StrategyMay 29, 2004


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Upgrading Your IDP Roster IV
Evaluating the Defense

By Greg Yelderman

Fantasy owners in IDP leagues, I think, focus entirely too much on offense. The big rush is almost always for offensive standouts in the opening rounds. The early picks, in particular, tend to be spent on QBs, WRs, and RBs. Defense is all too often an afterthought (the same can be said for tight ends) because offensive players tend to score more points in each game.

In order to develop a solid defense you have to make a plan. “You can’t take a dump without a plan!” is the best advice I can give you right now. The options run far deeper than you realize and are too numerous to list at this point in time, so let’s focus on evaluating the individual players on this unit … for now.

It is important to know exactly what to look for when assessing player values. Here are my top three things to consider when selecting defensive players. (Please remember that this particular segment is aimed at rosters that are rebuilding. A different set of rules may apply to playoff or near-playoff caliber teams.)

Age. Getting or holding on to players that are 30 plus years old is pretty much pointless for most rebuilding teams since they will have to be replaced within two or so years.

Durability. This should pretty much speak for itself. If the guy spends more time on the sideline due to injury as opposed to being on the field, then he’s taking up roster space that you could use for someone who can stay healthy and be reliably consistent. Ever hear of Tony Boselli?

Consistency. This is probably the single most important factor when selecting defensive players. A defensive lineman who scores four to six points every week like clockwork is worth more than a guy who scores three points most weeks and goes off once every four games with twelve. Know what to expect from every player on your roster every week.

Also, filling your roster with players that meet these criteria will turn your team into a serious trading power, helping you move further up the power rankings.
 

Longview Lobos

Defensive Linemen

Bert Berry – Ari: Berry is a productive young DE who will be a sweet addition for the Cardinals. He’s got the kind of steady week in, week out production and non-stop motor you want from young players at this position.

John Henderson – Jax: A solid young tackle who will improve along with the Jags’ defense. He and fellow DT Marcus Stroud might be the best tandem in the NFL. (The jury is still out in Oakland.)

Edward Jasper – Atl: I think it’s safe to say that Jasper will lose his starting job to newly acquired DT Rod Coleman. At the very least, he’ll lose a lot of playing time. We’ll need to replace him.

Pat Williams – Buf : A solid, consistent, and reasonably young DT. He’s one of those blue-collar production guys that you both love and need in bigger leagues.

We need to get rid of Ed Jasper and build up depth. If we can find two or three more players who are on par with Williams, Berry, and Henderson, we’ll be looking good . We just need to try and be sure it’s defensive ends we pick up if at all possible, while not ignoring the upper-tier tackles. This unit has youth that we can build on and which should sustain us adequately for a couple of years. For the time being, we can afford to focus most of our efforts elsewhere.

Position Grade: B-/C+ (Lacking any real studs, we need to acquire some additional talent. With greater holes at other positions, the defensive line will most likely be addressed either through waivers or next season.)

Affordable Candidates: Any of the top six rookies, Adalius Thomas, Rod Coleman, Marcus Stroud, Bryce Fisher, Reggie Hayward, Adrian Dingle…

Linebackers

Nick Barnett – GB: Showed great promise as a rookie. An excellent player to build a young LB corps around.

Mike Barrow – Was: There is a good chance he will have a solid season under Joe Gibbs in Washington, but he’s getting old. You may as well use him this season since he’s essentially unchallenged, but make plans to replace him next year.

Greg Biekert – Min: Retired. IF you choose to keep and start him, I would greatly appreciate it if you would let me know of any openings in your league, preferably in your division! Seriously, Biekert’s retirement will hurt many rosters and he deserves more acknowledgment than simply a notation that he is ending his career. Biekert’s steady production made him a staple in fantasy lineups for years.

Derrick Brooks – TB: Brooks is in his tenth season, but should be productive for two or three more years. He’s the kind of leader you want on your fantasy roster until he retires or just stops producing. A good starter to hang on to while your younger players develop and mature.

Dexter Coakley – Dal: Dallas didn’t sign any major free agents at linebacker, so his job is secure this season barring injury.

Kevin Hardy – Cin: Kevin Hardy is a walking question mark. I fully expect Lewis and the Bengals to be dipping into the free agent pool once June 1st rolls around, after which he’ll probably lose the starting job in training camp.

Shelton Quarles – TB: Combine the drafting of Marquis Cooper in round three, all the LBs the Bucs signed already in the off-season (including Ian Gold from Denver), and Quarles’ knee injury last season … Let’s just say he’s not really worth keeping on your roster and leave it at that, shall we?

We’ve got to get some younger players in here! We should be okay this season, but next year is a major problem and that means it’s a problem that needs to be addressed right now if at all possible. Cutting and replacing both Greg Biekert and Shelton Quarels is a no-brainer. It would be wise to replace Hardy as well.

The whole unit aside from Barnett is old. We have to get by with four of them for now and bring in at least two more younger players, hoping they develop quickly. Preferably guys who are heading into their fourth season or younger.

Position Grade: C- (Age being the largest factor.)

Affordable Candidates: Any of the top six rookies, Lance Briggs, Jeff Ulbrich, Pisa Tinoisamoa, EJ Henderson, Ben Leber, Levar Fisher…

Defensive Backs

Champ Bailey – Den: Bailey is a solid shutdown corner who produces every week. That being said, he’ll never turn into a fantasy stud. Shutdown corners rarely do. One case in point is Baltimore’s Chris McAlister, who made the NFL Pro Bowl as a starter, but was almost worthless to fantasy owners last season. Don’t get me wrong, he’ll give us solid production, just not the “superstud” type numbers most teams covet in their DBs.

Brian Dawkins – Phi “Old, beat up, and unchallenged as a starter this season.” That phrase is about all I can think of when it comes to Dawkins. His speed is suspect, as is his durability. Time for an upgrade.

Michael Doss – Ind Good young safety who will develop nicely under Tony Dungy.

Robert Griffith – Cle: He’s 33 and will lose playing time to round two rookie Sean Jones. Either cut him, or pick up Jones for insurance.

Reggie Tongue – NYJ: Man … I am getting tired of finding new ways to say, “He’s old … look for the team to sign a free agent after June 1 … in trouble next year …”

Dewayne Washington – Jax See Above…

Bailey and Doss are our foundation and only real security here as far as the long-term future is concerned. Just like the linebackers, we need youth here in a bad way. The secondary will have to be addressed as soon as waivers open.

Position Grade: C+ (This would have been a D if not for Bailey and Doss.)

Affordable Candidates: Any of the top eight rookies, Mike Rumph, Rogers Beckett, Tory James, Ricky Manning Jr., Lenny Walls…

Note: The “affordable candidates” referred to are players who should have a good chance of being free agents or who you should be able to get at a reasonable price in a trade.
 

A recent trip to the DL put Greg Yelderman’s column on hold. He’s eager to make up for lost time, and turn this team’s fortunes around.

What are your thoughts on this defense? Chime in and analyze the Lobos’ defenders, or simply to wish Greg a speedy recovery!

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