The NFL Draft incites optimism from fans of every team, but the takes and reactions are often mixed for fantasy football purposes. Landing spot and draft capital can affect the rookies but also veteran players who might get to keep jobs they could have lost to younger, high-profile rookies drafted at the same position.
Here are 10 NFL veterans who can be considered winners and losers for IDP purposes heading into 2022 fantasy football.
The Seahawks released Bobby Wagner earlier this offseason, and they didn't spend a single one of their nine draft picks on a potential replacement for the future Hall of Famer. Barton figures to be the biggest IDP beneficiary of the team’s lack of investment in the position this offseason.
An average NFL linebacker at best in his career, Barton has never posted a 60.0 overall grade or played over 200 snaps in a season, so there's a question of whether he can maintain a long-term starting job. For 2022, prospective Barton managers should take solace knowing the Seahawks were among the most linebacker-friendly teams in the league last year. Barton was the only linebacker on the team who played any defensive snaps aside from starters Wagner and Jordyn Brooks. The Seahawks leaned heavily on their two starters and didn’t invest in other players at the position, which bodes well for Barton. Assuming he's healthy, he should be in line for a very heavy workload next to Brooks in 2022.
The Panthers leaned heavily on Haason Reddick last season to start opposite Brian Burns on the edge, but Reddick departed for Philadelphia in free agency, opening up a big opportunity for someone else to step up. Reddick’s 83% snap share leaves a coveted high-volume IDP role for the next man up.
Gross-Matos, a second-round pick in 2020, expects to step into a starting spot after seeing his workload decrease from his rookie season thanks to the signing of Reddick. With Carolina not addressing the position until the sixth round, a player like Gross-Matos, who hasn’t shown he can win a starting job, finds himself in a profitable position due to the lack of significant options.
Gross-Matos did increase his overall (63.8) and pass-rush grade (64.5) from his rookie year, while also getting the chance to play more early downs and improve in run defense (62.2) as a result. While his improvements are minor, the increase in playing time could also be seen as a chance to hit his Year 3 leap by taking advantage of being on the field more.
Teams with two edge rushers playing more than 750 snaps in 2021
|Edge rushers (snaps)
|Total snaps to starting EDs
|Las Vegas Raiders
|Maxx Crosby (926), Yannick Ngakoue (835)
|Haason Reddick (852), Brian Burns (838)
|Los Angeles Chargers
|Joey Bosa (847), Uchenna Nwosu (781)
|Alex Highsmith (851), TJ Watt (758)
|Andrew Van Ginkel (801), Emmanuel Ogbah (755)
Chicago’s new head coach and former Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus appears to be perfectly satisfied with the state of the Bears’ linebacker room at this point — a position he leaned on heavily during his time in Indianapolis. The Bears didn't spend any of their 11 picks in the 2022 draft on a linebacker. The Colts utilized more than one starting linebacker at a top-five rate last season, which bodes well for whoever can land the second spot next to Roquan Smith.
Morrow would likely have been in the mix for a starting job in Las Vegas last year but missed the entire 2021 season due to injury, just a year removed from posting a top-20 coverage grade (70.4) for his position. Morrow has an opportunity to start next to one of the league’s top linebackers with little else standing in the way right now. The Bears did not deploy two full-time linebackers last season, but with Eberflus' history of doing so, Morrow is in a great spot for IDP production and can be had at a minimal cost.
With an entirely new coaching staff coming into Jacksonville, it’s somewhat surprising the safety position wasn’t addressed with Jenkins and either Andre Cisco or Andrew Wingard penciled in as the expected starters. Jenkins’ starting job appears to be relatively safe, while Wingard and Cisco will battle it out for the deep safety role. Jenkins figures to be the safety to rotate down toward the line of scrimmage in Mike Caldwell’s defense, similar to Jordan Whitehead.
Jenkins played 53% of his defensive snaps in the box or on the line of scrimmage last season, which ended up just slightly more than Whitehead’s 45%, but both are good enough numbers for our IDP safeties to be effective. The former Charger has been a below average tackler for most of his NFL career, so expectations for him as a top IDP safety should certainly be tempered. Still, he’ll have plenty of opportunities to produce useful fantasy numbers on a weekly basis given his expected role.
Many of Williams’ IDP dynasty managers from last season are rejoicing at the thought of getting him back in a starting role after he proved to be a very reliable fantasy option off the waiver wire. Williams posted an average tackle efficiency of 12%, which led to 110 total tackles in 13 games started in 2021. Managers of Williams on fantasy platforms like Sleeper are probably happier than others, as he also carries a defensive back designation to go along with linebacker, making him a rare “cheat code” for IDP purposes.
The Jets had multiple chances to find a linebacker in this draft, either to start next to C.J. Mosley this year or to replace Mosley when he’s inevitably released in 2023, which would save the team $15M-plus in cap. This should mean fantasy managers get one more season of IDP usefulness out of Williams in 2022. It could also mean the team is comfortable with the former safeties-turned-linebackers they drafted in 2021, Jamien Sherwood and Hamsah Nasirildeen, as depth.
