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With the lockout over, camps and pre-season games finally under way all I can say is welcome back NFL. However, with the extended lockout came a free agent signing frenzy like never seen before. Many players have new homes, some in new positions, and some in new schemes. The breakdowns below will help to show who went where and how it will impact their fantasy value as well as who stayed put and what to expect from them too. In addition, many teams have new defensive coordinators and you can read about them in the 2011 Coaching Changes article. If you have any additional questions please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and you can also follow me on twitter @IDPSteve. 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).
Defensive Line: The Texans have gone and switched from a 4-3 defense to that of a 3-4. That means that Mario Williams is no longer classified as a DL and instead is now a LB. That means we lost another stud DL to the dark side.
Linebacker: Mario Williams goes from being a stud DL to an afterthought at LB, at least for fantasy purposes. At best new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips will turn Williams into DeMarcus Ware. From an NFL standpoint that is great but from a fantasy standpoint it means you will be looking at a very streaky and inconsistent fantasy option. If you are in a big play league then Williams should be a good option but in tackle heavy formats, I would not even give him a look. While Williams is not fantasy viable, the same cannot be said of DeMeco Ryans and Brian Cushing. Ryans is currently fighting an elbow injury but it should not be something that keeps him from producing big numbers this year. I fully expect that we will see Ryans jump back up into the top 10 as a fantasy linebacker this year. Cushing is going to be the SILB and will put up nice fantasy numbers but do not expect him to be a LB1 like he was in his rookie year. Look for LB3 numbers with a bit of upside.
Defensive Back: The Texans secondary was abysmal at best NFL wise last year. Bernard Pollard had a very nice season for his fantasy owners but he was a liability in pass coverage and because of that, he was not brought back for 2011. Fantasy wise I do not see the Texans having anyone that will put up numbers like Pollard did last year and honestly, I would probably just pass on the entire Texans secondary.
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