As any Individual Defensive Player (IDP) fantasy owner can attest, the defensive lineman position has become quite the fickle mistress. With the proliferation of hybrid 3-4 defensive schemes leading to the position designations of players once deemed to be a defensive end being switched to outside linebacker, it is becoming harder and harder to secure high-scoring defensive lineman talent in IDP formats.
Even more difficult to find are rookie defensive lineman prospects that have a relevant fantasy impact on their IDP squads.
Adjusting to the speed of the NFL game as well as getting the number of snaps to put up decent numbers is a difficult task for most rookies and it generally takes a year or two for them to develop and blossom into viable fantasy options. While each of the players on this list is a dynasty draft selection for certain, some may be avoidable in redraft formats depending on the size of the league and roster limits.
1. Dion Jordan, DE, Miami: The Dolphins traded up to the third position to land the athletic 6-foot-6, 250-pound Jordan and will be able to utilize him in a number of ways. First and foremost, he can be the edge rusher lining up opposite defensive end Cameron Wake that the Miami defense has lacked the past few seasons.
Jordan already possesses excellent edge rush skills, and, while he needs to add some bulk to his frame, he has also shown the versatility to be able to drop into coverage. The ability to hold his own in coverage will serve him Jordan well in both Miami's 4-3 base defense as well as a hybrid 3-4 should the Dolphins employ it. He will see a lot of snaps as a rookie and holds solid DL4 fantasy value with the definite upside to reach high-end DL2 numbers.
2. Ezekiel "Ziggy" Ansah, DE, Detroit: Ansah fills an immediate need on the Detroit defensive line, as the Lions are desperate for an edge rushing threat from the defensive end position. With his limited exposure to football having been well documented (dare I say, beat to death), Ansah does know one thing already and that is how to get up the field.
He is freakishly athletic at 6-foot-5 and 271 pounds with an explosive burst off the snap and will have little competition from Jason Jones, Willie Young and Ronnell Lewis in landing a starting job for Detroit. The duo of Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley at the defensive tackle position will force offensive lines to focus attention on the interior, freeing up Ansah to do what he does best in 2013 - get after the...
30 Days Detroit Lions
Teammate Stephen Tulloch is impressed with Lions DT Nick Fairley's offseason.
"He's slim, he's focused, and he's about his business," Tulloch said of Fairley. "He's going into his third year, he's taking a step, he's grown as a player, he's put all that negative stuff behind him, and he's moving forward." According to Tulloch, Fairley talks about going to the Super Bowl "every day." If Fairley can stay healthy and keep his head on straight, he has All-Pro ability.
2 Months Detroit Lions
Coach Jim Schwartz says the Lions are going to "rely even more" on DT Nick Fairley this upcoming season.
Fairley had an outstanding 2012 sophomore season that saw him register 34 tackles, 5.5 sacks, and two forced fumbles, but he played in just over 500 defensive snaps due to injury. The top defensive tackles participate in about 900 snaps a season. Fairley has also started just seven games in two years. That's going to change with Corey Williams and Sammie Lee Hill now out of the picture.
2 Months Detroit Lions
Lions DT Nick Fairley is ineligible for a pre-trial diversion program on charges stemming from his May 2012 arrest for DUI.
That's because the court had already dropped misdemeanor marijuana charges against the trouble-making defensive tackle. He's now at the court's whim. Fairley will still likely avoid jail time, but it's not a guarantee.
4 Months Detroit Lions
Lions players voted DT Nick Fairley the team's most improved player following his breakout 2012 season.
The 13th overall pick in the 2011 draft, Fairley improved from 15 tackles and one sack to 34 tackles, 5.5 sacks, and two forced fumbles in his sophomore NFL season. Pro Football Focus graded Fairley as the fifth best defensive tackle in all of football this past season. He was one of the few bright spots during a tumultuous 2012 season for the Lions' organization.
5 Months Detroit Lions
Lions DT Nick Fairley (shoulder) has missed practice all week and is officially doubtful for Week 15.
It's looking extremely unlikely that Fairly suits up against the Cardinals. Fairley suffered a shoulder injury with two minutes to play in the Lions' loss to the Green Bay Packers last weekend. Sammie Hill is expected to start in Fairley's place alongside Ndamukong Suh on Sunday, and the Lions re-signed Andre Fluellen for insurance earlier this week.
Week one of the fantasy football playoffs is in the books and owners of victorious teams are knee deep in week two lineup preparations. There is no rest for the weary at this point in the season and the level of opposition rises from one week to the next.
There were plenty of surprises last week with some big name players coming up short (I'm looking at you Daryl Washington and Chad Greenway) of expectation while others stepped up and flourished (Hello Ziggy Hood and Joselio Hanson) from out of nowhere.
For the IDP owners who have managed to survive and advance despite some of the aforementioned names disappointing as they did last week it is time to swing for the fences. Matchups and momentum are as important as season stats and it is a ‘what have you done for me lately' world.
With that in mind we have skewed this week's sleepers towards players that may have more big play potential than impressive season to date numbers. What players have done up until now is irrelevant and is all about what will they do moving forward.
Let's take a look at the top sleeper candidates heading into week 15...
Frostee Rucker, DE, CLEVELAND vs. WASHINGTON: The Browns had a rare blowout victory and Rucker enjoyed a very productive day with seven total tackles and a sack. In his last three games Rucker has posted 12 total tackles, a sack and one pass batted down. He is an excellent option this week as the Redskins will continue to ride rookie running back Alfred Morris and that will equal tackle opportunities. There will also chances to get to the quarterback, as it will be either the much less mobile Kirk Cousins or a limited Robert Griffin III under center for the Redskins.
Michael Brockers, DT, ST LOUIS, vs. MINNESOTA: Brockers is hitting his stride for the Rams after battling through an early season ankle injury that cost him a few games. Over the past month he has amassed 21 total tackles, three sacks and a forced fumble. Surprisingly, the Vikings are not really very fantasy friendly to the defensive line position despite pounding the rock with Adrian Peterson as much as they do. That being said, Brockers has been playing so well of late that he is borderline matchup proof and look for nice fantasy totals this week.
Lawrence Jackson, DE, DETROIT, at ARIZONA: The Lions defensive line has taken some hits on the injury front lately with tackle Nick Fairley suffering a shoulder injury last week and Corey Williams being placed on IR with his knee...