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 regard to fantasy football. Which is why drafting off stats from the previous year isn’t a wise thing to do. However, reading each divisional preseason update would be a wise thing to do. If you have any additional questions please feel free to email me at email@example.com or find me on twitter @SteveGalloNFL.
HC: Doug Marrone
DC: Mike Pettine
Base Defensive Scheme: 3-4
Scheme Change: Yes
Good news, bad news along the defensive line for IDP purposes. The good news is that Mario Williams looks like he will hold his designation as a defensive end. That should be great news for the IDP crowd, however, it isn’t so great. Mainly because the Bills will be running a 3-4 this year. Last year I had high hopes for Williams as a 4-3 DE, but an early wrist injury played a major factor in curtailing his early production. Now with Mike Pettine in town the Bills are transitioning back to a 3-4 base defense, but instead of moving Mario to OLB it looks as if he’ll stick as a DE. I know JJ Watt had a monster season as a 3-4 DE, but Williams isn’t Watt. Come draft day let someone else take Williams to early in your draft. At best I’d only take him if I could get him as a DL3. Outside of Williams, I’d suggest steering clear of the rest of the Bills DL. I do like Marcel Dareus but unless you are in a DT mandatory league he won’t be a difference maker, and even then I’d temper expectations.
If the Bills offense struggles this year LBs, Kiko Alonso and Nigel Bradham could be in for very nice fantasy seasons. Even if it doesn’t I still like the rookie – Alonso – to have a nice year. Currently with an ADP of LB42 I think he is a nice value. You can get him as a LB4 and I see LB2 upside if things break right. Bradham isn’t even being selected in the top 50 of LBs, but adding him as a LB5/6 is nice value considering he should be a solid bye week filler, and if the rookie struggles he could be the one with LB2 upside.
In the secondary, as of this writing, Jairus Byrd still remains unsigned. However, that doesn’t seem to be impacting his ADP, as it currently sits as DB18. In my eyes, even if he was signed, that is far too high for Byrd. In 2012 he finished as DB41 in SOFA IDP, and unless you are in a very big play league, I’d stay far away from Byrd at his current price. The guy to target in the Bills secondary is Da’Norris Searcy. Searcy got some playing time at SS last year and this year with George Wilson gone and in Tennessee, Searcy has the chance to own the Bills SS position. With an ADP of DB30 I see Searcy as a great value in drafts. There’s plenty of turnover at the DB position, don’t be surprised to see Searcy log 100 tackles this year and crack the top-10 of fantasy DBs.
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HC: Joe Philbin
DC: Kevin Coyle
Base Defensive Scheme: 4-3
Cameron Wake had a great year as a 4-3 DE for the Dolphins last year. He ranked 4th in the NFL in sacks with 15 and fantasy wise he ranked 5th in fantasy points scored among the DL position. People seem to be buying into Wake – as they should – as evidenced by his ADP of DL3. That doesn’t make him much of a value play at the position, but the addition of rookie Dion Jordan should help Wake – who is one of the best pass rushers in the game – at least replicate last year, and if teams can’t double team him then look for him to make a push as DL1. As for Jordan, if you are in a dynasty league you most certainly should have him rostered, but value wise for this year I’d temper my expectations. The defensive line position is a position that can take a player 2-3 years to really get acclimated to, and if he does falter, make the leap to try and acquire him.
Karlos Dansby is gone, as is Kevin Burnett. Just because those two are gone doesn’t mean that the fantasy value for Dolphins LBs left with them. Newly acquired and ex-Raven Dannell Ellerbe will be the man in the middle of the Dolphins defense, and fantasy wise he’s the guy to own. Phillip Wheeler who comes over from the Raiders will man the WLB spot, the spot vacated by Kevin Burnett who went to the Raiders. I’d look for Wheeler to be a LB4 that presents some upside, especially if Ellerbe has injury issues like he has in the past.
