IDP Sit/Start: Week 1

Updated: September 16th 2022

Welcome to my IDP Sit/Start Article for the 2022 NFL season. This article aims to help you identify those truly start-worthy players who might be more on the fringe of the 2nd or 3rd or even 4th tier of the position groups (based on FantasyPros weekly rankings) but have the right situation to be a startable asset for each given week. The layout of this series will focus on DL, LB, and DB position groups, however, I will try to get some nuggets in there for those “True Position” leagues that get down with DT and CB requirements! Additionally, where I can find the long-term value, we will also call that out to help you with some of that season-long planning.

Let’s get to it now that you know what I am trying to do!

START: Danielle Hunter, Minnesota Vikings, DL19

Danielle Hunter has that injury-prone label hanging over his head after back-to-back years of lost seasons (pectoral muscle in 2021, neck in 2020). This is scaring people off from what I strongly believe Danielle Hunter to be, and that is at tier 1 DL for IDP fantasy football. He meets the prerequisites of having pass rush win rates and pressures per game at elite levels when on the field. Secondly, throughout his career he has consistently seen around 80% of the defensive snaps each game and season and nothing has shown us that they are planning to bring that number down. Combine those points with the fact that Hunter is finally paired with another strong pass-rushing partner in offseason signing, Za’Darius Smith, Hunter has a path for success that should make him an every-week starter with top 8 DL upside for the entire season.

SIT: Sam Hubbard, Cincinnati Bengals, DL16

Sam Hubbard had a career year last season, in terms of sacks with 9 (tied career best), tackles at 62 (tied 2nd best), TFLs at 12 (career high), and QB hits with 17 (career high). These are strong numbers for where Hubbard was drafted last year and his perceived value. However, he did this on his highest snap total ever as well. His overall efficiency saw a drop but he delivered on volume. I am sure this is confusing at first because you are asking yourself, “Doesn’t Jake always say to chase volume for IDP?” And you would be right in every case. Volume is the first key to success for an IDP fantasy asset. The problem is, that volume came in what seemed more of a necessity than a desire. Hubbard and Hendrickson saw the vast majority of snaps as Joseph Ossai went down early last season. Ossai was an early round 3 pick (69th overall) and in the preseason, the Bengals were clearly showing signs of him being a key contributor. Once he went down, the Bengals didn’t have the talent or depth to replace that and just rode Hubbard and Hendrickson. With a full season to recover and prepare, Ossai will see an increased role which means a reduced snap count for Hubbard and Hendrickson. This means if you are looking for that high-end DL2 value, you are hoping he improves efficiency which is the less likely outcome.

START: Isaiah Simmons, Arizona Cardinals, LB26

Isaiah Simmons has had an interesting path to his current situation as it exists today. He was a top 10 draft pick (8th overall, 2020) but found himself on the wrong end of the snap counts (376, 34%) and given praise coming into the season and the increased utilization in other spots on the field, Simmons is looking like the key piece of this defense that he was (presumably) drafted to be. He spent time working with the safeties this offseason and he was recently named the defensive play-caller (given the green dot) for week 1. This aligns with his increased usage last season (1,005 and 94%) and the departure of other key defensive pieces in Jordan Hicks and Chandler Jones.

Right, wrong, or indifferent on how we got to this point, but we are here, and that place is “Success-town”, population Isaiah Simmons. I am sure there are plenty of people who held on tight to Simmons and always had the belief. Others though were most likely scared off from the low utilization, the lack of responsibility given, and even offseason talks that Jalen Thompson (Cardinals’ safety) would be the defensive play-caller this year. To those people I say, now is the time to get Simmons into your starting lineups! His talent, utilization, and opportunities are going to meet in a perfect storm, giving you a top end LB play this week and probably most of this season.

SIT: Anthony Walker Jr., Cleveland Browns, LB27

Going back-to-back in the FantasyPros rankings after Simmons is Anthony Walker Jr., and even though it is only one spot behind him, I would move Anthony Walker even further down that list. The primary reason for this? He is not even the best LB on his team… he might not even be in the top 2 for some people, and that is the case for me. I have him behind Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah and Jacob Phillips as LB3. This LB room ambiguity was not well-known in Cleveland due to other conversations in Cleveland (starting QB anyone?). There has been a some waffling on the green dot wearer for week 1 and for the season.

