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IDP Pre-Season Preview: NFC East
Steve Gallo
August 21, 2012
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Every year there are new faces in new places – not just players, but coaches too.  With those changes come scheme changes, and value changes with regards to fantasy football.  In addition, many teams have new defensive coordinators – you can read about them in the 2012 Coaching Changes article.  When you add up all of the player acquisitions, losses, and scheme changes, you will find that they can combine to have a profound effect on a player’s fantasy value.  The following information should help you understand what to expect in 2012.  If you have any additional questions please feel free to email me at gallo@thehuddle.com or find me on twitter @IDPSteve.

Dallas Cowboys

HC: Jason Garrett
DC:  Rob Ryan
Base Defensive Scheme: 3-4
Scheme Change: No

Key acquisitions: DB Morris Claiborne, DB Brandon Carr

Defensive Line

Just imagine if the Cowboys were ever to switch to a 4-3 scheme.  DeMarcus Ware would be a beast as a DE for fantasy owners.  Unfortunately, the Cowboys aren’t switching schemes and their DL presents little to any fantasy value.

Linebacker

The Cowboys have a couple of studs at LB, one an outright stud NFL wise, the other fantasy wise.  Of course, DeMarcus Ware is the stud NFL wise.  Few linebackers can take over a game as Ware can.  Over the past three seasons, he has recorded multiple sacks in 29.2% of the games he has played in, and had at least a ½ sack or more in 60.4% of them.  The problem for fantasy owners that aren’t in big play leagues is that over those three years he has had three or fewer solo tackles in a game 66.7% of the time.  If you are in a tackle heavy league, as tempting as Ware may look from all his ESPN highlights, at best he is a LB3/4 that you can try to play when the matchup looks good.  So when you are drafting make sure not to reach for him. 

The linebacker that is the fantasy stud is Sean Lee.  Through the first six weeks of the season last year, Lee was averaging 19.2 PPG, good for 7th best among LBs, easily on his way to finishing in the top 10 or better in fantasy scoring among LBs.  However, in week 7 against the Eagles, Lee injured his hand and wasn’t able to play again until week 10, when he returned to the lineup wearing a club on his injured hand.  From week 10-16 Lee didn’t put up the numbers he was putting up earlier in the season, but it’s hard to fault him when he only had one hand to make a tackle with.  Still over that span of time he put up LB3 numbers, all told with the time missed and the limitation of a club for the final seven weeks of the fantasy season he still ended up ranking 26th in fantasy scoring among LBs.  This year Lee is healthy, no club on his hand, ready to pick-up where he left off in week 6 when he was a solid top 10 LB.  His ADP at MFL is LB11, showing that drafters may very well be discrediting his early season success and overvaluing his numbers after he returned from the injury.  I like Lee to challenge for a top 5 LB ranking by year’s end, so I see some value in his ADP.

Outside of Ware and Lee, all eyes should be on the battle for the other ILB spot next to Lee – a battle between former Panther Dan Connor and second year pro Bruce Carter.  Connor is a run stopper – a liability in pass coverage, but he does have much more experience than Carter does.  Carter is the one that I am buying in dynasty leagues, and I think he has the chance to develop into a LB2.  However, this year the duo are more than likely going to vulture each other’s opportunities making neither consistent fantasy options.  As it stands now, Connor is listed as the starter on the Cowboys depth chart, but keep an eye on things to see how it shakes out as the preseason comes to a close.

Secondary

The Cowboys made it a point to address their secondary this offseason – a secondary that ranked in the bottom third of the league in 2011.  The first thing they did was sign former Chiefs CB, Brandon Carr to a 5-year $50.1 million contract with $25.5 in guaranteed money.  Based on early reports during OTAs it looks as if it was money well spent.  Fantasy wise, Carr is an afterthought; his highest finish in fantasy points scored among DBs is 76th.  Over that span of time, he has scored more than 11 points in a game just 7 times. 

The other thing the Cowboys did was move up in the draft to select former LSU CB, Morris Claiborne.  A move that I thought was one of the best on draft day.  Claiborne and Carr should combine to give the Cowboys a much stronger secondary.  On the fantasy side of things, rookie and inexperienced CBs can be fantasy gold, so there is the chance that Claiborne could pay fantasy dividends for his owners.  I’m just not sure he will be anything more than a DB3 in combined leagues.  In CB mandatory leagues I think he does have solid value, that is if you don’t draft him to early, but when it is all said and done, he could end up with 5-7 interceptions and enough tackles to end up as a CB1.

In deeper leagues, the guy that is getting some attention is Barry Church.  Church isn’t a great player but in deeper leagues finding a starter at the SS position can be a coup in itself.  I think what you are looking at is a guy that you can get off waivers but has the ability, due to opportunity, to be a DB3.  There is nothing wrong with getting that type of value off your waiver wire.

