Welcome to Part 2 of the "Fantasy Football: IDP Players To Watch" series. In Part 1 we went over some familiar players who are in new situations that may favor them. Here we'll go over the other side of that: the players that are left behind to fill gaps after a key piece leaves a defense.
In Fantasy Football, IDP players to watch often come with new or growing opportunities. Whether it be a former starter finding a new home, opt-outs, or injury; these players are all being looked at to take a step up.
Not all of these players are going to be superstars, in fact, I'd bet against it. However, these are guys that might even be sitting out on your waiver wires right now and can slot in as a backup or streaming option at worst. Consensus ranks have most of these players ranked outside the top 100, which quite frankly given the opportunity doesn't match up to where these players will likely finish.
Check out where all these players stack up in my 2020 Fantasy Football IDP Rankings here.
2020 Fantasy Football: IDP Players to Watch (Part 2)
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Ja'Whaun Bentley, LB, New England Patriots
Opportunity knocks for Ja'Whaun Bentley. Thanks to Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins leaving in free agency and Dont'a Hightower opting out, there are over 2000 snaps available on this defense.
I need to emphasize that a bit, over TWO THOUSAND snaps available. More than two seasons worth of snaps for some players. Bentley was already being looked to for leadership and now he's being thrust into that role. He's obviously not gonna play 2,000 snaps, but he'll surely have an uptick from his 275 last year.
There's really no one else left to take on those roles left by Van Noy, Collins, and Hightower. They've drafted some guys in Anfernee Jennings and Josh Uche, but they're also pieces who will need to develop and likely will have little impact in their rookie season.
The Patriots drafted Bentley in the 5th round in the 2018 NFL Draft knowing he'd be a bit of a project. He's always been a strong athlete and tackler, but he needed more work on his play recognition and pass coverage. They've put in the work and Bentley could very well be a figurehead of this defense going forward.
I've really enjoyed watching Bentley's college and limited pro tape. The guy is a fierce tackler and a monster. Bentley is a very animated and passionate player who wears his emotions on his sleeve. The energy he has on the field is electric.
Lastly, if you stat out him out for 800 snaps using last year's stats as an average he ends up around 114 total tackles and around six sacks (assuming he picks up Hightower's blitzing role) as a floor. However, there's plenty of room for him to increase on those averages with more playing time. Any player with that floor needs to be on rosters, period.
Jeffery Simmons, DE, Tennessee Titans
This is less about new opportunities per se and more about a player being unleashed. In 2019, the Titans selected Jeffery Simmons at 19 overall. He tore his ACL in preparation for the draft and fell from being a surefire top 10 prospect in the draft.
The Titans were happy to sit on Simmons for his rookie season and let him ride out the season on the injured reserve, but Simmons had other plans. He fought and pled his case to stay off of the I.R. and was instead placed on the NFL's Non-Football Injury list, which only guaranteed him to be out for the first six weeks. After tearing his ACL in February, he made his NFL debut only eight months later in Week 7 of the 2019 season.
That shows me he's a fighter. They were totally content with him sitting but he said, "Nah, I'm gonna play.". Mad props coming back from an injury in eight months as opposed to the average recovery window of 11-12 months.
In the final nine games, he played about 48% of the snaps for a total of 287 snaps. I have to imagine that his snaps were being managed but he was also somewhat of a luxury in a rotational role. However, with Jurrell Casey finding a new home in Denver, Simmons should find himself in a full-time role.
His baseline stats spread out over a full season using last year's stats comes out 56.5 tackles, 3.5 sacks, and 8 tackles for loss. Keep in mind that's without ANY snap percentage increase.
Foyesade Oluokun, LB/DB, Atlanta Falcons
One of the sneakier buys this off-season, Foyesade Oluokun finds himself with a bevy of opportunity in the wake of De'Vondre Campbell's departure. Coach Dan Quinn has made it well known that he expects Oluokun to fill Campbell's old role completely.
