News & Analysis

Fantasy Football: Top 50 IDP Dynasty Rookie Rankings

Nov 9, 2019; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions linebacker Micah Parsons (11) celebrates after sacking the Minnesota Golden Gophers quarterback Tanner Morgan (not pictured) in the second half at TCF Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

The 2021 NFL Draft has concluded, which means those participating in IDP dynasty leagues are preparing for rookie drafts. After ranking 50 of the top IDPs before the draft, it’s time to revisit those ranks and see how draft capital and landing spots may have affected the rankings.

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The following rankings are based on true position IDP leagues, meaning edge rushers will be categorized as such, not as linebackers even when they're deemed to be playing in a 3-4 defense. This allows edge rushers to hold their NFL value no matter what kind of scheme they’re drafted into. I'll also exclude cornerbacks from these rankings.

Note: If you’re playing in an IDP league on myfantasyleague.com, you can easily transition your league to true position for free by signing up here and avoid the headache of players being mis-classified. This has been a common thorn in the side of IDPers for a very long time.

The following rankings are based on the scoring laid out below:

Position Solos Assists Sacks Pass breakups Interceptions
Linebackers 1.5 0.75 4 2 6
Defensive Line (DI, ED) 2.5 1.75 6 2 6
Defensive Back (CB, S) 2 1 6 2 6

1. LB MICAH PARSONS, DALLAS COWBOYS

He was No. 1 in the pre-draft process and remains in that spot after being the first linebacker off the board in the NFL Draft. There may be some tentativeness about Parsons’ landing spot, given that the Cowboys already have a couple of good linebackers on their roster in Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch, but neither of those guys is quite as special as Parsons in terms of talent.

The Cowboys defense was among the worst in the NFL last season; for a team looking to win now, there’s no reason that they should be limiting Parsons’ snaps as a rookie. I would expect him to start right away as an every-down player in Dallas, which will push one of the other guys down the depth chart. Vander Esch could be the odd man out in the Cowboys starting lineup come September considering the team declined his fifth-year option after he has struggled to stay healthy.

Don’t overthink it. If you want the best IDP in this class for the long-term, then draft Micah Parsons over all other IDPs.

2. DE JAELAN PHILLIPS, MIAMI DOLPHINS

Phillips moves up one spot from his previous ranking thanks to landing on a team that provides one of the best opportunities among all edge defenders in this class. Miami had its pick of any defensive lineman in the draft at pick 18 and went with Phillips, showing how much confidence the team has in his talent.

Phillips has some of the best pass-rushing numbers among the first-round edge defenders in this class, as laid out in the Twitter thread below, but he is also one of the best run defenders of the group. An 83.0 run defense grade and an average depth of tackle below one yard in 2020 should offer plenty of confidence that he’ll be on the field a lot as a rookie, filling those IDP stat sheets.

 

3. LB JAMIN DAVIS, WASHINGTON FOOTBALL TEAM

The biggest IDP riser throughout the entire pre-draft process continues to do so thanks to first-round draft capital and landing on a team that will utilize him right away as a rookie. Davis was one of my biggest rookie IDP winners after the NFL Draft, as I have no doubt that he can be an IDP star right away in 2021.

Davis has proved that he can be a tackling machine as a starting linebacker — he led all Power Five defenders in total tackles in 2020. I expect more of the same in 2021 in Washington. Davis will have every opportunity to put up 100-plus tackles as a rookie on a defense that was clearly desperate to get him on their roster, given his first-round selection. If you want to take Davis as the first linebacker in your rookie drafts, I would have a hard time arguing with you.

4. LB, ZAVEN COLLINS, ARIZONA CARDINALS

The Cardinals drafting Collins at pick 16 in the has concerned IDPers, namely those rostering Isaiah Simmons and Jordan Hicks. Hicks might have the most to fear from the Collins pick, as Collins fits much more into his’ role on this defense than he does Simmons’. Even GM Steve Keim said Collins will be playing the Mike linebacker role for the Cardinals defense and that he expects him to make an “immediate impact.”