New York Giants

HC: Tom Coughlin
DC:  Perry Fewell
Base Defensive Scheme: 4-3
Scheme Change: No

Key acquisitions: LB Keith Rivers, DB Jayron Hosley

Defensive Line

The Giants have one of the deepest defensive lines in the NFL and also for fantasy purposes.  Jason Pierre-Paul is coming off of a monster season in 2011, so it is no wonder he is the first DL off the board in almost every draft you look at.  I love “JPP” this year, but believe it or not, I don’t have him #1 on my board, but don’t worry, he isn’t that far down it, I have him ranked 2nd behind Jared Allen.  What you need to understand is that if you want to have JPP on your fantasy team you are going to have to spend a pick as high as the 4th round to get him, and it might even require a high pick in the round to ensure that you get him.  If you decide you are going to pluck him off the board early, just make sure that you have a solid draft plan so that you can make up for the being behind the 8-ball by selecting a DL so early. 

The other top option on the Giants is Justin Tuck.  Tuck battled injuries last year and his fantasy owners paid the price, because like JPP, he cost owners a relatively high draft pick last year.  Tuck, even after dealing with injury last year, missing multiple games, and only ranking 58th in scoring among DLs is still valued highly by the IDP community, as can be seen by his ADP of DL5.  In redraft leagues I still think that Tuck is a solid DL1, but the Giants are dealing with some injuries at DT and that could have Tuck sliding into play on the interior of the line a bit more than normally anticipated.  Still, I have zero reservations about having him as a DL1.  Where you need to worry and keep an eye on his situation is in dynasty and keeper leagues.  Reason being is that he said he contemplated retirement this past offseason.

After the JPP and Tuck, the next best fantasy option is Osi Umenyiora.  Like Tuck, Umenyiora missed a fair amount of time last year.  However, when he was on the field between weeks 4-12 he was productive – fringe DL1 productive, coming in as the 14th highest scoring fantasy DL over that span of time.  Unlike Tuck, his ADP is depressed compared to what he did last year, coming in at DL20.  Umenyiora can be very streaky and inconsistent so I actually understand and agree with his ADP being lower.  With that said I don’t think I would be taking Umenyiora over players like Robert Quinn (DL21), Chris Clemons (DL22), or Adrian Clayborn (DL27).

Linebacker

The Giants linebackers don’t make you think of a group that would have been part of a Super Bowl winning team.  You have Michael Boley who is a solid player, and an ok fantasy LB, but nothing special.  Boley finished 2011 ranked 32nd in LB scoring, and I would expect about the same as his ceiling for 2012. He is a low level LB3 that you can roster late enough so that if he does bust it won’t hurt at all. 

Outside of Boley, fantasy wise I would steer clear of the rest of the Giants LBs.  Mathias Kiwanuka is a nice player, but he is unfortunately a SLB, and that thwarts most of his fantasy value.  Then, there is a multitude of LBs that the Giants can turn to for the MLB spot – Chase Blackburn, Mark Herzlich, Greg Jones, and even the newly acquired Keith Rivers.  Of that gaggle of LBs it is Blackburn that is currently penciled in as the starter.  I know that Blackburn was signed late last season and was a key contributor during the playoffs, but fantasy wise, consistent production is just something I don’t see, not for him nor any of those other LBs.  At best Rivers is a sleeper, but then again it seems like he has been asleep for most of his career.

Secondary

I was rather high on Kenny Phillips last year, he was a solid value in drafts, and I just thought he would challenge put up high-level DB2 numbers with an outside shot of being a DB1.  It wasn’t the first time I have been wrong, that much I can tell you.  Phillips finished the 2011 campaign ranked 36th in DB scoring, meaning he was as low as a DB3 can get.  He did miss one game so in essence had he played that week he could have ended up a solid upper tier DB3.  This year I am a bit cooler on Phillips, thinking that what we saw is what we are going to get with him now.  So don’t reach for him but if the opportunity is there to add him late as a DB4 it will give you some value on the pick.

The DB that was closer to what I expected Phillips to be was Antrel Rolle.  Rolle finished 2011 ranked 23rd, a low level DB2.  However, it was sort of a tale of two seasons with Rolle.  Prior to the bye week he was averaging 15.167 PPG and was tied for 3rd most points scored among DBs.  Then after the bye he was inconsistent, between weeks 8-16 he scored in single digits four times and double digits five times, and he averaged just 9.222 PPG.  Rolle currently has an ADP of DB29.  If he plays like he did prior to the bye in 2011 then he is a fantastic value, but if he plays the way he did post-bye, then you are looking at a player that shouldn’t be on a roster.  On upside alone I would probably look to add Rolle, but the price has to be right, and I most certainly wouldn’t reach for him at all.

