Akiem Hicks is entering his third season in the NFL, and after posting 56 tackles 4.5 QB sacks in his first full season as a starter, he’s primed for a breakout season. Hicks is a monster, standing 6’5 and 340 pounds and absolutely bullies his way thru the opposing offensive lines. He is stout against the run and pushes his way thru to get to the Quarterback, shows consistency and is underrated amongst the top Defensive Tackles in the league.
Hicks is still developing because believe it or not he’s still a bit raw, he’s improving his technique but mainly gets off the line and thru the offensive linemen with his strength. It will be a nightmare for opposing QB’s once Hicks harnesses his tremendous physical skills and talent, he continues to work hard as he also has his eyes set on making the Pro Bowl. Akiem was rated 15th overall via Pro Football Focus (PFF). He has the raw power and ability to make an impact on nearly every single play, and he makes life easier for Cameron Jordan and Juinor Galette. Now, Hicks is about to become a household name in NFL and get some recognition in the IDP community.
In the IDP community, you barely see Hicks name being mentioned or he’s being slept on and that’s ok. Defensive Tackles are making their stride in IDP and there’s a handful of dominant ones that have cemented their name amongst the top and Hicks is about to be on that list. I have Akiem ranked as my DL34 with solid upside right now, I’d be real confident drafting him as my 3rd DL with his DL2 ceiling. As his first season as a starter, Hicks put up 56 tackles and 4.5 sacks, good chance Hicks improves on the 4.5 sacks and mirrors his tackles. You could steal Hicks off waivers (if your league already drafted) or one you could draft towards the end of your draft and feel like you just won the lottery.
It’s that time of year where I unveil my IDP Man-Crush Team; IDP’s I’ve targeted in drafts and whom I traded for this off-season. A handful of these IDP’s are in for a breakout season, a couple of veterans just need their respect and rookies who’ll greatly give an immediate impact on your IDP squad.
- EVERSON GRIFFEN (VIKINGS): Everson got paid now he’s going to show what he’s got, many thought his breakout was in 2012 when he had 8 sacks – his breakout is now, in 2014 and don’t get surprised if he flirts with 15 sacks – rising DL2.
- EZEKIEL “ZIGGY” ANSAH (LIONS): This super sophomore was turning it on as the season went on, he got comfortable and with the presence of Fairley and Suh, Ziggy should have no problem getting after the QB as he won’t face much attention (yet). Ansah will be a top 10 DL and at times you’re drafting him as your DL2, perfect.
- KYLE WILLIAMS (BILLS): Maybe his age scares a lot of drafters; especially dynasty folks, but don’t be that guy. Other DT’s are far more attractive but Kyle can and should out produce majority of them. In DT leagues he’s a legit DT1 and in DL league’s mark him down as a strong DL2 option.
- ALEC OGLETREE (RAMS): Ogletree had a superb rookie season and even mirrored Laurinaitis tackle for tackle but he has the edge because he was the playmaker. I’m all in for Ogletree this year and beyond, I have no problem putting down Alec as my 5th ranked LB and call me crazy but I believe he out-produces his rookie year numbers.
- JAMIE COLLINS (PATRIOTS): Collins was prime for a breakout after his playoff performance. Collins seemed to be everywhere on the field and a standout on defense, he’s worked on his coverage skills in the off-season and will now become a 3-down LB in New England. I mentioned he has a DeAndre Levy IDP profile; 100+ tackles and a handful of INT’s and PD’s are definitely in reach for Collins. He cements his IDP value in 2014 and it’s only the beginning.
- KHALIL MACK (RAIDERS): Yes, Mack is a rookie but he’s a beast attacking the ball carrier. He’s going to immediately make an impact on the Raiders defense, he’s my #1 rookie IDP for good reasons. He’s going to create turnovers and get after the QB and even give Peyton Manning in the AFCW fits. I’ve targeted Mack in all rookie drafts in the 2nd round and confident starting him as my LB3 with a high ceiling.
- DONALD BUTLER (CHARGERS): Butler is a solid 3-down LB but never gets the respect he deserves because he cannot stay healthy for a full-season. Many bypass him on draft day because they don’t want to deal with his inconsistency of being injured and performance. I don’t pay attention to that, Butler is a strong borderline LB1 option but more so a top tier LB2. He’s been cheap in drafts and trades and I’ve been lucky to acquire him; he’s an every week starter without question.
