Let’s see, how shall I put this? The Atlanta Falcons defense kind of, um, sucked in 2014. The Falcons ranked dead last in the NFL and total defense, and 27th in scoring defense. In fact, those defensive deficiencies were a big reason why Mike Smith is out as head coach, replaced by former Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn. Quinn brings with him a 4-3, “Under” front, which in turns means big IDP changes.
The Falcons also tied for the second-fewest sacks in the NFL with 22, but the team swung and missed on landing any of the big free-agent pass-rushers. The team was, however, able to add fifth-year pro Adrian Clayborn, who assistant head coach Raheem Morris thinks could be in for a big year, according to ESPN’s Vaughn McClure.
“Personally, that was my No. 1 guy,” Morris said. “When we drafted him in Tampa, that was one of the major things I loved about him: tough, competitive. He brings the nasty demeanor and the attitude, the go-get-it-type guy you want. He fits [Dan Quinn’s] type of attitude. He fits Bryan Cox’s attitude.’’
Clayborn to this point in his career has alternated healthy odd-numbered seasons and wasted injury-marred even ones. It’s an odd-numbered year, but we still wouldn’t draft Clayborn as more than an upside DL3.
Other than Clayborn, there isn’t much to see here. Sure, rookie “Leo” pass-rusher Vic Beasley or tackle Ra’Shede Hageman might emerge as viable IDP options this year given their talent and athleticism. But neither youngster is more than a speculative add late in redraft IDP formats.
As D. Orlando Ledbetter of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports, Quinn said that linebacker Paul Worrilow has excelled in his transition to middle linebacker. “Paul Worrilow at inside linebacker is having a terrific offseason,” Quinn said. “I challenged the guys to have the best offseason that they’ve ever had. He is literally having that. I’d be hard-pressed to find a guy who’s going for it harder than Paul.”
Make no mistake, Worrilow is not an elite talent. However, he is a player in an ideal IDP situation – on a bad defense surrounded by uninspiring competition for tackles. And that’s enough to lock the 26-year-old into LB1 territory in 12-team IDP leagues.
The Falcons also brought in veteran free agent Justin Durant, who had 49 tackles in six games for the Dallas Cowboys. The 29-year-old has managed a degree of IDP relevance in the past, and Durant could have that again if he can stay healthy and secure a three-down role. Neither of those “ifs” are small, however, so for now at least Durant is little more than a late-draft dart throw.
Many IDP owners are falling into a trap with the Falcons’ safeties in 2015, chasing Kemal Ishmael’s 97 tackles and top-12 IDP finish in fantasy scoring a year ago. The problem is that with William Moore back at strong safety (per Quinn), there’s no guarantee that Ishmael is even going to start at free safety. If you want to take a late stab at one of the two – Moore’s the guy.
Similarly, some IDP owners in CB-required IDP leagues may find themselves considering young up-and-coming cornerback Desmond Trufant. However, the 24-year old finished 21st at the position a year ago – if anything, he may be a little too good from an NFL perspective to be effective from a fantasy one.