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Are We Too High on Alex Singleton? (And Other Curious IDP Projections)
Dynasty Tripp of Footballguys shares some IDP projections that have piqued his interest in the last few weeks.
In case you’ve missed it these last couple weeks, Dynasty Tripp of Footballguys has been sharing threads on Twitter of IDP projections that catch his eye. After finishing up his own rankings, Tripp has started to scan the IDP landscape to see where his take on certain players might differ from other rankers and analysts.
We’ve compiled six of Tripp’s threads below so that, when you’re done reading, you can ask yourself: What do I think about this player? We’ll have Tripp in the feed this season helping us preview games and you can find his work at Footballguys.
To kick things off, let’s head to Denver to check on their new, stringy-haired LB.
#1: Broncos LB Alex Singleton: 223-650 snaps, 34-110 tackles.
Feeling the high end of that range? Consider this an intervention.
Let's start here: Singleton is not a starter in this defense. He's depth. He's on a $1.115M contract for 2022, the same as Luke Gifford in Dallas. Yeah... "Who?" Josey Jewell returns to Denver as the Broncos' LB1 on a two-year, $11M contract. Second-year man Jonas Griffith showed something in 2021 and will play next to Jewell.
Here's the next thing: 110 tackles on 650 snaps (per ESPN's Mike Clay) is well nigh impossible in a Fangio-style defense like Denver's. All the Eagles' LBs put up insane tackle efficiencies in Philly's hyper-conservative defense of 2021, not just Singleton.
The extreme tackle efficiency is not something Singleton can carry with him to Denver. I believe tackle efficiencies are significantly scheme-driven, and the upper limits of an LB's tackle efficiency in a Fangio-style defense is 15% based on historical results.
I don't have Singleton ranked. Even in the unlikely event that he overtakes Jonas Griffith as a 3/4-time LB2, expectations of effervescent production in Denver are irrational.
#2: Cowboys LB Leighton Vander Esch: 830-858 snaps, 102-177 tackles
I'm of a mind that teams typically tell us what they're going to do. Vander Esch's new contract is 13th among off-ball linebackers in average annual value for 2022.
As a reminder, here were Vander Esch's 2021 finishes:
663 defensive snaps
6.2 FPPG (Footballguys scoring, 68th in total points)
Did the Cowboys bring Vander Esch back because they think he had upside? Check out this contract comparison with the lesser-known Dorance Armstrong, whom the Cowboys do think has upside. I wondered how strong a correlation the projection data from Mike Clay (who's highest on Vander Esch) would have with average annual salaries per contract for 2022 UFAs.
Meh. But check out the two guys on either side of Vander Esch: 0 projected snaps!
So, I'm the low man on Vander Esch among Footballguys rankers. I have him 77th (same as his 2021 tackle total). In my opinion, betting on him to do more because Keanu Neal wasn't brought back sounds too much like the debunked "vacated targets" theory.
#3: Bears DEs Al-Quadin Muhammad and Trevis Gipson
Al-Quadin Muhammad: 673 snaps
Trevis Gipson: 427 snaps
Al-Quadin Muhammad: 600 snaps
Trevis Gipson: 453 snaps
Sorry, Gipson stans, but I think the projections have it right. Some might fondly remember the 2-strip-sack performance in Week 17, 2021. Truth is, Gipson played 20 snaps that game, and coaches were rotating him with journeyman Bruce Irvin. He was unblocked on the first sack.
Al-Quadin Muhammad followed new head coach Matt Eberflus and defensive coordinator Alan Williams from Indianapolis to Chicago. AQM is a player they trust. He played 801 snaps for them in 2021 and fits as the strong-side end opposite Robert Quinn in 2022. I have AQM ranked 65th and Gipson unranked for now. That'll change if Quinn forces his way out of Chicago.
Since I have your attention, let's chat snap projections. They're foundational to not only fantasy value but to the projections of counting stats. Finite numbers of projected snaps, tackles, sacks, etc. must be allocated among rosters of about 25 defenders per NFL team.
We play on platforms with "projected" stats next to player names. Eyeballing the player list on one such platform, it looks like they've "projected" sacks to roughly double leaguewide from 2020 to 2021. This underlines the value of the work by Clay and Kislingbury.
