Defensive linemen player analysis: Top 12

by Cory J. Bonini on August 11, 2010 @ 18:25:00 PDT


Jared Allen | Minnesota Vikings | 6-foot-6, 270 pounds | 7th year

Fantasy tip: Mullet or not, Allen is the undisputed top lineman in IDP circles. He has recorded at least 14.5 sacks each of the last three years and, despite a drop-off in solo stops with the Vikes, has been a 50-plus tackler every year since 2004. We don't recommend reaching for defensive linemen, but Allen is as rock-solid as they come. He is in the prime of his career and plays on a very strong defensive line, which takes some of the pressure off. Double-teams be damned, Allen is a beast through and through. Confidently draft him as the first defensive lineman off the board in the middle rounds of standard IDP drafts.

Trent Cole | Philadelphia Eagles | 6-foot-3, 270 pounds | 6th year

Fantasy tip: The Cincinnati product has been a staple in the IDP world dating back to 2006. He is coming off a down year, in which he recorded 57 total tackles and 12.5 sacks. Terrible, we know. In the two years prior, he averaged 73.5 total stops and racked up 21.5 sacks. Cole holds up well against the run and makes his way to the quarterback with the best of them. Philly's D line is stout, and Cole benefits from a lot of single blocking. Fantasy owners should view him as a top IDP lineman and target him shortly after the Minnesota Vikings' Jared Allen comes off the board in the middle rounds.

Justin Tuck | New York Giants | 6-foot-5, 274 pounds | 6th year

Fantasy tip: Tuck's down year in 2009 may allow fantasy owners to acquire him on the cheap this draft season. He posted 59 combined tackles but just 6.0 sacks (22.0 total in the previous two years). His tackle numbers remained steady, but the huge sack drop-off could be attributed to injuries across the defensive line and a nagging shoulder ailment that bothered Tuck. Also, defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan's docile scheming contributed to the letdown. New DC Perry Fewell knows aggressive scheming like few others, so Tuck should re-emerge as a fantasy star. He's a bit risky but remains a quality No. 1 fantasy lineman.

Aaron Kampman | Jacksonville Jaguars | 6-foot-4, 260 pounds | 9th year

Fantasy tip: After a year at outside linebacker in the Green Bay Packers' 3-4 system, Kampman (knee) moves back to his natural defensive end position with his new team, the Jaguars. A torn anterior cruciate ligament cut his 2009 season short (nine games), but the veteran end should be ready for Week 1. ACL tears don't affect linemen the way they do, say, running backs. Kampman averaged 71.33 combined tackles and 12.33 sacks per year from 2006 to '08 at defensive end. He's a slightly risky pick; some owners will be scared off by his knee injury. However, if you get him at the right price you could have a steal on your hands.

Terrell Suggs | Baltimore Ravens | 6-foot-3, 260 pounds | 8th year

Fantasy tip: Suggs can play with a hand in the dirt or as a rush linebacker, and some formats allow fantasy owners to play him in either spot. He has more value as a lineman than a 'backer due to his low tackle numbers compared to most other LBs. He's coming off a 13-game season. Healthy, Suggs appears to have increased quickness, is leaner and claims to have a new fire inside. Suggs is a mildly risky No. 1 lineman and is a No. 4 linebacker. He never missed a game until last year and is determined to rebound. It's hard to not like the position he's in, at just 27 years old.

Julius Peppers | Chicago Bears | 6-foot-7, 283 pounds | 9th year

Fantasy tip: Few players are as dominant as Peppers, as long as he is motivated. He signed a monster deal in the offseason, so motivation may be his biggest negative at this point. He has topped 10 sacks in every year but one (2007) since 2003, and Peppers has forced 10 fumbles in the last two years alone. Peppers has missed two games due to injury since his first year in the league (2002), and few blockers have a chance against him in one-on-one situations. He's a strong No. 1 as long as he comes to play each week.

Justin Smith | San Francisco 49ers | 6-foot-4, 285 pounds | 10th year

Fantasy tip: Smith is a load for offensive linemen, and he has been a steady pass rusher his entire career. Posting at least 5.0 sacks in each season but 2007 (2.0), Smith has always been a sure tackler also. Last year's 55 combined tackles accounted for his second lowest total of stops since his rookie season of 2001 (53), but he notched at least 73 in each of the three previous seasons. While he may have slowed down a bit, Smith is a fine midrange No. 1 IDP lineman.

Mario Williams | Houston Texans | 6-foot-6, 285 pounds | 5th year

Fantasy tip: A freak of nature, Williams has size and speed that are extremely tough for one blocker to handle. He's a great pass rusher (35.0 sacks over the last three years) and is a capable tackler, too. Williams is dealing with a mild hip injury but should be fine for Week 1. He hasn't missed a game in four years. He may be a hair overvalued on draft day, but the behemoth is a quality No. 1 defensive lineman for those in IDP formats.

Will Smith | New Orleans Saints | 6-foot-3, 282 pounds | 7th year

Fantasy tip: Following a couple of down years, Smith re-established himself as a premier defensive lineman in IDP circles last year. He set a career high with 13.0 sacks and accounted for 49 total stops. The Ohio State product has missed only two games in his six pro seasons and hasn't finished with fewer than 49 combined tackles in any year since his 2004 rookie campaign. He's a low-end No. 1 due to some inconsistency in his game.

Kyle Vanden Bosch | Detroit Lions | 6-foot-4, 278 pounds | 10th year

Fantasy tip: The 10-year vet has a new home with the Lions, rejoining his former defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, who is now his head coach. Vanden Bosch has always been a strong tackler and, at times, has been a fierce pass rusher (31.0 sacks from 2005 to 2007). While he has lost a step and may not be the sacker he once was, a new home could do him wonders. We expect a renaissance season for Vanden Bosch. You can draft him as a No. 2 or even a No. 3 in some leagues and may get low-end No. 1 production.

Robert Mathis | Indianapolis Colts | 6-foot-2, 245 pounds | 8th year

Fantasy tip: Blessed with amazing speed, the undersized Mathis is better against the run than most give him credit for. Situations may limit him, though, as he has been used more often as a pass rusher than an every-down end in recent years. He has a knack for stripping quarterbacks (10 forced fumbles in the last two years), and he has posted 21.0 sacks in the last two years. Staying healthy, which has been his biggest weakness the past three years, would make Mathis a low-end No. 1 lineman. You assume risk when drafting him, and because of this, fantasy owners may let him slide to low-end No. 2 territory more often than not.

Osi Umenyiora | New York Giants | 6-foot-3, 261 pounds | 8th year

Fantasy tip: Umenyiora has logged 20.0 sacks in the last two years and has also forced nine total fumbles in this time. He is in the prime of his career and is looking to prove his doubters wrong. He'll be more of a situational pass rusher again this year, so his tackle numbers may be inconsistent. The talent is there if regular time is, and Umenyiora has upside that few other defensive linemen can offer in this neighborhood of players. He's a low-end No. 1 or a strong second D lineman.

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About Cory J. Bonini

Cory is KFFL's General Manager. In late 2002, he joined the KFFL staff as a research analyst and has been involved in fantasy sports since 1996. A member of the Fantasy Sports Trade Association, as well as Fantasy Sports Writers Association, Bonini has been featured in print, on radio and on scores of websites. Bonini co-hosted Big Lead Sports on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio from 2011 to 2012.

Bonini was recognized with the 2010 Best Article in Print Award from the FSWA and was a finalist for the same award in 2011. In '11, he finished first overall in the FSWA NFL experts challenge that featured 60 of the industry's best competitors.

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