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IDP Rookies to Watch in 2021 (Defensive Line)

We've already looked at the top rookie linebackers and defensive backs to watch in 2021. Now, we'll finish up on the front lines where the big boys fight in the trenches to find the top tackles and edge rushers. In this space, I'll highlight some rookie IDP (individual defensive player) targets for fantasy football IDP leagues.

Yes, we have a bit of a sleeper in Round 1 which is rare. Also, there are plenty of options that could make an impact in year one.

Payton Turner (DL, NO)

Few expected the New Orleans Saints to be at the 28th position in the draft. The joke is New Orleans probably did not either. However, they went for a position of need and drafted Payton Turner anyway. There were risks but with so much potential, it was a why not type of pick.

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This is a unit on the mend as Marcus Davenport has not panned out at all and Trey Henderson went to the Bengals via free agency. Add in the fact that Cameron Jordan is entering the twilight of his NFL career, and Jordan has quite the chance to prove himself in 2021. The Houston defensive end graded out well and could easily be a starter within a season or two. In New Orleans, that may just translate into starting this season at some point.

Turner racked up five sacks and 10.5 tackles for loss in just five games this season. Blame COVID for the lower amount of games to project and base things. His growth was noticeable enough. The idea is he is a defensive lineman just being overlooked everywhere. Maybe it is the fact that he is in New Orleans. Whatever the case may be, there is too much talent here. Payton Turner might just step right in.


Carlos Basham (DE/EDGE, BUF)

After the Buffalo Bills snagged Gregory Rousseau, the Bills unexpectedly doubled down and drafted Carlos "Boogie" Basham late in the second round with the 61st pick. Most will be surprised by the Wake Forest standout. Few expected him to be drafted that early coming into 2020 and then his projection fell in line at the right time.


Many should look at Basham like a fantasy sleeper or flier in the truest sense. His ability to stop the run is paramount to his initial success or any success. There is the possibility that at some point, Basham gets moved into the interior so he can play more downs. That would impact his production some but he could still sneak in some extra sacks as he develops a repertoire of techniques. Needless to say, Basham can be a quick learner.

Considering his ability to hit hard when it comes to running backs and quarterbacks, monitoring Basham and his training camp in Buffalo could be a wise idea. He will definitely be one to watch and while he may not generate the headlines a Rousseau will, Basham quietly could elevate his IDP game if not in 2021, then 2022 at the very least. Finally, see what happens to Buffalo's incumbents during training camp.

Jay Tuffle (DT, JAC)

With a fourth-round pick, the Jacksonville Jaguars selected Jay Tuffle from USC. Tuffle's biggest asset was considered to be his strength. The 305-pound defensive tackle has the potential to become a pretty good starter in the NFL and at the least be worth a flier even this year in some late IDP drafts.

Like several other players who fell to the fourth round, Tuffle could have been drafted higher if he did not opt-out of the 2020 season due to COVID. Coming off a sophomore season where he collected 4.5 sacks, Tuffle trained quite well with his year off and is already making an impression with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Despite a big frame, Tuffle showed his superior strength with nice agility few expect. This won't always work in the NFL but his willingness to learn and adapt will be something to note.

The Jaguars' depth chart favors Tuffle at the moment. Keep him on your radar in leagues where sacks and tackles are rewarded more heavily. Again, Jay Tuffle will be a player. The key will be how long one can wait in drafting him. He could be available post IDP draft even.

Jordan Smith (DE, JAC)

We've highlighted several projects in the past but Jordan Smith is truly a project of projects. This is a player more to watch and monitor than any of our other picks. The Jacksonville Jaguars clearly saw something as they moved up, and quickly, to draft Smith with the 121st pick in the fourth round.

This is going to be interesting as some believe Smith could be a long-term starter in the NFL if Jacksonville is patient with him. The EDGE rusher is one of the best we have seen this year. He is from UAB and at first, it was difficult to find good tape on the defensive end but naturally social media was on the case.

That reach intrigued a great many people including the Jacksonville Jaguars scouting staff. We get it. Believe me, we do. Now, it becomes a question of how Jordan Smith begins to put it all together. The idea is he could see some situation reps as an edge rusher this season. Watch how he does as he could be more of a factor in some IDP drafts as soon as 2022.

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