Arizona likely plans to start both Simmons and Collins and will use Hicks in a backup role this season. Collins brings a lot more to the table than Hicks, as the latter has struggled from a PFF grading perspective since becoming Arizona’s starter. In two years as the Cardinals starter, Hicks has finished below a 60.0 grade in all major defensive categories (overall, run defense, pass-rush, coverage).

After being named the best defender in college football last season, Collins will provide an immediate upgrade to the defense, especially considering his pass-rush and coverage ability, where he received grades above 90.0 last season with Tulsa.

5. LB NICK BOLTON, KANSAS CITY CHIEFS

Another situation that does not worry me: Nick Bolton joins the Kansas City Chiefs even though the team invested a second-round pick in Willie Gay in 2020 and still has Anthony Hitchens still under contract. Considering how poorly the Chiefs linebacking corps as a whole performed this past season, it’s easy to imagine Bolton being their best option at the position right away.

Gay may still end up being the best coverage linebacker on this team, but Bolton is not necessarily lacking in that regard, having managed a 90.4 coverage grade in 2019 for Mizzou. Bolton brings some of the best run-defense ability in this linebacker class, as well as a nose for the ball, as he totaled 156 instances of making first contact with the ball-carrier on a play since 2019 — the most in the SEC over that time.

6. DE KWITY PAYE, INDIANAPOLIS COLTS 

An ideal situation for one of our IDP rookies, Paye joins a defensive line in Indy that is in desperate need of a top-tier edge rusher. Having played the 2020 season with the likes of Justin Houston, Al-Quadin Muhammad, Denico Autry and Tyquan Lewis as their primary starters on the edge, the Colts were in need of a fresh face to take over for the future. After all, not one of those players was able to crack a pass-rush grade above 70.0 for the year.

Paye, meanwhile, has been consistently improving his game while at Michigan, boasting an 87.1 pass-rush grade this past season, which contributed to an 86.3 overall grade. Paye’s athleticism and physicality are off the charts, and he should get a great opportunity to see the field and improve as a pass rusher as well as contribute as a run defender. Over the past three seasons, Paye has a run defense grade of 88.5, which should prove vital to a potential every-down role in the Colts defense. 

7. DE ODAFE OWEH, BALTIMORE RAVENS 

Oweh to the Ravens feels like the most perfect match for him to succeed right out the gate as an NFL rookie. PFF’s Mike Renner even included Oweh to Baltimore as one of his best player fits from the 2021 draft, and I couldn’t agree more. Oweh’s first-round draft capital and selection by a pass-rush-needy team like the Ravens has me very excited about his dynasty outlook, as well as his rookie year.

I covered Oweh’s ability to play all three downs in my recent “my guys” article for rookie IDPs heading into this draft, and there’s a very good chance that Oweh will be able to showcase that talent in Baltimore. Oweh possesses the athletic tools to succeed in the NFL, even if he is still a bit raw as a pass-rusher. He should see plenty of opportunities to improve in Baltimore. As far as pass rushers go for the Ravens, there isn’t a single edge defender on that team I would rather have starting than Oweh, and I imagine he will be doing just that.

8. DE AZEEZ OJULARI, NEW YORK GIANTS

Ojulari joins a Giants defensive line that will welcome him with open arms, as their need for an elite edge across from Leonard Williams is going to be a massive key to improving their defense. Ojulari brings NFL speed off the edge and perhaps the best pass-rushing hands in this entire class. One of the most impressive things about Ojulari’s 91.7 pass-rush grade this season is that he did it against the top competition in the country playing in the SEC.

It’s hard to imagine Ifeadi Odenigbo or Lorenzo Carter starting over one of the premier pass rushers in this class, so Ojulari’s ranking doesn’t change at all from the pre-draft ranks. As long as Ojulari’s knee checks out, which it sounds like it will, then he should be a lock to make the Giants starting defense this season.

 

9. LB JEREMIAH OWUSU-KORAMOAH, CLEVELAND BROWNS

Another player who reportedly fell in the draft because of health concerns, Owusu-Koramoah ended up being one of the biggest steals in the draft going to the Browns at pick 52. While the health concerns have since been refuted by the player, there are still minor concerns about how he might fit into the Browns’ defense this season. This was going to be the case with most teams, but I’m still fairly optimistic he can get on the field and make an impact right away.

