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2021 Positional Tracker: Defensive Linemen

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2021 Positional Tracker: Defensive Linemen

Justin Varnes and Tom Simons are covering every major defensive transaction from the 2021 off-season in our Off-season Tracker articles. We broke down all the important free agency signings and trades from a fantasy perspective in articles sorted by position. The articles are ordered by players changing teams ("New Homes") and by players sticking with their 2020 teams ("Staying Put"). The players are also ordered by their potential fantasy impact for the 2021 season in each section.

New Homes

Michael Brockers (Det) — The Lions acquired Brockers from the Rams for a 2023 seventh round draft pick.

Fantasy Points: Why only a seventh rounder three drafts out? Detroit will take on at least $6.5 million of Brockers’ $9.8 million contract in 2021. The Lions may also take care of his $1.5 million roster bonus due on March 19. Thus, the Rams immediately gain valuable cap space and the Lions get a veteran defensive lineman that is familiar with the defensive scheme Detroit will try to run in 2021. Over the past four years, Brockers has averaged nearly 50 total tackles and 3.5 sacks per season.

Dalvin Tomlinson (Min) — The 27-year old defensive tackle signed a two-year deal with the Vikings worth $22 million with $16 million guaranteed ($15 million in signing bonus).

Fantasy Points: Tomlinson is an excellent run stuffer. He will be heavily involved in the defensive line rotation that the Vikings use and should see significant snap count on early downs. The 27-year old posted 21 solos and 24 assists plus 3.5 sacks with the Giants last year. His presence should help Danielle Hunter (who is unhappy with his current contract) and Michael Pierce (Covid-19 opted out of 2020) in the coming season as long as they both are with the team

Jarran Reed (KC) — The Chiefs signed Reed to a one-year contract that could earn him up to $7 million.

Fantasy Points: If the Seahawks had any dreams in re-signing Reed, those dreams blew up in a puff of smoke as the Chiefs pounced on signing him shortly after his release. In 2018, Reed posted 10.5 sacks and last year he recorded 6.5 sacks. He only played 10 games in 2019 due to a six-game suspension, and he added two more sacks to his 22 career sacks. Reed has been good for 35-40 total tackles in any given full season. He now joins Chris Jones and Derrick Nnadi in the Chiefs interior defensive rotation.

Larry Ogunjobi (Cin) — Ogunjobi landed a one-year deal with the Bengals and could start as early as opening day.

Fantasy Points: Cincinnati made a splash in free agency at the defensive tackle position for the second straight season. Last year, they signed D.J. Reader away from Houston. Ogunjobi has posted 45 or more total tackles in three consecutive seasons. His sack totals did drop to 2.5 last year after back-to-back seasons of 5.5 sacks. Veteran Geno Atkins is an extremely close friend of Ogunjobi, but unfortunately the Bengals released him shortly after Ogunjobi was signed.

Denico Autry (Ten) — Autry signed a three-year deal with the Titans worth $21.5 million with $9 million guaranteed.

Fantasy Points: Autry is familiar with a 3-4 base defense and will help improve the pass rush. The Titans were ranked 30th in the NFL last year with just 19 sacks. Autry had 7.5 sacks in 2020 with the Colts. Autry is 30 years old, but the Titans are hoping he can match his 2020 stats alongside Jeffrey Simmons.

Ifeadi Odenigbo (NYG) — Odenigbo signed a one-year, $2.5 million deal with the Giants.

Fantasy Points: Odenigbo got a chance to be a starter with the Vikings in 2020. While his tackle totals (34) went up from his previous season, his sack total (3.5) dropped off by 50%. This explains the bargain value New York got him for. While he may not enter training camp as a starter, odenigbo could be heavily involved in the defensive line rotation that new defensive coordinator Patrick Graham will utilize.

Davon Godchaux (NE) — Godchaux signed a two-year deal worth $16 million with $9 million guaranteed.

Fantasy Points: Godchaux improved on his tackle statistics in each of his first three seasons with the Miami Dolphins. After starting all 16 games in back-to-back seasons in two previous years, it looked like 2020 would be one of his best seasons. Unfortunately, Godchaux tore his biceps in Week 5 and landed on season-ending injured reserve. While his stats were improving each year, this type of injury warrants a watchful eye as it tends to resurface.

Malik Jackson (Cle) — Jackson signed a one-year deal with terms undisclosed at this time.

