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IDP Positional Rankings for 2021 (Pre-Training Camp)

NFL Free Agency and the Draft are both done, and teams are finishing up OTAs now. That means we are entering the dull part of summer where there’s not much going on in the world of football, which gives all of us a lot of dead air we need to fill with arguments and conjecture.

Given the absence of events coming up in the NFL this month, we felt it was a good time to unleash some IDP Positional Rankings goodness on the lot of you. Hopefully, these ranks will provide you with insight, intelligence, or simply something to read while you’re on the toilet at work.

So without further ado, here are our Pre-Training Camp IDP Positional Rankings. Feel free to read them at your leisure, but please… if you’re printing these rankings off, try not to use them as toilet paper when you’re done. Printer paper doesn’t flush nearly as well as you might think.

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Pre-Camp Top-30 Fantasy Defensive Linemen for 2021

Rank Player Team
1 T.J. Watt Steelers
2 Myles Garrett Browns
3 Chase Young WFT
4 Joey Bosa Chargers
5 Nick Bosa 49ers
6 Danielle Hunter Vikings
7 Brian Burns Panthers
8 Aaron Donald Rams
9 Za’Darius Smith Packers
10 Khalil Mack Bears
11 Jason Pierre-Paul Buccaneers
12 Haason Reddick Panthers
13 Shaquil Barrett Buccaneers
14 Deforest Buckner Colts
15 Montez Sweat WFT
16 Jeffery Simmons Titans
17 Bradley Chubb Broncos
18 Quinnen Williams Jets
19 Harold Landry III Titans
20 Carl Lawson Jets
21 Yannick Ngakoue Raiders
22 Josh Allen Jaguars
23 Kyle Van Noy Patriots
24 Cameron Jordan Saints
25 Brandon Graham Eagles
26 Stephon Tuitt Steelers
27 Chandler Jones Cardinals
28 J.J. Watt Cardinals
29 Leonard Williams Giants
30 Chris Jones Chiefs


Projecting Stardom: Chase Young, Washington Football Team

Chase Young averaged a pressure once every 10.4 pass-rush snaps last year. While that average falls short of the rate most elite pass-rushers pressure the passer (Myles Garrett averages one per 9.01 snaps & Haason Reddick one every 7.8), Young accomplished this during a rookie year marred by COVID and injuries.

The Ohio State product's pressure rate should markedly improve as a sophomore. This year he will have a full offseason. Plus, the addition of two-plus pass defenders in Jamin Davis and William Jackson III should give all Washington pass rushers more time to get after opposing quarterbacks. Couple those benefits with a clean bill of health and Young’s massive potential, and you have the recipe for a top-five fantasy defensive lineman.


Underrated Unit: Carolina Panthers Pass Rushers

As we already addressed in our Post-Free Agency IDP Stock Report earlier this offseason, Haason Reddick is a fascinating fantasy asset. While many assume that his elite sack production from last year was a flash in the pan, he has actually been a consistently good pass rusher for his entire pro career.  Reddick only saw his sack totals blow up last year because his pressure-to-sack conversion rate regressed to the mean and because Arizona blitzed him far more often. There was less luck involved in Reddick’s breakout last year than many think, even if his sack totals are bound to decline some.

In addition to Reddick, the Panthers have second promising pass-rusher in Brian Burns. We touted Burns' fantasy value last year and he delivered a DL2 caliber season, but there’s still more juice to squeeze from that fruit.

Burns and Reddick should both benefit from Carolina’s addition of rookie cornerback Jaycee Horn, who is a very aggressive man-cover corner. While Horn will definitely draw flags as a rookie, and he may not have much fantasy value himself, his aggressive style of play should stifle opposing receivers and buy Carolina pass-rushers time to get after the quarterback.


Pre-Camp Top-30 Fantasy Linebackers for 2021

Rank Player Team
1 Darius Leonard Colts
2 Devin White Buccaneers
3 Roquan Smith Bears
4 Blake Martinez Giants
5 Bobby Wagner Seahawks
6 Zach Cunningham Texans
7 Fred Warner 49ers
8 Lavonte David Buccaneers
9 Foyesade Oluokun Falcons
10 Joe Schobert Jaguars
11 T.J. Watt Steelers
12 Jaylon Smith Cowboys
13 Jayon Brown Titans
14 Demario Davis Saints
15 Eric Kendricks Vikings
16 Patrick Queen Ravens
17 Jamin Davis WFT
18 Micah Parsons Cowboys
19 Zaven Collins Cardinals
20 Deion Jones Falcons
21 Tremaine Edmunds Bills
22 Myles Jack Jaguars
23 Devin Bush Jr. Steelers
24 Isaiah Simmons Cardinals
25 Alex Singleton Eagles
26 C.J. Mosley Jets
27 Shaq Thompson Panthers
28 Kenneth Murray Jr. Chargers
29 Micah Kiser Rams
30 Jordyn Brooks Seahawks


Most Confusing Unit of 2021: Dallas Cowboys Linebackers

The Dallas Cowboys have five good linebackers on their team, but they’ll only field two or three of them at a time. That means someone is going to be sitting a lot of the 2021 season on the bench. Expect rookie Jabril Cox and converted safety Keanu Neal to ride the pine when Dallas is in their base 4-3 scheme, while Leighton Vander Esch shouldn’t see the field on any obvious passing downs.

