Having watched Toy Story 3 again recently (and after dabbing my eyes and blowing my nose), I was reminded of how undervalued Individual Defensive Players (IDP) become in dynasty leagues when they are free agents.
This entire Pixar movie series centers around a motley crew of anthropomorphized toys which go from beloved playthings to castoffs from yesteryear. Woody, Buzz, Bo Peep, and the rest of the gang grew up with us as we learned important lessons: from having to share attention with others, to know that just because you have flaws doesn’t make you incomplete, to knowing that sometimes the place we’ve been is no longer the place we belong – and that experiencing all of that is okay.
The Toy Story sequels model quite well that even though IDP’s who have hit and remained in free agency to this point are maybe not the highest-valued players around, they can still be quite useful and desirable in the right setting. While I can’t scrub the permanent marker off the bottom of their cleats, I can help you IDP fantasy managers find some targets among defensive free agents who have become underappreciated and undervalued in 2020.
This is the second of two articles on undervalued IDP free agents for your dynasty leagues. The previous one focused on edge rushers and interior defensive linemen.
Alec Ogletree, LB
Former New York Giants linebacker Alec Ogletree heading into his age-29 season might just be on the wrong end of a market correction in favor of younger, faster, cheaper linebacker options. Ogletree hit some hitches in his 2019 campaign, missing 12 tackles and giving up a 116.2 Passer Rating when targeted (eighth-worst among 45 high snap count LB’s last year). Ogletree’s 6-foot-2, 240-pound frame and 4.70 forty-yard dash speed just doesn’t play as well anymore against offenses that prize speed and constantly mismatch running backs and quick slot receivers onto opposing linebackers.
That said, he has some juice as a big, thumping strong-side linebacker or two-down inside man like Jordan Hicks for the Arizona Cardinals. He only missed tackles at a rate equivalent to fellow 2020 free agent beneficiaries Blake Martinez and Joe Schobert.
In dynasty leagues, Ogletree is basically a throw-in in larger packages. If you can get him for the price of a ham sandwich, he’s worth a look and hold over the summer.
Nigel Bradham, LB
Unlike his two linebacker peers in this article, former Philadelphia Eagles LB Nigel Bradham was quite good in coverage last year (eighth-best in Passer Rating Allowed) and missed tackles at a rate closer to Eric Kendricks than Jarrad Davis. Yes, you’re also reading correctly that he’ll be 31 this fall. Bradham is still an excellent option for teams needing a nickel or dime ‘backer for their pass-prevention sub-packages.
So, what flaw leaves him on the Island of Misfit Defenders? Bradham is getting walloped close to the line, a tough trait for a 4-3 outside linebacker asked to seal the edge against the run or occasionally blitz. He was fourth-worst among 43 qualifying linebackers in pressure rate generated and in the bottom 20 percent of 97 qualifying linebackers in PFF’s Run Stop Percentage. Even more telling is that Bradham played just 20.1 run defense snaps per game in 2019, the lowest per-game rate of his career since becoming a starter in 2014.
Bradham’s trade value in dynasty leagues is near a seventh-round pick, while he was getting traded for fantasy darlings like running back Sony Michel and defensive tackle Chris Jones last fall. He’s worth a late-round offer as a bench flier in your league.
Mychal Kendricks, LB
I’ll be honest; the data doesn’t look good for former Seattle Seahawks linebacker Mychal Kendricks on the way into his age-30 season. If Bradham looked bad against the run, Kendricks is worse (fourth-lowest Run Stop Percentage per PFF). If Ogletree looked rough in tackling efficiency, Kendricks’s 17 misses on just 610 snaps are the crème de la crap as the worst rate among qualifying linebackers. He’s at least middling in coverage, so there’s that, but Kendricks just hasn’t been a quality NFL player since his bizarre saga over financial insider trading from 2018-19.
Still, there’s plenty of speed and some team may find a need for the veteran linebacker despite his flaws and inherent risk. He has produced well enough for fantasy purposes, posting 10.1 fantasy points per game in 2019 and 12.0 points per game in an abbreviated 2018 season.
The elder Kendricks’ value has ranged from a future seventh-round pick in the fall of 2019 to, literally, one FAAB dollar this spring. He’s worth a waiver pickup if he’s available, or if you want to get him as a throw-in in a larger trade.
Reshad Jones, S
If you follow my work, you’ll notice a theme I keep coming back to is “don’t overpay for IDP defensive backs.” Former Miami Dolphins’ safety Reshad Jones is a perfect example of the kind of guy who should be basically free in your league right now who could be an every-week starter if he signs in the right spot.
Injuries have limited Jones’ availability over the last few years, as he has played just 40 of a possible 64 games since the start of the 2016 season. Still, in his full 2015 and 2017 seasons, he played over 1,000 snaps, put together more than 120 combined tackles, and had six or more tackles for a loss in each year, not to mention averaging 3.5 interceptions in those two years. If we combine his 2018 and 2019 production (also roughly 1,000 snaps), Jones is basically still on pace for 99 combined tackles, five for a loss, 10 passes defended, and three interceptions.
This is another position that has gotten younger, with a deep rookie safety class in 2020, but Jones could find work nonetheless. He’s getting added as a throw-in in larger packages in dynasty leagues but could be well worth a late-round rookie pick or waiver claim.
Tony Jefferson, S
Safety Tony Jefferson, formerly of the Baltimore Ravens, is a stunningly undervalued IDP option in dynasty leagues right now – especially considering the fact that he’s going into only his age-28 season.
Despite a down 2019 season that was also ended after just five games by an ACL tear (which he is now recovered from), Jefferson has produced well for fantasy in recent seasons. Across his last two full seasons for the Ravens, Jefferson has averaged 81.5 combined tackles, seven for a loss, four passes defended, and one interception. His versatility and ability to play a strong safety, free safety, or slot corner role should make him appealing to NFL teams in free agency.
Jefferson is currently basically unrostered in most dynasty leagues and would be worth picking up as an end-of-the-bench stash for the summer.
Eric Reid, S
2019’s top IDP safety remains undervalued and unsigned, as former Carolina Panthers defensive back Eric Reid remains on the free-agent market. In his first full season since 2015, Reid racked up a whopping 130 combined tackles, with seven for a loss, and in balanced IDP formats posted around 140 fantasy points.
Reid was in the top-10 of qualifying high snap count safeties last year by both PFF’s Run Stop Percentage and Tackling Efficiency, but he did allow the highest Passer Rating to opposing quarterbacks when targeted (148.1 on 57 targets).
Still, if some NFL team gives him a whirl, coverage doesn’t matter for fantasy purposes. He’s a good asset for us, as a target that shouldn’t take more than a sixth- or seventh-round pick to trade for (despite going for second and third-round picks as recently as December).
Best Remaining Undervalued IDP Free Agents
LB: Mark Barron (30), Bryce Hager (27), Darron Lee (25), Wesley Woodyard (33)
CB: Darqueze Dennard (28), Logan Ryan (29), Daryl Worley (25)
S: Clayton Geathers (27), Tedric Thompson (25), Tavon Wilson (29)