- DESMOND TRUFANT (FALCONS): the future cover corner in the NFL, he definitely had an under the radar good rookie season last year. I know the IDP community states to stream DB’s as their week in week out scores fluctuate but with Trufant I’ve been an avid buyer, he’s not elite (yet) but he’ll definitely flirt with CB1 numbers and have a strong DB2 season.
- JASON MCCOURTY (TITANS): after having a stellar 2012 season where he had 100+ tackles, he fell off the radar. With Horton calling the shots now you can expect McCourty to lock it back up into CB1 territory. Underrated tackler and has a knack for the ball, you can get McCourty cheap on the trade market or late in the draft. He’s an every week starter for me this season
- HARRISON SMITH (VIKINGS): battled an injury riddled 2013 season but looked like his old-self down the stretch, when he came back. Smith makes a case to end up being the #1 ranked DB at season’s end; he’s the backbone of this secondary and puts up elite numbers. He’s definitely worth being the 3rd or 4th DB/S taken off the board.
- JONATHAN CYPRIEN (JAGUARS): Cyprien broke into the IDP scene last year as a rookie; although didn’t look good on film sometimes but that doesn’t matter in the IDP world (unless he loses his job). Cyprien is a baller and he’s another DB I’m all in for this season and beyond, won’t surprise me if he finishes in the top 5 as he’ll continue to pad the stats. If the front 7 can’t generate pressure on the QB, more so Cyprien and the secondary will get their opportunity. Rising DB1 without hesitation.
Patience is a virtue, continue to keep the hunger and keep working hard knowing your time is about to come and in the 2014 off-season that time has come for Everson Griffen, DE, of the Minnesota Vikings. With future Hall of Famer Jared Allen leaving town via Free Agency, Griffen’s opportunity to start has arrived, the Vikings paid Griffen a phat contract (5 years 42.5 million). The question most will ask is if Griffen can handle the extended workload? how will he do when he’s doubling his snap count?
Let’s take a look at how Griffen will fare with this opportunity. In his young career while playing sparingly along that Minnesota front line, he’s racked up 17.5 QB Sacks and had a career high of 8 back in 2012 and most thought that was his breakout year; but his best days are in front of him. Griffen one of the top disruptive forces amongst defensive linemen in a 4-3 base. In the last two seasons, Griffen hurried the QB 62 times but if you include QB hits that total rises to 95 QB disruptions in two seasons. Another thing going for Griffen is that he can drop back into coverage, last two seasons a total of 66 snaps he dropped back into coverage and even had a pick-six while floating around the middle of the field.
Griffen is explosive off the ball, will attack you with a flurry of moves and is effective against the run. In 2014, he will be the starting RDE (Jared Allen’s place) while Brian Robison stays at LDE and I believe Griffen will have no problem against some of the top OT’s on game day. His attitude entering training camp is “You got to let your actions speak.” He said. “And you can’t go out there and talk the talk when you’re not doing it on the field.”
In the IDP world Griffen is on the verge of becoming a stud DL2 option. He’s roughly the DL24 coming off the draft board, tough to argue who is going ahead of him but I’ve targeted him heavily and knowing I can grab him kind of late, I’m very confident in snatching him up as my every week DL2 option. His ceiling screams Chandler Jones (a mix of tackles and high sacks) has a floor of Lamarr Houston and I’m gunning for his upside and what he can do with this defense. Griffen will lead by example and will lead the team in sacks, a reasonable stat line for Griffen for his breakout campaign would look like (67 tackles 2FF 2FR 1TD 8PD 13 Sacks) you can’t tell me that doesn’t look intriguing, target Griffen on draft day or enjoy the benefit of buying him on the cheap side (for now).
Standing 6’4 and the opposing teams Quarterback throws the ball in the flat, here comes #91; the QB takes a 3-step drop and #91 is there in his grill it seems like no matter what the offense does #91 stands out and ladies and gentlemen I introduce you to the New England Patriots sophomore rising star; OLB Jamie Collins.
Jamie Collins played sparingly throughout the regular season, saw a couple starts and when playoff time came around he got nearly 98% of the defensive snaps. If you watched either of the regular season or playoff game(s) when Collins was on the field you’d instantly notice #91 was everywhere and he stood out. Collins is becoming a versatile LB as he can get after the QB (see picture above, no Luck for Luck) and has the capability to cover running back’s and tight ends when he drops back into coverage.
The word breakout has been applied to Collins during the off-season; but I already figured that out as I watched Collins towards the end of the 2013 regular season & playoffs (especially the playoff game against IND). Collins was one of my favorite linebacker prospects in the draft entering last season and no better team he could’ve landed on. Collins is about to explode on the IDP scene; and one thing we love the most about LB’s is “are they a 3-down player” and Collins fits the criteria there.