This one should be fairly self-explanatory, with Clark’s competition for a starting safety spot now being contested by the consensus No. 1 safety prospect in this year’s draft — a player deemed “generational” by multiple draft outlets during the pre-draft process. Despite the Ravens not having an obvious need at the position, the opportunity to draft a player like Kyle Hamilton at 14th overall speaks to how they view him as a player — too good to pass up. Clark ranked just 41st among safeties in overall grade (66.2) and 56th with a 61.1 coverage grade in 2021.
There are already reports about Clark being on the trading block. If he’s not dealt, his playing time is going to take a massive hit with Hamilton and newly signed free agent Marcus Williams expected to play the majority of defensive snaps. The Ravens are likely to continue playing an above-average rate of dime defense and may even lean into that more in 2022, considering their safety options are much stronger than their linebacker options. Either way, don’t expect Clark’s back-to-back seasons of 1,000-plus defensive snaps to come close to continuing should he remain in Baltimore.
????89.7 overall grade
????91.5 coverage grade
????18.3% forced incompletion percentage
????25.9 NFL passer rating allowed when targeted
????84.2 overall grade when lined up in the box
— Jon Macri (@PFF_Macri) April 29, 2022
Harris recently signed a two-year contract with the Lions after filling in admirably as a starter in 2021. Unfortunately, Harris was always going to be in a tough spot if the Lions took an edge defender with their second-overall pick, as they did when they selected Aidan Hutchinson. Harris is coming off the best season of his career, posting 52 pressures and 7.5 sacks to go along with a 78.7 pass-rush grade. With the Hutchinson selection and the potential of Romeo Okwara being healthy in time for the start of the season, the Lions suddenly have an edge defender corps full of capable pass rushers.
It’s going to be difficult to expect a significant role from any of the Lions edge defenders outside of Hutchinson, so they may all be taking a hit this season in terms of playing time. They even spent a second-round pick on edge prospect out of Kentucky, Josh Paschal, completing the makings of a heavy rotation on the edge. IDP managers should be wary of putting too much stock in non-Hutchinson Lions edge defenders at this point.
One of the top defensive backs to target for IDP early this offseason, there is always some risk baked into these non-obvious potential starters before the draft and free agency. There are plenty of “winners” on this list who are good examples of what happens when all goes right for non-proven potential starters, but this doesn’t appear to be the case for Bynum.
The Vikings spent a first-round pick on Lewis Cine out of Georgia as the second safety off the board. By all accounts from the Minnesota beat report, Cine is the expected Day 1 starter next to Harrison Smith. This should put the Bynum breakout on hold for the time being, but with Smith not getting any younger, fantasy managers may still see that come to fruition down the road. It’s just difficult to imagine it happening in 2022 with everyone healthy.
????82.4 grade (2nd among SEC safeties)
????83.4 run D grade (1st among SEC safeties)
????81.4 coverage grade(T-4th among SEC safeties)
????84.9 tackling grade(3rd among SEC safeties)
????7 PBUs(1st among SEC safeties)
— Jon Macri (@PFF_Macri) April 29, 2022
The Packers signed Reed to a one-year deal before the draft, likely for a starting role next to Kenny Clark. With a first-round selection of DeVonte Wyatt, this is another case of a young player with great draft capital coming in and being groomed as the future of the position. Reed slides down the depth chart as a result of Wyatt’s arrival and Reed’s below average performances, having never posted a seasonal PFF grade in the 70’s. He finished 2021 with a 46.7 overall, which ranked 122nd among defensive interior players.
Wyatt finished his 2021 season at Georgia with a 90.3 overall mark, including an 84.0 pass-rush and 84.3 run defense grade. He figures to be a much more polished, all-around three-technique than Reed and should see significant snaps as a rookie, which will assuredly eat into Reed’s playing time during his Green Bay tenure.
2022 #FFIDP PROSPECT:
DEVONTE WYATT, DEFENSIVE INTERIOR, GEORGIA
2021 FBS DI ranks, per @PFF:
Overall grade: 89.8 (2nd)
Pass-rush grade: 84.0 (T-12th)
Total pressures: 26 (T-39th)
Sacks: 4 (T-52nd)
Pass-rush win-rate: 13.1% (T-50th)
Run defense grade: 81.9 (T-11th) pic.twitter.com/lHxX56CSqo
— Jon Macri (@PFF_Macri) February 24, 2022
First and foremost, Ford has barely cracked 200 defensive snaps in a season during his time with the 49ers, but he looked to be in line for the designated pass-rusher role across from Nick Bosa on the edge. For IDP managers who were taking shots on Ford and/or sweating about him being a potential starter in fantasy lineups this season, let’s be thankful the 49ers spent a second-round pick on Drake Jackson out of USC. Jackson can and will likely eat into Ford’s workload, even when he’s healthy.
Jackson earned an 88.3 pass-rush grade in 2021 and a 70.4 run-defense grade, proving he can be an asset on both downs if needed. While he’s still raw and just 21 years old, Jackson figures to be more of a pass-rush specialist, while Arik Armstead moves inside on obvious passing downs. The 49ers and IDP managers no longer have to bet on Ford to stay on the field and be productive — his time is more than likely up.