by Jacob Bourgeois; Twitter: @FantasyBantasy
This is the 5th of a 4-part series on the incoming rookie class (you read that right) and the 4th in a 3-part series on Individual Defensive Players (IDPs). Ven Diagramming the two series, here I’m going to cover the incoming rookie IDPs. As I said in the IDP series, the value in IDP is at the top, so you’re looking for guys that are or have a chance to break into the top, which is talent and team-usage-dependent. Post-draft we have the benefit of analyzing team fit and depth chart along with their college production / profile. Please note that this is a down year for rookie IDPs. After the first round LBs, and EDGE guys, there is a significant drop-off. Read to the end for my top 12 rankings and where I think they should go in rookie drafts this summer.
All stats unless otherwise noted are from www.sports-reference.com. Depth chart information by general knowledge, www.espn.com, and www.ourlads.com. Pro day numbers from www.playerprofiler.com and www.draftscout.com.
Let’s start with the easy one.
Micah Parsons – LB – Penn State
Age: 21, Junior (2020 Covid Opt Out)
Weight: 245 lbs
Position: WLB / Off-ball Linebacker
The Player: From Player Profiler – he’s in the 100th percentile (!!!) for speed at the LB position running a Pro Day 4.39 at 245 lbs. He broke out as a freshman in 2018 accounting for 82 total tackles, 2 FF, and 1.5 sacks in 13 games, and turned the motor up as a sophomore in 2019 tallying 109 total tacks (14 for loss) with 5 sacks, 5 passes defensed, 4 forced fumbles and a recovery again in 13 games. That tallies to 20 points per game in IDP 123 scoring, as a sophomore. He’s a dynamic play-maker who is slippery through the line and great at track and pursuit.
Draft Position: 1.12 – Dallas Cowboys
The Situation: He lands in somewhat of a crowded Linebacker room in Dallas, but on a team that’s desperate to improve. They brought in Keanu Neal who is rumored to be playing more a LB role than his traditional strong safety spot (where they have second-half breakout Donovan Wilson penciled in). The main-stays are Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch both highly drafted (34, 19), but neither as highly as Micah (12). Vander Esch’s 5th year option was not picked up by the Cowboys as he’s been unable to shake the injury bug since joining the team, and serious injuries at that. Jaylon Smith is a poorly graded (PFF 54.2 mostly for his coverage skills) but highly productive green-dot 3-down middle-man on the defense. With the added pieces it’s anyone’s guess as to how it shakes out, but sooner rather than later, whether by LVE injury or by being the best in the room, Micah will earn an every down spot on the field. If he doesn’t highly produce early – pounce on his owner with an offer. And be patient if you’re his owner at least until middle of 2022 regardless of outcome.
Player Comp: Roquan Smith via Player Profiler.
Zaven Collins – LB – Tulsa
Age: 21, Junior
Weight: 259 lbs
The Player: The nations DPOY in 2020, he played only 8 games but still lit up the stat sheet accounting for 7 tackles, 1 TFL and half a sack per game. Add to that 4 picks, 2 for touchdowns, 2 forced fumbles, one recovery, and two passes defensed, and you can see – he’s a does it all – high motor guy. He plays the middle of the field really-well and demonstrated proficiency in all assignments, whether it was Spy the Q, drop into coverage, playing the underneath zone, or getting up field to disrupt. He was also an early breakout – dropping 5 double digit tackle performances as a freshman.
Draft Position: ARI – 1.16
The Situation: Sheesh. You would think that NFL GMs really don’t care about our fantasy teams. But I’m sure they do, and we just need to “trust the process.” The good news is that De’Vondre Campbell walked in free agency, and Jordan Hicks has been given permission to seek a trade – this is great news for Collins, who will look to grab his spot on the inside, potentially beside safety hybrid Isaiah Simmons (first round pick last year). Outside of Hicks – who is a dominant middle of the field run stopper – Budda Baker, Simmons, and OLB Chandler Jones can all be categorized best as “playmakers.” So, while there is some overlap, each will likely carve out a starting every down role assuming Hicks moves on. If that’s the case, Collins may be edging Simmons out given his size to playing the predominant (and IDP valuable) run stopper spot. No matter where they use him, he’ll make plays, he’s a great bet on talent – with the hopes that the situation clears up.
