IDP specialist at Fantasy Football Maniaxs
Stud Defensive Linemen win Championships. Since there are so few reliable DLs, having one or two gives you an edge over your competition. It makes sense to reach a bit in your draft to make sure you get one, and when you do, you hang on to him for dear life.
In a typical IDP league, there are no more than 40 Defensive Linemen on rosters, generally three per team. If possible, acquire at least one player from Tier 1 and use your other spots for another solid veteran and a prospect.
Ideally, get three Tier 1 and 2 guys and forget the prospects.
Even the greatest stud DLs generally take at least a year and half to fully make their presence known on the field. Last year, I gave too much credit for upside, so if anything I'm going to err on the side of being more conservative this year.
Undrafted rookies-to-be are not included in this month's rankings. Ages given as of Sept. 1, 2010.
Note: These rankings are for dynasty leagues.
Tier 1 - Top Studs
1. Jared Allen, 28, Vikings - Allen was the top DL of 2009 by a wide margin. What's even more remarkable is that his 2009 numbers were almost identical to the ones from 2008.
2. Mario Williams, 25, Texans - Williams struggled through nagging injuries all season, resulting in three goose eggs in his box scores in 2009. Yet he still finished just outside the top 10. He occupies this spot not so much because he'll be the No. 2 overall fantasy DL in 2010, but because he is most likely to give you consistent top 10 numbers.
3. Trent Cole, 27, Eagles - Cole has produced at least 43 tackles and eight sacks every year for four years running, and he's just entering his prime years.
4. Terrell Suggs, 27, Ravens - Don't be deterred by Suggs' low sack total of 4.5 in 2009. He should be good for his usual 8-11 sacks for a few more years.
5. Julius Peppers, 31, Panthers - Peppers claims his old issues with his team no longer exist. Considering no one on the Panthers' roster is even remotely close to replacing him, I imagine Carolina will pony up and pay the man again for next year.
Tier 2 - Top Stud Potential
6. Justin Tuck, 27, Giants - I was right last offseason in my skepticism of the Giants' DL, but I didn't think it would be because they would stink it up on the field. With the demotion of Osi Umenyiora, Tuck should be a more reliable option going forward and could easily be back in the top tier before next season.
7. Ray Edwards, 26, Vikings - Edwards broke out over the last half of the season, doubling his previous career high for sacks with nine. Although the Vikings do have looming issues at DT, keeping Edwards paired with Jared Allen will keep him in the top 10 next year.
8. Robert Mathis, 29, Colts - Considering he was hardly used down the stretch, you could say Mathis had a career year by matching his usual season totals in only 11 games. When Mathis and Dwight Freeney are on the field together, Mathis has been the more productive player.
9. Aaron Schobel, 33, Bills - I'm assuming Schobel doesn't retire and has one more double-digit sack season in him.
10. Antwan Odom, 28, Bengals - Odom's ranking is entirely dependent on how he recovers from his torn Achilles' tendon, as well as whether or not you believe he was really having a breakout season when it felled him.
Tier 3 - Reliable DE2s
11. Dwight Freeney, 30, Colts - I've stopped doubting Freeney's ability to produce solid fantasy numbers. He had a dip in production in 2006 and 2007, but with two solid seasons since, that is now considered an aberration.
12. Andre Carter, 31, Redskins - The addition of Albert Haynesworth has made Carter a very reliable option. The development of Brian Orakpo will help even more to extend Carter's productive career.
13. Darnell Dockett, 29, Cardinals - Dockett has about maxed out his upside, but he'll give you a decent fantasy game more often than not, good for over 40 tackles and six to eight sacks a year.
13. Will Smith, 29, Saints - I have to give Smith credit for a great season. But his 13.5 sacks this year are five more than his previous season-high total. I wouldn't expect so many next year.
14. Mathias Kiwanuka, 27, Giants - Again, this Giant gets a bump because I believe Umenyiora's demotion is a long-term decision. The defensive coaching staff is being cleared out, so the new hires will have a lot to say about where Kiwanuka lands in the next rankings.
15. Justin Smith, 30, 49ers - Don't be fooled next offseason when examining Smith's 2009 line. He had 33 solo tackles and just 2.5 sacks before his monster Week 17 game against the Rams.
