The Detroit Lions were a playoff team in 2014 thanks in no small part to a defense that ranked second in the NFL. However, the departure of some key pieces, chief among them defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, raise real questions about whether the team can repeat that feat in 2015.
With Suh gone, it will fall to third-year pro Ezekiel Ansah to power the Detroit pass rush this season. Ansah didn’t mince words about what he hopes to accomplish in 2015 while speaking with Kyle Meinke of MLive.com.
“I don’t put numbers on what I’m trying to accomplish, but I’m just trying to be the greatest,” Ansah said. Greatest at my position and what I do. The former BYU star has posted mid-level IDP DL2 numbers in each of his first two seasons, but there’s enough upside present with the youngster for Ansah to merit a look as a low-end DL1 this season.
After watching both Suh and Nick Fairley walk in free agency, the Lions were aggressive in filling the big hole in the middle of their line, trading for Pro Bowl defensive tackle Haloti Ngata. Ngata may not be the force he once was with the Baltimore Ravens, but the veteran is worth a look as a low-end starter in IDP leagues that require the position.
For most of DeAndre Levy’s first four seasons in Detroit, he was at best an OK IDP option. Then he came from nowhere to intercept six passes in 2013, finishing the year as an IDP LB1 in 12-team leagues.
Well, last season the 28-year old laid to rest any idea that his 2013 breakout was a fluke. Levy logged 151 total tackles, including an eye-popping 117 solo stops. It may not be realistic to expect those sorts of solo numbers on a regular basis, but at this point there’s no denying that he’s an elite IDP option at his position.
The 2014 season did not go as well for middle linebacker Stephen Tulloch, one of two defensive dimwits in the NFL who tore his ACL celebrating a sack. That moment for the ages aside, indications are that Tulloch will be a full-go for Week 1, and given his every-down role and relatively modest asking price in early IDP drafts the 10-year veteran might actually be a value pick in 2015 as a LB3 with LB2 upside.
After spending most of his career as a special teams maven and backup, James Ihedigbo parlayed a career year with the Ravens in 2013 into a nice free agent deal in Detroit. For the first three games of the 2014 season, that meant exactly spit, as an injured Ihedigbo sat and watched his new team play.
Once he hit the field in Week 4, however, it was another story altogether. From then until the end of the 2014 campaign, no defensive back posted more fantasy points than Ihedigbo, and the 31-year-old late bloomer enters 2015 as a viable IDP DB1.