Of additional concern to fantasy managers should be the fantasy compatibility of Dallas’ two full-time starting linebackers, Micah Parsons and Jaylon Smith. Most true LB1 options in fantasy football are the only alphas on their team, which allows them to suck up fantasy stats like a Hoover. Parsons and Smith are both alphas, however.

When there are two leaders in the linebacker room, it usually means you’ll see the stats split between them. That split could lead to some fantasy inconsistency with Parsons and Smith, which is why they both fall outside of our top-10 rankings. Parsons is an elite dynasty option, but he and Smith are LB2s in redraft.


Don’t Underrate This Rookie LB Class

This 2021 rookie linebacker class could prove to be one of the better groups to hit fantasy in a long while. Micah Parsons is too talented not to list as a top-20 option despite the crowded spot he landed in, while Jamin Davis, Zaven Collins, and Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah are all talented prospects in their own right. There are at least five fantasy-relevant rookies in this class, with the potential for more.

Of particular interest in this group is Jamin Davis, who is competing for the starting MIKE position on Washington’s defense. Jon Bostic made himself fantasy relevant last year by manning the middle of that gifted defense, and Davis is far more talented than Bostic ever was. If the rookie can win that starting position in camp, he immediately becomes fantasy-relevant. Don't be surprised if Davis leads all rookies in tackles and curries favor for the Defensive Rookie of the Year award.


Pre-Camp Top-30 Fantasy Defensive Backs for 2021

Rank Player Team
1 Jamal Adams Seahawks
2 Budda Baker Cardinals
3 Derwin James Chargers
4 Jordan Poyer Bills
5 Jeremy Chinn Panthers
6 Jessie Bates III Bengals
7 Antoine Winfield Jr. Buccaneers
8 Jabrill Peppers Giants
9 Landon Collins WFT
10 John Johnson III Browns
11 Kamren Curl WFT
12 Justin Simmons Broncos
13 Vonn Bell Bengals
14 Khari Willis Colts
15 Harrison Smith Vikings
16 Marlon Humphrey Ravens
17 Daniel Sorensen Chiefs
18 Trevon Moehrig Raiders
19 Darnell Savage Jr. Packers
20 Carlton Davis Buccaneers
21 Kevin Byard Titans
22 Marcus Maye Jets
23 Rayshawn Jenkins Jaguars
24 Chuck Clark Ravens
25 Richie Grant Falcons
26 Donovan Wilson Cowboys
27 Eric Rowe Dolphins
28 Anthony Harris Eagles
29 Johnathan Abram Raiders
30 Justin Reid Texans


Curbing Cravings for Curl

While we have raved and boasted about the IDP potential on Washington’s defense throughout this article, there is one particularly concerning problem associated with this unit right now. Namely, we might be watching Ron Rivera and company tank the fantasy value of Kamren Curl.

As a rookie, Curl shocked the IDP world when he stepped in for an injured Landon Collins and thrived despite his seventh-round pedigree. The Arkansas product proved to be nearly as good in run support as Collins while showing better instincts, more speed, and looser hips in coverage. Based on the film from last year, Curl looked to be the better and cheaper option for Washington at strong safety, so there was little reason to doubt the rumors that Collins would be moving to linebacker in 2021… until the veteran gave us reason to doubt them.

When meeting with reporters this past week, Collins unequivocally denied that he was moving to linebacker. He clearly stated that he is a safety, not a linebacker. That denial took on even greater weight when reporters later spotted Curl taking snaps at nickel corner during OTAs, an obvious admission that the former Razorback was looking for a new position.

Ron Rivera's choice to experiment with Curl at corner tells you the team wants him on the field, but it also tells you they don't want him in Collins' place. Pay close attention to what Curl does in camp and pre-season games. If he wins the free safety spot, both he and Collins will maintain fantasy value. If the sophomore moves to corner, his fantasy value will tank.


Derwin James… Still?!

Look, I get why you may think our ranking of Derwin James may be generous. It’s completely logical and valid to place James behind healthier and more consistent performers like Jeremy Chinn, Jordan Poyer, and Jessie Bates III. If you have any of those players ranked over James, it's probably the safe move, and I won't argue against it.

With all of that said, there is no more physically gifted safety in the NFL than James when he’s healthy. If you watch his film from Florida State and during his rookie year with the Chargers, he simply jumps off the screen. A healthy James has the speed to close in and pick off passes, he has the size to collect tackles in run support, and he has the burst to collect sacks off the edge. He’s the complete package in terms of NFL talent and fantasy upside.

The only thing holding James back is his health, and that’s a big problem. He’s logged only five games in the past two seasons, and his health was a question in college as well. Anyone who doesn’t want to invest in a guy with that kind of track record cannot be blamed. There’s a definite risk here… but given where he’s being selected, there’s also massive upside. James is worth his current ADP, and he has top-overall DB upside if he remains healthy all year.

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Check out all of RotoBaller's fantasy football rankings. Staff rankings are updated regularly for all positions and include standard formats, PPR scoring, tiered rankings and dynasty leagues.


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It’s flag-planting season! Just like last year, I’m coming at you with my essential fantasy football players to draft in 2022. Last season was definitely a mixed bag with standouts like Ja’Marr Chase and the Rams passing attack, but also hot takes on Calvin Ridley and Lamar Jackson. Whoops. This season, I’m hoping to be... Read More