Dynasty fantasy football gives you the power of an NFL General Manager just without the risk of running a billion-dollar franchise or the risk of losing your job. It’s so easy as a fan to couch quarterback what you feel your favorite team should or shouldn’t do every off-season. Playing in dynasty fantasy football gives you that real-life feel, and like most GM’s we are only as good as our decisions we make from year to year.
As an analyst or dynasty owner in general, it’s easy to brag about your hits but to learn and grow. We need to be aware of our misses as well. Believe it or not, practicing this will make you a better analyst and dynasty player.
The 2020 NFL rookie class has helped to rebuild and contending teams alike. The amount of players who have become top dynasty assets after one season seems higher than I can ever remember. An interesting exercise is to take the data that we have after 16 games and redraft it with what we know now. This has been done before on podcasts and in articles, but I’m not sure it’s ever been done for IDP.
A little known fact about this 2020 class; 15 of the top 32 scorers were defensive players. I will look at the top 12 IDP rookies from 2020 based on where they were drafted and where they would be drafted based on the information and stats we have from their rookie season.
Chase Young, DL – Washington Football Team
2020 Rookie Pick: 2.03
Chase Young was fairly unanimous as to the first IDP off the board last season. For good reason, Young was an absolute beast at Ohio State recording 30.5 sacks in 24 games played over three seasons.
Chase Young would prove just how good he is by finishing as the DL10 with 211 fantasy points including averaging over 15 points per game in his rookie season. The position scarcity at DL in IDP leagues makes Chase Young the lock for the most valuable defensive player from the 2020 class.
Young plays on a very productive front four but there’s no doubt he holds the most dynasty value. Young will be a top 5 defensive linemen for years to come in IDP fantasy football.
Jeremy Chinn, DB – Carolina Panthers
2020 Rookie Pick: 5.03
The gold standard for IDP leagues is linebackers as they should be. However, with the changing of NFL defenses, at least in the short term, to more nickel-based defenses, having a player who can cover like a DB and tackle like an LB is crucial. This is exactly what the Carolina Panthers hoped for when they traded up for Southern Illinois Safety Jeremy Chinn.
Jeremy Chinn put together a historic rookie season finishing as the 12th best IDP among all players in 2020. Only four DBs scored more fantasy points than the Panthers rookie last season. Chinn ended with 265.79 fantasy points with an average of nearly 19 PPG. He would only finish with less than 10 points twice this season in back to back games, ironically enough. Chinn would respond huge with a nearly 50 point week after those two subpar performances. In that game, he produced 13 tackles, one forced fumble, and two fumble recoveries, both resulting in defensive touchdowns.
The chances of a fifth round rookie pick being valued this high after just one year wasn’t something anyone could predict. Only Justin Herbert, James Robinson, and Jonathan Taylor scored more fantasy points than him this season. The Carolina Panthers seem to have no clear plan to limit Chinn’s usage, so I would expect more of the same in 2021 and beyond.
Patrick Queen, LB – Baltimore Ravens
2020 Rookie Pick: 2.04
Any experienced IDP player would stress how important linebackers are to building a successful dynasty team. Patrick Queen was given a big chance to lead the LSU defense in 2019 after Devin White left for the NFL. He would not disappoint despite being inexperienced at the position. Queen would tally 85 tackles and three sacks and help LSU win the National Championship.
Patrick Queen had the most enticing landing spot of all the linebackers in the 2020 NFL Draft when the Baltimore Ravens selected him. The Ravens have had a top ten defense for most of the past decade, and adding a player of Queen’s caliber could only elevate them. Chase Young was the only rookie with a higher ADP than Queen in rookie drafts this past off-season.
Patrick Queen ended his rookie season as the 6th highest scoring rookie overall with 239 fantasy points and an average of 15.93 points per game. That would place him as LB18 on the season. He had four weeks of at least 23 points or more. He did lead the NFL in missed tackles according to Pro Football Reference with 21 and also was rated one of the worst coverage LBs in the NFL by Pro Football Focus. It’s important to note Queen won’t turn 22 years old until this August and is sure to improve as a linebacker. Leading your team in tackles with 106 as a rookie is impressive, to say the least.
