Change is afoot in Detroit. The Matt Patricia experiment is over and the Belichick coaching tree has produced another mediocre, ne, terrible, head coach. The new man in town is former journeyman tight end and long time NFL assistant Dan Campbell.
Campbell brought in former NFL defensive back and defensive backs coach Aaron Glenn as the new defensive coordinator. Campbell and Glenn were on the Saints staff together from 2016-2020. Glenn will be switching the Lions to a 3-4 base defense.
It looks to be a long season for the Detroit defense. But, does that mean it will be good or bad for IDP production? Let’s take a look.
IDP production from 3-4 defensive linemen can be tough to come by. The goal is for the three linemen to tie up as many offensive lineman as they can, allowing the linebackers to flow to the ball and make plays. There are exceptions like JJ Watt, I don’t see anyone in Detroit stepping up like that.
2020 holdover, John Pensini will man the nose. Rookie Levi Onwuzurike and newly acquired Michael Brockers will be on the end. The Lions defense looks to be on the field frequently so Detroit will rotate several linemen involved to try to stay fresh. Between the defensive philosophy switch and the heavy rotation I’m not counting Lions DL for IDP.
In tackle heavy formats Collins will be the linebacker to roster. The veteran has four 100+ tackle seasons. The downside with Collins is that he is over 30 and teams will be looking to get younger so he is not someone to think about rostering long-term.
The other guys
Jahlani Tavai is going into year three and has started half of his games to date. Tavai is not overly athletic and is likely a placeholder during the rebuild. I’m not investing much in a dynasty league, but he is a cheap flyer on the chance he could hold the position for a couple of years.
Switching to the 3-4 base the Lions have moved both of 2020’s defensive ends to linebacker. Jeff Risdon of Lionswire.com has Trey Flowers moving to the Leo or rush linebacker position. This is a role Flowers played in New England. Flowers currently has both DL/LB designation on Sleeper.
In 2020 Romeo Okwara led the defensive line. He is coming off a 10 sack season. Okwara also had career highs in forced fumbles (3), total tackles (44), solo tackles (32), tackles for loss (11), and QB hits (18). With Flowers moving to the LEO position, Okwara is likely to loose some of that big play production. I could see Okwara surpassing his career high in total and solo tackles, but I would expect him to be in the LB 3-4 range at best.
Tracy Walker and Will Harris
Walker was second on the team in tackles even though he only started seven games. He played strong safety in 2020, but is slated to play free safety in 2021. Playing farther from the line could have a negative impact on his tackle numbers. Walker is still ranked at DB15 in the Dynasty Nerds IDP rankings and I someone you should be starting in leagues that start at least two DBs.
With Walker moving over to free safety, Will Harris is stepping in at strong safety. Harris checks in at 207 pounds and has a good athletic profile. He had 35 total tackles in five starts in 2020, with 4.41 speed he can also cover a lot of ground. Harris is currently ranked outside the top 30 safeties. This could be the time to get him cheap.
Do you have to start a CB?
Jeff Okudah struggled after being the third overall pick in the 2020 draft. He did have 47 total tackles in starting six of nine games. In leagues where you must start a cornerback, the tackle numbers make him startable.
The scheme switch could pay off with dual position eligibility for Flowers and Okwara. Jamie Collins is the guy to have for 2020 but I expect the Lions will move on from him after the 2021 season. The trio of young defensive backs should give the Lions some building blocks if they reach their potential.
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