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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 Bills had a horrible run defense last year and they looked to the draft this year to help shore it up. Rookie Marcell Dareus will start immediately and because of his flexibility, he is a great fit for the Bills defense. Dareus will line up as a DE in the Bills base 3-4 but he also will have no problem moving inside when they flash their 4-3 looks. He is not a player I would want to rely on as anything more than a DL4. Playing DT again for the Bills this year will be Kyle Williams. The same Kyle Williams that was a huge surprise in fantasy circles last year as he ended up ranking 4th among all DL in scoring and he was the #1 DT too. Yes, he scored more fantasy points than Ndamukong Suh did last year. I would temper expectations for this year, look for Williams to remain a viable fantasy starter but I think DL2 numbers are what he will put up.
Linebacker: Paul Posluszny was a beast at MLB for the Bills, racking up tons of fantasy points for his owners in the process. However, this year he took his talents south to Jacksonville. The Bills decided to replace Posluszny with veteran and former Green Bay Packer, Nick Barnett. Barnett will play the exact same position that Posluszny did in this defense and I think his upside the type of production that Posluszny had with the Bills. The difference is that in drafts you will not need to spend nearly as high a draft pick to get Barnett as you used to in order to land Posluszny. Many have Barnett ranked outside the top 20 but I really feel like a top 10 finish is in the cards for the former Packers stud. Outside of Barnett, the Bills do not really have any other fantasy viable LBs. Andra Davis is once again starting but he really only has value in larger leagues. The Bills also have two other former big names on their roster at LB, Shawne Merriman, and Kirk Morrison. Merriman will be one of the starting rush OLBs in their base 3-4 but Morrison is currently just depth. Merriman could be worth a look in larger big play leagues but Morrison should be left on the waiver wire.
Defensive Back: Not only did the Bills lose their stud LB in Posluszny but they also lost their stud starting SS, Donte Whitner. Whitner unlike Posluszny did not go south; instead, he went west and signed with the 49ers. Replacing Wilson is veteran SS George Wilson. Wilson has performed well in the past when given the chance and this year he should be a very good option for fantasy owners. I do not expect him to rack up the 139 total tackles that Whitner had last year but he should still put up at least low level DB1 to high level DB2 type numbers. Dynasty league owners will want to keep a close eye on Da’Norris Searcy. Also, do not be surprised to see veteran Bryan Scott’s name showing up in the box score. Currently, Scott is not a target for fantasy owners but keep an eye on him because if injury strikes he could be a great waiver wire add.
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