Fantasy Football Player Analysis: Defensive linemen
Pros: Allen has averaged 65 total tackles per year over the past three seasons. During the past two years he has averaged 15.0 sacks. Allen consistently pressures the quarterback and has a non-stop motor.
Cons: The Idaho State product's tackles have decreased each of the last three seasons. His past off-the-field indiscretions put him in harm's way of a suspension should he find trouble again. There is a very remote chance the Vikings will lose both of their starting defensive tackles for a quarter of the season.
Fantasy tip: Draft Allen as the top defensive lineman. It's conceivable he could improve during his second year in the Vikings' system.
Pros: The linebacker/defensive end hybrid set a career high in passes defensed last year (nine) and solo tackles (53). He has averaged 74 total stops and 6.5 sacks per season over the last two years.
Cons: The loss of defensive coordinator Rex Ryan (Jets) could be huge, and the Ravens lost linebacker Bart Scott (Jets) this offseason. Suggs hasn't broken the double-digit sack barrier in his last four seasons.
Fantasy tip: Suggs is mildly risky as a high-end No. 1 defensive lineman. He may have eligibility at linebacker in your league, so make sure to be aware of the rules.
Pros: Tuck posted career highs in total tackles (67) and sacks (12.0) in 2008, his first season as a full-time starter. The Giants have a lot of talent along the line, meaning Tuck isn't the only lineman blockers have to consider doubling. He forced three fumbles last year and showed his versatility with an interception return of 41 yards for a score.
Cons: Tuck offers little in the way of passes defensed (four in the last two years). Bone spurs slowed him toward the end of last season, but he opted for rest over surgery.
Fantasy tip: Draft Tuck as a No. 1 defensive lineman for your fantasy team. Improvement from last year is possible with the healthy return of defensive end Osi Umenyiora (knee).
Pros: The speedy Cole has averaged nearly 10.0 sacks per season over the past three years (12.5 in 2007). Perhaps more impressive, when factoring in his smallish size for an end, Cole has totaled at least 70 tackles each of the last two seasons. Philly's D-line is as strong as any, and Cole shouldn't see constant double-teams.
Cons: The passing of defensive coordinator Jim Johnson could affect the players on a personal level and lead to tweaks in the in-game calls. Cole has logged double-digit sacks only once in his three years as a full-time starter.
Fantasy tip: Cole is a very sound pick as your top fantasy lineman.
Pros: Blessed with unbelievable speed, Tapp is quick to the quarterback and causes turnovers (four forced fumbles last year). He is coming off a 55-tackle season for the Seahawks, and Seattle upgraded the interior of their line.
Cons: Tapp will battle last year's first-round pick, Lawrence Jackson, for the starting job. If Tapp loses he'll become a situational pass rusher, which likely means more sacks and fewer tackles.
Fantasy tip: Keep an eye on this battle in camp. For now, we like Tapp, but the Seahawks may feel he is best used coming off the bench. If he wins the job, Tapp is a midrange No. 1 fantasy choice.
Pros: Despite being the highest paid player in 2009, Peppers is still chasing a lucrative, long-term contract. After a miserably disappointing 2007 effort, Peppers returned to form and posted a career-high 14.5 sacks. He deflected five passes and notched 51 total tackles.
Cons: Will Peppers' contract status be a distraction and interfere with his play in 2009? The loss of defensive tackle Ma'ake Kemoeatu (Achilles') can't help, and the Panthers are switching to a Cover 2 scheme under new defensive coordinator Ron Meeks.
Fantasy tip: We like Peppers as a midrange No. 1 fantasy lineman, but he most likely will be overvalued based on his name and perception. He isn't worthy of a top pick due to his tackle figures.
Pros: Williams broke out in a big way in 2007 (59 tackles, 14.0 sacks), and his follow-up performance in 2008 was nearly as impressive (53 tackles, 12.0 sacks) in spite of facing constant double-teams. Super Mario forced four fumbles last season.
Cons: With all of this new talent around him (Antonio D. Smith, Connor Barwin, Brian Cushing), Williams could see a dip in production since he has extra help. After a strong start to the season (8.0 sacks in as many games), Williams sandwiched a 3.0-sack performance in the middle of three-game sackless droughts.
Fantasy tip: Williams' name recognition will likely make for a higher draft position than warranted, but he is a fine selection as a midrange No. 1 if you can deal with potential inconsistency.
Pros: A healthy Schobel (foot) provides fantasy owners with a capable pass rusher and a stalwart against the run. Tossing aside last year's injury-shortened season, Schobel averaged 60.33 tackles and 10.83 sacks per year from 2005 to 2007. The Bills are taking it easy with him right now, but he should be 100 percent for Week 1 and is hungry.