Campbell vacates 129 tackles on this defense. If that wasn't enough to buy in, in 2018 Oluokun filled in for Deion Jones in seven games. He had at least 10 tackles in four out of those seven games.
He's shown what he can do on the field. Quinn is all in. The role is there for the taking. Consider the boxes checked. Oh, and on The Sleeper app, he's DB eligible. So effectively you're getting to play a linebacker in your DB slot. Cheers!
Chuck Clark, DB, Baltimore Ravens
For the record, I was in on Chuck Clark last season before it was cool. Clark got the start in Week 6 after fellow DB Tony Jefferson went down for the remainder of the season.
All-in-all, Clark put together a pretty good season considering he was thrust into the role with no notice. He cracked 60 tackles over the final 11 weeks. The Ravens felt confident enough in him to sign him for a team-friendly extension of three years, $19 million dollars. You know I say team-friendly, but like, $19 mil isn't pocket change.
With that said, the team made a statement that they're good to go with Clark as their short term future at the position. With a full off-season in the starting role due to the Ravens releasing Earl Thomas, I expect he'll take a step forward.
If you stat him out over a full season he would've finished out around the DB26 depending on your scoring settings. That's purely a baseline too, assuming zero improvement in play-making stats or increased tackle rates. He's still sitting out on some waiver wires folks. A DB3 baseline with serious upside needs to be on rosters!
The only downside I see for Clark is that Baltimore added LB Patrick Queen and LB Malik Harrison in the draft. However, it's not like he didn't have linebackers in front of him last year.
Los Angeles Rams Linebacker Room
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Okay so huge cop-out alert. Everyone's waiting in anticipation to see who claims the role of former Ram Cory Littleton. Micah Kiser is the clear favorite as mentioned by several coaches on many occasions. But what if it's not that simple?
Bear with me here. All the coaches are saying it's Kiser. Reporters are saying it's Kiser. So it's probably Kiser. Fine. Should be simple right? Then why am I not sold?
Honestly probably because I'm biased. Let me paint a picture for you. It's 2018, preseason Week 1 (ahhhhh preseason, who thought we would miss it right?). Baltimore Ravens vs. the Chicago Bears, I'm watching to get my first look at my rookie QB Lamar Jackson and rookie TE Hayden Hurst.
Aside from C.J. Mosley on the Baltimore defense, there was really nothing to write home about. But I look up and a player routinely starts jumping off the screen at me. One play, then the next, and the next. That's when I fell in love with then-rookie Linebacker Kenny Young.
Kenny Young, LB, Los Angeles Rams
I tried to buy the Kiser hype, I tried so hard. I watched the film (and a lot of it), and it just didn't excite me quite like Kenny Young's.
Young was originally drafted by the Ravens in 2018 as a fourth-round pick. He slotted in as a spot starter but never really cracked the starting lineup. Seen as a luxury, he was eventually traded with a fifth-round pick and sent to the Rams for CB Marcus Peters.
Now let me tell you a couple of things. The league holds Marcus Peters in HIGH regard. He is listed at 53 overall and the 5th cornerback on the NFL Top 100 List. The point I'm trying to make is that the gap in value between Peters, a stud play-making corner, and a fifth-round draft pick is quite large. Young was the piece that bridged the gap. Therefore, the Rams obviously see him as a value of some sort.
Young profiles as a speedy, rangy, and "see ball, get ball" kind of LB, who grades okay in coverage. Whereas Kiser is more of the plodder "thumper" type - which don't get me wrong, can absolutely be valuable. However, this scheme favors speedy linebackers and uses the "thumpers" to clog up running lanes or eat up blockers so the speedy linebacker can come free to the ball carrier.
Young brings an aspect of having on-field experience. Kiser in his rookie season as a 5th round pick played strictly special teams. They wanted to find him time on the field but strangely never got around to it. Then he missed 2019 with a pectoral injury.
Maybe I'm just a Young truther or a Kiser hater. I'm sorry, but I just look at the film and scheme fit and I just go "How is Young not starting?". Coach-speak is absolutely important. If that's what everyone is saying it's probably right... Or is it?