With so many things in the way of Walker succeeding and NFL defenses running almost no 3 LB sets to try and “guarantee” that Walker gets the snaps needed to be relevant, I am not rolling the dice on Walker of all people in that LB room. For me, it is JOK or pass. And I would rather pursue other 3-down LBs on other teams that give a better upside overall.

START: Kyler Gordon, Chicago Bears, Unranked

I am getting super deep on this one, but am a big believer in the slot role in Matt Eberflus led defenses. Kenny Moore has shown with the physical toolsets, the right coaching, and the opportunity a cornerback can be relevant. With Matt Eberflus taking over in Chicago, Kyler’s high draft capital and strong RAS, and him taking the lead on the slot role, all things are pointing up for Kyler Gordon!

Kyler Gordon to me is a player that will see the valuable snaps on the field as he was announced as the starter in the slot position and has taken most of his snaps there in the last two preseason games. The presumed microcosm of all of this, his first snap from the slot starting in preseason week 2, Eberflus blitze Gordon from the slot. In my opinion, that is just the beginning for him. With him taking the bulk (if not all) of his snaps so close to the ball and line of scrimmage, he has what we look for in DBs even but moreso for those leagues that require CBs. Also, historically rookie cornerbacks tend to see a strong number of targets against them that keep the floor and value safe for Kyler as well. He is basically free at this point and I am picking up all the shares of Kyler everywhere I can.

SIT (Fade or Trade): Jeremy Chinn, Carolina Panthers, DB5

So this is tough one to treat as a true “sit”. If you spent the required draft capital to require Chinn, it may be hard to actual have Chinn on your bench come week 1 this season. However, let’s just look at what we can probably more realistically do with Chinn, and that is trade him for a “tier down” at DB and maybe something more in another player or draft capital. But why would you get rid of someone from your roster that is a consensus top 5 DB (redraft and dynasty)?

It breaks down to two key components and one consideration. The first being the fact that Chinn has thrived almost exclusively on his ability to rack up tackles while taking the bulk of his snaps in the “Sweet Spot” (Box, Slot, DL) and his production comes heavily from his tackle production. He has not show big-play tendencies from his first two seasons combined:

  • 2 sacks
  • 2 interceptions
  • 3 fumbles (2 forced, 1 recovered)
  • 10 passes defensed
  • 8 TFLs
  • 10 QB hits

And this preseason he has taken 8 snaps in the “Sweet Spot” and 23 at free safety with new teammate, Xavier Woods, taking the bulk of those valuable snaps while they were both on the field. Knowing the usage looking like this and his past success heavily predicated on tackles (which are more easily achieved from the “Sweet Spot”), getting out on Jeremy Chinn now would be the best chance to maximize his value before it starts to potentially shift. Is this to say that if Chinn’s positional play shifts to a deep safety role he can’t produce? No, we have seen others do this; Justin Simmons and Minkah Fitzpatrick are great examples, but also tend to be the outliers. Chinn is good, but his value might be at his highest it will ever be right now, so now is the time to sell!

More Analysis by Jake

2020 Rookie Rankings Explained: Part II

Updated: May 10th 2020

This was my fourth year creating the rookie rankings for Reality Sports and it was as rewarding as ever in 2020. I look forward to the rankings each year because it’s such a unique experience and I’m grateful to have the opportunity to help inform literally every single RSO rookie draft. Since my rookie rankings can have a large impact on roster composition, I shy away from “hot taeks” and am more risk-averse than I might be in my own personal rookie drafting. I view the rookies through the lens of an RSO league and how a 3- or 4-year rookie contract can change the value of a player compared to dynasty formats. In order to create rankings that are representative for the majority of RSO leagues, I made a few assumptions on rosters and scoring (i.e. 1QB, offense scores more than defense and IDP scoring heavy on tackles/sacks). Each year there are a few themes and surprises that emerge as I’m ranking and over two articles I will share those with you. First up were my notes about this historically deep wide receiver class. Today I’m sharing my thoughts on the rest of the roster.

Click here to view the 2020 Reality Sports rookie rankings, compiled by Robert F. Cowper

Love Hurts?

