We are working on breakdown the top fantasy defensive players in 2015 and have our preliminary top fantasy defensive lineman list below. It’s never too early for NFL.
JJ. Watt – This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anybody as Mr. Watt is simply a beast. Last year he scored 274.9 fantasy points which is pretty incredible considering Jason Pierre-Paul came in second with 153.9. He literally does everything; from 20.5 sacks, 10 pass deflections, 4 forced fumbles, 1 interception, and two touchdowns. This not even taking into account he had 59 solo tackles which ranked the most among DL. I don’t know if he can repeat those insane numbers, but it’s an extremely safe bet that he will be the top ranked player again this year.
Robert Quinn – There are a couple guys that were viable for this spot, but I really like Robert Quinn. In 2013, he was the top ranked defensive lineman with 195 points finishing ahead of JJ Watt. The biggest reason for that was his 19.5 sacks, 145 sack yards, 23 tackles for loss, and 7 forced fumbles. Last year he dropped to 5th overall due to a drop in all of the stats above (10.5 sacks, 73 sack yards, 13 tackles for loss, and 5 forced fumbles). I still consider him a premier pass rusher in this league, and teams are going to be hard-pressed to double him with the defensive line the Rams have. I would expect his numbers to be closer to 2013 than 2014.
Jason Pierre–Paul – JPP is an interesting player, but another one I really like. In 2011 it looked like he was destined to become one of the best defensive linemen in sometime when he put up 17 sacks, 67 solo tackles, 23 tackles for loss, and 29 QB hits. Then in 2012 his numbers dropped a bit but still was the 7th ranked lineman. His solo tackles dropped to 43, sacks to 6.5, 13 TFL and 9 QB hits. 2013 was an injury riddled season and he really didn’t perform up to his standards. Last year he bounced back as the 2nd ranked lineman once again racking up the tackles (53 solo and 24 assisted ), the sacks (12.5), and QB Hits (21). While I am still not enamored with the Giants defense as a whole, Pierre-Paul when he is healthy, has shown to be a consistently great IDP and I believe he will continue that this year.
Sheldon Richardson – Sheldon Richardson is rising through the ranks and is quickly becoming an elite defensive lineman. 2 years ago he ranked 17th overall among defense lineman with 105.8 points, but that was only with 3.5 sacks, 29 sack yards, and 8 QB hits. Last year he moved up to the 8th overall lineman with 8 sacks, 42 sack yards and 21 QB hits. He has proven to be consistent with his tackling (42 solo tackles both years and 35 and 24 assist tackles) making him a high floor player. With Todd Bowles coming into the mix, and adding Leonard Williams with Muhammad Wilkerson, I could easily see Richardson putting up a monster year.
Mario Williams – Mario Williams has been very good the last three seasons and I believe he will put up similar to even better numbers this year under the defensive guru Rex Ryan. Mario Williams more than anything is known for his pass rushing, which he is very good at. The last 3 years he has recorded, 10.5, 13 and 14.5 sacks. In 2013 he was a little lower as the 18th ranked lineman due to his low tackle numbers (28 solo 10 assisted), but in 2012 and 2014 he averaged 37.5 solo tackles which would have moved him up to 12th. The emergence of Jerry Hughes, has helped Williams a lot in my opinion and makes him even more dangerous because you can’t just go away from Mario easily. With Marcell Dareus and Kyle Williams plugging the middle teams are going to have to kick it outside or pass which benefits Mario’s potential.
Everson Griffin – This might be a bit homeristic of me coming off of one good year, but I believe Everson Griffin is the real deal. Mike Zimmer is one of the best of getting the best out of his players and he did that with Everson Griffin. Last year Griffin did a lot of things well which is why I could easily see him in the top 10 again this year. He had 39 solo tackles, 17 assisted tackles, 13 tackles for loss, 12 sacks, and 23 QB hits. This is why I like him over guys like Dunlap and Ninkovich who are very good consistent players, but don’t have as high of ceilings in my opinion. With the Vikings secondary getting better and better each year, I could see more coverage sacks from Griffin, as well as increasing from his 1 forced fumble last year. If he can continue to improve, I wouldn’t be surprised to see another top 5 season from him.
Rob Ninkovich – This is a player that without looking at the stats from fantasydata.com, I would never have guessed he is as good as he is. When we think of the Patriots, the first name that comes to mind is Tom Brady and for good reason. However, on the defensive side of them ball, Mr. Ninkovich is the definition of consistent. From 2011-2014 he has been in the top 10 defensive lineman each year (5th, 9th, 8th, 9th). He has averaged between 113-125 fantasy points through these 4 years showing that he can always be counted on. He is not a premier pass rusher, yet has averaged about 8 sacks over this time. What makes him a consistently very good player is his tackling ability. He averages around 42-44 solo tackles per year, in 2013 he had 49 assisted tackles which is ridiculous, and he can be counted on for a few forced fumbles and recoveries per year. It’s not always about the sexy pick, but about the right ones sometimes.
Calais Campbell – Calais Campbell is another guy who flies under the radar a bit, but has been a very good player for a while now. He has shown that he can be dominant, in 2011 he finished as the 2nd best defensive lineman. Like Ninkovich, what makes Campbell a great fantasy player is his tackling ability. He averages around 45-50 solo tackles per year with roughly 10-12 assisted tackles. He also is a good pass rusher, getting around 8 sacks per year which is great for a 3-4 DE. He really has only had one down year which was in 2012 where he finished 17th in points, but other than that he has been in or right outside of the top 10. It remains to be seen how the new defensive coordinator will use him, but I expect another top 10 season out of him.
Carlos Dunlap – Dunlap had a great 2014 season , and part of me wanted to rank him higher, but I feel that this is the appropriate spot for him. Again, he is not a sexy pass rusher that gets a lot of hype, but again he is consistently performing. This past year he had 40 solo tackles, 26 assisted tackles, 28 QB hits, 16 tackles for loss and 8 sacks. The problem for me is that I see a few of these stats reverting back to the norm. In 2012 he had 7 assisted tackles and 12 QB hits. In 2013 he has 19 assisted tackles and 23 QB hits. I believe that his numbers will reflect his 2013 most likely as most of the numbers average to about that. Dunlap in those years finished just outside the top 10, so I feel this is a good spot for him.
Cameron Wake – Cameron Wake might be one of my favorite players in the NFL and I think when we look back at it, he could be much higher than 10th. In 2012 he finished 2nd among defensive linemen in points with 137.70 which included 15 sacks, 38 tackles, and 30 QB hits. 2013 was a bit of a disappoint regressing in just about every stat and finished as the 31st Last year was a bit of a bounce back year finishing 14th and having 11.5 sacks, 18 QB hits, and 31 tackles. I believe that the addition of Suh is going to be huge for Wake as it could easily open up more tackling opportunities for him, and will draw attention away on passing downs creating more sack chances.