We’ve been down south, to the land of sweet tea and Belles, and next, we head to the NFC South. We are still down in the same area, but now we get to the Dirty South and down more on the coast. From The Big Easy to the ATL, there are some teams in massive transition, but there are some defensive guys to target in IDP.
I sincerely apologize for the lapse in the divisional outlooks; life got crazy busy for a few weeks!
Let’s get DDDIIIRRRTTTYYY y’all….
The Falcons’ offense lived by the run, and the defense was amongst the league’s worst defending the run. The 3-4 defensive line is anchored by a couple of veterans who have been IDP stalwarts for many years.
Motivation was easy for Grady Jarrett after we drafted him in the 5th round out of #Clemson. He's now entering his 9th season with the #Falcons— Scott Pioli (@scottpioli51) August 10, 2023
What keeps him motivated? His eyes said it all#NFL @nflnetwork @ClemsonFB @GradyJarrett pic.twitter.com/qkLaMuPBVp
Defensive tackle Grady Jarrett is freakishly consistent and someone you love to have on your team if you have to start a DT. He had 61 tackles and six sacks in 2022, and I expect the same in 2023. He’s entering his age 30 season and will always give you at least some tackles.
Veteran Calais Campbell turned 37 and is the starting defensive end, although I don’t see him getting as many snaps as he would need to be IDP-relevant. He’s still good depth for your squad and had 36 tackles with 5.5 sacks in 2022.
The Falcons invested a three-round pick in former five-star Zach Harrison, and he could develop into an asset, but I am not holding my breath on him. He’s got great size and length but didn’t show enough on the field for me to be in a hurry to invest in Harrison.
The linebacker crew isn’t pretty, but there will be the opportunity for someone to emerge. My money is on second-year Montana State product Troy Andersen. I loved him coming out of college, and the Dirty Birds invested a second-round pick on him.
Andersen played quarterback at college, as well as safety and linebacker, and is a versatile athlete. He ran a 4.42 40-yard at 6’3” and 243 pounds, absolutely ridiculous speed for his size. Andersen plays with an intense motor and loves hitting. His instincts and ability to play in coverage needed time to develop, and the Falcons are going to throw him in.
He’s got the potential to be an LB2 and get you 125+ tackles, but if the coverage ability and instincts don’t get up to speed quickly, Andersen won’t have a coveted spot for IDP for very long.
Lorenzo Carter and Bud Dupree are depth guys for your rosters, neither is a guy you want to rely on, but each can give you a score in a pinch. Second-year man Arnold Ebiketie is someone you still want to keep on your rosters. He still has the potential to develop into a special EDGE rusher from the outside linebacker spot.
Atlanta has quietly developed one of the strongest secondaries in the NFL. It starts with the cornerback tandem of Jeff Okudah and AJ Terrell. Okudah was strong for IDP in 2022, with 59 tackles, seven passes defended, and an interception. Terrell missed some time but has been a consistent producer at the corner. Both guys should be rostered and are good options if you have to start cornerbacks.
They added another corner, Utah’s Clark Phillips III, and have Dee Alford manning the nickel spot. With playing time, each can figure in for IDP due to the poor state of the linebacker unit.
Richie Grant, setup man— Atlanta Falcons (@AtlantaFalcons) January 1, 2023
📺 FOX || NFL+ pic.twitter.com/TTcF1U1aR3
Third-year strong safety Richie Grant emerged in 2022 with 123 tackles and should be in that range again in 2023. He’s our DB20 and a perfect S2 that you can plug in and forget each week.
The Falcons also signed former Bengal Jessie Bates after a down season, but he will be looking to return to his productive self. He had been consistently ranked in the top five after his first few seasons, but his production has dipped. Bates will get more opportunities to clean up from free safety, and I predict an uptick in production.
Former first-round pick Derrick Brown leads the interior of the Panthers’ 3-4 defense, and he had a great 2022 season from a production standpoint. He had 67 tackles, seven passes defended, an interception, and a sack. That landed him inside the top 24 of scoring for defensive tackles.
Brian Burns is our DL4 at the Nerds, and he’s coming into his own as an elite NFL EDGE rusher. He had 63 tackles to go along with his even dozen of sacks last season. He’s going to give you a safe floor with tackles and then give your team a big play jolt when he reaches quarterbacks. Different leagues may list him as a linebacker, and that dings his value a little in that setup.
Tackles DeShawn Williams and Shy Tuttle are solid depth pieces for their position. Each will rake in a few tackles and also provide some pressure. But they aren’t guys you want to have to start and are only rosterable in DT-required leagues.
