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IDP Fantasy Redraft Top 10 Series: DT edition

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This is the first in a series of articles on my top 10 players at each defensive position in IDP fantasy redraft formats. Welcome to the DT edition.


I’m a big believer in tiers — I sometimes feel uncomfortable committing to a top 10 list in any format. However, I’m feeling ballsy, so I will go out on a limb and name my top 10 players in fantasy redraft formats at five defensive positions – defensive tackle, edge rusher, linebacker, safety, and cornerback. Let’s kick things off with my Top 10 DTs.

I’ll still split them into tiers for further context, and I’ll try to justify each selection with some thoughts and ramblings. If I remember, or if someone reminds me, I’ll revisit my picks at the end of the season to see how I fared.

Enough of the preamble. Let’s get into it.

Tier One

1. Aaron Donald.

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On a scale of one to not at all, how surprised are you to see Donald at #1 of my top 10 DTs? I make no apologies for being predictable. Unless your head has been buried in the sand for the last five years, you’ll understand why this is the case.

Between 2016 and 2021, only one player on the defensive interior generated a better pressure rate (pressure/pass rush snaps) than Donald, and that was Calais Campbell by a minuscule 0.1% in 2019. It’s worth noting that, in that year, Donald lined up predominantly as a DT, whereas Campbell predominantly lined up over the offensive tackle.

The gap between Donald and the chasing pack appeared to have closed partway through the 2021 season. By week 11, Jeffrey Simmons led the position group with 46 pressures, ahead of Donald in second with 42. Three other players were also within five pressures of the Rams’ veteran.

The fact Simmons had almost at least 50 more pass rush snaps than every other DI at that point mattered little. Seeing anyone other than Donald leading the way at the DI spot was bizarre.

Donald turned it on from Week 12 onwards to remind of his continued dominance. He generated 42 pressures in the remaining six weeks of the regular season, proving that he is still the man to beat at the position heading into 2022.

Donald should again play a considerable amount of snaps relative to his peers and, at 31, he still has the talent to make him a good bet to repeat as THE DT1 for the sixth consecutive season in fantasy IDP.

Tier Two

2. Jonathan Allen

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This is where things get interesting. I could see one of as many as seven guys taking the #2 spot in 2022. Allen is my favorite to do so. The former Crimson Tide star has taken his game to new levels in the last two seasons, improving notably as a pass rusher in that time. He generated a pressure rate of 13.7% in 2021, ranking second only to the Chiefs’ Chris Jones in that category.

It would take extreme optimism to expect Allen to continue on his current trajectory. He had just 33 pressures in 2019, 47 in 2020, and 67 in 2021. However, I’m encouraged enough by Allen’s progress to feel comfortable placing him second on this list of top 10 DTs, marginally ahead of…

3. Chris Jones

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The Chiefs star had a mixed 2021. The team experimented by moving him to DE for the first half of 2021, lining him up outside the OT for the most part, before allowing him to return to his more natural — and more effective — position on the defensive interior.

Jones excelled once he moved back to the DT spot, generating 43 of his 65 pressures from Week 9 onwards. His sacks came in bunches, and while that is not always ideal for fantasy purposes, the DT spot is not a position where consistency is easy to come by. We take what we are given.

Jones should remain on the interior in 2022. Rookie edge rusher George Karlaftis should step into a sizeable role from the outset, and the team will lean on Frank Clark in what will possibly be the veteran’s last season with the team.

If Clark is your fantasy DT, you should feel confident heading into the 2022 season.

Tier Three

4. DeForest Buckner

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Numbers four to eight on my list of top 10 DTs are so close that the difference could come down to health – an extra game or two throughout the season or a nagging injury that hinders performance.

It feels like Buckner has been a mainstay on this list as long as — if not longer — than Donald. But he’s still only 28 and had nine sacks in 2021, his fourth consecutive season with eight or more. I heard someone mention Buckner hadn’t been as effective since leaving the 49ers, but that’s not true. His numbers are unusually similar and provide a reassuring baseline at a famously volatile position.

The giant DT has ranked in the top five at the position for pass-rush snaps in three of the last six years and in the top 10 in every year since he entered the league. Few players can match Buckner’s combination of opportunity and ability going into 2022.

5. Jeffery Simmons

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Simmons is an exciting prospect. He’s still only 24 and has taken giant strides as a pass rusher in his first three seasons in the league. Simmons was excellent during a six-game stretch in the middle of the 2021 regular season when he earned 36 pressures, and the youngster even led the league at the DI spot until halfway through the season, albeit on the back of a heavy pass rush snap count.

We don’t know what Simmons’ ceiling is yet. It’s entirely possible he could continue to improve and break into the top three at the position. If he continues to earn as many opportunities as he did in 2021, it would be no great surprise if Simmons even occupied the number two spot by the end of the season.

