This offseason, about 150 defensive free agents signed new contracts. A couple of them returned to their old teams, but many joined new ones. The shifts mean new players will get a chance to start.
That could mean a role player becoming a starter when he joins a new team that can find a way to utilize him. It could also mean a backup taking over as a starter after the old guy left. Teams often plan for starters eventually leaving and already have someone ready to step up.
Here are seven projected new NFC team starters who could impact your team in IDP fantasy football. Stay tuned for the AFC version.
Andrew Booth, CB MIN
Booth was considered a steal by PFF analyst Anthony Treash when he fell to the second round of last year’s draft. As a sophomore and junior at Clemson, he made five interceptions, one sack, nine pass defenses, and 64 combined tackles. He also recovered one fumble and returned it for a touchdown.
He didn’t have much chance to show what he could do as a rookie. Booth only played 105 snaps in two games and didn’t play well in those games. He gave up 13 receptions on 15 targets and missed two tackles. He should be on the field more this season after Patrick Peterson and Cameron Dantzler both left the Vikings. I think you can bet on the skill he showed in college and get him cheap-ish.
Brian Asamoah II, LB MIN
Set to become a starting linebacker following the release of Eric Kendricks, Brian Asamoah is one of the most heavily hyped second-year IDPs this spring. Asamoah flew across the field in college and made 68 tackles his junior season at Oklahoma before being drafted in the third round. Asamoah only played 121 snaps as a rookie, but he played pretty well. He graded a 78.8 in PFF and allowed just three receptions on 63 coverage snaps. He missed three tackles on 18 tackle attempts, more than you would like to see, but that’s a small sample size.
Khyiris Tonga, DT MIN
Following the departure of Dalvin Tomlinson, the Vikings have a hole at defensive tackle. Tonga, a 2021 seventh-round pick out of BYU, stepped up in his second year in the league and first year with the Vikings. He was graded at 77.9 by PFF. He made half a sack and ten pressures on 140 pass rushes and improved his tackle rate in 2022.
Jordan Davis, DT PHI
The 6’6″, 336-pound Davis was one of the best college players, which is why he was drafted No. 12 in 2022. Sitting behind Javon Hargrave on the depth chart, he only played 225 snaps. He graded at 71.4 overall and 71.8 on run defense. Davis needs to improve his pass-rush abilities to be a valuable IDP player. He made no sacks and only eight pressures on 112 pass rushes as a rookie.
Nakobe Dean, LB PHI
The NFC Champions lost a lot of starters in their front seven, but they also drafted well in 2022 in anticipation of looming departures. Davis’s teammate at Georgia, Dean, is another one who will be expected to step up, with Kyzir White and TJ Edwards both out the door.
Dean was drafted in the third round. He truly shined at Georgia, making 71 total tackles as a sophomore. Dean raked in 72 total tackles, over ten for loss, as a junior, and won the Dick Butkus Award. He can also make impact plays: two picks, one defensive touchdown, five passes defended, and two fumbles forced his junior season.
Drake Jackson, EDGE SFF
After being drafted in the second round in 2022, Jackson had a pretty good rookie season as a passing-down rusher. He made 3.0 sacks and 16 total pressures on 228 pass rushes. With 2022 starting OLB/DE Samsom Ebukam having left for Indianapolis in free agency, Jackson projects to step in as the 49ers starting end opposite Nick Bosa. Based on last year’s numbers, if Jackson has the same volume as Ebukam, you can project him for about 4.5-5.0 sacks.
However, analysts like Sam Monson of PFF expect Jackson to improve on his rookie season’s efficiency. “Edge rusher is a position that can take a little time to adjust to, and the 49ers could still use a solid rusher in their rotation, so Jackson should get opportunities to show he can take a big step in Year 2,” Monson wrote.
Nathan Shepherd, DT, NOS
The Saints have a hole at defensive tackle after David Onyemata drove 470 miles northeast to play for the division-rival Atlanta Falcons. Shepherd played five years for the Jets, never playing more than 42% of the snaps in a season. His PFF pass-rush grade exceeded 70.0 three times, including a 79.5 grade last year. He made 36 total pressures in the past two seasons.
I don’t think he will be valuable in three-position Sleeper leagues. It is hard to get many sacks and tackles from the DT position. But it is hard to find some lower-to-middle-tier tackles in specific-position serious leagues that require you to start a DT. Shepherd could be one of those. Shepherd’s teammate DT Khalen Saunders could also be a possibility.
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