Recent comments from Browns’ new defensive coordinator Joe Woods seem to indicate that they would like to run more dime personnel this season, which makes sense given the roster. The smarter NFL teams are trying to get faster on defense, especially in passing situations, so this should come as no surprise — the Browns were well below the league average last season in running just one linebacker on the field.

Things do tend to change when you bring in a new defensive coordinator. By adding John Johnson in free agency and getting their second-round pick from last year, Grant Delpit, back healthy, along with Ronnie Harrison, the Browns have the players to make a dime defense work.

While it may not be an every-down role or even a full-time box role, I believe the Browns will get Owusu-Koramoah in positions to succeed as much as possible, similarly to how the Panthers utilized Jeremy Chinn as a rookie. 

10. DE GREGORY ROUSSEAU, BUFFALO BILLS

Rousseau certainly lands in a nice spot for his development as an NFL player, although it may not be nearly as lucrative as some of the other edge defenders in Year 1. The Bills have two (older) starters set on the edge of their defense right now in Mario Addison and Jerry Hughes. I wouldn’t expect either of those players to be NFL starters for much longer, but they are still effective enough pass-rushers to cut into Rousseau’s playing time as a rookie. We saw this last season, albeit for a second-round player, when A.J. Epenesa saw less than 400 snaps as a rookie.

While defensive line rooms can become crowded, I don’t think this one will remain crowded for long, as Rousseau has the physical tools and pass-rushing skills to find his way onto the field in 2021. He did opt-out of the 2020 season, but Rousseau managed a very impressive 16 sacks in 2019 to go along with 46 pressures and an 80.7 pass-rush grade. There’s no reason for Addison or Hughes to play over 600 snaps again this year, considering they’re both well into their 30s. I’d expect Rousseau to see about 400-500 snaps this season and increase from there in 2022. 

11. S RICHIE GRANT, ATLANTA FALCONS

I certainly understand that having a defensive back this high in the rankings could be a reach, but if I’m leaving my rookie drafts without Grant I am not going to be happy. If that means that I have to reach a little bit to get my guy — something I was more than happy to do with Jeremy Chinn last year — then I will do it. I don’t think there is a safety in this class who is in a better position to produce as a rookie than Grant, especially when you consider his draft capital and the Falcons' depth chart.

Grant is not only a great run-defending safety, but he has the coverage ability to play all over the field. I suspect that he will see his fair share of snaps in the box with an ability to rack up tackles while also showcasing his playmaking ability as he flies to the ball on every play. Grant has more instances of making first contact with the ball carrier (178) since 2018 than all but one safety in all of college football since 2018. He’s also shown how productive he can be in a versatile safety role, as he’s managed more total tackles (259) than any other safety since 2018.

12. DI CHRISTIAN BARMORE, NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

Barmore’s slide out of the first round of the NFL Draft was one of the more surprising things to happen on Day 1. He was clearly the best available player at his position, but apparently concerns about coachability dropped him out of the first round. I doubt that Bill Belichick and Nick Saban didn’t discuss this before New England traded up for the former Alabama product, so I’m not overly concerned.

Barmore and his elite pass-rushing tools from the inside should translate well to the NFL. Drafting a talent like Barmore in defensive tackle-required leagues is a nice advantage to have for years to come at one of the more volatile positions. 

13. LB ERNEST JONES, LOS ANGELES RAMS

Opportunity is crucial when it comes to IDP success, and the opportunity couldn’t be greater for the Rams third-round pick. Jones is one of my biggest winners from this IDP rookie class because of the Rams depth chart. Jones didn’t have amazing grades at South Carolina, but compared to the rest of the linebacker room for the Rams, he may as well be Ray Lewis.

14. LB MONTY RICE, TENNESSEE TITANS

The third-round pick out of Georgia has a strong chance to see the field for the Titans — it just might be in 2022. With both Jayon Brown and Rashaan Evans currently set to become free agents after this season, there’s reason to believe that at least one of those two starters won’t be back in 2022. That would leave a pretty decent opportunity for Rice to take advantage of, should he prove his worth in a limited role in 2021. Rice was solid in coverage and in run defense in his final college season, posting 70.4 grade and 77.9 grades, respectively.

