2021 Free Agent Positional Preview: Defensive Tackles
I researched the available free agent lists in late-Feb./early March in order to get a feel for the marketplace and identify key players likely on the move; players that could shift a team's fortunes under-the-radar if a team landed/grabbed a bunch of them. We have the obvious names, the under-the-radar, and the trap doors to look at.
Here’s my take on 2021 NFL free agency…the players I’m really watching for fantasy, handicapping, etc., on where they might land.
The Top 3 Available According To NFL Analysts:
1) Leonard Williams, NYG – 11.5 sacks and 30 QB hits in 2020. After a few ‘meh’/good years for the Jets, Williams got unleashed with NYG last season. All credit to Dave Gettleman for what looked like, at the time, a silly/non-exciting trade. Now, will the Giants be able to keep him?…because he’s going to break the bank in free agency.
*Spoiler Alert: After this writing, we learned that the Giants applied the franchise tag to him.
2) Shelby Harris, DEN – When he stays healthy, he’s a legit NFL DT starter that helps a defense. He’s been mostly healthy the past 4 years, 2020 he missed 5 games, and he’ll be 30 years old in-season…which is still young enough these days.
3) Dalvin Tomlinson, NYG – Got a little better in each of his first 4 years, and he’ll only be 27 years old this season. 3.5 sacks/10 QB hits, 4 PDs in 2020…and has never missed a game in four years. Can NYG keep Williams-Tomlinson upfront?
The Top 3 Talents Available/To Target If I Were an NFL GM:
1) Morgan Fox, LAR – Why not the big name, big production Leonard Williams here at the #1 spot? Well, as a GM, I have to consider salary cap – and I think I can get Williams-like production out of Morgan Fox for a fraction of the cost. I think Fox is maybe the most underrated D-Lineman in all of the NFL. How dare he not go to a big college for football (Colorado St.-Pueblo), so he doesn’t get as much opportunity in the pros right away or any media love when he is doing well! How dare UDFA players try to show to be better than expensive, drafted, name-recognized guys!
A non-starter, a 50% or so snap per game player, 6.0 sacks/8 TFLs and no missed tackles in 2020. A sack and 2 TFLs in the playoffs. All his in-the-backfield production coming in mostly an unfriendly-to-DLs 3-4 scheme.
I’ve been a fan/pointing out Fox since his rookie preseason with the Rams. It’s ridiculous that the Rams cut him twice the past four years. It’s 10x more ridiculous, but totally ‘the NFL’ that no one picked him up or grabbed him off their practice squad when the chance was there.
Fox is a disruptor as a small DT or 3-4 DE. He will be an extremely low cost, great production-per-cost defender for some team.
2) Kerry Hyder, SF – A journeyman backup/warm body for years, and then a forced starter due to injuries in 2020 for SF…and he responded with 8.5 sacks, 18 QB hits as a DE/DT for the 49ers. Hyder will be 30+ years old in 2021, and he might be a very reasonable cost, short-term DE/DT who can help your defense right away for a title run with depth and rotational ability.
3) Leonard Williams, NYG – 11.5 sacks and 30 QB hits last year, he’s got to be the prize pickup for the DT desperate. I’d rather find DT/DE bargains, but if I were desperate for a DT, if I was a DT away from being a top defense…just spend the money and land Williams…and hope he doesn’t regress.
*Too bad for anyone wanting him…he’s off the market now via franchise tag.
The Top 3 Values/Sleepers According to FFM:
1) Adam Butler, NE – Four years in the NFL/with NE, as a part-time rotational player…and he has 15.0 sacks and 22 QB hits in that span. Has 10.0 sacks the past two seasons. By comparison, Jadeveon Clowney has 3.0 sacks the past two years, 12.0 sacks the past three years…playing a lot of snaps (but missing games too).
Butler may have more to give being away from Belichick’s rotational system.
