2017 Positional Rankings: Top Ten DL’s
The Defensive Lineman (DL) position is a wonderful oddity on the fantasy landscape. We’ve already touched on how the DL position is the least used position in the already niche IDP fantasy format, and it is easy to draw the comparisons to the Tight End position for offensive positions equivalent. The real reason that the DL position is so odd is that a player can be a wonderfully dominant player, and be totally fantasy irrelevant, similar to a shutdown corner, teams just avoid that side of the field, but in addition when it comes to the DL position opposing offensive lines can double team in blocking these players. This is why you won’t see a player like Ndamukong Suh consistently on our list, while he is a beast in real life, he just doesn’t get run at enough to produce consistent production for fantasy.
Before we get into the thick of things, some shout outs to the players who made our honorable mention list: Everson Griffen (long time producer on a team that depends on him year over year), Cameron Jordan (with Nick Fairley’s career likely over Jordan will have plenty of chances to step up), Myles Garrett (young stud on a rebuilding team that needs him to be a defensive linchpin), Fletcher Cox (looks to bounce back from a down tackle year), and Kawann Short (a workhorse in the trenches, a real world top 3 Tackle, if he ups his tackles could be a nice late DL position grab).
10. Olivier Vernon – The compliment player to our number 9 Defensive Lineman, Vernon’s production did drop off when Jason Pierre-Paul went down last year, still you’ll be hard pressed to find a better pair of Defensive Ends on any team.
9. Jason Pierre-Paul – While Vernon is more the meat and potatoes fantasy scorer mainly grabbing tackles and sacks, JP-P also defends passes, and is more involved in fumbles, giving him the edge between he and Vernon in this ranking.
8. Calais Campbell – Besides tying his second best sack season, Campbell had a bit of a down year last year. The good news is that he has been able to produce in a crowded defense in Arizona, and now in Jacksonville, it looks equally crowded on the defense, and he should be able to produce as teams will have a hard time deciding how or who to double team on any given play.
7. Melvin Ingram – Doing the opposite of Khalil Mack (switching from OLB to DE in Ingram’s case), Ingram’s usage will be the same this year as it was last year. Simply put he’ll be putting up linebacker numbers at the DL position.
6. Aaron Donald – Arguably the most talented Tackle in the league, the question with Donald (after dropping tackle and sack production, but picking up forced fumbles and passes defended) is will he push himself to a new level, or should we expect something between the previous two seasons? Our ranking position reflects this conflict in what can we expect.
5. Carlos Dunlap – While the loss of Karlos Dansby (a MLB) should not directly affect a DL player, Cincinnati has replaced him with Kevin Minter… so I expect more running and short passes on the CIN defense, both of which Dunlap will benefit from given his previous totals in tackles and passes defended.
4. Muhammad Wilkerson – Played all of last year still not fully healed from a 2015 broken leg, an offseason of rest and a league’s (projected) worst offense, he will get plenty of opportunity to produce all kinds of fantasy points this season.
3. Danielle Hunter – The combination of Hunter and the aforementioned Griffin would be the one argument against the Vernon/JPP DE pairing. Griffen is just starting to get long in the tooth, while Hunter followed a good rookie season with a great sophomore season. With Griffen providing tutelage, Hunter has a real chance at continuing to grow into a top tier player, and even if he produced just as much this year as he did last, this ranking would be justified.
2. Joey Bosa – A TEN sack rookie season is little to laugh at, and with Ingram’s role not actually changing, Bosa’s output this season should not be any worse than his great rookie year’s production. Even better with the Chargers doing little to help their offensive line, their defense should continue to get on the field plenty enough.
1. J.J. Watt – Rob Gronkowski is the J.J. Watt of Tight Ends, or is it J.J. Watt is the Rob Gronkowski of Defensive Linemen? Either way, J.J. Watt is in a class all his own, when healthy. He has a chance of scoring EVERY game, even without scoring a touchdown his normal stats for IDP total more like a linebacker, but he is not a Mack or an Ingram, he does stay on the line most of the time, though he gets lined up everywhere. Until we see a full season from him where he does not produce insane fantasy points, Watt will likely be ranked number 1.
And there it is! The counting down the top ten DL’s of 2017. Send us your feedback and let us know what you think by sending us an email: TrophyTime@TFFGurus.com. Remember to check out the Trophy Time Podcast which can be found on all the major podcast networks and follow and chat with us on Twitter – @TheFantasyBoys, @TFFGurus, @DaFantasyFather, and @DecoyLife.