Tackles are the bread and butter of IDP (individual defensive player) fantasy football in most scoring settings. Certain leagues will creatively bake in extra points with splash plays like sacks and interceptions. By and large, you want to target linebackers and safeties who either: A) will play on lousy offensive teams (defense will be on the field more), or B) fit like a glove schematically into a productive system (think Steelers OLB/EDGE in a sack-incentivized league). Which defensive player/team combo would constitute a top IDP landing spot in the 2021 NFL Draft
For context, these pairings are based on a tackle-centered scoring system. It can be hard to classify guys like Micah Parsons and Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah because of their versatility, so don’t get caught up in what category they’re in. However, the “LB” as classified in most fantasy leagues is the 4-3 LB or 3-4 ILB — they are the staple of your defensive scoring. (More useful context — hybrid DE/LB will often carry that designation in your fantasy league as well.)
Top IDP landing spots in the 2021 NFL Draft | LB
LBs have the luxury of getting more sack opportunities than safeties and more interception opportunities than pass rushers. Unless Ed Reed runs your league, LBs are the most desirable position to target.
Micah Parsons and the Miami Dolphins (or New England Patriots?)
The New England Patriots will presumably get the first crack at Parsons, assuming the Dolphins do not select him at No. 6. Parsons screams a New England system player with his versatility, and frankly, it would be a tremendous fit in Foxborough as well.
The Patriots have historically squeezed excellent production from its LBs. I lean Miami in part because the Dolphins blitzed 113 more times than the Patriots, and Parsons would likely have more scoring opportunities in South Beach with his pass-rush repertoire.
Neither New England nor Miami currently has a well-oiled machine of an offense. Parsons ran a sub-4.4 40-yard dash and owns a prototypical athletic profile. He started 12 of 13 games in 2019, accumulating 109 tackles, 14 tackles for loss, 5 sacks, 4 forced fumbles, and 5 pass deflections.
With a volatile draft projection at the moment, the Penn State linebacker/edge rusher could land just about anywhere in the 2021 NFL Draft. At any rate, Brian Flores or Bill Belichick would maximize Parsons’ usage no matter when he became available.
Zaven Collins and the Pittsburgh Steelers
I understand the Steelers may err towards rejuvenizing their running game with a first-round back. But, oh boy, if Pittsburgh snatches Zaven Collins up, it’s an IDP gold mine. Not only is Blitzburgh a top-three blitz-happy defensive system, but they need a linebacker to play inside and have vacated sacks to replace rushing the passer.
Collins was a stat-sheet stuffer in 2020 for Tulsa, and he’d have every chance to continue that versatility and production in black and yellow. In eight games, Collins generated 54 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, 4 sacks, 4 interceptions, 2 pass deflections, 2 forced fumbles, a safety, and a fumble recovery. That’s absurd production, and in 2021, the top college defensive player could be drafted by a team tailor-made for LB success.
Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah and the Jacksonville Jaguars
JOK can do so many talented things on the football field. Much like LB/S hybrid Isaiah Simmons, we’d want JOK to be more of a linebacker than safety for IDP fantasy purposes. He could run stride for stride with Tyreek Hill, and despite how phenomenal of a football play it would be in real life, it would score zero points in fantasy football without a deflection or interception. Case and point, it’ll be tackles and splash plays that get you points, not his mirror technique in the slot.
The AFC South has two of the most run-committed offensive philosophies in the NFL (Tennessee Titans and Indianapolis Colts). JOK would be playing on a bad team starting a rookie QB. Those are two salient factors in a productive LB landing spot. I know the Jaguars are not desperate for LBs per se, yet at No. 25 on a rebuilding team, JOK may go hand-in-hand with the best player available.
Honorable mention: Jamin Davis and the Detroit Lions
Top IDP landing spots in the 2021 NFL Draft | S
Safeties have the ability to record tackles as well as make plays on the ball. After linebackers, they have arguably the second-most value on your IDP fantasy football team.
Richie Grant and the Dallas Cowboys
I won’t get too cute with this one. Dallas’ secondary needs help. Ryan Fitzpatrick has thrown approximately 46,221 interceptions in his career. Jalen Hurts has four career starts. The jury is still out on Daniel Jones.
Now, Dallas is the antithesis of the “you want defensive players on poor offensive teams” philosophy. Just like the NFL, there are multiple ways to win in IDP fantasy football. In this case, you have six games against the aforementioned QBs coupled with the possibility of other teams pressing to keep pace with the Cowboys’ offense. Dallas’ secondary will get picked on until it proves it shouldn’t be picked on. Opportunities can come in different forms.
Richie Grant accumulated 72 total tackles in 2020, along with 3.5 tackles for loss, 3 interceptions, 5 pass deflections, and 2 forced fumbles. As an IDP manager, we don’t want him playing centerfield too much for production’s sake. Additionally, that versatility, along with the ability to play near the line of scrimmage, will allow Grant to stay on the field and soak up whatever action comes his way.
Trevon Moehrig and the Las Vegas Raiders
Is Derek Carr a top-10 QB? If your answer is yes, I would fade here. What does Carr have to do with this? Remember, you want defenders on teams who will struggle offensively; the more time your IDP team is on the field, the better.
Not only could I see the Raiders struggling offensively, but with Patrick Mahomes and Justin Herbert in the division, Trevon Moehrig would have built-in games against the pass-happy Chiefs, the sure-to-be-more-pass-happy Chargers, and could snatch interceptions from Denver QB Drew Lock.
Playing the Bucs who threw on 62.9% of their plays? Cool. Playing a team that has the lead in the second half and milking the clock? There’s opportunity there, too. If Las Vegas’ offense struggles, the game script will allow Moehrig to fly around and make plays.
Top IDP landing spots in the 2021 NFL Draft | EDGE/DE
Edge rushers do not see the same opportunity to make plays like linebackers and safeties, but their ability to generate sacks and tackles for loss can not be understated.
Joseph Ossai and the Baltimore Ravens
Trying to find the best edge rusher in this class is like taking my five kids out in public — I’m doomed to fail. I like Joseph Ossai, but I fully admit this is more about the schematic fit than the player. Azeez Ojulari, Kwity Paye, or another pass rusher could easily be in this spot. However, I’m rolling the dice with the Texas product.
It may have taken a minute to find where Ossai is most lethal, though it appears coming off the edge will be Ossai’s forte — he has bend and explosion, and most importantly, the tireless work ethic Baltimore routinely finds in its front-seven players.
The Ravens severely lack edge rushers, and Don Martindale sent blitzes on almost half of Baltimore’s defensive plays. Ossai or whomever the Ravens decide to draft will get a chance to dominate.
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