Reshad Jones quietly had a very nice season last year – both fantasy and NFL wise. On the IDP side of the aisle he finished as DB10, and this year I have no reason to believe he can’t repeat that performance, or even better it. With an ADP of DB17 he even comes as a nice value. At least then if he does end up as a victim of DB turnover it won’t hurt near as much as if you had to spend a top-10 DB pick on him.
New England Patriots
HC: Bill Belichick
DC: Matt Patricia
Base Defensive Scheme: 4-3
Scheme Change: No
Last year thru six weeks of the season, Chandler Jones ranked as the #4 scoring DL…but then between injury and poor production he ranked 139th from week 7 thru week 16. Maybe, just maybe is abysmal end of the season performance will make your league forget about Jones. Don’t you make the same mistake. He currently has an ADP of DL11, which might seem steep, especially with how he ended the year (but don’t forget he was injured too), but the upside is there. I wouldn’t be happy with him as my DL1, but as a DL2 you likely won’t regret rostering him. Jones isn’t the only Patriot that viable as a DE for fantasy purposes – Rob Ninkovich is too. The problem with Ninkovich will be if he’s listed as a DL in your league manager software. If he is, he is a great value play considering he doesn’t even show up in MFL’s ADP data, meaning he is going undrafted or is coming off the board after DL35. The Patriots did add the versatile Jamie Collins in the draft this year, but I just don’t see how Ninkovich isn’t worth rostering at this point in time.
If you are looking at drafting a Patriots linebacker then you should be looking at Patrick Mayo and only Mayo. In deeper leagues Brandon Spikes has some value as a 2-down thumper, but if you’re looking for big fantasy value then Mayo is the only way to go.
Patrick Chung is now gone, so you won’t have to worry about if he’ll play, or if he’s on the injury report, blah, blah, blah. But that doesn’t mean that the Patriots secondary is any better for fantasy prospects. I’m sure there will be value but I’m not a buyer of Steve Gregory, Devin McCourty or any other of the Patriots secondary at this point. The defensive back position is just too deep to worry about situations that are muddy or have little upside.
New York Jets
HC: Rex Ryan
DC: Mike Pettine
Base Defensive Scheme: 3-4
Scheme Change: No (Rumblings that they could use more 4-3 looks this year.)
I was high on Wilkerson last year, and this year I still like him. Wilkerson’s upside is limited by the 3-4 that the Jets play, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t present some value for IDP purposes. Wilkerson quietly finished as DL9 last year, and with an ADP of DL19, I recommend him as a buy again this year. Outside of Wilkerson, there’s really nothing to see for fantasy purposes on the Jets DL.
David Harris is the name that most will know, but that doesn’t mean he is the Jets LB to own this year. That distinction, at least in my opinion, goes to Demario Davis. With Davis having an ADP of LB36 and Harris’ being LB51 it appears that many others do see Davis as the player to own. However, I do think that his ADP makes him a bit of a value. The Jets offense doesn’t inspire me and their defense could be on the field a ton this year. In my eyes that gives Davis high LB2 to low LB1 upside. Don’t take that as you should draft him that high, because you don’t have to do that. If you want to ensure you own him, I’d reach for him somewhere between LB25-LB32.
Last year, Laron Landry handled SS duties for the Jets and he finished the year as the #6 ranked fantasy DB. However, Landry is no longer with the team, but that doesn’t mean a Landry can’t be a major fantasy player for the Jets this year. Instead of Laron racking up tackles for the Jets, it’ll be his older brother Dawan. Considering that Dawan isn’t being drafted inside the top 36 of DBs this year, I’d say he is an excellent value in drafts. Just on sheer opportunity, he should make a push to be a top-20 fantasy DB this year. Surely you’ll hear plenty about Darrell Revis and his exodus to Tampa Bay and if rookie Dee Milliner can replace him, and that’s all well and good. Just as long as you don’t get caught up in it and think that Milliner is a fantasy savior or something. At best he could be targeted early and prove to have some fantasy value, but I wouldn’t want to bank on him for fantasy production.
Scoring system used for this article: solo tackle (2), assisted tackle (1), sack (3), forced or recovered fumble (3), interception (3) and pass defended (1).