15. ED PAYTON TURNER, NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

In 2020, Turner posted one of the highest pass-rush grades (90.0) among edge rushers taken in the first two days of the draft. However, the competition he faced was not as strong in the Group of Five, and we only saw him for a little more than four games. Turner does not lack in size, though, and getting to work behind some strong talents like Cameron Jordan and Marcus Davenport will help him get up to NFL speed as he likely starts his NFL career in more of a part-time role.

16. ED JOE TRYON, TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

Grabbing an edge defender at the end of the first round was the right move for the Buccaneers, in my opinion. However, choosing Tryon over some of the other options on the board, like Azeez Ojulari, felt a bit like a reach given that we haven’t seen him play since 2019 when he posted just a 71.9 pass-rush grade.That being said, Tryon joins a pretty thin edge rusher group in Tampa Bay, where Jason Pierre-Paul and Shaquil Barrett are no doubt going to see the bulk of the snaps. After those two, the door is wide open for Tryon to prove his worth. Being a first-round pick, Tryon should get every opportunity to see the field over the likes of Anthony Nelson and other Bucs backups.

17. ED CARLOS BASHAM JR., BUFFALO BILLS

Basham was one of the most productive edge rushers in college compared to the rest of his peers in this class and a player who always felt perfect for the Bills. Basham to Buffalo was my ideal fit when writing up the pre-draft rankings of this defensive line class; I just hadn’t envisioned them also drafting Gregory Rousseau. Selecting Rousseau was not a bad thing for Basham — I’m of the belief that those two will be the team’s future starters, and I think Buffalo has the same idea. Snaps are likely to be few and far between for Basham in Year 1, but if he can produce like he did in college, even on a limited opportunity, he can become a name we’re all familiar with sooner rather than later.

18. S/LB JAMIEN SHERWOOD, NEW YORK JETS

Why would I be putting a fifth-round pick inside my top 20 rankings? Well, Sherwood, one of “my guys,” is certainly going to be flying under the radar in early rookie drafts, but as training camp opens and reports start coming out, I would not be surprised to hear that he is in contention to start at linebacker next to C.J. Mosley. Sherwood might have been listed as a safety coming into this draft, but almost all reports from the Jets so far have him listed as a linebacker. If his positional designation doesn’t change on your fantasy platform, then he’ll be an absolute cheat code when he beats out Jarrad Davis and Blake Cashman for a starting job. This ranking is so you don’t forget about him and snag him near the end of drafts. 

19. S/LB HAMSAH NASIRILDEEN, NEW YORK JETS

Nasirildeen is built in a very similar mold to Sherwood — a big-bodied safety who can almost certainly play linebacker full-time if needed. Given his draft capital, Nasirildeen will have an opportunity to start but likely as the strong safety for the Jets since they don’t really have anyone on their roster right now, outside of Sherwood, who fits that role.

20. ED JOSEPH OSSAI, CINCINNATI BENGALS

Ossai is likely to play behind Sam Hubbard and Trey Hendrickson in Cincinnati at least for one season. Hubbard may be leaving in free agency after this year, and Ossai fits really well as his replacement if this is the case. Hubbard’s strength has been his ability to make tackles and function a decent run defender while still getting after the passer when needed. This is essentially what Ossai also brings to the table. As a former off-ball linebacker for Texas, Ossai has strong run-defense chops and has been honing his craft as an edge rusher as well, earning an 80.5 pass-rush grade in his first full season on the edge in 2020.

21. S TREVON MOEHRIG, LAS VEGAS RAIDERS

Moehrig finds an unfortunate landing spot in Las Vegas, where he is likely to play more of a deep safety role in Gus Bradley’s single-high coverage scheme. He is still a great player and should see the field plenty as a rookie, but he gets pushed down the list here because other safeties are in better spots to produce.