Player Comp: Jamie Collins (no relation)
Jamin Davis – LB – Kentucky
Age: 22, Junior
Weight: 234 lbs
The Player: Davis was a bit of a late bloomer at Kentucky, only coming to the forefront and earning real playing time in his final season as a Junior. He leveraged that and elite explosiveness (42” vertical/11’ broad) into top 10 finishes in total tackles (102) and interceptions (3) in 10 games in 2020. He’s considered more of a raw prospect with tons of athleticism and upside.
Draft Position: WAS – 1.19
The Situation: Washington, with their stout Defensive Line, play a class 4-3 base. Their linebacker core is one of the weaker rooms in the NFL with an aging Jon Bostic (30) in the middle (green dot) and consistent JAG Cole Holcomb getting it done when healthy (missed 4 games). Davis is going to get the chance to start immediately and could perform into an every-down role. With a strong strong safety tandem in Landon Collins and Kamren Curl and an elite D-Line, he’ll have to compete for tackles early on, but could play a role in pass coverage over the middle giving him more chances to make plays.
Player Comp: Demario Davis (measurables)
Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah – LB – Notre Dame
Age: 21, Senior
Weight: 216 lbs
Position: Off-Ball Linebacker / OLB / WLB
The Player: Dick Butkus award winner for best LB in CFB. He plays all over the field, is good in coverage, hits really hard – and leads with an aggressive (but calculated) attack. Size may be his only detraction, but there are plenty of productive examples at 216. Almost a Landon Collins who can also cover.
Draft Position: CLE – 2nd (pick 52)
The Situation: Landing spot is immaculate with a team desperate for playmakers at the Linebacker position – they grabbed Anthony Walker from IND in the offseason, who is an instant upgrade and projected three-down MLB. Then some developmental guys in Mack Wilson, Sione Takitaki from their 2019 draft and Jacob Phillips from 2020 to fill out the remaining two LB spots in the 4-3 defense along with JOK. I like him on the weakside, who because of his ability to cover, won’t spend much time on the sideline – even right away. A steal for Cleveland at pick 52.
Player Comp: Matt Milano (attacking)
Bonus 1: Check out Azeez Ojulari drafted 50th by NYG who is an edge or weakside backer, with tons of production.
Bonus 2: Nick Bolton was drafted 58th by KCC to be a primary run stopper for the team – very valuable role in fantasy if he’s out there more than just 1st and second down.
Jaelan Phillips – DE – Miami
Age: 21, Redshirt Junior
Weight: 260 lbs
Position: DE / EDGE / OLB
The Player: A top recruit out of high school, Phillips struggled initially at UCLA dealing with injuries – one self-inflicted (wrist from a moped incident) and others football related (ankles) – leading him to retire from football, enter the transfer portal, and pursue music at University of Miami. When he made the move back to football – he had to redshirt 2019 before starting for the Hurricanes in 2020. In his only full season, he accounted for 45 total tackles, 15.5 TFLs, and 8 sacks from the EDGE spot vacated by Greg Rousseau (2020 opt out). He’s an “all the tools” athlete, who’s ceiling is all the way up.
Draft Position: MIA 1.18
The Situation: Moving across town to the Dolphins should make for an easy transition and stability of his fan base. He’ll be joining a rising defensive squad featuring first and second round picks already on the line for this 3-4 base defense. Flores, coming from the Bill B line, will likely use Phillips in an amoeba front spot tasking his athleticism with all sorts of roles. If he can leverage game experience and great coaching for his development – he could wind up a very valuable asset for fantasy. On the other hand, Belichickian defenses is where IDPs go to die – so temper expectations until we see him grabbing the majority of snaps.
Player Comp: Jeffrey Simmons (from a talent/injury risk profile perspective).