Frankie Luvu is still HIM pic.twitter.com/PlKhd3UPDI— =͟͟͞Blande (@JustBlande) August 13, 2023
Frankie Luvu posted a top-twelve season with 111 tackles and seven sacks, and it’s fool’s good to expect the sack number to be replicated. I’ve seen him drafted really high, and I’m a bit apprehensive. I am projecting his tackle numbers to increase, and he could be a 125-tackle producer, but I am only calling for three sacks. Realistically, Luvu could still be a top-fifteen linebacker, but his scoring in big-play leagues would take a decent hit.
The other linebacker I am rostering is veteran Shaq Thompson. He’s only going to grab you tackles at this point in his career, and he had a career-high 135 in 2022. That’s about all he had for statistics, but that will give you a solid LB3 and consistent scoring.
Justin Houston and Yetur Gross-Matos are guys that can inject some pass-rushing in key situations, but I’m barely rostering either of those guys. In most leagues, Deion Jones is still rostered, and he’s interesting if he can return to even 90% of what he once was. I liked incoming rookie Bumper Pool (great name), but he’s a two-down depth guy that would need a lot of development and better athleticism to succeed for IDP.
When they were healthy, corners Jaycee Horn and Donte Jackson were consistent producers for fantasy. Each missed several games in 2022, but if they are in the game, each corner will give you a solid source of tackles and a few deflections, with an occasional interception. Both are solid streaming options if you take that route.
Jeremy Chinn is listed as the nickel corner on the current depth chart, and if he gets the CB designation, he is, without a doubt, the overall CB1 for fantasy. Chinn is going to bounce back to the 100-tackle production and should provide a big play here and there too. If he’s listed as a safety, Chinn will be a solid spot starter or great depth piece that can be started.
Vonn Bell comes over from Cincinnati and is the most consistent secondary asset in Carolina. He should see 100 tackles again, with opportunities for more, and he could be a surprise in IDP with a strong bounce-back season.
Xavier Woods is the free safety and is more of a depth piece for your IDP squads. He will give you production in a pinch and is a consistent, albeit not massively productive, safety. I’m interested in rookie Jammie Robinson from Florida State and am stashing him on my deeper dynasty squads.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
Running mostly a 4-3 front, the interior tackles for New Orleans are incredibly uninspiring for fantasy. If I had to roster one, fifth-year Khalen Saunders will at least get you a few tackles weekly and an occasional sack.
Cameron Jordan is in his 21st season (kidding, it feels like that!) and is still one of the most consistent pass-rushing ends in the NFL. He shows no sign of slowing down, with 66 tackles and eight sacks in 2022. He just turned 34, and I would think the tank is close to empty but don’t count out Jordan yet.
Carl Granderson had 53 tackles with five sacks last season and seems to be developing into a solid DE3/4 for fantasy. I want to see how he fares this season before declaring that, as the Saints added two interesting rookies in the draft.
Bryan Bresee is a New Orleans Saint!!! pic.twitter.com/q086pO33IS— Boot Krewe Media (@BootKreweMedia) April 28, 2023
Bryan Bresee comes from Clemson and has a five-star pedigree, and he is the future of the Saints line. He’s got a tweener size, put generates power with speed from the interior, and has enough athleticism to flash on the edge too. Bresee had an uneven college career and, with some development, could be a top-ten defensive lineman in the next few years.
Notre Dame’s Isaiah Foskey will likely be an end or asked to stand up and get after the passer from an outside linebacker spot. He’s got agility and impressive moves, with the ability to make jaw-dropping plays with his athleticism. Foskey needs work on counters and stringing moves together after the initial engagement, but the tools are there.
From a production standpoint, the Saints’ linebackers offer two strong options. Another 34-year-old vet, Demario Davis slotted into the middle and was able to rake in 109 tackles and a career-high six sacks. The sack number will probably regress a little, but expecting 100 tackles is still realistic for the vet.
Back to back plays by Pete Werner where he makes the offensive lineman miss without even breaking a sweat. Misses that 2nd tackle but a big season is on the horizon pic.twitter.com/GYxv9nMess— Da Boot (@DaBootTragedies) August 14, 2023
The third-year former Buckeye linebacker, Pete Werner, had almost identical production on a per-game basis but missed a few games. His scoring came from tackles, as he collected 78 in only ten games played. Werner has been going later in drafts I have seen thus far, and I’m always puzzled why, as he could be a player with nearly 150 tackles if he stays healthy.
