As we sift through the full 2020 NFL Draft, questions abound on rookie roles and fits, but also as to how the Draft impacts the veteran IDPs. We’ll address the newly-drafted IDPs in our IDP Rookie Market Report, but below is a look at some of the veteran risers and fallers after the Draft.
Players whom we’re feeling more optimistic about based on the selections and trades coming out of the 2020 Draft.
Kawann Short (Car) — With all the defensive firepower the Panthers added (every pick in their draft was a defensive player), Short’s spot on the D-line should not only be safe, but it should also receive plenty of help. By taking stud DT Derrick Brown 7th overall, they’ve given Short some much-needed help next to him. Adding EDGE Yetur Gross-Matos in the 2nd round will add another weapon that O-lines will have to account for. That means more one-on-one matchups for Short. After some big sack seasons just a few years ago, Short’s injuries have mounted and sacks have plummeted recently. Extra rest and plenty of help should turn the tide for the 31-year-old veteran.
Sam Hubbard (Cin) — It might be difficult to view anything as an “upgrade” for one the most productive DLs last season, but with some talented DLs in this draft, Cincy chose to pass on those and focus on the other two levels of defense. This should leave Hubbard in the recently-familiar position of benefitting from playing next to All-Pros Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap without looking over his shoulder.
Tyrone Crawford (Dal) — Crawford has played both inside out in Big D. While the Cowboys let veteran EDGE Robert Quinn walk via free agency, they gave Crawford a vote of confidence by not drafting an EDGE to challenge for Crawford’s spot. He’s been a versatile and important piece of this unstable (if not troubled) D-line. Now might be his year to shine.
J.J. Watt (Hou) — After battling yet another season of injuries and losing fellow pass-rusher Jadeveon Clowney, Watt was looking like a man on an island. But adding big man DT Ross Blacklock on the interior in the 2nd round and EDGE Jonathan Greenard in the 3rd round will give Watt some much-need reinforcements. If he can stay healthy, Watt might see fewer triple-teams. Because you have to triple-team Watt to contain him.
Davon Godchaux (Mia) — Facing an offseason full of incoming EDGE rushers, Godchaux was staring at the business end of being subbed out on passing downs. But with the addition of Alabama’s DT Raekwon Davis, Godchaux should receive some help against the run. Davis is weak as a pass-rusher though, so it should be Davis who exits in most subpackages, leaving Godchaux to retain a substantial snap count.
Sheldon Rankins (NO) — After a dominant 2018 (40 tackles, 8 sacks), Rankins had a disappointing 2019 season. The Saints defense as a whole played well, though. The concern for Rankins heading into the Draft was the plethora of top-end talent on the defensive interior. But New Orleans elected not to add any, and instead just added LB Zack Baun to the defensive roster. Rankins should be in line to rebound from a forgotten 2019, and try to recapture that 2018 magic.
Robert Quinn (Chi) — Coming off a bounce-back season with the Cowboys, Quinn inked a multi-year deal with the Bears. With the number of EDGE players in the draft, it was notable that Chicago only drafted Trevis Gipson in the 5th round, who needs some development. This should allow Quinn to fully operate as the pass rusher opposite Khalil Mack. It’s all systems go for the soon-to-be 30-year-old Quinn.
Kemoko Turay (Ind) — Turay started 2019 hot. But a bad ankle injury sent him to Injured Reserve and his season lasted just four games. The question was whether he showed enough to earn a prominent role in 2020. The Colts seemed to answer that question by avoiding the EDGE position with all four of their defensive picks. Turay should get ample opportunity to make his third year count.
Ifeadi Odenigbo (Min) — One of the bigger winners of the Draft was Odenigbo. Odenigbo excelled last season as a part-time player on a talented defense. With the departure of Everson Griffen, the Vikings could have used an early pick on one of the elite EDGEs. Instead, they didn’t draft a single DL. Barring a return of Griffen (and maybe not even then), Odenigbo is primed for that third-year leap we often see in DLs.
Foyesade Oluokun (Atl) — One of the more underrated players heading into the 2020 season is the new WILL in Atlanta. Oluokun balled out in limited usage last season. It allowed the Falcons to let De’Vondre Campbell walk. It’s also noteworthy that his snaps increased as the defense experienced a positive mid-season turnaround.
Another vote of confidence arrived this weekend when no ILB was taken on the first two days. Atlanta did pick up ILB Mykal Walker in the 4th, but he’s likely to start his career as a special teamer.
