Alright, we’ve been to the North for each division, and let’s head down south. To the land of sweet tea and southern belles, to the AFC South first. The Jaguars have emerged as the top team in the division, but each other team drafted a rookie QB to hopefully fill a need. We ain’t talkin’ about QBs and offense here, though!
D-FENSE! Where does each of the Jags, Titans, Colts, and Texans rank defensively? And what players should we be targeting in IDP from each squad? Buckle up, baby; we headed south.
Running a 3-4 primarily, the Jaguars’ defensive line doesn’t have the greatest options for fantasy. Davon Hamilton is the nose tackle and a solid option in DT-required leagues. He had 55 tackles and a pair of sacks. Not a plug-and-play but solid and consistent.
If first-overall pick Travon Walker gets DE designation, he could definitely be a startable end. He played well over the first half of the season but seemed hampered as the season went along. Walker still tallied 49 tackles and 3.5 sacks on 67% of the defensive snaps. He’s got a bright future but holds more value as a defensive end than as a linebacker.
2/3 is a day to show some love to our favorite #23, Foye Oluokun. Oluokun led all defensive players in scoring in both 2021 and 2022. This former 6th round pick by the Falcons had 184 total tackles in the 2022 regular season for the Jaguars. pic.twitter.com/QSb79V3c2Q— Master IDP (Leo) (@MasterIDP) February 3, 2023
Linebackers are another story, as our LB2 and overall IDP2, behind Roquan Smith, resides on the Jaguars’ front seven. Foye Oluokun joined the team in 2022 and led the NFL with 184 tackles and 128 solos. He added two sacks, five passes defended, and a pair of forced fumbles. Oluokun will turn 28 on Wednesday, and his production should remain the same for at least a few more seasons. He’s a top IDP for fantasy, get him and lock him in your lineup.
Devin Lloyd was my top rookie linebacker and still put up decent numbers despite Oluokun’s massive output. Lloyd had 115 tackles, three interceptions, and eight passes defended. He played in nearly 80% of the snaps and is a very strong option as an LB2. The numbers should increase, Lloyd is the real deal, but his statistical upside may be capped by Oluokon’s presence.
Josh Allen is an outside linebacker and part of the pressure packages. He’s a good option in fantasy as a depth linebacker, as he’s going to get 50-60 tackles and 7-8 sacks when he’s on the field. Allen gives you a solid floor with nice big-play potential.
Walker is right there if he’s listed as a linebacker too. He will have a safe floor and some big-play potential. The Jags added Ventrell Miller in the draft and have Chad Muma and K’Lavon Chaisson to give good depth to all linebacker positions. Keep an eye on the backups here in Jacksonville.
At cornerback, third-year player Tyson Campbell is a solid producer and a guy you can count on to give consistent production. He had over 70 tackles in each of his first two seasons and should replicate that number in 2023 with a few big plays sprinkled in.
Veteran Rayshawn Jenkins mans the strong safety spot and had a good 2022 season with 116 total tackles and a trio of interceptions. He was the most consistent member of the secondary but not exactly a world-beater. Jenkins is still a solid DB2/3, and you don’t have to worry about him tossing up a goose egg.
Andre Cisco is the free safety and chipped in 73 stops last season with three INTs and ten passes defended. He’s also a solid DB3 type, and I think his upside is better.
The Jags added Antonio Johnson from Texas A&M in the draft, and I like his long-term outlook. He’s more of an in-the-box safety, and if he sees the field, he’s got good IDP potential.
The Titans run a 3-4 primarily, and they have one of my favorite defensive linemen, Jeffery Simmons. He’s listed as DT in MFL but is more of an end, yet – with the DT designation; he’s much more valuable. Simmons is almost a DT1 in soring, and as an end, he’s still high DE2.
We have him listed at DL12 in our IDP Rankings, so he’s a must-own and must start on the line. Simmons had 51 tackles and seven sacks in 2022 and is turning 26 today. He would benefit from better options on the line with him, yet his strength in the trenches frees up lanes for the linebackers and EDGEs.