My quarterback rankings started so simply. Joe Burrow first, no brainer. Tua second and Herbert third, less certain but I was confident. Then I ran into the roadblock that was Jordan Love vs Jalen Hurts. After much consideration, I put Hurts above Love despite the draft capital the Packers spent on Love. My thinking is this: I believe Hurts is more likely to return value on an RSO rookie contract than Love. We don’t know how much longer Aaron Rodgers will be the starter in Green Bay but if it’s closer to four years than one year, you may waste your pick on Love. We also know that Love’s performance and efficiency declined in 2019, so while we love his physical tools we aren’t sure about his consistency. Conversely, in 2019 Hurts showed us that he can adapt to a new system and a new coaching staff and flourish. We saw a side of Hurts that we never saw at Alabama and that gives me hope that he can stick as a passer at the NFL level. Eagles starter Carson Wentz has suffered a number of multi-game injuries throughout his college and pro career so it’s not unreasonable to think that Hurts may get an early chance to prove himself. We may also see Hurts get some Taysom Hill-like touches so he could have utility in 2QB leagues when you’re hit hard by injury or bye weeks. Hurts is a leader and a winner so I’ll take my chances with him over Love.

RBBC

I, like many draft fans, was surprised to see Clyde Edwards-Helaire be the first running back off the board to Kansas City. For the longest time, the consensus RB1 in this class was D’Andre Swift from Georgia. Jonathan Taylor came on strong after another 2,000+ yard season and a good combine performance, bumping Swift from the top spot in some rankings, including mine. CEH going in front of both Swift and Taylor caused me to reevaluate. I decided to keep Taylor at RB1, moved Edwards-Helaire up to RB2 and dropped Swift to RB3. Taylor and Swift will both see some early competition for touches from Marlon Mack and Kerryon Johnson respectively. I figure Johnson is likely to stick around longer than Mack so Taylor is more likely to be the unquestioned starter in 2021. Some have compared it to Nick Chubb competing with Carlos Hyde and Duke Johnson for touches in Cleveland in 2018 but becoming the guy the following year with great results. Edwards-Helaire will have the biggest opportunity in 2020 but I hesitate to catapult somebody to RB1 who I did not even consider for the spot two months ago. During his seven seasons in Kansas City, Andy Reid has had five different running backs lead the team in rushing yards. There’s no doubt that CEH will have value in 2020 but I think that Taylor has a better shot at having value over the duration of his rookie deal.

Light End

This year’s tight end class was weaker than the previous three so it wasn’t a surprise that none went in the first round. What did surprise me though was just how hard they were to rank. By virtue of his draft capital and the fact that he should have no problem getting on the field early for the Bears, Cole Kmet was my TE1. Two of the next three off the board went to the Patriots which complicates rankings a bit (I slid Dalton Keene down as I expect him to serve as a blocker more so than as a receiver). As far as how Josiah Deguara (Packers), Devin Asiasi (Patriots) and Adam Trautman (Browns) end the season, your guess is as good as mine. I clumped them together in the mid 40s to hedge my rankings. One guy to keep an eye on is Albert Okwuegbunam in Denver. He has been reunited with his college quarterback Drew Lock and was the presumed TE1 back when they teamed up back in 2017-18. Chances are that only one tight end will be drafted in your rookie draft so I would wait on these guys to see how training camp and the offseason shakes out and target any preseason standouts in free agency.

Frequent Flyers

One of my favorite thought exercises each year is trying to identify the UDFAs who have the best chance at fantasy relevance. It’s impossible to predict injuries but we can study team depth charts to see where the road to relevance is shortest. I don’t recommend you draft any of these players in your rookie draft but monitor them during the preseason and pounce on any who find themselves an injury away from a sizable role.

