I was partway through a wordy lead-in to this column about how easy it used to be to find value in IDP leagues when my boys interrupted me for the umpteenth time -- this time my already chipmunk-cheeked 6-year old wanted to know if he could have more gum -- when I realized something.
No one cares what IDP leagues used to be like.
So, I asked the little guy to share his Big League Chew and decided to get right to the point. There's value to be had in IDP leagues this year -- as always. And here's where to find it.
(First, however, a quick explanation of the data. I'm comparing my rankings to three sources. One is the current Footballguys consensus staff rankings with my rankings excluded -- FBG. Another is the Expert Consensus Ranking at FantasyPros -- FP ECR. Third is the ADP calcluated from redraft leagues this season at MyFantasy League -- MFL ADP. The ECR and MFL ADP will become more robust as the sample size increases, but they are valuable early data points. All data is as of July 5.)
Derrick Morgan Bramel DL11 ||| FBG DL18 | FP ECR DL15 | MFL ADP DL16
Morgan has managed only 10.5 sacks in a three year career limited by chronic knee problems. 2012 looked like a turning point, however. Morgan played over 900 snaps and was much more productive on a per snap basis than his 6.5 sacks would suggest. Pro Football Focus credited him with over 60 quarterback hits and hurries, which translates to a pocket disrupting play on nearly 15% of his pass rush snaps. With his already strong play against the run, Morgan could easily be a DL1 if he can continue last season's pass rush pace and convert a handful of those hits and hurries into sacks. I've got him just outside the Elite DL1 Upside tier right now and will be watching his recovery from a spring arthroscopic knee surgery closely.
Justin Tuck Bramel DL18 ||| FBG DL27 | FP ECR DL23 | MFL ADP DL27
Tuck's ADP reflects two years of lackluster sack and tackle numbers, and appropriately slots him in the DL3 range. But I love defensive players playing for one more big contract and Tuck is a 30-year old pass rusher on an aggressive defense in a contract year. With Osi Umenyiora in Atlanta and Jason Pierre-Paul recovering from back surgery, Tuck will get a chance to play 50+ snaps a week. He's a fine risk as a late DL2 pick.
Kamerion Wimbley Bramel DL27 ||| FBG DL43 | FP ECR DL48 | MFL ADP DL35+
I'm stubborn. I still see DL2 upside in Wimbley. It bothers me that he seemed to disappear altogether during the last month of the season, but there are few players available after the top 30 defensive linemen come off the board with every-week, multi-sack upside. Last year, Wimbley carried a DL2 ADP and frustrated owners with near-miss after near-miss in the pocket. This year, you can get Wimbley as your DL4 with one of the very last picks in your draft. If he doesn't show signs of life early, he's an easy cut for an emerging surprise or matchup play.
Mychal Kendricks Bramel LB19 ||| FBG LB41 | FP ECR LB55 | MFL ADP LB42
Kendricks is a screaming value on my draft board right now, where he's near the top of my Risk-Reward LB2 tier. I've been getting him as my fourth or fifth linebacker in industry mocks over the past month. In some cases, I passed on him three or four times to see if his ADP was rising only to get him later anyway. That won't last. People will soon remember that Kendricks was a violently aggressive downhill inside linebacker at Cal and they'll get confirmation in August that will play an every-down WLB/WILB role in Philadelphia and be surrounded by questionable competition for tackles. When that happens, his ADP will quickly move into the late 20s or early 30s -- where he'll still be a screaming value.
Nick Roach Bramel LB20 ||| FBG LB44 | FP ECR LB37 | MFL ADP LB52
Roach is another obvious linebacker value. He's been ticketed for an every-down role at middle linebacker for Oakland since his signing in March. Dennis Allen praised his huddle presence and flexibility in subpackages. Roach averaged over six solos a game after replacing Brian Urlacher in Chicago last year alongside competition like Lance Briggs, Charles Tillman and others. He might see well over 55 tackle opportunities a game in Oakland this year. It'll be criminal if you can still get a LB2 like Roach as the LB40+ in your draft in August.
Justin Houston Bramel LB32 ||| FBG LB71 | FP ECR LB59 | MFL ADP LB50
It's generally easy to scout the next emerging big play outside linebacker. Houston was the name I gave those who emailed me last year looking for the next Aldon Smith. By the looks of it, 53 solos and 10 sacks weren't enough to get Houston noticed as a potential every-week LB3. Just 24 years old, there's still room for Houston to improve. He's a top five rush linebacker in sack-heavy scoring systems and a smart LB4/LB5 matchup play in balanced leagues.
Honorable mention: Bruce Carter and Demario Davis aren't the dramatic values that Kendricks and Roach appear to be, but they still deserve better than the LB3 and LB4 consensus ranking they have in early July. Brooks Reed is currently ranked outside the top 80 by my Footballguys colleagues and the Fantasy Pros consensus. He's the odds-on favorite to play an every-down inside linebacker role next to the durability-challenged Brian Cushing. There's an easy argument that Reed in Brad Jones 2.0.
Stevie Brown Bramel DB4 ||| FBG DB14 | FP ECR DB11 | MFL ADP DB22
Brown was effective in 2012 -- 64 solos and 8 interceptions -- and has a strong consensus expert ranking here at Footballguys and in the cross-section of industry rankings at Fantasy Pros. The coverage stats will regress to the mean this year but don't dismiss them entirely as a fluke. Eleven passes defensed and four forced fumbles / fumble recoveries shows that Brown is around the ball. Behind a very suspect group of linebackers, Brown's tackle numbers should increase. He's fimrly inside my Elite Safety tier. If his MFL ADP holds, he'll be an elite DB2 on most of my teams.
Jonathan Cyprien Bramel DB10 ||| FBG DB27 | FP ECR DB17 | MFL ADP DB38+
Cyprien had my attention from the first 7v7 snap at the Senior Bowl last January. He was loud, but fundamental. He wasn't elite in coverage but showed he was far from a liability. The Jaguars have seen much the same through OTAs and minicamp and Cyprien is a lock to start in Week 1. New head coach Gus Bradley has put a physical safety in position for big statistical production in recent years. It won't be surprising if Cyprien mirrors what Kam Chancellor has done in Seattle.
Yeremiah Bell Bramel DB12 ||| FBG DB28 | FP ECR DB38 | MFL ADP DB38+
Bell is 35 years old and on his way to a different team and defensive scheme. His numbers were down in 2012, but he's also played 16 games for five consecutive seasons and never made fewer than 71 solos. He will start in Arizona, a team with some turmoil at linebacker and the competition for tackles may not be as strong as it appears on paper. There's no elite upside here, but plenty of value. Consider Bell a very safe DB2 that will be available extremely late in your drafts.
Next week, I'll profile players that I think are getting too much love in current mocks and those you'll want to avoid altogether in your drafts.
Email me with questions and comments at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow and ask questions on Twitter @JeneBramel.