Last year one of the things that hurt the Giants secondary was when they lost Terrell Thomas to an ACL injury.  This year Thomas looked like he was back and going to help to solidify the secondary, but then he re-injured his ACL.  Thomas has stated he is confident that he will play this year, and who knows, he just might, but there is no reason to expect him to help your fantasy team this year.  Even in dynasty leagues, it might be getting close to time to cut bait.

The loss of Thomas will have ripple effects, one being that second year CB, Prince Amukamara will move into the starting lineup.  The Giants looked good at CB during the 2010 draft, but when Amukamara fell into their laps they couldn’t pass him up.  His rookie campaign was hindered by a broken foot, but now he looks to be 100% healthy.  With the DB position, being as deep as it is there is never a reason to reach for a player, and the reason is that players like Amukamara can be had at a much better value.  I think what we see play out is that Amukamara could be the CB that gets picked on by opposing QBs, which of course will help out his fantasy value.  Even with all that, I think the best we are looking at is a DB4 with some upside.

Philadelphia Eagles

HC: Andy Reid
DC:  Juan Castillo
Base Defensive Scheme: 4-3
Scheme Change: No

Key acquisitions: LB DeMeco Ryans, DL Fletcher Cox

Defensive Line

This is going to be quick easy and painless.  Trent Cole and Jason Babin are both being drafted as DL1s.  Cole has an ADP of DL4, Babin’s is DL7, both of which I think are too high.  Cole finished 2011 as the 15th highest scoring DL, and that was with missing two games, as well as putting up a goose egg in the game he got injured in.  If you took those three games out of the equation, Cole would have slotted in as DL5, so his ADP of DL4 doesn’t look that off.  Babin finished 7th last year, so his ADP is right in line with what his value was last year.  Now this is where it gets sticky, I can’t put my finger on the exact reason, but I think both players are going to underperform this year.  If you put a gun to my head and had to know why I feel that way I would say it has to do with the depth and versatility that the Eagles have on their DL this year.  All right, so maybe that wasn’t so quick and not completely painless.

At DT the Eagles still have Cullen Jenkins, who last year in his first season with the team finished the season as the 13th best DT in fantasy scoring.  This year, one thing that could help to boost Jenkins into DT1 territory is that the Eagles have been giving him some snaps at DE.  It won’t be anything major but just shows the versatility of the Eagles defensive line.  The other thing is that this could be just enough to tarnish the fantasy value of Cole and Babin.

In the draft, the Eagles added two other players to their defensive line.  They took DT Fletcher Cox with the 12th pick of the first round, and DE Vinny Curry with the 27th pick in round 2.  Curry just add nice depth and isn’t rosterable in redraft leagues, but in dynasty leagues he is a player that could pay off huge in 3 years.  Cox is a player that I was very excited to see the Eagles land.  Daniel Jeremiah, NFL Analyst for NFL.com said that Cox “has rare first-step quickness”, also he used the words “dominant force” when describing the Eagles 1st round draft pick.  In DT mandatory leagues, I have great expectations for Cox, I am completely buying what Jeremiah says about the 298 pounder.  In the two rookie drafts I had this summer I went into them knowing that I wanted to land Cox, I was successful in one and not in the other, and I am still kicking myself for not trading up to get him in that league. 

Linebacker

The Eagles LBs stunk last year, a bad horrible stench, a stench so bad that it is a wonder that someone didn’t get fired.  This year they addressed the position both in the draft and via trade.  In the draft, they spent a mid second round pick on LB Mychal Kendricks, and they traded with the Texans for DeMeco Ryans.  Both are slated to start, Ryans at MLB, and Kendricks at SLB.  Ryans is a former stud for fantasy owners, but injuries the past two seasons derided a once bright fantasy and NFL career.  Ryans, even if he were 80% of what he used to be, would be 120% better than what the Eagles had at MLB last year.  Fantasy wise I expect Ryans to put up viable starter worthy fantasy numbers, but I doubt we ever see him back at his pre-injury stud LB1 days.  Now he is probably in line for LB3 value with some upside.  Kendricks is more than likely the heir for the MLB job in a couple of years, but for now he gets stuck on the fantasy unfriendly strong-side.  Ryans has an ADP of LB30, which might be a bit high from a risk/reward standpoint, but I do think that is about where he finishes this year, I just don’t think there is a ton of value in him that early is all.  As for Kendricks, he doesn’t show up on the ADP report, which makes sense because he really should only be rostered in keeper and dynasty leagues at this point.