Sione Takitaki (Cle) — Takitaki got a chance to show his wares toward the end of last season, and earned solidly above-average grades, per PFF. While there is a chance FA B.J. Goodson might beat out Takitaki in camp, we think Takitaki has the edge. What helps is that Cleveland didn’t draft a true 3-down LB. They did nab Jacob Phillips, but he’s likely a special teams contributor for now.
Myles Jack (Jax) — Jack struggled mightily as the play-caller in Jacksonville. Gone was the care-free hard-hitting player who was one correct call away from leading his Jags to the Super Bowl a few years ago. The Jags signed MLB Joe Schobert to take over those responsibilities from Jack, and the team recently said they are switching to a 3-4 defense. Add to that the Jaguars took seven defenders in the Draft, and only one was an LB - a 4th-rounder in Shaquille Quarterman. Jacksonville seems intent on re-igniting Jack’s potential again.
Micah Kiser (LAR) — Kiser became the de facto replacement for Cory Littleton, despite missing all of 2019 and barely playing in 2018. He survived free agency and just woke up Sunday morning to the news that the Rams only drafted one LB, and that was in the last round for a special teamer. It would still be surprising if the Rams put the defense in Kiser’s hands with such little experience, but as of now, that’s where we are.
Dre Greenlaw (SF) — When the 49ers put the league on notice that they were willing to part with Kwon Alexander, it was partly due to Greenlaw’s emergence. The next clue that DC Robert Saleh liked what he saw in Greenlaw last season was emerging from the 2020 Draft with no LBs. It looks like the WILL spot is Greenlaw’s to lose.
Chuck Clark (Bal) — While the Ravens did take Geno Stone in the 7th round, Stone projects as a deep safety and slot guy at best. With so many box safeties in the draft (and a few elite LB/S options as well), Baltimore bypassed those options. Instead, they went with an ILB who shouldn’t interfere with Clark’s playing time in Patrick Queen. As currently constructed, Queen, Clark, and FS Earl Thomas should all be productive.
Lonnie Johnson (Hou) — After being benched in what was a dismal start to his rookie campaign, Johnson ended up playing more later in the season. Unfortunately, that didn’t go so well. Do you remember that amazing comeback in the playoffs when the Texans stormed out to a 21-0 lead, then the Chiefs ended up putting up a 50-burger on their way to a victory? Well, Mr. Johnson took a beating in that game. Johnson gave up a 100% completion rate (that’s not optimal), with 2 TDs on his watch. Granted, there were lots of TDs that night, but we assumed Johnson’s job would be addressed in the Draft. Somehow it wasn’t (I’ll skip the low-hanging fruit that are BOB jokes), and it appears Johnson may keep his starting job for 2020. Consider this tenuous at best, but if Johnson does start, he should be targeted early and often.
Charvarius Ward (KC) — One area the Super Bowl champs might have chosen to upgrade this draft was the cornerback position. Ward was solid, but with a group of elite corners in the first few rounds of the draft, it was an area they could have addressed. Instead, they went RB and LB (two great picks for them), and Ward’s starting job was spared. Ward posted 74 tackles and 2 INTs last season as a full-time starter last season.
Eric Rowe (Mia) — Rowe operated as quite the Swiss Army Knife for Brian Flores last season. Essentially, he played the role originally intended for Minkah Fitzpatrick: box defender with slot responsibilities. Rowe played 446 snaps in the box, and 226 snaps in the slot, with just 86 snaps at deep safety (per PFF). That means he was near the action mostly. The Draft brought the Dolphins a slot corner and a slot safety, which moves Rowe into a full-time role of playing close to the line of scrimmage. And that usually translates to more fantasy production.
Players whom we’re feeling less optimistic about based on the selections and trades coming out of the 2020 Draft.
Sheldon Richardson (Cle) — Richardson had somewhat of a bounceback year, with 62 tackles (though just 3 sacks) with Cleveland. His tackle and sack production had fallen off over the previous two seasons with the Jets and Seahawks, but 3rd-round Jordan Elliott is likely to chip away at Richardson’s snaps. While Richardson is just 30, he’s starting to slow down a bit, and while taking some snaps off can certainly help DLs, it will be harder to sustain those solid tackle numbers with reduced playing time. The bright side might be that his big-play totals rebound a bit, but those 5-8 sack seasons are likely not coming back.
