Punch Drunk Wonderland

Top 2014 Fantasy IDP Rookies

Raiders LB, Khalil Mack

Oakland Raiders LB, Khalil Mack.

Update: With Week 1 looming see what I have to say about rookie breakout candidate Christian Kirksey.

The 2014 NFL Draft is in the books and rosters around the league have been shuffled. There were a number of defensive players in this draft with great IDP potential, and many of them were drafted onto teams in which they should be able to produce immediately. While many names carry star power, production as a fantasy IDP requires consistency over a big name. Here’s a look at some of the rookie defensive players with great potential on their new NFL teams going into the 2014 season.

Linebackers

Khalil Mack (OLB – Oakland Raiders)

Mack joins a defense that is growing in potential in Oakland. He’s going to come in to fill a role as a rush linebacker that Sio Moore struggled with in 2013. The team now has quite a few options in their pass rush with Mack, Moore, Justin Tuck, LaMarr Woodley, and Antonio Smith involved. He has the talent and athleticism to thrive, and he should make his presence known immediately. Mack has the potential to tally double digit sacks in 2014, and he is solid against the run. Good traits to have for both tackle heavy and big play formats. He’s an upper tier LB2 for big play formats, and probably in the area of LB5 for tackle heavy leagues.

Ravens LB, C.J. Mosley

Baltimore Ravens LB, C.J. Mosley.

C.J. Mosley (ILB – Baltimore Ravens)

Baltimore continues their success in acquiring solid linebackers as they picked up Mosley with the seventeenth overall pick in the draft. Of all defensive players selected in this year’s draft, he probably has the highest floor and greatest potential for consistent IDP production. However, that is all going to depend on where he falls in the roster. Currently, Arthur Brown and the aging Daryl Smith hold control of the inside linebacker positions for the Ravens. That means Mosley could start the season playing in nickel sub-packages. If he can stay healthy and gets the chance to find a role, he should be able to find good production in 2014. He’s an LB2 with significant upside, and he’s a particularly good option for dynasty leagues.

Chris Borland (ILB – San Francisco 49ers)

Borland is a nice fit for the Niners, and it will be interesting to see how he fits in with the defense. He’s athletic and hard hitting with solid fundamentals, so there’s certainly a chance he could win out a starting role going into the 2014 season. The upside for him is that he’ll potentially be able to fill in for the injured Novorro Bowman right away. Plus, Patrick Willis has struggled with injuries in recent years and that could also spell out additional inside linebacker opportunity for Borland. If he can find a starting position for 2014, he could be a mid tier LB2 option.

Ryan Shazier (OLB – Pittsburgh Steelers)

Shazier will likely be sliding into the weak side linebacker position for Pittsburgh, and there’s a chance he could be a rotating piece in the defense. He has a solid skill set and good potential to be productive IDP, but he may not necessarily make an immediate impact early in the season. His speed will allow him to be a playmaker and given the opportunity he should be able to post decent stat lines. However, until the picture is more clear on how much playing time he’ll get, he’s probably a LB4 at best at this point.

Anthony Barr (OLB – Minnesota Vikings)

Barr had a solid last two seasons as a rush linebacker in college, and he’s joining a Vikings team that needs to find a solid pass rush again. He’s a bit of a raw talent since he’s only been playing linebacker for two seasons (previously a gadget tailback/f-back). He has a lot of work to do in the run defense as he struggled in that area in college, and it will be interesting to see if his rushing skills can match up at the elite level. His run defense woes will probably make him a non-factor in tackle heavy formats, but he could put some sacks up to contribute to success in big play leagues. He has some growing to do, and at this point he should probably be taken no higher than LB8.

Kyle Van Noy (OLB – Detroit Lions)

Van Noy will likely fill the strong side linebacker role for Detroit this season, but he has the skill set to play anywhere in a 4-3. His usefulness in fantasy leagues will depend on what his evolution in the defense looks like. His IDP value will be less if he stays at strong side, but his value would be better if he finds a way into the weak side or middle linebacker spot. In all honesty, he likely won’t supplant Stephen Tulloch at MLB in 2014 and DeAndre Levy isn’t going anywhere on the weak side. Van Noy has potential, but he is more of a “wait and see” prospect for down the road at this point.

Christian Kirksey (ILB – Cleveland Browns)

Kirksey is very similar in skill set to Cleveland’s current ILB Craig Robertson. They are trying to find a dynamic pairing with newcomer veteran Karlos Dansby, but my guess is Kirksey doesn’t make an immediate impact. He’s going to have to beat out Robertson for a position which I don’t see happening, but he could be a lower end LB3 if he finds himself winning the spot.

Defensive Backs

Packers FS, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix

Packers FS, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix.

Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (FS – Green Bay Packers)

Clinton-Dix was a nice addition by the Packers. Burnett will remain the “in the box” safety, so expect Clinton-Dix to slide in as centerfielder. He has a solid skill set for both strong and free safety, and his speed makes him very rangy. Good traits for a free safety, and he’s probably the defensive back with the most upside of the rookie class. He should be a great addition defensively, but his fantasy IDP value will depend on the measurable stats he can compile in interceptions, passes defensed, and tackles. He’s going to be a solid DB3 with considerable potential to ascend.

Calvin Pryor (FS – New York Jets)

Pryor is a hard hitter with excellent speed. In other words, he’s a Rex Ryan kind of guy. He should fit well in the Jets secondary, and his skill set should allow him to make an impact. There has been so much draft rhetoric of Pryor’s physical play, and he’ll certainly have the opportunity to drop the hammer. He should win a starting roll and should be a DB2/DB3 for 2014 IDP consideration.

