Here is a rundown of the pivotal off-season moves and other important
stories impacting the IDP landscape for 2010.
Key Linebackers Returning from Injury
After taking over as the starting MLB in Philadelphia, Stewart
Bradley had over 100 tackles in 2008. Last year he tore his
right ACL early in training camp and the Eagles struggled to replace
him. The Eagles made changes to their personnel at outside linebacker,
but Bradley appears uncontested in returning as the man in the
middle and as the injury happened in early August, he should be
100% by Week 1. He won’t turn in many big plays (sacks, interceptions,
etc.), but will rack up tackles.
In Seattle, MLB Lofa Tatupu saw his season cut short by a torn
pectorals muscle in October. Unknown reserve David Hawthorne replaced
him and blew up on the scene, becoming waiver wire gold in IDP
leagues. Tatupu will resume his role, now playing for his former
college coach Pete Carroll. Hawthorne could retain a starting
spot on the outside, as WLB Leroy Hill battles legal problems
and could be suspended to start the season.
The same injury as Tatupu ended D’Qwell
Jackson’s season for the Browns in October. There is a new
regime in Cleveland and some talk of Jackson’s job security after
holding out this spring, but he is clearly the most talented linebacker
there and will return to being a top producer at ILB. As he failed
to get a long-term deal and apparently had little interest around
the league despite a second-round tender, Jackson should be particularly
motivated this season.
The most gruesome injury of the group was Minnesota MLB E.J.
Henderson's fractured left femur on a Sunday Night Football
game in December. At the start of summer, he still wasn’t fully
recovered. As he turns 30 before the season starts, and after
also having missed most of 2008 with dislocated toes, there is
concern if he can return to level of play he was at in 2006 and
2007. Last year’s fifth-round pick, Jasper
Brinkley, was solid in replacing him, but he’s a two-down
run-stopper and not the athlete Henderson is.
Chicago MLB Brian Urlacher was done in Week 1 last season when
he dislocated his right wrist in their season opener. After seeing
his tackles decline by significant jumps in each of the previous
three years while battling injuries, a year off may have been
a good thing for him. A workout warrior, there is no concern about
Urlacher being in shape, and I think he comes back this season
with a chip on his shoulder. I expect a huge bounce-back season,
but exercise caution in dynasty leagues. At 32 and with a history
of back problems, he isn’t a good long-term bet anymore.
Carolina WLB Thomas Davis tore his right ACL last November and
had a remarkably speedy recovery derailed when the tore the same
ACL again this June. Earlier this year, the team had traded S
Chris Harris back to the Bears for versatile back-up Jamar Williams.
Now Williams, who had shown some flashes in spot starts previously,
becomes a tremendous sleeper who can put up big numbers in place
of Davis. The team has experimented with moving Jon Beason to
WLB and putting Dan Connor in the middle, but that is a lesser
option. Expect Beason, an elite MLB, to stay put and Williams
to join the starting lineup.
Julius Peppers Gets Paid
With a front office and coaching staff in desperation mode after
poor initial returns on mortgaging their future for QB Jay Cutler
the previous season, Chicago made Julius Peppers the highest paid non-quarterback
in the league when the pounced on the free agent. This move should
have great short-term value, with Peppers almost certain to post
another double-digit sack season. The move also should benefit
DT Tommie Harris and MLB Brian Urlacher, two players looking to
have some pressure taken off of them this season and have their
numbers helped by the attention Peppers will get. With a better
pass rush, the secondary should also see more interception opportunities.
The addition of Peppers also saw the Bears part ways with both
starting ends from last season. Adewale Oguleye didn’t generate
much interest as a free agent and is still looking for work. Alex
Brown was released, but quickly snapped up by New Orleans, where
he should remain a very solid producer opposite another stud RDE,
Will Smith. Back in Carolina, the expectation is 2009 second-round
pick Everette Brown will be the heir to Peppers’ spot, but
he could continue to be eased in to a more prominent role. Charles
Johnson may get the first shot as the starting RDE with solid,
but unspectacular veteran Tyler Brayton remaining a two-down LDE.
Then Johnson would slide over on passing situations and Brown
remaining a pass-rush specialist. Johnson could end up the top
fantasy producer of the group.
Impact RookiesRolando McClain takes over the MLB job (or ILB if they switch
to a 3-4) in Oakland and should be the top producing fantasy rookie.
Kansas City defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel knows how to utilize
a multi-talented safety like Eric Berry, who will start at SS.
Sean Weatherspoon is too good to sit in at Atlanta, but may start
out at the less fantasy-friendly SLB job.
Tennessee is counting on Derrick
Morgan to fill the vacancy left by Kyle
Vanden Bosch at RDE as an every-down player and help their
pass rush. He will be pushed for the rookie lead in sacks by fellow
defensive ends Jerry
Hughes (Indianapolis), Jason
Pierre-Paul (NYG), and Brandon
Graham (Philadelphia), even thought those three will only
initially be used as situational pass rushers.
With their options thin at OLB in Miami, versatile Koa
Misi has a great opportunity to also rack up some sacks.
Ndamukong Suh (Lions) and Gerald McCoy (Tampa Bay) lead a deep
class of defensive tackles and can be the rare interior linemen
who have fantasy value.
Thomas has a clear starting role at FS in a thin Seattle secondary,
Chancellor could move up the depth chart quickly at SS.
A season-ending injury to veteran Marlin
Jackson in Philadelphia opens the door for Nathaniel
Allen to start at FS in an aggressive defense.
After cutting ties with veteran Kevin Ellison over off-field problems
in San Diego, Darrell Stuckey has a great opportunity to be their
Cleveland’s starting safety tandem could both be rookies,
with T.J. Ward at FS and Larry Asante at SS.
Taylor Mays (San Francisco) and Morgan Burnett (Green Bay) have
impressed in the spring, but are currently blocked by veterans.
Kareem Jackson (Houston) and Joe Haden (Browns) should be immediate
starters at corner.
Kyle Wilson should have a great opportunity as the nickel corner
between two strong veterans opposing QBs will look to avoid. He
has even more value in leagues that count return stats. Same for
Devin McCourty in New England, who should be their primary kick
and punt returner, as well as gunner when they punt.