  • Michael Warren, RB, Eagles (Rank: 68): Behind starter Miles Sanders, the Eagles have two previous practice squad poaches as their running back depth. Neither Boston Scott nor Elijah Holyfield inspire confidence if Sanders were to go down. I think Michael Warren from Cincinnati would be a reliable fill-in if needed. Over the last two seasons, Warren amassed nearly 3,000 yards from scrimmage and 36 scores in the competitive AAC. In five games against Power 5 opponents during that span he rushed 112 times for 520 yards and 6 TDs. I was surprised to see him go undrafted.
  • JJ Taylor, RB, Patriots (Rank: 71): Taylor measured smaller (5050/185) and ran slower (4.61) than I expected at the combine which definitely hurt his chances of being drafted as a gadget player. Would anybody be surprised if a 5’5″ undrafted free agent running back ended up scoring two touchdowns in a game for the Patriots this season?
  • Austin Mack, WR, Giants (Rank: 116): The bad news: Mack did not test particularly well and was often buried on the Buckeyes depth chart. The good news: the Giants receiving depth chart is littered with other UDFAs and waiver cast-offs. Somebody will need to be the fourth receiver and maybe it can be Mack who I always wanted to see get more targets at OSU.
  • James Robinson, RB, Jaguars (Rank: 117): The Jags running back depth chart is busy behind Leonard Fournette but there always seem to be rumors about him being traded. Whether by injury or trade, if running back touches were to open up in Jacksonville it’s possible that FCS star James Robinson (1,917 yards and 18 TDs last season) could get into the rotation.

Chase-ing the Quarterback

Sacks or tackles? The age-old question when it comes to making IDP rankings. The IDP leagues I play in tend to favor sacks over tackles so I typically value a rush end or outside linebacker over an off-ball tackling machine. So, it should come as no surprise that DE Chase Young is my DE1 and my first ranked IDP player. Most IDP leagues still weight offensive stats more than defensive so I slot Young into my 15th slot overall, making him a mid-2nd rounder. My next decision was on do-everything LB/S Isaiah Simmons or seek and destroy LB K’Lavon Chaisson. I went with Simmons because I have him listed as a LB and that’s almost unfair with his coverage ability. Simmons may never come off the field if he’s utilized to his full potential which means he’ll accrue tackles, sacks, interceptions and passes defended. Chaisson will join fellow new faces in free agent Joe Schobert and fourth rounder Shaquille Quarterman. Chaisson, who was drafted largely on potential and one season of production, will likely start as a pass rush specialist as he rounds out his game.

 

Notes: Heights listed are using a notation common among scouts where the first digit corresponds to the feet, the next two digits correspond to the inches and the fourth digit corresponds to the fraction, in eighths.  So, somebody measuring 5’11” and 3/8 would be 5113.  This is helpful when trying to sort players by height. Full disclosure, I am not watching film of every single game any player plays, instead I am looking for a representative sample.  There are a lot of analysts out there who have a deeper depth of knowledge about certain players but I pride myself in a wide breadth of knowledge about many players.  When researching my articles I use a number of valuable resources. I would recommend bookmarking the below sites:

  • Stats: espn.com, sports-reference.com, pro-football-reference.com, cfbstats.com, herosports.com, fcs.football, mcubed.net, expandtheboxscore.com, washingtonpost.com
  • Recruiting: 247Sports.com, espn.com, sbnation.com, rivals.com
  • Film: 2020 NFL Draft Database by Mark Jarvis, youtube.com
  • Draft info and mocks: draftcountdown.com, draftscout.com, mattwaldmanrsp.com, draftek.com, thedraftnetwork.com, nfl.com
  • NFL rosters, depth charts and contract info: ourlads.com, spotrac.com
  • Draft history: drafthistory.com
  • Combine info: pro-football-reference.com, espn.com, nflcombineresults.com, mockdraftable.com
  • Season preview magazines: Phil Steele, Lindy’s, Street and Smith’s, Athlon Sports
  • Podcasts: ESPN’s First Draft, The Audible by Football Guys (specifically episodes w/ Matt Waldman), UTH Dynasty, Draft Dudes, Saturday 2 Sunday, Locked on NFL Draft, Cover 3 College Football
  • Logos & Player Media Photos: collegepressbox.com
  • Odds & Gambling Stats: vegasinsider.com

Robert F. Cowper is a freelance writer who lives in New Jersey.  He is a proud member of the Football Writers Association of America and the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.  Robert works as a certified park and recreation professional, specializing in youth sports, when he isn’t acting as commissioner for his many fantasy sports leagues.

More Analysis by Bob Cowper