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2010 IDP Offseason Headlines

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 Rookies

  • Rolando 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.

  • Earl Thomas has a clear starting role at FS in a thin Seattle secondary, while Kam 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 SS.

  • 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.