A reporter had asked Collins what was one of areas he’d like to focus in training camp and Collins had this to say. “Just to play a little faster, man” he answered. “Just get the playbook down all the way down so i can just go out here and go all out.”
Collins plays fast but when he plays with instincts he is insanely quick and strong. He is about to scratch the surface of his potential as he starts putting it all together in 2014. For IDP purposes, Jamie Collins can have a DeAndre Levy IDP profile, where he’ll give you a bunch of tackles yet specializes being all over the field so anywhere in the range of 3-5 interceptions and 9-12 pass deflections is a bonus and definitely attainable. Right now Jamie Collins has flown under the radar and you’d be able to draft him as your LB4 sometimes even LB5 and at that rate that’s nearly robbery as he’ll give you LB2 numbers when the season is over. Collins upside is appealing and definitely worth keeping an eye on; don’t pass up Collins on draft day.
Emmanuel Lamur is entering his 3rd season in the NFL, missed the entire 2013 season after suffering a shoulder injury in the pre-season finale. Labeled as a “tweener” as he reminds some of Kam Chancellor; he played Safety one season at Kansas State then moved to Linebacker the last two seasons playing the SAM and WILL. Prior to his season ending injury he was battling for snaps behind James Harrison at SLB and was expected to be the nickel linebacker.
Lamur is now healthy and hungrier than ever, he’s expected to be a 3-down linebacker with WLB Vontaze Burfict. Lamur is the best cover LB in CIN and has the ability to make game-busting plays. He has good ball awareness in zone coverage and no problems playing man to man coverage; his versatility allows him to cover tight ends (which is important in today’s game). Lamur allows CIN’s defense to give different looks and confuse the offense; his height (6’4) causes problems in the pass game and has no problem bringing the heat to the opposing QB.
Emmanuel only has 19 total tackles to his name in his short career; but he started off on the practice squad then made his way up to special teams to eventually being called upon to start a playoff game in 2012. If he can stay healthy in 2014, the sky is the limit for Lamur and the world will witness this kid’s potential as Burfict and company already know what Lamur is capable of.
“It was definitely hard, but it made me more motivated than anything” He said. “I just appreciate the game more. Things happen playing this game. It’s part of football, you don’t know when you’re going to get hurt so you just have to go out there and seize every opportunity.” Emmanuel Lamur has been getting the rave this off-season and let’s just say the Bengals are glad he’s back and healthy.
Lamur’s versatility in the IDP scene allows him to have a LB2 ceiling; think of an Alec Ogletree IDP Profile. Lamur has the opportunity to rack up anywhere between 85-110 total tackles, and contribute in just about every category (Sacks, Interceptions, Pass Deflections, Forced Fumbles and Fumble Recoveries). He’s definitely being slept on right now; worth a late round flier. You can grab him as a LB4/5 right now and you’re getting a LB2 potential. Definitely keep Lamur on your list of “can’t miss” IDP’s – you’ll thank me later.
There comes a time during the fantasy football off-season where all the incoming rookies get all the talk then we focus too much on who’ll regress and whose value is too high or too low; I’m here today to tell you about an IDP who seems to be forgotten because he’s not a “hot commodity” but is a steady contributor.
He put himself on the IDP map back in 2011 when he had a career high 105 tackles (85 solo) and 13 Pass Deflections while starting 15 games. That stat line in itself is an elite CB1 in IDP world and continued that trend in 2012 as he started all 16 games for the first time in his career. In 2012 he finished 5th among CB’s and 12th overall among DB’s (CB/S) by posting 93 tackles (73 solo) 17 Pass Deflections and a career high 4 interceptions. Enter 2013 and some say he “fell off” when all he had been a down year from our perspective yet he still was the 10th ranked corner at Pro Football Focus (PFF) as he put up 77 tackles (54 solo) 16 pass deflections but had 0 interceptions (that hurts).