There are not any other options worth owning for IDP on the Tennessee defensive line.
The linebacker corps isn’t particularly great, but there are a few options worth having in IDP. Former third-round pick Monty Rice came on strong toward the end of 2022 and has an inside spot locked up. He finished with 67 tackles, most of them coming in the last six weeks.
Former 49er Azeez Al-Shaair mans the other inside spot and should be due for a big 2023. He’s going to see tons of opportunities. He did have 104 tackles in 2021, with a pair of sacks and fumble recoveries.
Both Rice and Al-Shaair should flirt with triple-digit tackles, and Al-Shaair has more big-play upside. As far as other options, Harold Landry is an outside linebacker/EDGE with the potential to rake in double-digit sacks every year. He will give you around 70 tackles and ten sacks if healthy and is more valuable in big-play scoring or if he gets the DE designation.
Rashad Weaver is a depth guy at best and could get you a few tackles and big plays in a pinch. Arden Key is in the same bucket but maybe a little less rosterable. It gets bleak incredibly quickly.
The Titans have a few corners that will produce for you, led by nickel corner Roger McCreary. The second-year player had an interception but 84 tackles and eight passes defended. He was a CB2 in scoring and should be in line for another good statistical year.
Kristian Fulton wasn’t far behind in points per game, as he tallied 48 tackles and an interception in 11 games. He would have been a CB2 for scoring had he played all 17. Both of these corners are good to lock in or stream if they are on waivers.
Kevin Byard enters his age-30 season as one of the most consistent safeties in the game. He’s averaged just under 100 tackles a season for his career and is always good for a few INTs and a gaggle of passes defended. Byard is a set it and forget it DB2.
Amani Hooker is the strong safety and was neck and neck, as far as production, with Byard but lost eight games due to injury. He still had 46 tackles, and Hooker is a player that could flirt with 100 tackles if he plays all 17 games. And he can be acquired incredibly inexpensively.
The Colts employ a 4-3 defense and have a few really good options on the line. DeForest Buckner is one of the best tackles in the game and finished at DT4 last season. He’s a solid start, even in leagues without DT designation on the line. He raked in 74 tackles and eight sacks; expect the same in 2023.
Grover Stewart was a huge surprise next to him and finished at the DT9 in scoring. He had 69 tackles and four sacks in a surprising sixth NFL season for him. It’s hard to expect the same, but operating next to Buckner means less attention for Stewart and potential for scoring plays.
At the end spot, Kwity Paye is an up-and-comer to roster and get in your lineups. He missed several games last season and finished with 44 tackles and six sacks. I am projecting Paye for 60 tackles and 11 sacks in 2023, and he’s a massive beneficiary of the stellar inside production.
Keep an eye out for rookie Adetomiwa Adebawore, a tackle that will push for playing time quickly. He’s 6’2” and 282 pounds and ran a 4.49 40-yard at the combine. First off, it should be illegal to be that big and that fast. Second, his size makes him a bit of a tweener, and he may slide all over the line. Adebawore’s explosion is lethal, and he could find a role in IDP.
Zaire Franklin finished at the LB4 last season and is a top-twenty linebacker in our Nerds IDP Rankings. He’s only 27 years old and had 166 tackles with three forced fumbles and a trio of sacks. Franklin was likely an incredibly inexpensive option before the 2022 season. Why isn’t he ranked higher?
#Colts LB Zaire Franklin made some nice plays in coverage and in the run game against the #Chiefs on Sunday, finished with a team-high 12 tackles.— Devin Jackson (@RealD_Jackson) September 27, 2022
He’s doing a nice job holding down the second level of Indy’s defense while Shaq Leonard is out. pic.twitter.com/q0YRyJjSc3
The news is good thus far, and Franklin isn’t ranked higher because of the looming return of Shaq Leonard. He’s still our LB9 despite missing almost all of 2022 and a down season in 2021. When he’s healthy and clicking, Leonard has overall LB1 potential and would massively eat into the role of Franklin. Personally, I want to see it, I worry that Leonard will never be the player we saw in 2018 and 2019 again.