Fantasy Points: Jackson has been a solid run defender. He averages around 30-35 total tackles. The Browns added Takk McKinley as well, so the defensive line is getting a little crowded. Still, Jackson is in line for plenty of early down snaps. He likely comes off the field in passing situations as he is not a big play maker the past three seasons. One big footnote for Jackson is that he is a year removed from a Lisfranc injury that cost him nearly all of 2019.

Al Woods (Sea) — Woods signed a one-year contract worth $3 million with a $750,000 signing bonus.

Fantasy Points: Woods played for the Seahawks in 2019, then joined the Jaguars last year before opting out due to Covid-19 related reasons. In 2019, Woods started five of the fourteen games he played and recorded 32 total tackles and three big plays (a sack and two FRs). The release of Jarran Reed might open the door for Woods to start more games and improve on his 2019 statistics.

DaQuan Jones (Car) — Jones signed a guaranteed one-year contract worth $4,050,000.

Fantasy Points: Jones can play inside or out for the Panthers. While Jones is not a big play producer (only three sacks in his last three seasons combined), he is an effective run stopper. He has 43 and 41 total tackles in his last two seasons. Be leery of those numbers, though, as he tends to have as many assists as he does solos. In his seven year career, Jones has posted 115 solos and 99 assists.

Staying Put

Leonard Williams (NYG) — Williams signed a three-year, $63 million contract with $45 million guaranteed.

Fantasy Points: The Giants placed the franchise tag on Williams on March 9th. Shortly after that, both sides agreed to a three-year deal. The contract is cap friendly in the first year, so the team freed up money to help secure other players. After five disappointing seasons to start his career, Williams busted out in 2020 producing double-digit sacks (11.5) and collecting 50 total tackles while thriving in defensive coordinator Patrick Graham’s system. He has averaged almost 50 total tackles per year since his rookie season of 2015 and the Giants feel strongly that he will continue to do so with this big contract.

Ndamukong Suh (TB) — Suh and the Buccaneers have come to terms on a one-year deal worth $9 million with all of it guaranteed.

Fantasy Points: Suh is no longer the impact stud defensive tackle he was early on in his career. Stiiul, he is a serviceable fantasy option at a position that is always in desperate need of quality fantasy poptions. In 2020, Suh posted 44 total tackles (27 solos and 17 assists) while adding six sacks. While not great numbers, Suh did have three or more total tackles in half of his games last year and he had one multiple sack outing and spread the rest of his sacks out in five different games.

Romeo Okwara (Det) — Okwara inked a three-year $39 million deal with a $25 million signing bonus.

Fantasy Points: The 25-year old had his best season in 2020 when he set career highs in total tackles (39), solos (27), and sacks (10). His sack total on a very bad defense was more impressive when you consider he had a sack in nine of his 16 outings. Okwara also played a full 16-game season for the first time since his rookie season of 2016. He gives new defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn a decent set of edge rushers along with Trey Flowers.

Derek Wolfe (Bal) — Wolfe re-signed with Baltimore on a three-year, $12 million deal that will pay him $6.5 million in the first year.

Fantasy Points: This signing is a bit of a head-scratcher considering certain things about Wolfe. First off, he has played all 16 games in a single season just once in his past five years and has missed 17 games during that stretch. While he is good for 45-50 total tackles in any given season, he has not reached three sacks in three of his past four years. The 31-year old does bring a veteran presence to the locker room and that will help the youth of this defense.

Poona Ford (Sea) — Ford re-signed with the Seahawks on an incentive laden two-year deal that is worth up to $14 million.

Fantasy Points: In his last two seasons, Ford has started in all but one game. He has increased his tackles (total, solo and assist) each year. Ford is not a stud fantasy IDP talent, but is a very serviceable IDP especially in DT required leagues. We expect him to achieve 25-30 solos with 20-25 assists as well as 3-5 sacks in 2021.

Johnathan Hankins (LV) — Hankins will remain with the Raiders after re-signing on a one-year deal (terms undisclosed). The Raiders addressed their defensive line woes with this signing and the additions of Yannick Ngakoue and Quinton Jefferson.

Fantasy Points: Hankins is not much of a big play supplier. Still, his run defense is good enough to make him a serviceable IDP option, especially in DT required leagues. In three of his last four seasons, Hankins has posted 40 total tackles (30 total tackles in 2018). He does tally nearly as many assists as solos in those seasons. So be aware that the tackles totals will likely be a 50-50 split between solos and assists.

A savvy veteran of fantasy football since 1990, Thomas specializes in IDP and Special Teams. When he is not delving into fantasy football, Thomas works as an instant or slow-motion replay technician for national and regional clients.

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