16. Randy Starks, 26, Dolphins - I doubted Starks, and he made a fool of me. While he does play in a 3-4 defense, I liked his relatively consistent production with a smattering of dominant games this season. He should be able to maintain or exceed his numbers next year.
Tier 4 - Breakout Candidates
17. Trevor Scott, 26, Raiders - The Raiders moved Scott into a DE/OLB hybrid role late in the season, and it worked pretty well. Scott will be a bargain if this behavior continues.
18. Chris Long, 25, Rams - Long is a bit of a victim of high expectations, including my own. However, he did start to turn it up a notch in the last half of 2009 and appears to be on schedule for making his name known in 2010.
19. Derrick Harvey, 23, Jaguars - After everyone had given up hope and started looking away, Harvey had six double-digit fantasy games after his Week Seven bye. I doubt he'll be flying under the radar much longer.
20. William Hayes, 25, Titans - The Titans' DL is a fairly young group, with three players who could all rise up and be serious fantasy players. Hayes still hasn't completely separated himself from the pack but received the playing time in 2009 to indicate he will.
21. Calais Campbell, 24, Cardinals - I remain skeptical of DEs in a 3-4 scheme. Campbell was much better in the first half of the season than the second. He should be able to start overcoming those durability issues in his third season.
22. Cliff Avril, 24, Lions - I rated Avril far too highly last season and paid the price, but I am still keeping the faith that he will grow into an every down player in a rising defense.
23. Lawrence Jackson, 25, Seahawks - Jackson showed a few signs of life at season's end. It's still a bit of a leap of faith to believe he will blossom in his third year.
Tier 5 - If all goes well...
24. Jay Ratliff, 29, Cowboys - Ratliff is the rare fantasy-worthy nose tackle who managed to find his way into the top 30 two years in a row. Now that Wade Phillips has won a playoff game, we can expect Ratliff to stay at this level a while longer.
25. Osi Umenyiora, 28, Giants - It's hard to know what to do with a fellow who was on top of most rankings just a year ago. While I've made my prediction above that he's the permanent third DE, he could be traded, or he could buckle down in the offseason and return to top form. I can't completely count Chief Osi out.
26. Adewale Ogunleye, 33, Bears - I predict the Bears will keep "O-Gun" and that he will hold off Gaines Adams another year.
27. Kyle Vanden Bosch, 31, Titans - Vanden Bosch had a nice stretch between Weeks Eight and 14 this year but otherwise was a disappointment. It's not unreasonable to expect one more decent year from him.
28. Patrick Kerney, 33, Seahawks - Kerney will have the elbow that was bothering him down the stretch cleaned out and be in good shape to start next season.
29. Shaun Ellis, 33, Jets - To me, Ellis is that guy you look for on the waiver wire when you are in a pinch midseason. He's another guy who is good for one more season while you sort through the prospects coming up.
30. Darryl Tapp, 25, Seahawks - We've been predicting great things for Tapp for three years now. I've about run out of patience, but he's young enough that he's still worth another chance.
31. John Abraham, 32, Falcons - Like most of the players in this tier, there's some cause to believe he can have a solid year next time. However, I'm just not feeling it with Abraham.
Tier 6 - A Year Away
32. Kroy Biermann, 24, Falcons - People had to learn how to spell his name after Biermann notched a couple of sacks in Week One against the Dolphins. Since then he has shown some serious talent but hasn't put together a streak of strong outings. He'll madden you with his inconsistency if you start him next year. But he showed me enough this year to make me confident I'll want to have him locked up in time for 2011.
33. Connor Barwin, 23, Texans - Barwin showed a real nasty streak in the few opportunities he received this year.
34. Gaines Adams, 27, Bears - Adams began fantasy life anew when he was traded to Chicago. That team knows something about DE talent, which is why he's still on this list. He just needs some time to unlearn everything they taught him in Tampa Bay.
35. Glenn Dorsey, 25, Chiefs - The talk last offseason was that Dorsey didn't fit in and could get lost in the new system. However he got stronger as the year wore on and is clearly fully comfortable with his role. His upside would put him solidly into Tier 3.
36. Everette Brown, 23, Panthers - The remaining players simply haven't done anything yet to make me write them off.
37. Aaron Maybin, 22, Bills
38. Lawrence Sidbury, 24, Falcons
39. Michael Johnson, 23, Bengals
40. Paul Kruger, 24, Ravens