Kwity Paye – DE – Michigan
Age: 22, Senior
Weight: 261 lbs
Position: DE / EDGE / DL
The Player: The Liberian Refugee is more fast (4.57s 40) / strong (36 bench reps) / smart (all academic) than he is athletic / explosive (35.5” Vert, 9’10” broad – though still good considering his size). Watching his highlights, he wins with effort and intelligence mixing up his point of attack exhibiting bend and strong hands, taking whatever the O-line will give him. He was fortunate to play on a top-notch Michigan defensive front and put up 6.5 sacks with 12.5 more TFLs as a Junior in 2019, his best season.
Draft Position: IND 1.21
The Situation: There are a few things to love about Kwity Paye in Indianapolis, first and foremost is DeForest Buckner. He requires so much attention in the middle of the line that it opens up everything outside. Second, the depth chart has been pruned back with Denico Autry and Justin Houston gone this offseason in free agency – he should get the chance to contribute right away and put his great effort and ability on display.
Player Comp: Myles Garrett (in that I think he’ll continue to improve by work ethic and intelligence)
Payton Turner – DE – Houston
Age: 22, Senior
Weight: 268 lbs
Position: DE / DL
The Player: He has the size you look for, and very nice agility for a big man and as such he was able to line-up in all three positions on the D-Line. He uses a variety of tools to get to the QB: power rush, bend, and swim all seen in his highlights and he keeps attacking in broken plays and following up on his own missed tackles. He had some recent injuries, a knee injury cutting his 2020 season short, and turf-toe causing him to sit out most of his pro-day drill. Before the knee injury, he was posting 5 total tackles, 2TFLs, and 1 sack per game (5 games) in 2020.
Draft Position: NOS 1.22
The Situation: The Saints like to rotate guys in – they have Cameron Jordan who’s playing on his back nine and Marcus Davenport developing into his role despite being somewhat of a letdown from the 2018 draft. Trey Hendrickson leaving in free agency (to the Bengals – keep an eye out) makes room for him to rotate in immediately. Across from Cam Jordan, the only questions are snaps, health, and his acclimating to the speed at the next level.
Player Comp: Romeo Okwara (via LWOS)
Greg Rousseau – DE – Miami
Age: 21, Sophomore
Weight: 265 lbs
Position: DE / EDGE
The Player: A modest pro-day likely hurt his stock, where many analysts had him as their top pass rusher of the class. He only has one season of tape, his redshirt freshman year in 2019, opting out of 2020. In that year he put together 54 tackles, 19.5 TFLs, 15.5 sacks, and two forced fumbles in 13 games! He’s a tall 6’6” able to move well from both inside and outside on the line. He also played well in coverage when asked to pivot off the line, opening ideas that he may fit into a 3-4 OLB spot as well as edge/end on a traditional 4-3 base.
Draft Position: BUF 1.30
The Situation: The pressure is mounting in Buffalo who make another solid investment to their defensive front. He’ll join Mario Addison, Jerry Hughes, first round pick from 2019 Ed Oliver, and 2nd rounder from last year’s draft AJ Epenesa. They also went Edge with their second pick (Carlos Basham) making for a somewhat crowded room. But this is crowded in a good way for Rousseau who will have time to pick up some tricks from Jerry Hughes before taking his spot as a starting end in a year’s time. Look for the Bills to improve on their middle of the pack sack/pressure numbers from a year ago.
Player Comp: Sam Hubbard
Jevon Holland – S – Oregon
Age: 21, Junior (2020 opt out)
Weight: 201 lbs
Position: Free Safety
The Player: Playmaker at all levels (clogging the box during runs, dropping into coverage, and rushing the QB) although he played much more often as a free safety than on the line of scrimmage. He has above average speed and athleticism but nothing too flashy. As a punt/kick returner he shows off an innate skill and spatial awareness.
Draft Position: MIA in 2nd round pick 36
The Situation: He’ll immediately be their best safety, but given the importance of knowing the coverages, he may have to earn his spot as he learns the defense. Eric Rowe projects as the day one starter at Strong Safety, and Holland will most likely compete with 2020 3rd round pick Brandon Jones at Free Safety.