Cons: Turning 32 Sept. 1, Schobel is coming off a major foot injury that cost him 11 games in '08. The Bills drafted defensive end Aaron Maybin in the first round. In 2007, Schobel, starting every game, dropped off in sacks from 14.0 in 2006 to just 6.5, which tied a career low (2001).
Fantasy tip: Our ranking of Schobel is optimistic. We will keep a close eye on him during training camp and the preseason to see how he's coming along. For now, you can draft him as a No. 2 lineman and expect midrange to weak No. 1 production from him.
Pros: During his first season with the Niners, Smith didn't disappoint in 2009. He posted 73 total tackles and 7.0 quarterback takedowns in 16 starts - his seventh straight season of such. Stout against the run, the former Cincinnati Bengal has averaged 77.33 total stops per year over the past three seasons.
Cons: Smith's tackle numbers have declined the past two years, albeit only slightly. Typically, a defensive end in a 3-4 alignment isn't a source of sack production, so consider anything he gives you a bonus.
Fantasy tip: A blue collar fantasy pick, Smith is a No. 2 defensive lineman who plays like a low-end No. 1. He may be slightly undervalued due to his low profile.
Pros: In his last two healthy seasons (2005, 2007), Umenyiora averaged 61 total tackles and 13.8 sacks per year. Defensive end Just Tuck provides a formidable rusher from the other side of the D-line, so blockers can't exclusively focus on Umenyiora.
Cons: Injuries top the list of negatives for this talented pass rusher. In 2006, he missed five games, and Umenyiora sat out the entire 2008 season with cartilage damage in his knee.
Fantasy tip: Here is your classic high-risk, high-reward pick. Some fantasy owners may have forgotten about Umenyiora after he missed all of last season, so you may be able to capitalize on a value pick.
Pros: Grant was on pace for a strong season in 2008 before missing half of the year (66 tackles, 6.0 sacks). The 2007 season was a down year for him, but he averaged 63 total tackles and 4.3 sacks per year the two prior seasons. Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams is on board, so look for a more aggressive scheme.
Cons: Grant faces a four-game suspension as part of the pending court battle for testing positive for banned diuretics from last season. He turns 31 years old Sept. 3, so Grant is likely on the downswing of his career.
Fantasy tip: We may be a little high on Grant this year, but a healthy season should justify our ranking of him. A better No. 2 lineman for value purposes, Grant can be viewed as a risky No. 1 in deep formats.
Pros: Just one year removed from a 60-tackle, 14.5-sack showing, Kerney (shoulder, elbow) is expected to be 100 percent for Week 1. Kerney benefits from a deep defensive line with pass rusher Darryl Tapp drawing extra attention. Seattle's defense in general should be improved this year and will feature an attacking style of play under coordinator Gus Bradley.
Cons: Kerney underwent two surgeries before the 2009 season, which, of course, isn't encouraging. He missed time in 2006, too, and the 11-year veteran turns 33 Dec. 30.
Fantasy tip: Draft Kerney as a weak No. 1 or more ideally a strong second defensive lineman. He'll probably slide a little after last year and concerns about his age.
Pros: When healthy, Vanden Bosch can be a source for sacks (two seasons with 12.0 or more in the last four) and forced fumbles. In his last three healthy seasons (2005-07), Vanden Bosch averaged 66.67 total tackles.
Fantasy outlook: Vanden Bosch is a capable No. 1 IDP performer when he is healthy, but his injury potential means he is a safer No. 2 fantasy lineman.
Pros: Best used as a situational pass rusher, Mathis rediscovered his groove as a sack specialist by finishing the 2008 season with 11.5 takedowns. He chipped in 48 total tackles.
Cons: Mathis' production is tough to forecast after his two down years leading up to 2008. He has missed time the past two years and in three of the last four.
Fantasy outlook: Go with Mathis as a No. 2 defensive lineman but prepare for inconsistency. You're better off having him on your roster in a rotation with a strong third lineman and playing the matchups each week.
Pros: Abraham is coming off a career-best 16.5-sack season and is always a force against the quarterback when he is healthy. The 10-year vet has been healthy the past two seasons and has 26.5 sacks in that time. He is a source of forced fumbles, too, having dislodged 12 balls in the past three years.
Cons: Injuries, injuries and more frustrating injuries: Abraham's career has been filled with nagging and serious setbacks. He turned 31 years old in May.
Fantasy outlook: Don't count on him recording 16.5 sacks again, but he should be good for double-digit takedowns. Draft him with caution as a No. 2 that offers mild upside despite his age.
Pros: Smith has 20.5 sacks over the past three years and posted 10.5 in 2006. He has logged 60-plus tackles in each of the past two seasons and hasn't missed time in this span. New defensive coordinator Gregg Williams could help his cause, too.
Cons: Smith could be suspended four games, but it's unlikely due to a court ruling. His sack totals have dropped off sharply, totaling only 10 in the past two years after 10.5 in '06.
