’m not a Bowman fan at all at this stage of his career. He looks tired to me and there was a good reason the 49ers ate the $13 million cap hit and cut him. In fact, he finished just 60th in tackle efficiency in 2017 on 12.6%. That was just behind Marquel Lee, Michael Mauti, and Kelvin Sheppard. His last really impressive season (2015) seems a long time ago.
However, if he is retained as a Raider I have some confidence in him given their lack of alternatives. He’s a sell candidate for me simply because he could easily not come back to Oakland and almost anywhere else would be a downgrade.
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Bradham has eclipsed 900 snaps for two years in a row now. In those seasons, he’s managed 98 and 88 total tackles. Those aren’t great numbers but he’s certainly proven serviceable. I wouldn’t at all be surprised if he rode the Super Bowl momentum to a lucrative gig somewhere else that’ll probably prove fairly productive if not incendiary. I’d be very tempted to sell now and try to cash in just like he will.
Only three players have more total tackles than Brown over the last two seasons. Only one has more solo tackles. It certainly seems like Washington will give him the contract he wants to stick around but even so, it feels like his value is probably as high as it’ll ever be right now. I don’t wish injury on anyone but it would be surprising if he managed to keep his recent volume up (1,812 snaps in the last two seasons).
Brown has put together an impressive run in Buffalo, with 288 solos over the past four seasons (average of 72 per season). Only eight linebackers have managed more over the period. The problem is that if he leaves, he’ll lose the inherent advantage of the Buffalo stat crew. Brown is a good player but not a great one and has undeniably benefitted from stat keeping to achieve his high numbers. I expect the Bills bring him back but there’s a decent chance that doesn’t happen, which would severely impact his IDP value.
Demario Davis – One awesome season with crazy playing time as a Jet does not erase the fact he’s an average talent. He’s not going to be a top-five player again. Sell now.
Paul Posluszny – I loved him back in the day too, but his days of a high snap volume are over. Don’t be the one left holding the baby.
Mason Foster – He only held value due to his tentative hold on a starting gig in Washington.
Avery Williamson – The Titans thought he was a part-time player in 2017 behind a 31-year-old vet and a fifth-round rookie.
Christian Jones – He had a ton of chances in Chicago. And never took any of them.
Jon Bostic – Outside of Indy, he has very little value. He’s a classic case of situational value.
Karlos Dansby – You know better than this.
Todd Davis – Davis is a walking exemplar of the fact that “starting” does not mean good in IDP terms.
My advice is to not bother stashing corners through the off-season unless you’re in a 32-team league, or at least one in which starting corners are hard to come by. Things change so much that it’s just not worth the roster space. So much of their value is created by scheme and role, that it can change in a heartbeat.
If you do insist on trying to identify them this early, then here are some names to watch:
- Bashaud Breeland
- Brent Grimes
- Byron Maxwell
- Johnathan Joseph
- Kyle Fuller
- Malcolm Butler
- Prince Amukamara
- Rashaan Melvin
- D.J. Hayden
For about 25 games over the last two seasons, Bradley McDougald has been a starting NFL safety. He played at least 60 snaps in the final nine games of 2017 and was a top ten IDP safety in 2017. He was efficient too. His 9.9% tackle efficiency in 2017 was right around that of Vonn Bell, Adrian Amos, Andrew Sendejo and Chris Conte. McDougald is a good player. All he needs is a decent landing spot.
It’s trendy to think that Burnett is old but he’s still just 28 after a fairly long, productive career. He was good in 2017 too but suffered some when asked to play in the slot a lot. Even with that, his tackle efficiency was 9.8% which compared to Sean Davis, Jahleel Addae, and Jordan Poyer.
Interestingly it was also slightly higher than Josh Jones who spent most of his time playing the hybrid LB/S role that Burnett used to.
I was super high on Reid going into 2017 but the emergence of Jaquiski Tartt and position injuries meant no one really had a great season. This is a high-risk situation as he could end up playing a number of roles depending on his landing spot. Nevertheless, he does have high potential if the stars align and he’s worth a speculative nab in bigger leagues.
Vaccaro has a reputation for being a hard-hitting box safety. He has played that role in the past and he does look the part with his ink but it’s worth noting he’s basically been a slot nickel for most of the last two seasons. It’s certainly possible that a team signs him as a thumper but I’d be a bit surprised. A more versatile sub-package role seems more likely.
Joyner had some buzz last season as an IDP but I think it was probably just a result of some big-play weeks. He actually only managed 39 solos and ten assists. Those are generally tier-five numbers for a safety. Joyner did manage 54 and 50 solos in 2015 and 2016 respectively but even those are tier-three numbers. He’s a good player in NFL terms so he could easily end up in a decent spot but I’m not betting on it.
Reggie Nelson – He’s a very old free safety. He’s not going to get a starting job and if he does, he’d be a bad IDP.
T.J. Ward – The Broncos showed him the door because he’d lost a little something. Then he could only secure a part-time job with the Buccaneers. Ward isn’t going to be who he was at his peak again.
Marcus Gilchrist – In the past five seasons, Gilchrist has never played fewer than 800 snaps. Over that period he’s averaged just 52 solos per season and never hit an 8% tackle efficiency figure. No thanks.
Tyvon Branch – 66 total tackles in 2017 was a return to his early-career form but for me, it doesn’t make up for the fact he was unusable as an IDP for the four previous seasons. Injury was a factor (guess what; that doesn’t bode well for future health) but so was his positional flexibility. The chances of him being IDP-relevant are remote.
Ricardo Allen – Allen has been borderline useful as an IDP over the past three seasons but only due to his volume. He’s averaged 965 snaps in those three. In terms of efficiency, he’s way down the list given his specialist deep role. 138 cornerbacks managed to beat his pitiful 5.6%.
Tavon Wilson – Wilson has been exceptionally productive when given the opportunity. The problem is that he’s always been either a bit-part player or hurt. The best landing spot for him is to remain in Detroit. If that happens I’ll be buying up shares.
Jairus Byrd – Byrd is still a recognizable name but he’s managed 40 solo tackles in a season once in the past five seasons and he’s now 31. No thanks.
Adrian Phillips – Landing spot is important here. If he remains a Charger then I have every belief he can be a starting linebacker. If he leaves the team then he could very easily be a bit-part safety and fade away. He’s a hyped name based on the tail-end of 2017 but it’s worth noting he’s never managed 25 solos tackles in his three-season career.
That should give you a good list of names to watch and react too early. Naturally, we’ll be bringing you early reaction to any signings here on DLF or follow me on Twitter at @TomDegenerate for scorching hot takes.
Thanks for reading.
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