I know it's super early for 2010 IDP rankings. However, I always like to start them early and get a foundation built. I will continue to update these rankings throughout the offseason to reflect changes in free agency, defensive schemes, defensive playing time, rookie draft picks, etc.
Well, enough chitchat. Here are the preliminary 2010 IDP defensive lineman rankings.
1. RDE Jared Allen (MIN) - This is an obvious one. Allen was the top fantasy lineman by a substantial margin in 2009. Not only does he get to the quarterback on a consistent basis, he seems to come up with a handful of big plays every year. Allen provides the largest relative fantasy value of any defensive lineman and should therefore be one of the first defensive players selected.
3. RDE Trent Cole (PHI) - Cole has been a model of consistency over the last four seasons. During that span, he has averaged over 10 sacks per season and over 60 total tackles. Defensive linemen are the most inconsistent fantasy producers. With this being said, Cole becomes a valuable commodity in the IDP world.
4. RDE Julius Peppers (CAR) - Peppers answered all doubters this past season by registering 10.5 sacks to follow up his 14.5-sack season of a year ago. This marks the fifth time in eight seasons that Peppers has registered double-digit sacks. He is a free agent heading into the 2010 season and has about a "40 percent chance to stay in Carolina." However, it shouldn't matter much where Peppers ends up. FA
5. RDE Mario Williams (HOU) - Williams had somewhat of an off year in 2009 by compiling only nine sacks. However, over the last three seasons in the league, he has averaged 12 sacks per year. The possible emergence of Connor Barwin at LDE could take some pressure off of Williams and allow him to return to his double-digit sack production of 2007 and 2008.
6. RDE/WLB Terrell Suggs (BALT) - Suggs is one of the safest choices at defensive lineman. He is usually a lock for 65-80 total tackles and eight or more sacks. His 2009 sack numbers (5.5 sacks) seem a bit disappointing. However, keep in mind that Suggs missed three games due to injury, which lowered his overall numbers. A healthy Suggs should be able to produce his typical fantasy numbers in 2010. S, R
8. LDE Robert Mathis (IND) - Mathis' 2009 numbers are bit deceiving. Yes, he did have 9.5 sacks. However, all 9.5 of those sacks were registered during the first 12 games of the season. Mathis only registered one tackle and no sacks during the last five games of the season due to injury issues. If he had played a full injury-free season, he probably would have had 13 to 15 sacks. As long as Dwight Freeney continues to draw the attention of defenses, Mathis will be a top 10 fantasy DL.
9. RDE Andre Carter (WAS) - Carter obviously benefited from the addition of "big daddy" Albert Haynesworth in the middle of Washington's defensive line. Teams focusing a lot of attention on Albert freed up Carter for a career year in which he managed to sack the quarterback 11 times. Carter is getting a little long in the tooth. However, he still has at least one more good year left in him. DSC
10. RDE Aaron Schobel (BUF) - There has been some speculation that Schobel is going to retire in the offseason. Obviously, if he does retire, his value drops to nothing. However, if he chooses to come back to Buffalo for another year, he should be able compile eight to 11 sacks. Schobel has had eight or more sacks in six of his last eight seasons. DSC
11. RDE Dwight Freeney (IND) - In my opinion, Freeney is overrated and always has been. Yes, he has averaged 12 sacks over the last two seasons. However, he just doesn't generate enough tackles to warrant top 10 consideration. If you're in a league that rewards heavily for sacks, Freeney may be of extra value to you. B
12. LDE Ray Edwards (MIN) - Edwards really exploded onto the IDP this season with nine sacks. Obviously, Edwards benefited greatly from having the beast known as Jared Allen drawing double teams on the opposite side of the defensive line. Allen continuing to draw the attention of opposing offenses should free Edwards up to produce similar stats to his 2009 season. He may, however, see a slight decrease in numbers now that opposing offenses know about him. FA, S
13. RDE Darnell Dockett (ARI) - Dockett's numbers have never been overly impressive. However, he did finish as the No. 10 lineman in my scoring system by having both solid tackle (54 total tackles) and sack (7.5 sacks) numbers. Dockett should be able to replicate his 2009 numbers next year.
14. RDE Patrick Kerney (SEA) - Kerney really struggled this season and ended up disappointing many fantasy owners by only coming up with six sacks. In his defense, he was battling an elbow injury for most of the season. During the offseason, Kerney will be having surgery to correct his elbow problems, and consequently he should be able to rebound next year. R
15. LDE Mathias Kiwanuka (NYG) - I really like Kiwanuka heading into the 2010 season. At this point in time, he looks to have a hold on the starting LDE position in New York. "Special K" has shown that he can produce when given the opportunity (eight sacks in 2008 as a full-time starter), and he will surely benefit from playing opposite RDE Justin Tuck. Look for Kiwanuka to be a solid DL2 next season. DSC, S
16. LDE Justin Smith (SF) - Words cannot describe how atrocious Smith was this season. Through 15 games, he only had 2.5 sacks. He finished the year with six sacks because he registered 3.5 sacks against the lowly Rams in the final game of the season. With this being said, Smith still finished as the 12th highest scoring lineman. The fact remains that Smith is one of the better tackling linemen and is therefore a fairly safe pick to be a top 20 defensive lineman.
