At long last, the 2018 NFL Draft is nearly here. The landing spot for this years talented crop of rookies will alter the NFL as well as IDP fantasy landscape.
The following is a look at the dream landing spots for some of this year’s top rookie defensive players from a fantasy standpoint. It is not based on any mock draft I’ve done (for the record, I haven’t done one) or any of the numerous mocks that are flooding the internet.
It is merely a wish list, if you will, of the best possible marriages between a team and player that offer up the most potential for a rookie to have immediate fantasy impact for the 2018 season.
Bradley Chubb, DE, NC State
Cleveland Browns: The pairing of Chubb and Myles Garrett is an IDP owner’s dream. Rookie edge rushers tend to take a little time to develop (outside of Joey Bosa) but Chubb would be in the perfect position to succeed out of the gate. After racking up 10 sacks in each of his past two seasons and 25 during his four years at NC State, Chubb will benefit from the extra attention that Garrett will garner from offensive lines.
Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The Buccaneers secondary is in need of a boost, and do-it-all Fitzpatrick is just what the fantasy doctors ordered. During his time at Alabama, Fitzpatrick racked up 171 tackles along with five sacks and nine interceptions. Fitzpatrick also flashed big-play abilities, returning four picks for touchdowns. Tampa Bay would be able to plug Fitzpatrick into a three-down role immediately at either safety position or cornerback and he’ll bring fantasy production due to his nose for the football.
Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia
Chicago Bears: The Bears lost Christian Jones via free agency to division rival Detroit, and Smith would be the perfect replacement to step in and put up huge fantasy numbers. Smith has all the tools to succeed at the next level and put up 137 total tackles along with 6.5 sacks in his final year at Georgia. Throw in the fact that Danny Trevathan has not played 16 games in a season since 2013 and there’s no reason to doubt Smith can lead the team in tackles while bringing big-play potential.
Harold Landry, Edge, Boston College
Green Bay Packers: Clay Matthews will be 32 years old when the 2018 season kicks off and has been nicked up over the past two seasons missing five games. Landry himself battled with injuries last season and finished with just five sacks but was a monster in 2016. Landry put up 16.5 sacks and is a nice fit in the Packers 3-4 defensive scheme. With both Matthews and Nick Perry struggling to stay on the field consistently Landry could carve out a big role on the defense immediately.
Marcus Davenport, Edge, UTSA
Detroit Lions: The Lions could have the second coming of Ezekiel Ansah by bringing the raw but athletic Davenport on board. At 6-5 and 264 pounds, Davenport is nearly the same size as Ansah and finished last season with 8.5 sacks and three forced fumbles with a defensive score. Detroit needs a bookend to Ansah and while Davenport needs to be coached up a bit he fits the bill. Since the Lions hired Bo Davis who was Davenport’s defensive line coach last year at UTSA to the same position the learning curve could be a quick one.
Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech
Buffalo Bills: The linebacker position remains the backbone of IDP rosters and a talented rookie playing a three-down role can bring top-10 potential. If Edmunds ends up playing for the Bills, then that will likely be the case. In the past two seasons at Virginia Tech Edmunds put up over 200 total tackles, 10 sacks, three forced fumbles, and an interception. Edmunds could fill the void left by the departed Preston Brown at middle linebacker and brings much more big-play potential. Brown had 144 total tackles last season but was never the big play threat that the 19-year-old Edmunds is.
Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State
Arizona Cardinals: It’s not often that I throw love at the cornerback position as it’s the most interchangeable position for IDP purposes. However, this would be a match made in fantasy heaven. With the departures of Tyrann Mathieu, Tramon Williams, and Justin Bethel via free agency, Ward would step right in as the starting corner opposite Patrick Peterson. The “rookie corner rule” would be in full effect as opposing quarterbacks would test Ward often. A willing tackler, Ward had 37 tackles in his final season at Ohio State along with 15 passes defended and two interceptions.
Derwin James, S, Florida State
Seattle Seahawks: Questions abound when looking at the Seattle secondary heading into the 2018 season. Will Kam Chancellor be able to play after suffering a neck injury? Is Earl Thomas going to be traded as he enters his contract year? James is capable of stepping in and helping at either safety position coming off of a season in which he posted 84 total tackles with a sack and two interceptions. At 6-1 and 215 pounds, James has the size to play an in-the-box role in run support as well as the athleticism to cover the upper echelon tight ends in the league.
Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Boise State
San Francisco 49ers: With legal issues facing Reuben Foster, the 49ers need to find a linebacker to start alongside Malcolm Smith. Vander Esch notched 141 total tackles in his final year at Boise State with 91 being of the solo variety. Vander Esch also put up a pair of interceptions along with four sacks and five passes defended. This is a player who could immediately step into a three-down role and rack up big fantasy totals on a team that could suddenly be looking for linebacker help. There have been recent reports that some teams may have concerns over a 2016 neck injury Vander Esch suffered although he played the entire 2017 season.
Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama
Dallas Cowboys: Another linebacker makes the cut here as Dallas needs to replace Anthony Hitchens, who is now a member of the Kansas City Chiefs. Veteran Sean Lee is closer to the end of his career than the beginning, and it remains to be seen if Jaylon Smith’s knee can hold up to an every-down role. Evans brings solid tackle ability and big-play potential, having racked up 10 sacks, two forced fumbles, and two fumble recoveries in his final two seasons for Alabama.