Taven Bryan (Jax) — Bryan was drafted a few years ago to fortify what was once an intimidating D-line. But with so many veterans, there wasn’t much room for Bryan to crack the starting lineup. This offseason, vets Marcell Dareus and Calais Campbell departed, leaving the door open for Bryan to move into a full-time role. The limited snaps Bryan had received were disappointing so far, but two major factors put a huge damper on Bryan’s opportunities. For one, HC Doug Marrone announced that the team was shifting to a 3-4 base defense. That leaves less room to get snaps with the necessary rushers needed. But even more damaging is the drafting of DT Davon Hamilton in the 3rd round. Hamilton has the makings of a 3-down interior defender, so Bryan will have to step up his game to earn significant snaps.
Henry Anderson (NYJ) — Anderson has had an inconsistent career to this point. He had some monster games in Indy but never put together a full season of usable production, then posted 7 sacks in his first season in New York, but followed that with a 25-tackle, 1-sack 2019 campaign.
Enter 3rd round pick DE Jabari Zuniga. Zuniga plays up and down the line and can play the run and rush the passer. With Quinnen Williams and Steve McLendon locked into their roles, that leaves Anderson’s role as the 5-tech up in the air. Zuniga is likely to challenge and eventually supplant Anderson, and sooner rather than later.
Ryan Kerrigan (Was) — Kerrigan has been a vital piece of the Washington pass rush for several years. But they started piling up DLs in recent drafts, and then they chose the top player in the Draft - EDGE Chase Young - with the 2nd overall pick. Kerrigan is turning 32 and carries an $11 million cap hit. Those numbers usually don’t fare well once rosters start trimming down. At the least, Kerrigan will be splitting time with Young. You don’t use the 2nd overall pick on a generational talent to park him on your bench.
Da’Shawn Hand (Det) — The Lions had a struggling defense last season, and Hand was one of the weak links on this D-line. The Lions promptly signed three DLs, including EDGE Julian Okwara and DT John Pesini, and both excel as pass rushers. Whatever door was opened for Hand with the departure of Damon Harrison promptly slammed shut by Day Three of the Draft.
Brennan Scarlett (Hou) — When Jadeveon Clowney was shipped to Seattle, Scarlett filled in admirably. However, he faded during the final month of the season, as he was exposed in a full-time role. The addition of Jonathan Greenard in the 3rd round likely moves Scarlett back into a part-time role, where he seems to perform best. Scarlett’s best season on the field was 2018 as a part-time player - when he recorded 18 tackles and 0 sacks. (Cue sad trumpet…whomp whomp whomp indeed).
L.J. Collier (Sea) — With the mass exodus of the D-line in Seattle, Collier’s chances opened up to replace Jadeveon Clowney. The rookie struggled in that role, but it was assumed that the 2018 first-rounder would get a chance to develop in his second season. But the ‘Hawks drafted Darrell Taylor, a 5-tech pass rusher, thus creating a competition between Taylor and Collier. Collier should see snaps, but if he loses passing-down snaps to the rookie, you can kiss his fantasy value goodbye.
De’Vondre Campbell (Ari) — Campbell had a breakout season last year with Atlanta, and parlayed that into a contract with the Cardinals. While Campbell should play plenty in Arizona, using the 8th overall pick on arguably the LB of the future (Isaiah Simmons) doesn’t bode well for someone’s playing time. And one of those players who will have to scooch over and make room will be Campbell. Simmons is likely going to play snaps as a DB and as an LB, so Campbell’s value isn’t going to bottom out. But it will be tough to approach last season’s numbers of 129 tackles and 2 INTs.
Chris Board (Bal) — Board emerged from free agency as the starting ILB in Baltimore. With so little experience (two seasons and no games started), it was hard to imagine Board being their Week One starter in 2020. Now there’s nothing left to the imagination, as Baltimore used their 1st round pick (28th overall) on stud ILB Patrick Queen. Queen should immediately be considered the front runner for every-down duties in the middle of this aggressive defense. Board’s once-sneaky fantasy value just flamed out.
Germaine Pratt (Cin) — Cincinnati desperately needed a revamp on defense. Gone were last year’s starting LBs Nick Vigil, Preston Brown, and Malik Jefferson. Pratt was then handed the keys to the defense. But the situation got murky again, as ILB Logan Wilson was selected in the 3rd round. Wilson might only be a two-down option, but that’s plenty to put Pratt’s fantasy value on notice. Wilson still has to earn it, but buyer beware in your dynasty drafts when it comes to Pratt.
Anthony Hitchens (KC) — Hitchens began 2019 on a tear, but slowly and steadily cooled off. Hitchens was particularly a liability in the postseason. Now, the Chiefs won the Super Bowl, but it was doubtful the Chiefs could count on another season of comeback after comeback like they did last postseason.