Enter 2014 where he’ll be entering his 4th season as a starter and keep in mind, he lost a key contributor opposite him in 2011 & 2013 where both put up IDP worth numbers. Replacing within, he’s the clear-cut CB1 once again and that could hurt him but I’m not buying that as I continue to target him throughout drafts as a late round steal. His averages as a 3-year starter are 88 tackles, 13 pass deflections, 2 interceptions per season and that my friends is top-tier shape for CB1/DB1 status yet you’re getting this guy as a CB2/DB2 value because he’s not the “hot” name out there anymore. In a couple of drafts I’ve seen him be the 20th or 30th CB taken and that’s absurd but thats where you’ll benefit because you’ll be able to fill other positions knowing this stud still remains. He now gets a new defensive coordinator whom his recent CB1’s had great seasons and made their first Pro-Bowl (i know it doesn’t mean much) and the new d-coordinator is already impressed with this guy because of his physical presence he brings and is a very good tackler, brings aggressiveness with a small stature. The new flexible scheme could allow this guy to put up even better numbers from any career high he posted within the last 3 years, from getting a QB sack to increasing his interception number.
Ladies and gentlemen, this guy plays for the Tennessee Titans and his name is Jason McCourty – don’t forget him come draft day as he’ll become a draft day steal.
With linebackers and defensive linemen out of the way, it’s time to take a look at 5 cornerbacks that should be on your draft list. There’s a saying going around in the IDP world that you can stream your CB’s/DB’s and that’s absolutely true because week in week out the top 10 varies with and there’ll be a couple CB’s on there that you may not have heard of before. Take that with a grain of salt though, there are a handful of CB’s that I believe you absolutely must own and 5 of them are here. One thing about cornerbacks though, you kind of don’t want the shutdown corners because for one; they rarely get it thrown their way so the opportunities to put up numbers isn’t there. Drafting CB’s is like a mind game but doesn’t require that much thinking; pretty much just throw darts with your eyes closed and you could get lucky; like how Barry Church owners got last year.
- ROBERT ALFORD, Atlanta Falcons: Alford is a ball hawk and I liked him a lot in last year’s draft but I knew he had to wait about a year or two before it’ll be his time. Enter year two and it’s his time now; in spot duty he had 7 pass deflections and 2 interceptions. With Asante Samuel now gone, Alford takes CB2 duties for Atlanta next to Trufant and the next best duo is about to make their presence felt in 2014-2105. Alford has some serious upside, his big play ability will rack him up some points, being that he’s a starter now getting at least 15 pass deflections and 5-7 interceptions are in play. Alford goes undrafted in a lot of leagues so you’d be able to snag him late and you’ll thank me later.
- DESMOND TRUFANT, Atlanta Falcons: Yes, Alford’s teammate Trufant is an elite sleeper entering 2014. He probably had the quietest dominant rookie year nobody talks about; Trufant is legit and is a rising superstar in this league. How good of a year did Trufant have, he finished CB21, which is CB2 territory (he’s approaching CB1 by the way) and had 70 total tackles and 17 pass deflections. He’s quietly gaining ground in some drafts but still getting him a cheap price; even trading for him will be cheap or should be. So as you’re reading this I hope you’ve written down Trufant’s name on your list or engraved his name in your brain because he’s one CB you won’t want to miss out on.
- CASEY HAYWARD, Green Bay Packers: What a welcoming sight this will be for the Packers as they get their ball hawk CB back. He came flying out of nowhere in his rookie season and put his name on the map; he’s going to pick up where he left off and I hope he hasn’t been forgotten because I haven’t and I’ve patiently been waiting for his arrival back. During his rookie season, Hayward put up 21 pass deflections and had 6 interceptions – highly impressive. His price is real cheap right now and is flying under the radar, people forgot about him. In CB-only leagues he has serious consideration as a CB1 but you can get him at CB3 value right now.
- BYRON MAXWELL, Seattle Seahawks: whoever plays opposite Sherman they’re bound to see their opportunity to make plays. With Thurmond gone to the Giants, Maxwell is the next man up and he’s not too shabby. Maxwell posted 12 pass deflections and 4 interceptions last year; he could easily par with the interceptions and possibly add 1-2 more but I expect his pass deflections to increase a few and he’ll rack up a bunch more tackles. You could probably grab Maxwell off waivers in your league, and if it’d blind bid go ahead and bid $1 – he should be all yours right after.
- DWAYNE GRATZ, Jacksonville Jaguars: Gratz is primed for a big season, as he’ll see starter snaps in 2014. Gratz put up 2 interceptions and 3 pass deflections in spot play in 2013; that’ll translate to bigger numbers in 2014 and I won’t be surprised when he doubles his interceptions and triples his pass deflections. He is an underrated cover corner and with the improving Jaguars defense; you can only believe that improving secondary will take the next step forward. The theme of these 5 CB’s that I’m providing for you are that you can get them cheap and at a great value at the moment (before their value rises). I got Gratz at a solid CB2 value and needs to be on that list of yours; just saying.