I’m intrigued to learn just how good he can become. We won’t know the answer to that question for many more seasons, but the 2022 campaign should provide a good indication.

6. Kenny Clark

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Clark’s fantasy managers will see him at number six on my top 10 DTs list, and they may wonder whether this article is from 2020. The Packers veteran generated only three sacks all season, and two came against a suspect Bears offensive line in week six. He was a huge fantasy disappointment. There are no two ways about it.

However, Clark’s sack numbers don’t tell the whole story of his 2021 performance. Only Donald, Allen, and Jones generated more pressure, and Clark was seventh in pressure rate at the position behind players I don’t think can be as effective over a sustained period (J.J. Watt, Michael Pierce.)

I’ve talked about how I believe Clark is an excellent buy-low candidate this off-season on recent podcasts. If you can pick him up at the right price, go and get him.

7. Javon Hargrave

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I’ve repeatedly heard that Hargrave “came from nowhere” to earn the third-highest pressure rate at the DI position in 2021. It’s just not true. He had the fourth-highest pressure rate in 2019 and the 12th highest in 2020. The signs were there; he didn’t play enough snaps behind Fletcher Cox to fill the stat sheet.

The former third-round pick started the 2021 campaign strongly, then had a slight mid-season lull before finishing the season well.

The addition of Jordan Davis has some worried. Davis may steal some early-down work from Hargrave, Cox, and Milton Williams, but Hargrave should continue to shine on passing downs. His pass-rush volume may decrease slightly, but his efficiency as a pass rusher should help maintain some of his value. He’s deserving of number seven on this list.

8. Cameron Heyward

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Heyward turned 33 in March. He would be forgiven if his level of play deteriorated due to age, but there’s no sign of this happening. In 2021, the veteran was just one behind his career-best in pressures with 61, had 11 sacks, and earned a whopping — and career-best — 78 combined tackles.

It helps that Heyward continues to play more snaps opposite the OT later in his career — 80 in 2019, 107 in 2020, and 110 in 2021. We tend to like DTs who do this in fantasy.

The only reason Heyward isn’t higher on this list is his age. If you believe he can continue to defy the decline that we tend to see from players of his years for the duration of the 2022 season, then feel free to rank him higher. I won’t complain. I’m a huge fan.

Tier Four

9. Christian Wilkins

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Wilkins represents the start of the fourth and final tier of DTs in this article. He lacks the pass rush prowess of the players above him on this list, his total pressures from the last three years combined are fewer than Donald’s numbers from the 2021 season alone.

However, the former Clemson Tiger star excels in the run game. He led the DT position with 79 tackles last season. Wilkins is a real asset in DT premium leagues and those offering differentiated scoring for DTs, especially if the scoring formats’ reward tackles highly.

10. Christian Barmore

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I hesitated in placing Barmore in my top 10 DTs. The rookie isn’t nearly as established as others in the ‘best of the rest’ list below. I like to see sustained success before placing anointing a player, especially in redraft. I’ve made an exception in this case.

Any player can be highly efficient in terms of sack numbers relative to their pressure rate, even for a whole season. It’s far more difficult to have an impressive pressure rate in the first place. Granted, the former Alabama lineman only earned two sacks, but he ranked 10th in pressures at the position in his rookie season. That’s impressive, especially at the DT spot.

It’s exciting to wonder what type of player Barmore can become. If he takes even a small step forward in his sophomore season, he’ll easily justify his inclusion on this list.

Best of the Rest

Arik Armstead
Quinnen Williams

Williams has enough talent to be in my top 10 DTs. However, he doesn’t play enough snaps. Damn the Jets and their defensive line rotation. They have no consideration whatsoever for fantasy managers 🙂

Daron Payne
J.J. Watt

A bounce-back season should be on the cards if Watt can remain healthy. He isn’t quite done yet.

Dexter Lawrence
Leonard Williams

Williams, like Cameron Heyward, is one of those guys who regularly move between the defensive interior and the defensive end position. That adds to his appeal in leagues where he retains DT eligibility.


Thanks for reading my ‘IDP Fantasy Redraft Top 10 series – DT edition’. I hope you find it helpful or interesting. Check back here soon for the other articles in the series covering my top 10 edge, linebacker, safety, and cornerbacks, and follow me on Twitter @JaseAbbey.

Subscribers can catch the IDP Guys redraft rankings here and more fantasy articles from other writers here.

Jase Abbey

I'm an IDP-obsessive and have been playing fantasy football for 20 years. I write the weekly IDP start/sit for IDP Guys in-season, redraft IDP content during the offseason, and appear on the odd podcast from time to time. I am a big, big believer in data-driven and evidence-based content. I'm UK-based, love most sports, and study sports journalism at university. My favorite two things in life are family and sarcasm.

Discussion

  1. […] Welcome to article two in my series of articles about my Top 10 IDP stars! So far, I have only covered DT, and if you missed that article, you can find it here. […]

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