Fantasy outlook: The sixth-year Ohio State product needs to increase his sack figures to jump into the low-end No. 1 neighborhood, but he makes a respectable No. 2 because of his tackle proficiency.
Pros: His 2008 effort was probably the best of Rogers' career since his 2001 rookie season. In his first year with the Browns, the beefy nose tackle was in on 76 stops and added 4.5 sacks.
Cons: It is unfair to expect Rogers to repeat last year's impressive showing. The Browns have a new coaching staff and some change around him on the defensive line.
Fantasy outlook: Don't overvalue the big man; Rogers should be a No. 2 fantasy lineman with No. 1 upside.
Pros: The veteran defensive end has improved his tackle totals and turned out two of his best overall seasons in the last couple of years. Ogunleye has averaged 60 total stops and hasn't missed a game in the past two years.
Cons: At 32 years old, how much gas does Ogunleye have left as a pass rusher? He dipped to just 5.0 sacks last year. He is no stranger to injury, either, having missed time each season from 2004 to 2006.
Fantasy outlook: O-gun should give you average production at this stage of his career, but his job is safe and he is in an aggressive defense.
Pros: In 2007, Gregg tallied 80 total stops and 3.0 sacks. He has at least 60 tackles and 2.5 sacks in each of his last three full seasons (2005-07). Baltimore's defense is aggressive and has a lot of playmakers to allow Gregg to be freed up.
Cons: Gregg missed the entire 2008 season with a knee injury and will probably be eased back in this season. He turns 33 years old Nov. 1 and enters his 10th season.
Fantasy outlook: Most owners will forget about Gregg, but if you can land him on the cheap he could easily post top-20 numbers if he is healthy all year. You are assuming some risk, but if you draft him as a third lineman than you are minimizing the peril.
Pros: Just three years ago Warren racked up 84 tackles and 7.5 sacks. Over the past two years his numbers have come down, but improvements around him should allow for a rebound season.
Cons: The drop-off in Warren's stats the past two years, coupled with missing three games last year, gives us pause. Warren is also battling groin and knee issues.
Fantasy outlook: Warren has the talent and now has help around him. You probably can snag him as a low-end No. 2 and should enjoy better production than his draft position indicates you should.
Pros: A beast, Williams enjoyed one of his best seasons last year with 60 total tackles and 8.5 sacks. He hasn't missed a game in three years and has sat out of just two contests in his six seasons. Defensive tackle Pat Williams shields Kevin from a lot of double-teams.
Cons: There is an outside chance Williams could be suspended four games if a court ruling doesn't hold up, but it's a minor concern at this point. His production dropped off significantly three straight years (2005-07) after a strong pair of seasons to enter the league.
Fantasy outlook: If Williams looks more like last year's version than the 2007 form you will be happy with him as a No. 2 fantasy lineman.
Pros: Coleman started the past two seasons for the New York Jets before being traded to the Browns this offseason. He is coming off a respectable 53-tackle season, but Coleman's 2007 showing was impressive (83 tackles, 1.5 sacks).
Cons: He has to learn new terminology in Rob Ryan's system, so Coleman may look more like last year's model than a new-and-improved rendition. He doesn't offer much other than tackles.
Fantasy outlook: Coleman's fantasy value is predicated on his ability to stop the run. If he is unable to make an impact with the Browns in this role, fantasy owners probably will be looking at a busted pick. He is a low-end No. 2 and carries mild risk.
Pros: The veteran end has been productive and healthy the past three seasons. His 2008 campaign was one of Ellis' best efforts, posting 60 total tackles, 8.0 sacks and two forced fumbles. Head coach Rex Ryan is a defensive guru and could help Ellis improve.
Cons: Ellis could be suspended for the first game of the season after an offseason drug arrest. Once a fierce pass rusher, Ellis' sack totals dimmed from 2005 to 2007 (12.5 combined).
Fantasy outlook: Keep tabs on his potential suspension, as will we, and knock off a game's worth of data if Ellis is suspended, as will we. He is a weak No. 2 defensive lineman for IDP leaguers.
Pros: Haynesworth has notched 91 total tackles and 14.5 sacks in the past two seasons combined - all coming in 27 games played. He is a disruptive player and forced three fumbles last year with the Tennessee Titans.
Cons: After receiving a record paycheck, is Haynesworth going to slack off? He wasn't an IDP contributor before 2007, so will he slide back into fantasy obscurity? A new home, new defensive system and lesser quality players around him means he'll see the heavy lifting. Haynesworth hasn't played a full season's worth of games since 2002.
Fantasy outlook: Let the buyer beware - Haynesworth brings risk to fantasy teams, but he is also a capable No. 2 or strong No. 3 fantasy lineman.
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