Focusing on the IDPs to know, this series will continue to dive into every NFL team and pick out who’s who to add context to your fantasy football roster for the upcoming season.
The preseason is over. Rosters are down to 53 players. Now, it’s time to let the season begin!
What each category means:
Starters: IDPs who should be drafted highly and expected to be utilized on a regular, if not weekly, basis once the season begins. They are the most trustworthy players who offer the highest upside and fantasy potential.
Startable: IDPs who are likely being drafted in most leagues but aren’t players in the “set it and forget it” category. They can provide value as depth pieces who can fill in on bye weeks or in case of injuries to starters.
Sleepers: IDPs who are more under the radar and not necessarily even in a starting role for their respective teams but are good enough to make an impact if situations work out for them. These players are not always being drafted and most will be easily attainable in the average IDP league.
Let’s dive into the AFC West:
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Johnson appears to be locked in as the starter for his second straight season to begin the year. In 2020, Johnson finished among the top-12 players in total tackles (124), and he could have potentially had an even bigger fantasy season if he were able to convert some of his pass-rush attempts to sacks. He led all off-ball linebackers in 2020 with 145 pass-rush attempts but managed just one sack on the season. This left a lot to be desired as far as his fantasy potential, but if he gets the same opportunities in 2021, expect some positive regression in favor of his sack totals this time around.
Simmons is the only defensive player in the NFL who has not missed a single snap over the past three seasons — you don’t get better reliability than that. PFF’s highest-graded safety (90.5) over the past two years, Simmons is sixth among all safeties in total tackles (184) during that time. While he plays a primarily deep role in the Broncos defense, Simmons has the range and big-play ability to remain efficient as a fantasy safety. He also sees enough snaps in the box or the slot (43%) which has increased his tackle efficiency when put in those positions, going from 0.07 tackles per snap from a deep alignment to 0.12 when moving up closer to the line of scrimmage.
LB Josey Jewell
Jewell dealt with injuries throughout this offseason but returned in time to regain his starting role in the Broncos defense. Jewell started the final preseason game for the Broncos as the only linebacker to play the first drive of the game — Johnson joined him in the second and third drives. This is a pretty solid indicator that the Broncos’ linebackers are going to look almost exactly as they did in 2020 with Johnson and Jewell being the primary IDP targets.
EDGE Bradley Chubb
Chubb posted a top-10 pass-rush win rate among edge defenders (18.0%) in 2020, 57 total pressures (T-7th) and 7.5 sacks. He did this without Von Miller causing havoc opposite of him for the entire season and while missing two games. With Miller back healthy, expect a few more cleanup opportunities to float Chubb’s way. As Chubb enters his prime and with Miller reaching the end of his career, Chubb could become the top Denver edge rusher to target in IDP leagues.
EDGE Von Miller
While it’s not out of the realm of possibilities that Miller is still an elite edge rusher, there is cause for at least some trepidation as he is coming off an ACL tear in 2020. Furthermore, in 2019, he saw a significant drop in his overall and pass-rush grades. We’ve become so used to seeing Miller post pass-rush grades in the high-80s to low-90s every season that a good 71.4 pass-rush grade is a noticeable drop-off for such an elite talent.
Miller can, and probably will, still be productive, as he sees close to 800 snaps on the year, but it’s more than likely the days of locked-in double-digit sacks have reached their end. He’ll come in more as an ED3 for true position leagues and around the LB4 range for non-true position leagues.
|Von Miller||Overall grade||Pass-rush grade||Sacks|
Jackson, a converted corner who is now playing safety for the Broncos, has found himself averaging about 5.5 tackles per game since joining Denver — up from his career average of just a little over four. Much like Simmons, Jackson will split his time between deep and box safety alignments, though he'll spend more time deep since the Broncos play a good amount of two-high safety looks. Jackson is a solid depth piece who can be used to fill in on the odd week, but he's unlikely to be worth the spot of an every-week IDP starter.
Jones started to come into his own in 2020, posting a 78.3 pass-rush grade off of 30 pressures and 6.5 sacks while also earning a 74.7 overall grade. The former third-round pick out of Ohio State could be in for an even bigger role this season, as he has a great shot to once again lead all Broncos’ interior defenders in snaps this coming season. If he can continue to improve as a pass-rusher and up those tackle numbers a bit, he’ll become a more viable defensive tackle for IDP every week.