The 2018 NFL Draft is finally in the books. The months of speculating and pontificating about what players will be selected by which teams is at long last over. Now we get the joy of months of speculating and pontificating about the fantasy value of the rookie class of 2018.
There were quite a few interesting landing spots that will alter the IDP landscape significantly. Let’s take a look at some of the top IDP rookie options for 2018 (and beyond) and their fantasy value.
Roquan Smith, ILB, Chicago Bears
Having had the Bears as an ideal fantasy landing spot for Smith in a previous article, I am happy with this pairing indeed. Smith will step right in as a three-down player with the ability to rack up nice tackle numbers as well as big plays. In 2016, the recently released veteran Jerrell Freeman posted 111 total tackles in 12 games playing inside linebacker. In the past two seasons, Smith put up 6.5 sacks along with three forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries. The rookie has above-average cover skills and could flirt with a top-10 fantasy finish in 2018.
This is another player and team I touched on as an ideal fantasy landing spot. The 20-year-old Edmunds was a sneaky-good big-play threat for Virginia Tech over the last two seasons racking up 10 sacks, three forced fumbles, and an interception. Look for Edmunds to replace the recently departed Preston Brown as the starting middle linebacker and roll up huge tackle totals. During his four years in Buffalo, Brown averaged 127 total tackles per season. While Edmunds does need to get a bit better in coverage, he should challenge Smith as the top-scoring rookie linebacker in 2018.
In his one season as a full-time player for Boise State, Vander Esch put up big-time production. He finished the 2107 season with 141 total tackles, four sacks, two interceptions, and four forced fumbles. The youngster is the complete package and at 6-4 and 240 pounds has drawn comparisons to Brian Urlacher. That comparison should bring should bring a smile to IDP owners as Urlacher was one of the greats. Likely to immediately step in as the starting middle linebacker in Dallas, Vander Esch will also benefit from the mentoring of veteran Sean Lee. He enters the season as a solid LB2 with LB1 upside.
The Colts are transitioning to a 4-3 scheme and Leonard should immediately step in as the starting weakside linebacker. Coming off a 2017 campaign in which he posted 114 total tackles. Leonard checks all the boxes IDP owners covet in a linebacker. Leonard has big-play ability, having put up 8.5 sacks, two interceptions, and a forced fumble last season for South Carolina State. Leonard is above-average in coverage, with six interceptions in college, and possesses sideline-to-sideline speed. Recently departed Jon Bostic had 97 total tackles in 14 games last season for the Colts — Leonard should easily reach triple digits in 2018. The second-round selection brings solid LB2 potential into his rookie season.
This is another situation where a rookie fills a team need and brings immediate fantasy value. With Avery Williamson moving on to the Jets, Evans can step right in as a starting inside linebacker alongside Wesley Woodyard. Evans has huge upside when you consider that Williamson put up 92 total tackles last season while playing only 60 percent of the defensive snaps. Evans should secure the three-down role that Williamson couldn’t and brings excellent big-play potential. Evans is a sneaky-good blitz option from both the edge as well as interior and finished his career at Alabama with 15 sacks. There’s no reason Evans can’t finish as a LB2 in 2018.
James is a “jack of all trades” defensive back who graded out highly in coverage according to PFF College and led Florida State in solo tackles last season with 49. The Chargers have been looking for a complement to play alongside Jahleel Addae and James will step in as the starting free safety. James is excellent in run support so expect Los Angeles to utilize him in the box a bit more than free safeties are generally deployed there. James will likely draw the job of covering the opposing No. 1 tight end, boosting his tackle totals and giving him solid DB3 production with DB2 upside.
In all honesty this is a better NFL fit for the Dolphins than a great landing spot for fantasy purposes — at least early on in Fitzpatrick’s career. He will likely step in as the starting free safety alongside IDP stud Reshad Jones and that will cap his tackle production. Over the past five seasons Jones has averaged 7.5 tackles per game and topped triple digits three times. Fitzpatrick played all over the secondary while at Alabama and could be the heir apparent to Jones but will have to bide his time. He does bring big-play potential, with nine interceptions in his college career — four returned for touchdowns. Fitzpatrick is obviously a great early-round dynasty selection but will be a big-play-dependent option early on in his NFL career.
Let’s call Reid my sneaky-good stash IDP player heading into the season. Drafted in the third round, the versatile Reid is likely to supplant Andre Hal as the starting safety alongside the newly acquired Tyrann Mathieu. Much like Mathieu, Reid is a ballhawk, racking up five interceptions last season for Stanford. Reid is a more-than-willing tackler (finishing the 2017 season with 94 total stops) and will likely see plenty of snaps in the box. Reid has all the tools to finish as a top-20 defensive back in his rookie campaign.
Bradley Chubb, OLB, Denver Broncos
When the Browns passed on Chubb with the fourth pick for cornerback Denzel Ward, the Broncos snatched up the best edge rusher in the draft. Unfortunately, the Broncos’ gain is a loss for the IDP fantasy landscape. Chubb’s fantasy value takes a big hit due to the fact he’ll likely have an outside linebacker designation in Denver’s 3-4 scheme. There will be more value for Chubb in big-play scoring formats as he will undoubtedly benefit from lining up opposite Von Miller. After posting 10 sacks in each of the past two years, Chubb should flirt with double digits in his rookie campaign combining with Miller, who has averaged 12 sacks per season over the last four years. If somehow Chubb lands a defensive line designation, he brings solid DL2 value with upside but has only a LB3 value at best if he’s designated as outside linebacker.
This is another player who might be a better dynasty selection but does have solid value in redraft leagues. While he is considered a bit raw at this point, Davenport did put up 15 sacks, four forced fumbles, and a defensive score in his final two seasons in college. Davenport also managed to rack up 60 solo and 122 total tackles in that time, which are totals IDP owners love. With Alex Okafor recovering from an Achilles injury, Davenport will have the chance to land the starting role opposite Cameron Jordan. Offenses will need to account for Jordan as he comes off a season in which he set a career high with 13 sacks. The rookie won’t light the world on fire immediately but could be a nice depth player that brings DL4 potential.