22. LB BARON BROWNING, DENVER BRONCOS 

If Vic Fangio wants Browning to play more of an inside linebacker role, then I think his value goes up. He is certainly capable of earning a starting job in Denver’s so-so linebacker corps. However, if Fangio wants him to be more of an edge rusher, he'll see fewer opportunities playing behind Bradley Chubb and Von Miller. We don’t exactly know what the plans for Browning are just yet, but he is a name to pay attention to throughout this offseason. 

23. S JEVON HOLLAND, MIAMI DOLPHINS

The Dolphins' defensive back room is one of the more crowded positional groups for any team in the NFL at the moment. After the release of Bobby McCain, the picture becomes a little clearer in Miami, as I would expect Holland to play more of the free safety role in Brian Flores’ defense. While he will get on the field because of this, it’s not exactly the most lucrative position to line up in for fantasy purposes.

24. S TALANOA HUFANGA, SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS

The 49ers are in need of a difference-maker at the safety position, and I believe Hufanga can be the answer for them. He has proven to be an asset in run defense and in coverage, while also bringing decent pass-rush skills to the table. Jaquiski Tartt has been floating along, not really doing anything special since the 49ers took him in the second round back in 2015. A fresh face and versatile safety like Hufanga could be a catalyst for improving this 49ers secondary, even if it’s in 2022 after Tartt departs in free agency.

25. ED PATRICK JONES, MINNESOTA VIKINGS

Jones projects to be more of a developmental edge in Minnesota’s defense despite the third-round draft capital. His pass-rush skills could still use some work, even though he’s been very productive over the past two college seasons. The good news for Jones is that other than Danielle Hunter, the Vikings edge rushers aren’t exactly elite, so the opportunity for snaps is there if he can grab them. 

26. ED MALCOLM KOONCE, LAS VEGAS RAIDERS

 

27. ED RONNIE PERKINS, NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
28. S/LB DIVINE DEABLO, LAS VEGAS RAIDERS
29. LB PETE WERNER, NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
30. LB GARRET WALLOW, HOUSTON TEXANS

Wallow has earned a combined coverage grade of 91.6 over his past three seasons at TCU — a talent that could help him beat out the likes of Christian Kirksey and other non-Zach Cunningham linebackers on the Texans.

31. ED CHRIS RUMPH II, LOS ANGELES CHARGERS

32. ED RASHAD WEAVER, TENNESSEE TITANS
33. ED QUINCY ROCHE, PITTSBURGH STEELERS

Roche found one of the better opportunities for a late-round edge defender. Outside of T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith, there aren’t many options that will keep Roche from seeing some decent playing time.

34. LB, DERRICK BARNES, DETROIT LIONS

The tweet below highlights a very important piece of information to keep an eye on throughout this offseason. If this ends up being true, Barnes will rise up the ranks.

35. ED DAYO ODEYINGBO, INDIANAPOLIS COLTS
36. LB JABRIL COX, DALLAS COWBOYS
37. LB CAMERON MCGRONE, NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
38. LB CHAZZ SURRATT, MINNESOTA VIKINGS
39. DT LEVI ONWUZURIKE, DETROIT LIONS

 

40. DT MILTON WILLIAMS, PHILADELPHIA EAGLES
41. ED CHAUNCEY GOLSTON, DALLAS COWBOYS
42. DT ALIM MCNEIL, DETROIT LIONS

McNeil boasted the best run-defense grade (92.1) of any draft-eligible interior defender this past season at NC State.

43. DT OSA ODIGHIZUWA, DALLAS COWBOYS
44. S ANDRE CISCO, JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS
45. DT TOMMY TOGIAI, CLEVELAND BROWNS
46. ED CAMERON SAMPLE, CINCINNATI BENGALS
47. ED JORDAN SMITH, JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS

Smith put up back-to-back seasons with pass-rush grades above 91.0 in his two years at UAB. The Jaguars edge-rusher depth gets very thin after their starters. 

48. ED SHAKA TONEY, WASHINGTON FOOTBALL TEAM
49. ED JANARIUS ROBINSON, MINNESOTA VIKINGS
50. S TYREE GILLESPIE, LAS VEGAS RAIDERS

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