Terrence Brooks (FS – Baltimore Ravens)

Brooks burst onto the rookie scene with his impressive performance at the NFL Combine, and his off the charts athletic ability should give him a chance to settle in to the NFL. He will likely find himself as the starting free safety for Baltimore, and he has tons of upside in terms of fantasy potential. As he acclimates to the NFL look for him to be a solid DB5 with considerable upside going forward.

Deone Buchanon (SS – Arizona Cardinals)

Arizona have brought Buchanon in to pair with Tyrann Mathieu in their secondary, and he should have an opportunity to thrive. The Cardinals defense lends itself to good production from their strong safety, so Buchanon filling the shoes of departed Yeremiah Bell should be a good sign. Going into 2014 he’s a DB3 with considerable upside.

Justin Gilbert (CB – Cleveland Browns)

Gilbert is by far the best rookie cornerback prospect going into the 2014 season. That said, it’s always hard to predict fantasy production for corners. In fact, the league’s best corners typically aren’t necessarily the best fantasy producers. The Browns secondary will be solid with Gilbert being paired with Joe Haden, and that pairing could mean good things for the rookie. Quarterbacks could likely be looking to avoid throwing in Haden’s direction, so that spells opportunity for Gilbert. He has all the skills for success and nothing but upside. He should be a low end DB3 this season with strong potential to rise.

Kyle Fuller (CB – Chicago Bears)

Fuller should be dropped directly into the Bears secondary and will be given a chance to win the #2 spot opposite Charles Tillman. He’s strong in coverage and has very good run defense skills as a corner, so he’s going to get opportunities. If he can supplant Tim Jennings as the #2 cornerback, he should be a solid DB3. If he lands at nickel, look for him to be more along the lines of a DB5. Fuller has nice dynasty value because if he doesn’t make the #2 spot in 2014 he should evolve into the role for future seasons.

Lamarcus Joyner (CB – St. Louis Rams)

Joyner will be joining a potent Rams defense, and he has a varied skill set that gives the team flexibility in terms of where he’s played. He has the ability to play free safety, but he’ll likely be playing cornerback. The upside is that they could move him around and give him extended playing time. With opportunity comes fantasy IDP potential, so he should be a decent DB4 for the 2014 season.

Defensive Linemen

Texans DE, Jadeveon Clowney

Texans DE, Jadeveon Clowney.

Jadeveon Clowney (DE – Houston Texans)

Houston’s defensive line is now officially terrifying. The combination of J.J. Watt and Clowney at defensive end and Louis Nix at tackle is going to be fun to watch. The questions about his motor remain, but I have no doubt he can make a mark at the NFL level. If this team doesn’t lead the league in sacks in 2014, I will be disappointed. As with all rushers, IDP potential is tied to their ability to get to the quarterback. I predict Clowney to be a top 20 edge rushing threat in the 2014 season and he should be able to be a solid IDP in big play formats. His value in tackle heavy formats will be limited.

Demarcus Lawrence (DE – Dallas Cowboys)

The vacancy left by DeMarcus Ware’s departure from Dallas gives Lawrence a chance to find a spot on the starting roster. He’s a solid edge rusher with good size and athleticism. He’ll have to beat out George Selvie, Jeremy Mincey, or Anthony Spencer for a starting role, but he should be able to land the job. He’s probably a mid tier DL3 going into the 2014 season.

Kony Ealy (DE – Carolina Panthers)

Going into the season Ealy will be providing depth on the Panthers line and will be a rotational player. It will be worth watching Greg Hardy’s offseason legal troubles as any suspension would loft Ealy into a starting position opposite Charles Johnson. He’s another “wait and see” type of player with upside.

Will Clarke (DE – Cincinnati Bengals)

Cincinnati picked up Clarke in an attempt to fill the vacancy left by Michael Johnson’s departure. Clarke is a big end in the mold of Johnson or other notables such as Watt and Clowney, but his skill set isn’t nearly as polished. I don’t see him jumping in and making a big impact, but he certainly has potential to grow into a producer. At this point he’s a DL5 at best.

Rams DT, Aaron Donald

Rams DT, Aaron Donald.

Aaron Donald (DT – St. Louis Rams)

The Rams defense just keeps getting better, and the addition of Donald along the line is a great bonus. He’s somewhat undersized as a tackle, but he’s quick and is a solid disruptive force on the inside. He’s going to be a mid tier DL2 in IDP leagues that require the defensive tackle position.

Louis Nix (DT – Houston Texans)

Nix may not make much of a fantasy impact, but he’s worth mentioning as he will be a piece of Houston’s terrifying defensive line. Nix is a “Wilforkesque” lane clogger that will play a big role in the Texan’s defense with Watt and Clowney rushing the edge. He’s a solid nose tackle, but big men in the middle don’t typically have a great deal of fantasy upside. His value is only there in leagues that require DTs and he’s going to be a late round addition.

Dee Ford (DE/OLB – Kansas City Chiefs)

Ford landed on the wrong team for real relevance. The Chiefs run a 3-4 defense, and that means Ford will be an OLB. He would have some value as a defensive end, but he has next to none with the linebacker tag. He’s certainly in a good position to grow behind some very nice star players in Kansas City, so that could make him an interesting prospect in future seasons or for late round dynasty consideration. But, that’s about it in terms of his IDP value.

 


K. Smelser About K. Smelser
Kelly Smelser is Owner/Senior Writer for Punch Drunk Wonderland and PDFantasy Sports. Architect of the PDW fantasy football world and general spinster of NFL and Fantasy Football news and analysis. Long walks on the beach, sunsets, and other such niceties are also fine...

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