Player Comp: Eddie Jackson
Richie Grant – S – Central Florida
Age: 23, Senior
Weight: 194 lbs
Position: Free Safety
The Player: More of a coverage safety, but who displays excellent tackling, similar athletic profile as Jevon Holland but a little slower and smaller. Grant broke out as a sophomore with 108 tackles, 6 picks, two forced fumbles, a recovery, and three passes defensed in 13 games. He only accounted for one sack in four years with UCF, but his 11.5 TFLs tell you he played on the line a fair amount and was used in multiple safety roles.
Draft Position: ATL in the 2nd, 40th overall
The Situation: Keanu Neal is off to Dallas while free safety Ricardo Allen is off in Cincinnati, so it’s a complete rebuild for the team’s safety group. Richie Grant picked 40th overall stands to have a starting role out of the gate. Veterans Erik Harris and Duron Harmon along with 2020 4th round pick Jaylinn Hawkins all profile as Strong Safeties, so it’ll likely be Richie Grant with some mix at the other spot. That said, his cover ability will pull him away from the line of scrimmage and thus decrease his projected fantasy value.
Player Comp: Was comped to Tyrann Matthieu by the announcers during the NFL draft. I see Devin McCourty.
Trevon Moehrig – S – Texas Christian
Age: 21, Junior
Weight: 203 lbs
Position: Free Safety
The Player: He averaged 3 picks and 10 passes defensed in 2019 and 2020 seasons (12 and 10 games). He’s a dynamic playmaker in coverage, coming from out of nowhere to make a breakup on a passing play. He’s a solid tackler and most considered him the class’ strongest safety prospect.
Draft Position: LV in the 2nd, 43rd overall (They traded up to grab him)
The Situation: He’ll have an immediate starting role at Free Safety across from Jonathan Abrams. The Raiders oddly selected two more safeties in rounds 3, and 4 after trading up for Moehrig in the 2nd, but neither Deablo or Gillespie will challenge Moehrig for snaps. This was more a question of the team (frantically) looking to rebound from disappointment at the position in 2020 (refer to the Raider’s O-line transactions as well this offseason).
Player Comp: Anthony Harris
Andre Cisco – S – College
Age: 21, Junior
Weight: 209 lbs
Position: Free Safety
The Player: He’s a ballhawk. He broke-out as a true freshman coming up with 7 picks and 9 Passes Defensed. He added another 5 interceptions in 2019 as a sophomore in only 9 games. His 2020 season was shortened by an ACL tear otherwise he likely would have added to his impressive totals and been drafted a lot higher.
Draft Position: JAX in the 3rd 65th overall.
The Situation: Jacksonville is another safety room that is looking for answers. Rayshawn Jenkins, a standout for the charges when filling in for Derwin James signed in the offseason and projects to be the starting Strong Safety (over last year’s starter Josh Jones). This gives Cisco a chance to compete for (and win) the Free Safety spot, with only veteran Jarrod Wilson (2020 PFF grade 64.7) to beat out when he’s fully recovered from his ACL.
Player Comp: Nasir Adderley
Bonus: Check out Devine Deablo drafted 80th by LV who is a Strong Safety but was announced at the podium as a Linebacker. Anytime you have Safety actually playing linebacker, you need to take note – the Linebacker room in LV is wide open.
In summary my 2021 IDP Rookie Rankings:
- Micah Parsons LB1 (Combined Rookie Draft 2.06+)
- Zaven Collins LB2 (Rookie draft 3.08+)
- Jeremiah Owuso-Koramoah LB3 (Rookie draft 3.08+)
- Jamin Davis LB4 (Rookie draft 3.08+)
- Kwity Paye DL1 (Rookie draft 3.08+)
- Jaelan Phillips DL2 (Rookie draft 3.08+)
- Gregory Rousseau DL3 (Rookie draft 3.08+)
- Payton Turner DL4 (Rookie draft 4.05+)
- Jevon Holland DB1 (Rookie draft 4.05+)
- Richie Grant DB2 (Rookie draft 4.05+)
- Trevon Moehrig DB3 (Rookie draft 4.05+)
- Andre Cisco DB4 (Rookie draft 4.05+)