I’m avoiding the starting corners. The Colts secondary is young and inexperienced, and I don’t know who is going to see the targets/tackles. JuJu Brents, Darius Rush, and Dallas Flowers could be productive, but I won’t roster them until I see how it shakes out, and then they could be streaming options.
Nickel corner Kenny Moore is somewhat enticing and should see around 90 tackles cleaning up after the young pups.
The safeties are each just bench stashes at the moment, I also want to see how they shake out, as both are inexperienced. Free safety Rodney Thomas II finished the season strong and strong safety Julian Blackmon had a couple of good games down the stretch.
The Texans operate mainly with a 4-3, and their two interior linemen, Sheldon Rankins, and Maliek Collins, are only deep depth pieces. And that’s if you have to start defensive tackles.
ICYMI: The #Texans drafted TWO QBs in the 1st round.— Brian Baldinger (@BaldyNFL) May 1, 2023
CJ Stroud – QB on O
Will Anderson Jr. – QB on D – let's take another look at the destruction WA left behind in the SEC #BaldysBreakdowns pic.twitter.com/OybtgNS8Lq
The player to get on the line is Will Anderson Jr., and there is not a lot of info yet as to whether he will get DE or LB designation. As a DE, he would be far more valuable, obviously. He’s our DL16 currently, and Anderson has an immense ceiling. I do believe he will ultimately get pigeonholed as an outside linebacker. He could still get 80-90 tackles and ten sacks, and Anderson will get you points consistently.
The Texans have accumulated some linebackers who have been strong IDP producers, but they have a slew of players I’m not overly excited about. First up, Denzel Perryman is listed as the man in the middle (cue Michael Jackson song), and he’s going to get you tackles if he’s on the field. He’s a nine-year vet but has never been a guy you love to start consistently. Perryman should still be consistent for IDP production as an LB3/4 type.
Christian Kirksey slots in behind him but will likely see some time, too, particularly on the first two downs. Copy and paste all I said past the Michael Jackson song reference above. Kirksey isn’t sexy but is consistent for IDP when on the field.
I’m not excited to roster Cory Littleton, but he’s a solid producer if thrust into playing time. He’s just not very good as far as an NFL player. Rookie Henry To’oTo’o is an interesting later IDP guy to roster and has the potential to develop into a starter. But I kind of get that same feeling about To’oTo’o as I do with Perryman and Kirksey. Good, not great. This linebacker crew is #UNINSPIRING.
So, with the meh-ness of the linebacker crew, the secondary should eat, right? At corner, the Texans have a strong young duo in Steven Nelson and Derek Stingley Jr. Nelson isn’t much of an option for IDP, but Stingley was stronger with production than I expected. He had 43 tackles in only seven full games and could be a strong option to stream in particular.
Nickel corner Desmond King was the CB4 in scoring behind 88 tackles, two interceptions, and eight passes defended. King is a corner to plug in your lineup and forget; he’s a strong IDP producer at cornerback.
Jalen Pitre weighs 198 lbs pic.twitter.com/kwkkKdHuQY— James Foster (@NoFlagsFilm) June 26, 2023
To clean up after the linebackers, free safety Jalen Pitre was the S1 in scoring last season and our DB5 ranked overall. In his rookie season last year, he tallied 148 tackles and five interceptions. It’s perfectly reasonable to predict that production this season with an uptick. Pitre is going to get loads of tackle opportunities and has a nose for the ball. He’s one of the best safeties in fantasy already and is only 24 years old.
Veteran Jimmie Ward is the Texans’ starting strong safety and is capable of consistent production for IDP. Especially cleaning up in this defense. I project him for 80 tackles and four INTs, and Ward is a solid depth safety for your IDP squads.
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