#4: Panthers LB Cory Littleton: > Damien Wilson (snaps, tackles)
The bulk of Luvu's responsibilities will be rushing the passer. I assume folks don't think Littleton is an EDGE, so let's focus on the Panthers' MIKE role. It's been a weakness since HC Matt Rhule and DC Phil Snow arrived. In 2020, 6’2”, 241-lb Tahir Whitehead started at MIKE. Whitehead was phased out by 3-safety sets and hasn't played a defensive snap since.
In 2021, the Panthers signed 5'11", 240-lb Denzel Perryman to a 2-year deal as a UFA. He mysteriously couldn't stay on the field last summer and was traded to Las Vegas.
So, the Panthers signed 6'1", 240-lb Josh Bynes to play MIKE. He got hurt within about a week of signing last August and was thus cut. Jermaine Carter succeeded him. Carter had "bulked up" to play MIKE. Turns out it takes more than a few extra pounds to plug a gap in the NFL.
I suspect Carter is competing for Ben Niemann's dime LB role in KC. Enter Wilson for 2022 at 6'0", 243 lbs. Cory Littleton, meanwhile, is 6'3", 228 lbs. It's not just that Littleton isn't built to be a gap-plugging LB. It's not what he does. He was kept clean as a WILL in LA.
Jon Gruden's Raiders signed Littleton as a UFA to play WILL alongside MIKE Nick Kwiatkoski (6'-2" 242 lbs.). The next regime traded with the Panthers for Denzel Perryman to play MIKE for defensive coordinator Gus Bradley. Phil Snow's Panthers defense bears some similarities to Gus Bradley's 43-under/Cover-1/3. Shaq Thompson is locked into the protected WILL role.
Wilson set career-highs across the board in Jacksonville in 2021: 106 tackles, 5 TFLs, 3 sacks, and 5 PDs. The 88 tackles Carter posted in Charlotte last year is a more attainable goal for Wilson in 2022. I have Wilson 81st among LBs (including a handful of 3-4 OLBs). He's on my radar in my leagues of 14+ teams. If folks are drinking Cory Littleton Kool-Aid…
Make that deal today.
#5: Bills S Jordan Poyer: 95 tackles, safety #17 (per ESPN’s Mike Clay)
Poyer has been a perennial DB1 since arriving in Buffalo in 2017. So what gives?
The Bills defense was the league's best in 2021. It was notably better with NT Star Lotulelei on the field. (Didn't expect to read that today, eh?) The same defense with nearly identical personnel was a middling, vanilla defense in 2020. Veteran coordinator Leslie Frazier implemented more two-high safety sets, disguised coverages, and light boxes in 2021.
Poyer played more snaps deep and fewer in the box in 2021 than in any season as a Bill. Unsurprisingly then, he collected just 93 tackles, his lowest total in these 5 years. IDP gamers scarcely noticed since Poyer set or matched career-highs in INTs, TFLs, and QB sacks (the benefits of a good defense playing downhill).
However, Lotulelei retired and 3-technique DT Harrison Phillips left in free agency. Crafty NT Tim Settle and two mountainous men, DaQuan Jones and Jordan Phillips, replace them. I expect the Bills to play more light boxes (i.e., without a safety) in 2022.
Most projections and ranks have Poyer locked in over 100 tackles and into a top-5 ranking at his position. I have him DB #6 and IDP #66. So, I don't hate him, but I won't land him at cost.
#6: Snap counts for Ravens safeties
Marcus Williams: 1,017 snaps
Kyle Hamilton: 932 snaps
Chuck Clark: 857 snaps
Perhaps this one caught my attention because of confirmation bias because the associated projected defensive stats are lackluster. Nevertheless, I have Hamilton as my DB #4 and IDP #55. Yes, it's a looney take! Here's my thinking. Hamilton is the first DB since the Chargers’ Derwin James around which a coordinator might design a defense.
No, Hamilton isn't James, but if… actually, I’m gonna stop here. Watch this video.
My Hamilton ranking is part football and part game theory. The only reason to draft any DB before LB or DL is to aim for an increment above replacement. That's to say that most any safety with a full-time role will earn ~8 fantasy PPG. I'm looking for ~12.
Consider, in contrast, Robert Quinn's 2019-2021 results: 7.4, 3.0, and 9.1 PPG. So, each successive DB ranking represents me flailing just a little bit harder for ceiling, knowing there's a floor associated with the safety position. So, is DB #4 a looney ranking of Hamilton?
Maybe. But this looney take just might be Canadian money!
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