As there typically is no standard-setting in Individual Defensive Player (IDP) leagues, knowing your roster requirements and scoring settings is essential to a sound draft strategy. If your league requires you to draft defensive lineman, we have your top 5 targets here:
1. Khalil Mack, Oakland Raiders:
While Mack has been known to line up at both defensive end and outside linebacker, both Yahoo and ESPN fantasy sites list him as a defensive lineman. In 2016 the former University of Buffalo Bull totaled 73 tackles, 11 sacks, five forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries, one interception, one touchdown and a partridge in a pear-tree. Mack was an IDP- fantasy point scoring machine as he finished the year with seven games with at least four solo tackles and nine games with at least one sack. Last season Khalil was the number-one Yahoo-league scoring defensive lineman and the 13th highest scoring IDP overall. 2017 should see the 26-year old Mack wreaking havoc in opposing backfields quite often, as the Raiders will play six teams that threw at least 600 passes last year and will face five teams that gave up at least 35-2016 sacks. With an expected return to health for Mario Edwards Jr. at the other defensive end spot and linebacker Bruce Irvin getting pressure opposite of Mack, look for Khalil to thrive in new Defensive Assistant John Pagano’s pressure-heavy defense, where he will try to turn a 2016 league-high 96 Quarterback-pressures into even more sacks. 2017 prediction: 79 tackles, 14.5 sacks, three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.
2. Joey Bosa: Los Angeles Chargers:
After a 31-day training camp hold out led to a preseason hamstring injury, Joey Bosa, the 3rd overall pick in the 2016 NFL draft, finally stepped onto the football field in week 5 against the Oakland Raiders for his first regular season action. Bosa’s impact was immediately felt, as the rookie sacked Derek Carr twice and totaled five tackles. Joey, over the course of just 12 games, would go on to record the highest number of single-season sacks (10.5) by a rookie since 2011 and was named Defensive Rookie of the Year. Joey’s 2016 included eight games with at least half a sack, with three of those games featuring multiple sacks. Pro Football Focus ranked Bosa as the third most efficient pass rusher among all outside linebackers/defensive ends in 2016. Now with a full offseason to improve his craft, the sky’s the limit for Bosa in 2017. Joey has been working out away from the Chargers’ OTAs in an effort to increase his already-impressive athleticism. With the recently re-signed Melvin Ingram drawing attention and bringing pressure from the other side of the defensive line, Chargers’ opponents will have a hard time double-teaming Bosa. Joey should have plenty of one-on-one pass-rush opportunities with Los Angeles facing six teams who threw at least 580 times in 2016. 2017 prediction: 68 tackles, 13.5 sacks, and three forced fumbles.
3. Cameron Wake, Miami Dolphins:
Fresh off a two-year $19 million contract extension, Wake will try to once again capture the fountain of youth and be a dynamic pass-rushing force for the Miami Dolphins in 2017. Last season saw the eight-year veteran post 11.5 sacks, five forced fumbles and one interception, all while playing just over 51% of the Dolphins’ defensive snaps in his first year following an Achilles tendon tear. Cameron provided plenty of consistent fantasy scoring over the course of 2016, posting nine games with at least one sack, including three multi-sack games. Entering 2017, the plan for Wake looks to be much the same as it was in 2016; reduce the overall number of snaps for the 35 year-old defensive end while ensuring he’s out there for passing downs, hopefully increasing the impact of Cameron’s time on the field. Lining up alongside All-Pro defensive tackle and double and triple-team target Ndamukong Suh, Wake will get plenty of opportunities to go one-on-one against opposing offensive tackles. 2017 prediction: 33 tackles, 10.5 sacks, four forced fumbles, one fumble recovery.
4. Olivier Vernon, New York Giants:
After signing a five year deal worth $85 million with the New York Giants in 2016, expectations were high for Vernon in his first season in the Big Apple. By all accounts, Olivier met those expectations, and then some. The workhorse defensive end delivered 63 tackles, 8.5 sacks and one forced fumble in 16 games. Both a force in the run and the pass game, Vernon was a fantasy-scoring presence all year long. Olivier registered at least half a sack in seven games and posted ten games with at least four tackles, being named PFF’s most productive pass rushing 4-3 DE on the right side. The rare defensive end who contributes against the run as well as bringing a pass-rush, Vernon will score plenty of fantasy points in 2017. The Giants will face nine teams who threw over 570 passes last year, and the expected return to health for Jason Pierre Paul on the opposite end will funnel plenty of action Vernon’s way. 2017 prediction: 68 tackles, 7.5 sacks, two forced fumbles.
5. J.J. Watt, Houston Texans:
2017 will see a return to action for the Texan’s defensive end after playing only three games in 2016 due to a back injury. J.J. will look to regain the form he displayed from 2012-2015, when he averaged over 17 sacks a year and was named NFL Defensive Player of the Year three times. According to Texans’ Head Coach Bill O’Brien, Watt is on pace to open the 2017 season by returning to his starting defensive end spot. That’s bad news for opposing quarterbacks and great news for your fantasy team. Projected to team up with former number one overall pick Jadeveon Clowney and pass-rusher Whitney Mercilus (who combined for 13.5 sacks in ’16) for their first full season together, opposing offensive lines will have a hard time choosing who to double team. This should result in plenty of fantasy scoring opportunities for Watt and you should expect the former Wisconsin Badger to return to wreaking havoc in opposing backfields. This season the Texans will face seven teams who threw the ball at least 580 time in 2016 and six teams who allowed at least 40-2016 sacks . 2017 prediction: 51 tackles, 9 sacks, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery.
Next level options:
Carlos Dunlap, Cincinnati Bengals
Aaron Donald, Los Angeles Rams
Michael Bennett, Seattle Seahawks
Everson Griffin, Minnesota Vikings
Calais Campbell, Jacksonville Jaguars