Fantasy Football IDP 2019 Season in Review
As the NFL heads into the playoffs, it’s a good time to take a look back at the season from an IDP perspective. As always, there were injuries, suspensions, and team defensive schemes that altered the IDP landscape. For the sake of this article, we will break the positions down into simply defensive linemen, linebackers, and defensive backs. As the coaching vacancies — of which there are quite a few — are filled, defensive schemes may be altered in the offseason. We will deal with all of that as the news unfolds, and the situations become more defined. Let’s take a look back, shall we?
There are a few reasons to have optimism regarding the defensive line position moving forward. It has usually been the thinnest position for elite-level talent after the first four or five premier defensive linemen have been drafted. That may no longer be the case for the near future.
There were the usual suspects among the leading scorers, as Danielle Hunter finished among the top-5 for the second-consecutive season, and DeForest Buckner had back-to-back top-10 finishes. Both will be top-10 ranked players heading into the 2020 season. There were some consistent veteran performances by Cameron Heyward, Cameron Jordan, and Carlos Dunlap. Dunlap managed to reach the top-10 by racking up eight sacks in his last seven games. He and teammate Sam Hubbard (more on him in a bit) will be quite the edge-rushing duo to deal with next season.
There were some disappointing performances as well. After a huge 2018 campaign and signing a big contract, Demarcus Lawrence managed to post just five sacks last season. There are reports that he was dealing with shoulder issues stemming from the offseason surgery he had, and a bounce back 2020 season could definitely be in the cards. Longtime IDP defensive lineman stud Calais Campbell also saw a big drop in production, as he finished with the fewest sacks and total tackles since his 2016 campaign. Battling through a back issue, he had just 56 total tackles and 6.5 sacks in 2019. At age 33, he may be nearing the end of his fantasy-relevant days.
This season, the rookie class was one of the strongest in recent history. There were five first-year players that had at least seven or more sacks. There were two that managed to reach double-digits in sacks as both Maxx Crosby and Josh Allen posted 10 and 10.5, respectively. They will both be top-10 draft selections in 2020. Nick Bosa of the 49ers’ defense just missed that magic mark by posting nine in his rookie campaign, and Brian Burns of the Panthers had 7.5 while playing limited snaps. There were other younger players that had very nice seasons, such as Joey Bosa, Jonathan Allen, Yannick Ngakoue, and Sam Hubbard, who all had outstanding fantasy performances. Hubbard brings a solid combination of tackles production as well as a strong edge-rushing presence. He had 76 total tackles along with 8.5 sacks last season. The position is in good hands moving forward. Look for Jonathan Allen, as well as teammates Matt Ioannidis and Montez Sweat, to produce nice numbers next season with Washington’s new defensive coordinator, Jack Del Rio.
For the most part, the defensive line position wasn’t ravaged by injuries, but veteran J.J. Watt did miss eight games with a torn pectoral. He has now missed 32 regular-season games in the past four seasons. With the influx of youthful options mentioned earlier, it’s hard to see Watt as a top-10 defensive line option next season, with the wear and tear of a great career taking its toll on him. Also, keep in mind that Myles Garrett had 10 sacks in 10 games last season before his suspension for the helmet swing. He will be reinstated at some point and belongs near the top of the defensive linemen draft rankings.
It was more of the same when looking back at the linebacker position in 2019. Five of the top performers from the 2018 season put up repeat performances this season. Cory Littleton, Darius Leonard, Bobby Wagner, Blake Martinez, and Jaylon Smith all managed to finish inside the top-10 for the second consecutive year. They will all enter the 2020 season as top-10 linebacker options once again. Joe Schobert struggled a bit down the stretch but managed to finish the season as a top-five scoring linebacker. He is scheduled to be a free agent, and his landing spot could affect his ranking. That said, it’s hard to see him any lower than the top-15 or so. In his first season in Arizona, Jordan Hicks finally fulfilled on the IDP fantasy promise he’d flashed during his time in Philadelphia. He managed to play 16 games for the second time in his career finishing with 150 total tackles and 7.5 big plays. His top-five finish sets him up as a top-10 draft selection next year.
