My defensive linemen philosophy is simple. If you don’t land a monster, you’re hitting the waiver wire and playing the match-ups for 17 weeks. And when I say “monster”, I’m talking about the Top 6 – Jason Pierre-Paul, Jared Allen, Trent Cole, Mario Williams, Justin Tuck, and Julius Peppers (normally Terrell Suggs would be here, but he’s hurt). I know there are very talented players in the next tier, but I’d rather save the pick for another position. The reason I bring it up is because I consider players ranked in the Top 64 as “starters”. The difference between a DL 2 and a DL3/4 is minimal, and exposing the juicy match-up can easily win you any given week. Even if your definition of a DL starter is stricter than mine, the rookie percentages don’t budge all that much… it’s still lousy.
Complete rankings for defensive linemen drafted between 2006 and 2011:
>>> Rookie DL Production <<<
Percentages for a 16-team league, starting 2 DLs
Rosterable: Players worthy of belonging on a fantasy roster.
Starters: Players ranked in the Top 64 at the end of the season.
Backups: Players worthy of contributing to your fantasy team in a limited capacity.
Minimal Contribution: Players on waivers who could be useful in case of emergencies (ex: injuries, byes, poor match-up).
No Contribution: Players that belonged on waivers.
Rookie Production, 2011: 40 Defensive Linemen
5% chance of drafting a starter (2 players)
- 5% chance of drafting a DL1 (2 players)
- 0% chance of drafting a DL2 (0 players)
15% chance of drafting a backup (6 players)
5% chance of minimal contribution in rookie season (2 players)
75% chance of no contribution in rookie season (30 players)
Rookie Production, 2006 – 2011: 245 Defensive Linemen
2% chance of drafting a starter (6 players)
- 2% chance of drafting a DL1 (4 players)
- 1% chance of drafting a DL2 (2 players)
5% chance of drafting a backup (13 players)
9% chance of minimal contribution in rookie season (21 players)
84% chance of no contribution in rookie season (205 players)
Defensive Linemen drafted in the first round, 2006 – 2011: 44
9% chance of drafting a starter (4 players)
- 7% chance of drafting a DL1 (3 players)
- 2% chance of drafting a DL2 (1 player)
18% chance of drafting a backup (8 players)
16% chance of minimal contribution in rookie season (7 players)
57% chance of no contribution in rookie season (25 players)
Defensive Linemen drafted after the first round, 2006 – 2011: 201
1% chance of drafting a starter (2 players)
- 0% chance of drafting a DL1 (1 player)
- 0% chance of drafting a DL2 (1 player)
2% chance of drafting a backup (5 players)
7% chance of minimal contribution in rookie season (14 players)
90% chance of no contribution in rookie season (180 players)
Trends and Highlights:
- Of the 19 rosterable players over the past six seasons, 12 came from the 2010 or 2011 rookie class.
- Some 2011 rookie linemen caught me by surprise after I ran the stats. Jurrell Casey, Muhammad Wilkerson, and Karl Klug all finished inside the Top 60. Check again if you don’t believe me.
- Casey and Klug became the first linemen drafted in the third round or later to become rosterable since 2006 Mark Anderson.
- J.J. Watt defied logic by becoming a dominant fantasy lineman in a 3-4 scheme. He’s special, and I don’t consider this becoming a trend.
- Teams who’ve had the best rate of at least minimal production from rookie linemen since 2006: Rams (5 of 11) and Texans (3 for 7).
- Teams who’ve had the worst rate of at least minimal production from rookie linemen since 2006: Packers (0 of 10), Cardinals (0 of 9), Falcons (0 of 8), Patriots (0 of 8), and Eagles (0 of 8).
Defensive Linemen drafted in 2012: 43 (player, team, round drafted)
Dontari Poe KCC (1), Fletcher Cox PHI (1), Michael Brockers STL (1), Bruce Irvin SEA (1), Quinton Coples NYJ (1), Shea McClellin CHI (1), Chandler Jones NEP (1), Courtney Upshaw BAL (2), Derek Wolfe DEN (2), Andre Branch JAC (2), Kendall Reyes SDC (2), Jerel Worthy GBP (2), Devon Still CIN (2), Vinny Curry PHI (2), Olivier Vernon MIA (3), Tyrone Crawford DAL (3), Mike Martin TEN (3), John Hughes CLE (3), Akiem Hicks NOS (3), Jake Bequette NEP (3), Brandon Thompson CIN (3), Frank Alexander CAR (4), Alameda Ta’amu PIT (4), Jaye Howard SEA (4), Jared Crick HOU (4), Mike Daniels GBP (4), Josh Chapman IND (5), Malik Jackson DEN (5), Jack Crawford OAK (5), Christo Bilukidi OAK (6), Billy Winn CLE (6), Scott Solomon TEN (7), Tim Fugger IND (7), Kheeston Randall MIA (7), Jerome Long KCC (7), Trevor Guyton MIN (7), J.R. Sweezy SEA (7), Jeris Pendleton JAC (7), Greg Scruggs SEA (7), DeAngelo Tyson BAL (7), Cam Johnson SFO (7), Markus Kuhn NYG (7), Travian Robertson ATL (7)
The percentages predict two DLs drafted in the first round will become rosterable, and one will become a starter. My choice for starter is Bruce Irvin. I anticipate an Aldon Smith type of season where he produces a bunch of sacks, but is hit-and-miss from week to week. The good news is Irvin’s defensive end eligibility should have him as a plug-and-play fantasy starter every week. Hopefully your other fantasy defensive players can make up the difference on the days where he doesn’t produce a sack or turnover. The other lineman I’d target from the first round is Fletcher Cox. The Eagles are still committed to the Wide-9 despite giving up the eighth most points to running backs last season. Cox should be the exact opposite of Irvin, racking up decent, consistent tackle numbers every game as opponents run in-between the tackles on Philly. As stated above, there has been a spike in rookie DL production over the past two seasons. If you’re looking for a third rosterable DL from the first round, draft Shea McClellin.
The percentages predict one DL drafted after the first round will become rosterable. It’s impossible to recommend anyone other than Courtney Upshaw, provided he gains DL eligibility in your league. The loss of Terrell Suggs hurts his potential, but he should have immediate value provided his learning curve isn’t an issue.
Other articles in the Rookie Production series:
Fantasy Football Rookie Running Backs, Historical Production and 2012 Predictions
Fantasy Football Rookie Linebackers, Historical Production and 2012 Predictions
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