2) Solomon Thomas, SF – Was a sleeper in our EDGE rusher look but is even more of a sleeper as a DT. Thomas has Aaron Donald’s profile, athletically, and I’d want to see if I could unlock it…cheap. The downside is – I don’t think Thomas cares about football.
3) Larry Ogunjobi, CLE -- had a nice 2018 and 2019…5.5 sacks and 10.0 TFLs each season with double-digit QB hits…but he fell way off in his money year 2020 (2.5 sacks, 5.0 TFLs, 6 QB hits in 15 games). We rated Ogunjobi nicely in 2017, he has skills.
The Top 3 Problems According to FFM:
1) Ndamukong Suh, TB – Going to be nearly 35 years old in-season 2021, and he got his Super Bowl ring finally. I don’t know if Suh has much motivation left for the one-year price he may command.
2) Brent Urban, CHI – Coaches love him, but he’s more backup than starter…the guy you call when your starting DT gets hurt and you need a veteran/stable replacement.
3) Sheldon Rankins, NO – Should’ve been so much better. Has the skills of a Pro Bowl DT but I (think) he doesn’t have the desire to be good/great. He’s just in it for the paycheck. He was a former #12 overall pick in 2016 and the Saints have been burned by him for four out of his 5 years in the league. Sad.
-- It will be interesting to see if Morgan Fox goes straight to the Chargers, back with his Rams 2020 D-C/new LAC head coach Brandon Staley. Then you’ll know that Staley also realizes what lurks here. The first D-C to give him a real chance at extended playing time was Staley.
-- I gotta believe the Giants are too tied to Leonard Williams, emotionally, to not find a way to re-sign him…but it’s going to be expensive. *OR they tag him, like they did.
-- I think Suh might retire more than come back for another paycheck.
-- Kawann Short was a top DT just a few years ago, then injuries hit. For a one-year title-run signing, Short could be interesting if his physical is clean.
College Football Metrics (CFM) 2021 Season – For Dynasty Rookie Drafts, NFL Drafts, Handicapping, etc.
It’s going to be a scouting NFL Draft season like no other – some top prospects opting out of their final college season, a unique schedule for CFB teams to have played, a different type of bowl season…a whole new backdrop to scout against. An experienced, talented scouting eye is going to rule. I have 10+ years of successful CFM scouting and analytics to lean on – I’m ready for the challenge.
I know the mainstream football analysis is going to butcher this year’s class even worse than normal – because they are going to blindly favor big school prospects more than ever, because those schools will have the only names they are truly familiar with, and it’s just the ‘name’ they are familiar with not their ‘game’. They’ll ‘hive mind’ run with whatever names the collective seems to be buzzing about – because they don’t put in the work, they just echo things they’ve heard. I’m not saying that to be a jerk – it’s the open window of opportunity (their failure) that I was able to build my career/business upon.
I spend many hours each offseason day/week/month researching the current class of top 100+ prospects individually as well as all the smaller school and ‘lesser named’ prospects our computer models start to identify. I study and compare prospect’s tape, and I input the performance data (weighted with our secret, proprietary scouting formulas) to get a firsthand feel for it so I can analyze and test/challenge all our analytics. I get to know these prospects on the field, statistically, and do character background research as well -- so I can boil it down to reports so my private clients and subscribers (from serious fantasy players, to professional handicappers, to agents, to NFL war room personnel) can know these prospects by description and statistically – for NFL purposes, for Dynasty Rookie Draft purposes, for Fantasy Best Ball/Redraft purposes in the preseason, and for handicapping and prop betting purposes.
If you love Fantasy Football, if you love the NFL Draft process – I guarantee you’ll never look at the process the same way again with a CFM subscription.
As the regular season football ends, a whole new season of football discovery begins with our ‘CFM’ subscription and study or current and past rookies (offense and defense) – and material flows daily all offseason January to September (NFL season start), leading us to using the material to our advantage for the NFL regular season.
Go to our College Football Metrics or Fantasy Football Metrics subscription pages for more information.
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