Secondary

Gone is Asante Samuel, traded to the Atlanta Falcons.  Samuel was a nice big-play CB for the Eagles but his salary was a major factor in why he was moved.  Another reason is very likely that it allows Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to play his natural position outside at CB instead of the slot.  Fantasy wise, meh.

The biggest news is probably that second year safety Jaiquawn Jarrett has looked so bad in the preseason that he is in jeopardy of being cut and not making the final 53 man roster.  That shouldn’t effect redraft owners, but dynasty and keeper owners that invested in him last year surely won’t like having to cut bait on a safety that was drafted in the 3rd round. 

The fantasy value in the Eagles secondary lies with, wait for it, wait for it, no one, they are all far too risky in my eyes to waste a roster spot.  Nate Allen and Kurt Coleman are currently the starters, but there veteran OJ Atogwe backing up at safety.  And I just have another one of those feelings where neither will live up to expectations, and part of that feeling is that I think a rotation could take place and that in turn would not be a good thing for anyone’s fantasy value.

Washington Redskins

HC: Mike Shanahan
DC:  Jim Haslett
Base Defensive Scheme: 3-4
Scheme Change: No

Key acquisitions: n/a

Defensive Line

The Redskins are another of the long line of teams that employ a 3-4 scheme that renders their DL useless for fantasy purposes.

Linebacker

If you are getting older, and find that getting out of bed in the morning isn’t easy, getting up from the sofa after sitting for a bit is a chore, or bending over to tie your shoe leaves you winded, then I think what you need to do is join me in my quest to find the Fountain Of Youth.  It shouldn’t be hard to find, all we will have to do is follow and spy on London Fletcher (my guess is that it’s at Ray Lewis’ house).  All that Fletcher did last year, at the ripe young age of 36 was lead all fantasy LBs in scoring.  He may have come just four solo tackles shy of his fourth 100 solo season, but his 166 combined tackles were the most of his 14 year career.  Fletcher has an ADP of LB18 this year, surely 100% due to him being 37 years old.  Because if he was in his late 20’s or even his early 30’s there is no doubt he would be one of the first LBs off the board.  I don’t know if I would want to rely on Fletcher as my LB1, yes I can’t look past him being 37, but if you can land him as a LB2 or LB3, he could prove to be an incredible get, especially if he still has some of that Fountain Of Youth water bottled and hidden in his locker. 

While Fletcher was filling up the box score last year, so was fellow ILB Perry Riley, that is after he got on the field starting in week 10.  From weeks 10-16 he ranked as the 12th highest scoring LB, and extrapolated out his production would have netted him a 148 total tackle season.  Riley currently has an ADP of LB35, and I think he is a great value at that spot.  I mean it isn’t like he put up those numbers last year because Fletcher was out or hurt.  No, over that same span of time Fletcher ranked #1 among LBs in fantasy scoring.  FWIW, I just landed Perry as my 4th LB in the SOFA IDP League Draft, and he was the 35th LB off the board.

Outside of Fletcher and Riley there really isn’t much fantasy value to be had with Brian Orakpo or Ryan Kerrigan.  Both players are fantastic NFL OLBs, but fantasy wise, unless you are in a big play league they are just too inconsistent and don’t log enough tackles so that they can put up viable fantasy numbers.  On the injury front there was a scare concerning Orakpo’s shoulder, but an MRI confirmed that the injury wasn’t serious.  However, the team is being cautious and keeping him out for the rest of the preseason.

Secondary

I bet you were looking forward to finding out who is going to have value in the Redskins secondary.  You probably scrolled down just to see who was in line for the production that we all thought Laron Landry would give us on a consistent basis.  Unfortunately,  with the cast of characters that the Redskins have at the safety position, I have to sadly say, your guess is as good as mine.  But since you are paying for my guess I would have to say no one.  Brandon Meriweather is currently listed as the starting SS, and while that should be a productive spot I just don’t trust him or his health to allow it to materialize.  Backing Meriweather up is veteran Reed Doughty, who if I knew would get the large majority of snaps I would have no issues saying I see DB2 value with some possible upside.  Nevertheless, I can’t make that guarantee. 

Then there is talk of CB DeAngelo Hall also playing some safety.  As hard as it might be to believe Hall very well could be the best fantasy option from his CB position on the Redskins this year.  I doubt he comes close to putting up a Defensive Player Of The Year type year that Charles Woodson has done, but he very well could put up DB2/CB1 numbers again, this time with just a bit more upside.

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Note:  Huddle IDPScoring system: solo tackle (2 pts), assisted tackle (1 pt), sack (3 pts), forced or recovered fumble (3 pts), interception (3 pts) and pass defended (1 pt).


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