Who are some good DL targets for your IDP leagues in 2021? Let’s check out two edge rushers and two defensive tackles who are looking at more production this upcoming season.
Football is in the air as OTAs and mini-camps have brought us some excitement. Training camps will be starting later in July, and things will really start to ramp up then. In this article, I talk about four defensive linemen who didn’t necessarily disappoint in 2020 but are set up for bigger outputs in 2021.
All four have already proven to be talented, and things are shaping up for them to be big contributors for their respective defenses and IDP managers this season. Let’s dive in!
Maxx Crosby, DE, Las Vegas Raiders
2019 Stats: 39 tackles (20 solos), 14 tackles for loss, 7 sacks, 13 QB hits, 1 pass defended
Maxx Crosby was a pleasant surprise for the Raiders in his rookie season. The 2019 fourth-round pick put up an impressive 10 sacks as a rookie to go along with 16 tackles for loss and 14 quarterback hits. His four-sack performance against Cincinnati in Week 11 helped inflate his numbers, but he still had an impressive rookie year.
Crosby had a nice start to the 2020 season, tallying four sacks from Weeks 3-5, but his production tailed off later in the year. Crosby had made a name for himself as a rookie and became a focal point as teams tried to slow him down. Opponents could also key in on Crosby with no other considerable presence at defensive end.
Clelin Ferrell has been a disappointment thus far, and Arden Key and Carl Nassib aren’t particularly fearsome. Crosby also battled some nagging injuries throughout the season, which certainly never helps. (The Raiders brought in some reinforcements for Crosby and his new teammate has high hopes for the duo.)
Yannick Ngakoue & Maxx Crosby 🏴☠️
Where do you rank this duo? pic.twitter.com/MxM63KwOA9
— PFF (@PFF) June 17, 2021
So what has changed? Well not only has Crosby gained valuable experience going into year three, but he also has a new running mate in the very talented Yannick Ngakoue. Ngakoue signed a two-year deal with the Raiders this off-season. With Ngakoue now in town, teams will have two fierce edge rushers to plan for. The two should form a nice duo off of the edge and help create opportunities for each other on the DL. Crosby is an excellent athlete who has already proven he can get it done in the league. Now healthy and sober, in addition to having Ngakoue in town to help take pressure off, I could see Crosby hitting that double-digit sack total once again. For IDP, I think Crosby should be a solid DE2 option for managers.
Bradley Chubb, Edge/DL, Denver Broncos
2019 Stats: 42 tackles (26 solos), 9 tackles for loss, 7.5 sacks, 19 QB hits, 1 forced fumble
Now let’s be clear, Bradley Chubb didn’t necessarily have a bad 2020 season. Chubb generated 57 pressures, per PFF, and finished the season with the highest pass-rushing grade of his young career. However, after his electric rookie season, where he produced 60 tackles (41 solos) and 12 sacks, expectations were very high. Unfortunately, Chubb tore his ACL in his second season and was only able to play four games. In 2020, he suffered an ankle injury at the end of the season that caused him to miss Denver’s final two games. So Chubb has had some tough injury luck after his stellar rookie year.
The Denver defense was also missing a key piece last season. Von Miller was out for the year with an ankle injury. Malik Reed filled in nicely, but not having Miller around definitely hurt. Miller is ready to rock this season and Denver will have its dynamic pass-rushing duo back.
Chubb had surgery for bone spurs this off-season and expects to be ready to go for training camp. Having the clean-up surgery to get healthy along with Von Miller returning is huge for his 2021 outlook. As I said earlier, it’s not that Chubb played poorly in 2020, it’s that I expect a better 2021 output. In leagues where Chubb has Edge/DL eligibility, I’m looking to acquire him. The soon to be 25 year old is an exciting young dynasty asset that could see a rise in value on the DL.
Kenny Clark, DT, Green Bay Packers
2019 Stats: 42 tackles (28 solos), 3 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, 6 QB hits
After a solid 2019 season where he made his first Pro Bowl, Kenny Clark had a down year, by his standards, in 2020. I believe two factors played a significant part in Clark’s statistical drop in 2020. First, Clark suffered a groin injury in Week 1 which caused him to miss the next three games. He never got a chance to get going early on, and you have to really manage your reps as groin injuries can linger. Second, Clark played a good amount of snaps at nose tackle in Mike Pettine’s scheme. Playing inside at nose tackle limited Clark’s opportunities for one-on-one situations. It also made him susceptible to inside double teams.
(Here you can see Clark is a handful singled up. Oh ya, and he’s pretty strong.)
— The Checkdown (@thecheckdown) January 24, 2021
While it’s only early off-season talk, the word is Kenny Clark will see less time at nose tackle in Joe Barry’s scheme. Barry wants to utilize him more at three-technique (outside shoulder of offensive guard) and four-technique (head up over offensive tackle). This is good news as it should free up Clark for more of those singled-up opportunities on the DL. Clark is a big, explosive, powerful player, who has graded out well as an interior pass rusher throughout his career. More chances for him to make impact plays is definitely welcome for us IDP fantasy players. In defensive tackle required/premium leagues, Kenny Clark makes for a good target in trades and drafts if managers are down on him after the 2020 season.
Ed Oliver, DT, Buffalo Bills
2019 Stats: 33 tackles (23 solos), 6 tackles for loss, 3 sacks, 6 QB hits, 1 forced fumble, 3 passes defended
Ed Oliver is another defensive tackle whose play took a bit of a step back in 2020. Oliver had a good rookie season for Buffalo in 2019 but didn’t statistically build off of that success in year two. One of the reasons attributed to that was Buffalo wanting to play him more at nose tackle with Star Lotulelei opting out. As I said earlier with Kenny Clark, playing that spot leads to more center/guard double teams inside. The nose tackle is also responsible to fill the inside gap and eat up blockers for the defense. This makes it difficult to put up the stats we look for in our IDP fantasy leagues. Oliver is an elite athlete for an interior defensive lineman, but he doesn’t have the size to take on double teams regularly.
(Below is a quick reminder of how good an athlete Oliver is, per Kent Lee Platte’s RAS scoring system.)
With the 9th pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, the #Bills select Ed Oliver, DT, Houston.
— Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) April 26, 2019
I see a path for Oliver to have much more success this coming season. Lotulelei will be back to play nose tackle along with the likes of Vernon Butler and Harrison Phillips. This will allow Oliver to play more three-technique where he can utilize his skill-set to make more impact plays. The Bill’s defensive line should also be much improved this year. A.J. Epenesa should make more of an impact in year two and the Bills also drafted two talented rookies in Gregory Rousseau and Carlos Basham Jr. Oliver is a young, talented interior lineman who can get after the quarterback from inside. Playing a more fitting role and having more talent around him, Oliver should be much improved on the DL in 2021. In defensive tackle required leagues, I’m looking to acquire Oliver wherever I can, especially if managers are growing impatient.