After swiping the perfect Andy Reid RB in Clyde Edwards-Helaire in the 1st round, they promptly followed that up with LB Willie Gay, Jr. who has the tools to be a 3-down LB for the Champs. Expect Hitchens to be in a battle for his starting job, and he’s already in 2nd place.
Nick Vigil (Cin) — When the Chargers picked up Vigil via free agency, it was in the hopes that he would be able to turn around what has been a rocky start to his career. And while there’s still time for that, things got a lot harder when they picked stud LB Kenneth Murray 23rd overall. Murray is a great fit for the WILL in Gus Bradley’s defense. Think Telvin Smith. That’s what Murray is capable of in this scheme. And sadly for Vigil, that was the role he was ticketed for.
Kiko Alonso (NO) — Alonso has had his struggles in recent years. He’s been on the business end of some bad but hilarious highlight reels yet managed to produce for fantasy. The Saints might have limited their exposure to Alonso’s playing time, as they drafted LB Zack Baun in the 2nd round. There was some question as to how the Saints would use the LB/EDGE rusher, but HC Sean Payton made it clear that they view him as an LB. I’m gonna miss those hilarious highlight reels, Kiko.
Jalen Thompson (Ari) — Thompson had a clouded path to a full-time role heading into the offseason, but he escaped free agency as the starting safety next to Budda Baker. But the clouds turned darker once the Cardinals took stud LB/S Isaiah Simmons 8th overall. While we don't know the exact plans DC Vance Joseph has for Simmons, it's hard to imagine that it doesn’t involve playing a good deal of safety. Thompson already has to contend with Baker beating him to the ball. Now there are two monster players going after the ball in front of him. That’s if he’s even on the field.
Jordan Miller (Atl) — You don’t take one of the top CBs in the draft (A.J. Terrell) 18th overall and put him on your bench. Barring something unforeseen, Terrell should start, and we think Miller is the likely fall guy here (instead of Isaiah Oliver). Both corners were average at best last season, but Miller was more of a liability. Miller was the 148th-best CB last season, according to PFF. More like OOF.
Juston Burris (Car) — Burris was in line to replace veteran Eric Reid - who had a massive fantasy season in 2019 with 130 tackles - but clearly the Panthers made other plans. Carolina picked one of the top safeties in the draft with their 2nd pick. Jeremy Chinn is likely taking the old Reid role, pushing Burris back to the bench.
Artie Burns (Chi) — Burns had a solid 2019, but it was in extremely limited duty, as he was injured and relegated to backup duties. And “solid” is not what a team wants at outside corner in the era of “pass first, ask questions later.” Burns was a 1st round pick in 2016, but lost his starting job in 2018, starting just 7 games since then. After signing with the Bears this offseason, he’s likely already relegated to a backup role in Chicago, as the team hopes that 2nd-rounder Jaylon Johnson can beat Burns out for the RCB job across from Kyle Fuller.
Anthony Brown (Dal) — With the departure of Byron Jones via free agency, Brown slid into a starting role this offseason. With the drafting of Trevon Diggs in the 2nd round, Brown slid right back out of that starting role this offseason. Greg Cosell mentioned that Diggs might be the #2 CB in this year’s draft, and that kind of talent doesn’t ride the pine much. (Side note: when was the last time a professional football team used a wooden bench? 1776? 1492? It was a while ago.)
Rashaan Melvin (Jax) — Melvin is a plus run-defender. If you start a conversation about a cornerback with how good they are against the run, that’s not…well, it’s not ideal, let’s just say that. Melvin struggled mightily in coverage last season, and with Jacksonville making it clear they are in rebuilding mode, they selected one of the top CBs in the draft in C.J. Henderson. Henderson is a great fit in this defense and excels at both man and zone, so Melvin’s days as a starter in Jacksonville are numbered. And that number is likely zero.
Jabrill Peppers (NYG) — After playing 11 solid games in 2019, Peppers hit the IR with a fracture in his back. The former first-rounder excelled in coverage but was average against the run. The drafting of top safety Xavier McKinney in the 2nd round gives the Giants a strong defender against the run who can be exposed in coverage. It’s likely that they try to maximize the strengths of both of these players by placing McKinney in key situations in the box, while having Peppers be more of a coverage safety. That would hurt Peppers when it comes to tackle numbers. A lot remains in the air about the usage of McKinney, but for now we assume whatever the usage, it will come at the expense of tackle-opportunity for Peppers.