2018 IDP Positional Rankings: Top Ten Defensive Linemen

Perennially one of the most boring fantasy football positions that does not involve a player kicking the ball, it has pained me in the past seeing how little attention that Defensive Linemen type players get year over year, as I was a DE on my highschool squad. The cool thing is over the past couple of years, there has been a change in scoring systems and positions that get started that have been trending in featuring DL players. Be it heavy scoring on sacks, tackles for loss, or just having a DT and a DE spot on the roster, leagues are certainly changing their setups. The exciting thing about this year is that there were some bright DL stars last year (and many of them look poised to continue a campaign of pain this year), in addition to that we have the return of a swath of players who over the past year or two were deemed to be linebackers not DL players. This injection is important not only because it immediately rocketed some of those former LBs into the top 5 of this list, but will add more players of value outside of the top 10.

Before we get into the thick of things, some shout outs to the players who made our honorable mention list: Danielle Hunter, Myles Garrett, and Brandon Graham. All three of these young men could likely be on another top 10 list depending the biases another writer has compared to mine, they don’t make it here this year, but I have a lot of hope that they could be here next year.

10. Demarcus Lawrence – Coming off of an amazing season, Lawrence should have a chance to replicate, but I think a few more teams will be planning for him this year which will put a slight dent in his production compared to last year, but he’ll still eat for sure.

9. Jason Pierre-Paul – I do not think that JPP being in a new city will hurt him too much, heck having 3 fingers on one hand hasn’t. Many arguments against JPP producing in Tampa will be that the team is talented in many other positions on defense, but he played with a productive DT in NY, he had another significant rusher in Olivier Vernon, and he still produced, don’t sleep too hard on Jason Pierre-Paul.

8. Melvin Ingram – Both he and (spoiler alert) Joey Bosa will continue to be top 10 DL players, plain and simple. The Chargers had plenty going on with their secondary and LB squads and they both produced. Teams knew about both of them and game planned for them going into last year and they both produced. They are going to continue to produce.

7. Aaron Donald – Finally seeing more snaps at DE than DT, Donald should be a household name, with changes along the rest of the DL and at LB, it’s a little hard to think he’ll make a huge leap this year, that said I don’t expect too much fall off if any from him over last year. That all said, I still think he has more talent than he is using and hope he finds a way to get out of the bottom half of the top 10.

5. Calais Campbell – I’ve been notoriously cold on Campbell and I suppose this ranking may reflect that, but he produced on a super crowded and super talented defense, given that we could see some rotational changes on the LB and S levels, it could open up the chance for Campbell to pick up a few of the sacks carried from those players last year, then again the people being rotated in are also wonderfully talented too.

4. Joey Bosa – 22 sacks in two seasons, then man does so much work when he is on the field, much to the benefit of Melvin Ingram. I wish/hope that he can continue on the trend that he took from his rookie year to last year, but the reality is that it’s hard for a DL to clear much more than 65 combined tackles any year. If it weren’t for positional changes for our next two players, Bosa would be the number two guy on this list.

3. Chandler Jones – I went to Patriots training camp Jones’ rookie year, and I remember the first time I could clearly pick him out, the team went into a massive huddle and there were two helmets that were a full head above everyone else, Rob Gronkowski and Chandler Jones… then I saw him move in drills which resulted in the following scouting report from me about Jones and how he is very similar to Gronk, “a man that big, should not be able to move that fast.” Now that Jones is transitioning away from OLB back to his natural DE spot, I expect he’ll continue to impress many of us, not only due to his talent and skill, but Arizona has changed their defensive scheme to facilitate this, AND the coaching staff has a history of being able to get that much more out of their DEs.

2. Khalil Mack – This ranking should come as no surprise to anyone that has been playing IDP (with DL) for more than 2 years. Mack historically has been used both as LB and DE in an as close to a 50/50 mix as we’ve ever seen before and for that matter is just plain hard to plan for. While I expect his new head coach (Jon Gruden) to keep him more as a DE, he’ll still get the opportunity for plenty of work with no real useful additions to the defense besides Tajir Whitehead and an aging Derrick Johnson, I also expect very little changes to his production from last year, but it will be recorded to the DE position not LB, and that’s why he’s the number two DL player and not the number 40 LB.

1. J.J. Watt – Here is what I said last year about Mr. Watt, “… J.J. Watt is in a class all his own, when healthy. He has a chance of scoring [a TD] EVERY game, even without scoring a touchdown his normal stats for IDP total more like a linebacker… Until we see a full healthy season from him where he does not produce insane fantasy points, Watt will likely be ranked number 1.” NOTHING HAS CHANGED. Also, he is super good human being, go check out all his social work.

And there it is! The counting down the top ten DL’s of 2018. 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.

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