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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: Well it sure is nice actually getting some value back from the dark side. By that, I mean that the Broncos are moving back from a 3-4 base defense to the much more DE friendly 4-3 base scheme. Elvis Dumervil will once again be fantasy relevant, that is if he can stay healthy an all signs point to his health being just fine. Back in 2009 when the Broncos were also running the 4-3, Dumervil racked up more points than all but one DL, Jared Allen. I am not expecting Dumervil to repeat his 2009 performance, a year where he also logged 16.5 sacks but I do think he ends the season as a DL1 and I would not be surprised if he ended up being a tier 1 blue chipper again. Flanking Dumervil at the other DE spot will be former 1st round pick, Robert Ayers. To date, Ayers has been a bust fantasy wise, and not far off from being a bust NFL wise too. However, the scheme change could mean good things for Ayers. He should see mostly single blocking and his skills just seem like they will translate better as a DE than they did as a rush OLB. I like Ayers in the later round as a sleeper that could end up with DL2 numbers.
Linebacker: Von Miller might be the shiny new toy and the player that is getting all the press but when it comes to fantasy production give me DJ Williams 7 days a week. The only thing of concern right now with Williams is that he suffered a dislocated elbow in the Broncos week 3 preseason game versus the Seahawks. The injury is expected to keep Williams out for three weeks, which means he will miss week 1, and could end up missing week 2 too. If Williams start to fall in your draft because of the injury, do not be afraid to pull the trigger because once he gets back on the field he is a top 15 LB at the worst. As for Von Miller, I like him as a player and he should make an immediate impact for the Broncos but playing SLB is just going to limit his fantasy production. He very well could approach double-digit sacks this year but his inconsistency is what makes him a risky fantasy play. Miller is not the only rookie LB the Broncos drafted this year. In round 3 of the rookie draft they selected Nate Irving. As it stands now Irving is a stash and hold for dynasty leagues but in redraft leagues he is currently behind starter Joe Mays as well as veteran Mario Haggan. Irving looks to eventually be the heir to the MLB job in Denver but if and when that does happen, temper your expectations because with Williams and Miller on the team he will be nothing more than a 2-down LB.
Defensive Back: The ageless one, Brian Dawkins will be back manning the SS spot for the Broncos. Last year was not a good year for Dawkins as he was slowed mightily by injury. Just remember he is only two years removed from scoring the 2nd most fantasy points among all DBs. Dawkins partner in crime at safety this year will be rookie Rahim Moore. To date Moore is infamous for his illegal hit on Bills WR Donald Jones. One thing that really stood out to me on that hit, other than it being so violent was the closing speed Moore exhibited. Moore is definitely a stash and hold for dynasty league owners.
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