Isaiah Simmons, LB – Arizona Cardinals
2020 Rookie Pick: 3.01
IDP managers can’t be happy with the way Simmons was used in 2020, and quite frankly, there’s little to no excuse for it. The Arizona Cardinals selected Simmons eighth overall just for him to play 34% of defensive snaps all season. He played more than 50% of defensive snaps four times his entire rookie season.
Isaiah Simmons struggled as a rookie with veteran linebackers ahead of him he had zero chance to stay on the field and play through his mistakes. Simmons is far too talented to be playing just over a quarter of all defensive snaps in 2020, especially for a defense that finished middle of the pack in both yards per game (351.9) and points per game (22.9).
His rookie campaign will be looked at as a disappointment for IDP managers, but there are positives to take away. Simmons would finish as the LB71 despite only having four games with double-digit fantasy points. Simmons 30 point performance in Week 11 accounted for 23.25% of his total season points.
Plain and simple Simmons 129 fantasy points and less than nine points per game average just wasn’t good enough. The Cardinals will have to reassess his usage this off-season and unleash him in defensive packages where he can stay on the field and contribute. Although this was a down season, I believe in the player, and he will be given more opportunities in his second year. I’m still very high on Simmons, currently my dynasty LB16. He will bounce back strong in 2021 and prove why he was drafted 8th overall by the Cardinals.
Kenneth Murray, LB – Los Angeles Chargers
2020 Rookie Pick: 3.07
The Los Angeles Chargers finally have some consistency at the LB position with Kenneth Murray. The Oklahoma Sooners standout delivered for the Chargers in 2020, playing 93% of the defensive snaps and racking up 107 tackles on the season. His 68 solo tackles tied him with Jeremy Chinn for the most of any rookie in 2020.
Murray would wrap up his rookie season as the LB36 averaging 12.93 points per game with a total of 194 fantasy points. He appeared to hit a rookie wall around the mid-way point of the season, which included him being benched for most of a game during three weeks. He did bounce back strong and finished with double-digit points in five of his last six games.
According to Pro Football Reference, Murray allowed an 83% completion percentage on 53 targets for 428 yards. This surely will be a point of emphasis for him next season as he grows into the Chargers leader in the middle of their defense. Derwin James’s return should help him a bit more in coverage, and it’s also a bit tough to criticize him, knowing he has to play against Travis Kelce twice a year.
Kenneth Murray could be the most productive IDP of this talented 2020 class when it’s all set and done. He’s a player you could potentially target in a rookie draft-day deal while some of your league-mates may have rookie fever looking for a breakout offensive star in the third round. I’ll be keeping a close eye on his value this off-season.
Jordyn Brooks, LB – Seattle Seahawks
2020 Rookie Pick: 4.10
One of my favorite values of rookie drafts last year was Jordyn Brooks. IDP managers who were able to stay patient should be rewarded big time in 2021 and beyond. The veterans at linebacker in Seattle weren’t going to allow a high volume snap share, and that proved true as he only played in 32% of defensive snaps as a rookie. He managed to finish the season strong with eight tackles or more in four of his last five games, including an 11 tackle performance in Week 13.
Jordyn Brooks is still finding himself as a player but could produce nicely when asked as a rookie. Brooks 57 tackles were 7th best on the team while only playing limited snaps. A player like Jordyn Brooks is why deep rosters and taxi squads are useful in all dynasty leagues. Brooks finished with only 86 fantasy points, averaging just over six points per game. He was a hail mary start at best in 2020 and likely spent the season at the very end of your roster in 2020.
