Over the past few seasons in Green Bay, Dom Capers’ 3-4 defense has done two things. Allowed yardage in chunks (the team ranked a so-so 15th in the NFL in that regard in 2014) and compensated for that with big plays. However, right now the Pack is best known for their stunning defensive collapse in last year’s NFC title game loss to the Seattle Seahawks.
As is sometimes the case with 3-4 teams, there just isn’t much to interest IDP owners on the defensive line in Titletown. The job of the big uglies in Green Bay is to occupy blockers so the linebackers can clean up – not to make plays.
Defensive end Mike Daniels was the top-scoring defensive lineman for the Packers in 2014, ranking 45th. The fourth-year pro is an OK depth option in deeper IDP leagues, but his ceiling is limited. Odds are, you can do better on draft day.
Thanks to a combination of injuries and poor play from the inside linebackers last year, the Packers were left no recourse but to move star pass-rusher Clay Matthews inside at times last year. The result was a career-best 61 tackles, 11 sacks and a top-20 IDP finish. If Matthews continues that hybrid role in 2015 it will be a significant boost to his fantasy value, but at present that’s no sure bet.
What is a sure bet is that it appears third-year pro Sam Barrington, who showed flashes a year ago, will man one of the inside spots. Barrington insisted to Paul Imig of Fox Sports Wisconsin that he’s only getting started. “Of course everybody wants to make the Pro Bowl, everybody wants to be the No. 1 inside linebacker in the league, but I feel I have so much to do as far as improving myself,” he said. “I’m just going to continue getting better every day and reap the benefits of my work.” If Barrington plays three downs this year (a better than 50 percent bet) he could represent an excellent late value pick in IDP drafts this summer.
Whether Matthews plays inside again in 2015 may well hinge on whether rookie fourth-round pick Jake Ryan continues to impress the coaching staff as he did during rookie minicamp. However, shorts and shells and live game action are two very different animals, making this a story to monitor as we move deeper into training camp and the preseason.
Among fantasy defensive backs last year, only Harrison Smith of the Minnesota Vikings racked up more fantasy points in 2014 than strong safety Morgan Burnett, who set a career high with 130 total tackles. It was Burnett’s third top-five fantasy season in four years and the third time over that span he’s hit triple-digits in stops. The 26-year-old is a no-brainer elite DB1 in all formats.
Burnett wasn’t the only Green Bay safety who made IDP owners smile in 2014. Free safety Ha’Sean Clinton-Dix was surprisingly fantasy-relevant as a rookie, posting 92 total tackles and finishing in DB3 territory. The former Alabama standout isn’t a player we’d want to count on as a weekly starter, but Clinton-Dix is worth a late look as depth in the secondary or a matchup waiver play.