Former Cowboy phenom hopeful Jaylon Smith provides depth, and Zack Baun gives the unit a player who could get pressure, if he can make the step forward.
Corners Marshon Lattimore and Alontae Taylor are solid producers for IDP, but neither is a lock-and-forget type of starter. Both are good, consistent options. Both guys will lay down some tackles for a safe floor and then get some big plays and passes defended. Nickel corner Bradley Roby is not someone I want to roster. He’s not consistent enough to even be used as a fill-in.
At safety, veterans Marcus Maye and Tyrann Mathieu give the Saints a strong and experienced tandem. But each player has seen their better days and is better for the NFL than for fantasy. Maye mans the strong safety slot and has flashed startable production at times, but is simply too inconsistent to rely on.
We all know how good the Honey Badger once was. I have no qualms with rostering and starting Mathieu, just know that he’s no longer the locked-in S1 he used to be. He’s still got a 100-tackle upside and isn’t going to put up a zero. Mathieu is still good for an occasional big play, and a few passes defended, but he’s now 31 and not the dynamic force he once was.
Former potential stud Johnathan Abram lurks on the depth chart and is worth a deep stash, as he’s got the potential to be startable if he sees the starting lineup.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
Employing primarily a 3-4 front, the Bucs have a few players for your IDP squad who can give you depth, but I am not in love with either for IDP. First, veteran tackle Vita Vea has anchored the nose for five seasons, and he’s going to give you a small mess of tackles and an occasional sack. Even in DT-required leagues, Vea isn’t startable consistently but can fill in if needed.
Calijah Kancey is gonna get endless comps to Aaron Donald, and there ARE plays on tape where it makes a lot of sense:pic.twitter.com/KPWZDz4eh6— Sam Monson (@PFF_Sam) March 6, 2023
You would be hard-pressed to find someone that loves incoming rookie Calijah Kancey as much as I do. Working next to Vea may end up being the best thing for him. Kancey has a lethal first step and an array of moves, but his instinct to get to the quarterback is uncanny. He doesn’t stop and is a bear to handle. His run-blocking needs work, and his size is a bit small for a 3-4 defensive lineman – but that doesn’t mean he won’t succeed.
For IDP and fantasy, Kancey may not be as valuable, I see his ceiling as 35-40 tackles with 10 sacks. But his impact on the defense will be felt immediately, and Kancey is going to be an effective defensive lineman.
Devin White is our LB4 in Nerds rankings, and he’s a player IDP teams love to have. Plug him in and forget about it. He even produces LB1 numbers on bye weeks (don’t ask, just roll with it). White had 124 tackles, 16 QB Hits, 5.5 sacks, and forced a pair of fumbles. He’s going to always post the tackles and is disruptive enough to give you those juicy big plays too.
Lavonte David has started 166 games for the Bucs over 11 seasons and is still as consistent as ever. He’s the perfect LB2/3 for fantasy. David averages over eight tackles a game over those 166 starts and isn’t quite as disruptive as White, but is freakishly consistent.
Shaq Barrett is the veteran pass-rushing outside linebacker; if healthy, he’s a lock for flirting with double-digit sacks even as he enters his age-31 season. Joe Tryon-Shoyinka is the other outside linebacker, and he’s got the potential to be disruptive, also. Either of these guys is an emergency start only, and I am not likely rostering except in deep-rostered leagues.
I like SirVocea Dennis, the Pitt rookie, as a guy to step in if White or David misses time. He’s primarily a two-down linebacker who can man the middle and tackle anything in his vicinity. Dennis has phenomenal instincts but could be a liability if asked to cover.
Carlton Davis was a top-24 scoring corner in 2022, with 65 tackles and a dozen passes defended. He’s always been in that range and is one of the few corners I don’t mind rostering and plugging in weekly.
The other corner is Jamel Dean, and he’s not someone I am rostering, but I would be willing to throw in for a spot start in the right matchup. He had 57 tackles last season and a pair of INTs. He’s not as consistent as I would like for IDP, though.
Free safety Antoine Winfield is a young player I am targeting for IDP that is trending up. He had 80 tackles and an interception in 13 games and is just realizing his potential at the NFL level. I have Winfield projected for 115 tackles, five sacks, and a pair of INTs Not barn-barning numbers, but they are trending toward being DB2/3 numbers.
Strong safety Ryan Neal came on strong with Seattle toward the middle of 2022, but I want to see more before I rely on him. He’s 27 and now in a good spot but behind two of the steadiest linebackers in the NFL. I don’t know how many tackle opportunities he will see.
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