The upside is there for Brooks, as we’ve seen in a small sample size. He brings speed to the Seahawks linebacker group that they desperately need. The big boost for him will be if the Seahawks don’t bring back K.J. Wright, a free agent, and will be 32 this season. Jordyn Brooks’s fantasy output playing alongside Bobby Wagner full time is a dream scenario for IDP managers.
Antoine Winfield Jr., DB – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
2020 Rookie Pick: 5.10
It was a truly special season for Antoine Winfield, and I can see the argument for him being higher. Winfield played over 1,000 defensive snaps and 97% overall, according to Pro Football Reference. The rookie safety was able to collect 94 tackles, the 4th most amongst rookies in 2020.
Antoine Winfield ended his rookie campaign as the DB24 overall with 218.25 points averaging 14.5 points per game. His impact plays certainly boosted his production, three sacks on 45 blitz attempts, two forced fumbles, and one fumble recovery helped him become a weekly starter for IDP managers.
It’s rare to find one highly productive DB in the fifth round, let alone two like the 2020 class has given us. As productive as Winfield was as a rookie, you have to be concerned as an IDP manager. His advanced defensive stats are not encouraging. PFR has him allowing 76.9% completions on 39 targets for over 500 yards, six touchdowns, and a QB rating of 147.2. I believe some of that can be attributed to the lack of off-season and how good the Buccaneers defense was against the run. Regardless his pass coverage needs work, especially if Tampa Bay is considering bringing back Lavonte David. It’s unlikely Winfield is a 90+ tackle guy every season.
Kamren Curl, DB – Washington Football Team
2020 Rookie Pick: Undrafted
Before the season, I never expected to be writing about the 216th overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. Kamren Curl put everyone on notice when he became a starter after Landon Collins went on IR. Curl collected 88 tackles, 63 of them solo in just 11 starts as a rookie. He also had a knack for the big play with two sacks, three interceptions, and a defensive touchdown.
Kamren Curl failed to record a double-digit fantasy performance before Week 8. From Weeks 9 through 16, he never finished with under 15 points in any game. He was an absolute star down the stretch with 20 points or more in four of his last eight games. The Washington Football team produces IDP stars, and Curl was no different finishing as the DB28 with 211.75 points at an average of 14 points per game.
The big question for IDP managers is what to do with the Washington safeties going forward. Landon Collins surely returns as it seems there’s not a realistic out on his contract until after the 2021 season. Kam Curl played well enough to earn snaps and should be on the field. It will just be anyone’s guess as to in what capacity. Curl played 371 box snaps in 2020, and before the injury, Collins played 185. It will be very interesting to see how Washington can get them both on the field without hurting their pass defense, who finished second in the NFL in yards per game. The Washington Football Team has a very talented defense, and they will find a way to get Curl on the field in 2021.
Xavier McKinney, DB – New York Giants
2020 Rookie Pick: 4.06
Nearly all 2020 rookie drafts had Xavier McKinney as the fourth IDP off the board. Unfortunately, a broken foot in training camp cost him all but six games in his rookie campaign. The 2019 First Team All-SEC performer did manage 25 tackles and an interception on only 14% of snaps.
There’s not much to get excited about a DB275 finish scoring only 31.25 fantasy points. Xavier McKinney was highly productive in his last two seasons at Alabama, recording 104 tackles, six sacks, and five interceptions.
The New York Giants retained defensive coordinator Patrick Graham who did have some interest around the league as a possible Head Coaching candidate. Under Graham, two defensive backs finished as top 20 IDP performers and three inside the top 50. How the Giants will use McKinney and manage the last year of Jabrill Peppers contract will be interesting to see. Peppers has been an IDP stud over the past two seasons while battling injuries. He becomes an unrestricted free agent after this season. Xavier McKinney isn’t going to be given anything, and he will have to earn his way on the field, assuming the Giants remain healthy for most of next season.
Jordan Fuller, DB – Los Angeles Rams
2020 Rookie Pick: Undrafted
Jordan Fuller is the second Ohio State Buckeye to make the top 12. He was a sixth-round pick by the Los Angeles Rams and went undrafted in dynasty drafts. The Rams already had three talented safeties on the roster. Fuller would earn a starting role in Brandon Staley’s defense. He would start 12 games and had three interceptions to go with his 60 tackles.