The strong rookie class of 2018 continued to play well last season. Fred Warner, Tremaine Edmunds, and Jerome Baker managed to put up triple-digit tackles and top-25 scoring finishes. Roquan Smith missed the end of the season due to a torn pectoral, but he managed to post 101 total tackles in 12 games. As for the 2019 rookie class, it was a bit of a mixed bag. Big things were expected from Devin Bush as well as Devin White, and they did deliver. However, Bush saw a decline in snaps as the season played out in Pittsburgh, but he did finish strong with 11 total tackles in Week 17. White dealt with an early-season knee injury that hampered his play. By the end of the season, however, he was hitting his stride and finished the season with 91 total tackles as well as a pair of defensive touchdowns scored. White is a top-10 linebacker option for 2020 and Bush a top-15 option.
Edge rushing outside linebackers had a very nice 2019 campaign. In balanced scoring formats, both Chandler Jones and T.J. Watt were top-12 linebackers in 2019. Jones finished the season with 19 sacks along with nine forced fumbles. Meanwhile, Watt has emerged as a top big-play producing player in the IDP realm. He put up at least one big play in 14 of the 16 games he appeared in. On the season, he had 14.5 sacks, two interceptions, eight forced fumbles, and four fumble recoveries. Shaq Barrett had a coming-out party in his first season in Tampa Bay. He finished with 19.5 sacks, six forced fumbles, and an interception. Other notable linebacker performers off the edge were Harold Landry, Bud Dupree, and Za’Darius Smith.
The injury bug hit the linebacker position hard last year. Kwon Alexander, Christian Kirksey, Leighton Vander Esch, Avery Williamson, Danny Trevathan, and C.J. Mosley missed significant time due to injuries. As their offseason recoveries are updated, we will have a better idea of just where to slot them in the rankings heading into the 2020 campaign. On a side note, after sitting out the 2019 season, Telvin Smith appears to have some legal issues to deal with. This feels like a hands-off situation at this point.
There was a mixture of youth and experience among the top-10 scoring defensive backs last season. Surprisingly, veteran cornerback Logan Ryan finished as the top-scoring defensive back in 2019. Despite battling an ankle issue, Jamal Adams, the top 2018 scoring defensive back, managed to post another top-10 finish. Budda Baker had an outstanding season finishing as a top-five defensive back amassing a whopping 147 total tackles. Veteran safeties Jordan Poyer and Antoine Bethea managed top-10 finished for the second year in a row while Eric Reid posted his first top-five finish among defensive backs. In his first season in Washington, Landon Collins managed to return to the top-10 in scoring.
Youngsters of note were Tracy Walker, despite battling a knee issue, who finished just inside the top-10 in scoring. Jabrill Peppers was having an outstanding season before going down with a back injury. Jessie Bates, Justin Simmons, and rookie Taylor Rapp were top performers and will be high 2020 draft day selections among defensive backs. Some disappointing performers included HaHa Clinton-Dix, who finished outside the top-30 in scoring, and Reshad Jones. Jones was in and out of the lineup due to a myriad of injuries, and it’s unlikely he returns to the form he once showed at age 32 next season.
There were some very big injuries to big-name defensive backs last season. Keanu Neal, Derwin James, John Johnson, and Justin Evans all missed significant time due to injuries. James did manage to return late in the season and belongs in the top-five defensive backs rankings heading into 2020. Johnson will team with Taylor Rapp in Los Angeles to form one of the top IDP defensive back duos next season. Neal has now had major injuries in back-to-back seasons and is best left for someone else to draft in 2020. As always, wait on the defensive back position on draft day while stocking up on defensive linemen and linebackers.