17. RDE/WLB Trevor Scott (OAK) - The Raiders used Scott in a hybrid DE/OLB role towards the end of the 2009 season, similar to what Baltimore does with Terrell Suggs, and he produced some nice numbers. If the Raiders choose to keep using Scott in this fashion next year, he could be a solid DL2. S
18. RDE Randy Starks (MIA) - Starks came out of the woodwork this season and strung together a solid year of production with 42 solo tackles and seven sacks. Starks surprisingly finished as the ninth-best lineman in my scoring system. However, I'm still a little skeptical about Starks due to the fact that he is a defensive end in a 3-4 system and is therefore more likely to wear down during the course of an entire season.
19. LDE Chris Kelsay (BUF) - Much of Kelsay's production depends on if RDE Schobel retires or not. Kelsay isn't good enough to work through double teams, which is exactly what he will be forced to do if Schobel retires and the Bills don't find an adequate replacement. If Schobel stays, Kelsay should be able to remain a top 20 defensive lineman. DSC
20. RDE Chris Long (STL) - I was high on Long coming into the 2009 season, and he really disappointed. He failed to register a sack until Week Eight; however, he had five sacks the rest of the season. I think Long is going to break out next year and show people why he was the second overall pick back in 2008, especially if the Rams draft DT Ndamukong Suh with the first overall pick in the upcoming draft. S
21. RDE Greg "Stylez" White (TB) - The "(Sack) Artist Formerly Known as Greg" come through with a solid season. All of White's 6.5 sacks came after the Buccaneers traded RDE Gaines Adams in Week Five. With Adams gone, White should be able to further improve upon his 2009 numbers. In addition, the Bucs will probably use their No. 3 overall draft pick on a defensive tackle, which will do nothing but help White's numbers. S
22. LDE Calais Campbell (ARI) - Campbell took advantage of teams focusing on Pro Bowl RDE Darnell Dockett by getting to the quarterback 6.5 times. Campbell is only going into his third season and is a talented player who should only improve with time. I expect similar numbers in 2010.
23. RDE Antwan Odom (CIN) - Odom had eight sacks in his first five games of the season before going down with a season-ending knee injury. I think Odom is going to be severely overvalued heading into the 2010 fantasy draft. The Bengals' defensive line has never been a very fruitful place for fantasy players, and keep in mind that five of Odom's eight sacks came against Aaron Rodgers and his offensive line (at the time approximately named "Baby Swiss"). B, R
24. NT Jay Ratliff (DAL) - Ratliff is one of the few nose tackles in the league who is actually a viable fantasy option. Ratliff has finished in the top 25 for defensive linemen in each of the past two years. With this being said, he has pretty much maxed out his upside. However, he is a pretty safe bet to finish in the top 30 for defensive linemen.
25. NT Kelly Gregg (BALT) - Kelly Gregg, similar to Ratliff, is one of the few interior linemen that are worthy of a fantasy roster spot. Gregg is a tackling machine and can provide consistency to fantasy owners, which is something hard to find with defensive linemen. Gregg is almost always good for 65-80 total tackles.
26. LDE Alex Brown (CHI) - Brown manages to fly under the radar every year, but you will be hard pressed to find a more consistent defensive lineman. Brown has never had more than seven sacks in a season, but he usually always finishes in the five-to-seven-sack range with decent tackle numbers. These numbers may not seem very impressive, but in my scoring system, Brown scored the 21st most points for a defensive lineman.
27. RDE Cliff Avril (DET) - Avril was one of my top sleepers heading into the 2009 season, and man, did he make me look like a jackass. However, I'm still a believer in Avril, and his value will definitely increase if the Lions take DT Suh or Gerald McCoy in the upcoming NFL draft. This is definitely one of those high risk/reward picks. S
28. RDE Derrick Harvey (JAX) - Owners have been waiting for Harvey to break out since he was drafted with the eighth overall pick in the 2008 NFL draft. This has failed to happen yet, but Harvey did play well down the stretch last season, and if he can manage to put things together, he could be a top 15 lineman in the future. If you're feeling risky, this may be a good pick for you. S
29. LDE John Abraham (ATL) - This year was, perhaps, the worst season of Abraham's career. Abraham is getting older and is starting to be relegated to passing situations only. Many owners think Abraham is done, and consequently his perceived value will be greatly diminished heading into 2010. However, many forget that it was only one year ago when Abraham had 16.5 sacks. I think Abraham may be worth a late-round flier.
30. RDE Shaun Ellis (NYJ) - Ellis had a nice year and seemed to thrive under new, defensive-minded head coach Rex Ryan. I'm always a little bit skeptical of 3-4 DEs such as Ellis. However, Ellis has proven throughout his career that he is a top 30 defensive lineman.