Fuller finished 2020 as the DB115. He landed on short term IR with shoulder and neck injuries early in the season. Fuller averaged 12.75 points per game if he had been able to play one more game; he would likely have finished well inside the top 100 defensive backs.
Los Angeles Rams DB John Johnson III, who by all accounts won’t be returning to the Rams in 2021, will leave a big hole in the secondary. Johnson called all the plays for the Rams last season. Although they play different positions, there’s a chance Fuller may take on some of those responsibilities. Jordan Fuller is not the best athlete, but Head Coach Sean McVay praised him for his football IQ during the draft process.
Defensive backs in dynasty fantasy football, for the most part, are wildly inconsistent from one year to the next. John Johnson III was a highly productive DB for most of his career, and now the trio of Taylor Rapp, Terrell Burgess, and Jordan Fuller takes over. All three battled injuries in 2020, but there’s value to be had here. It’s just up to you to figure out who that is.
Willie Gay Jr. LB – Kansas City Chiefs
2020 Rookie Pick: 4.12
The Kansas City Chiefs desperately needed a youth movement at the linebacker position. Willie Gay Jr. being drafted by the Chiefs gave IDP managers hope we could see consistent production from that position again. Willie Gay would play 16 games playing only 25% of snaps while starting eight games. Just 39 tackles, one sack, and one forced fumble as a rookie.
The Chiefs defensive coaching staff will need to build trust in Willie Gay this off-season for him to see consistent snaps next season. He finished with an LB95 finish, with all things considered, isn’t that terrible. Gay had two big games as a rookie resulting in 20 and 24 point performances. This was good for 44 of his 91 total fantasy points (48.35%).
With Willie Gay Jr., you are gambling on the upside, and him being able to stay out of trouble off the field. The Kansas City Chiefs are a system based LB unit that uses a committee based on the offense they are playing. There’s hope with Willie Gay for him to finally become an every-down LB instead of the Chiefs just using mixed combinations. The Chiefs had four linebackers finish with 90+ fantasy points last season. Gay is a very good player who could be a difference-maker for the Chiefs defense.
Krys Barnes, LB – Green Bay Packers
2020 Rookie Pick: Undrafted
The rookie LB from UCLA burst on to the scene as a rookie. Krys Barnes started ten games, and he compiled 80 tackles with one sack and one interception. He only played 41% of snaps and battled Covid-19 in his up and down rookie campaign. He stepped up into the more productive IDP role when Christian Kirksey went down with an injury. Barnes never failed to record less than three tackles in a game this season. He has had ten tackles or more three times.
Barnes’s rookie season ended with him being the LB74 overall, finishing one point short of tying Isaiah Simmons in fantasy points. He also averaged more points per game (10.66) than Simmons did this year. Barnes has been a very solid LB in his first season. He has made some big plays and should maintain fantasy relevance into 2021. The Packers had some odd usage among LBs under Mike Pettine, favoring more single LB defenses. Joe Barry will take over the Packers defense in 2021. Barry is a veteran coach who was a former college football LB at both USC and Michigan.
There’s a good chance Barnes will more than likely be a complimentary NFL player. His fantasy value will be tied to how quickly he can learn the new defensive system. The Green Bay Packers LB room will be crowded with both Christian Kirksey and Kamal Martin. There’s a good chance the defense changes to more consistent two linebacker sets, which should be better for Barnes to potentially see the field more.
Thank you guys for checking this out. I want to give a shoutout to my friend Tom Kislingbury who came out with a 2020 Defensive Schemes project that breaks down every NFL team. I encourage you to check it out if you’re into defensive-minded football. A lot of great stuff is coming from the IDP Dynasty Nerds team. Stay tuned to the nerds’ Twitter account @DynastyNerds for all the latest.