Defensive Price Check: All-22 Edition
Which defensive players gained and lost the most value during the first week of free agency? In this guest post, All-22 cofounder Bobby Acker breaks it all down.
We’re thrilled to partner with All-22 this offseason on a series of articles highlighting defensive players. True to its name, All-22 is a new way to play fantasy football that incorporates all 22 players on the field, including offensive linemen, individual defensive players, punters, and kickers. Their new mock draft feature is awesome.
If you’re looking to upgrade your All-22 defense in 2023, here are some names to bookmark as potential adds—and some names that might help you create some roster space. And although I’m looking at these players through the lens of their quality of play (represented by their PFF grades), I’d feel the same way about these players landing in new situations if I was writing them up from an IDP perspective.
Ogbonnia Okoronkwo ➡ Cleveland Browns
STOCK UP: Go get this guy. There may not be a single player who gained more value this week than the Rams 2018 5th-round pick, Ogbonnia Okoronkwo. Ahead of the 2022 season, Okoronkwo signed a 1-year “prove it” deal with Houston and he certainly proved himself worthy of the 3-year contract he signed with Cleveland. In 1 season with Houston, Okoronkwo earned an 81.9 PFF pass-rush grade—over 10 grade points higher than the next-best edge rusher on the roster.
Things are a little different in Cleveland.
Okoronkwo will now line up opposite Myles Garrett, PFF’s highest-graded overall edge player (92.5) and PFF’s highest-graded pass rusher (93.5). Okoronkwo might just become a household name in 2023, so you’ll want to learn how it’s pronounced.
Charles Omenihu ➡ Kansas City Chiefs
STOCK DOWN: Charles Omenihu has flashed as a pass rusher but really nowhere else. Omenihu’s PFF pass rush grades of 81.8 in 2021 and 75.3 in 2022 have helped to float his overall grade in the high 60s over those two seasons. It would’ve been ideal for the 25-year-old edge player to end up in a situation similar to Okoronkwo.
Instead, Omenihu will line up opposite George Karlaftis, whose 58.1 PFF pass-rush grade ranked 85th among 115 qualifying edge players. Neither Omenihu nor Karlaftis can be relied upon to set the edge in the run game either; Omenihu’s PFF run defense grade of 51.5 was more than 10 grade points higher than Karlaftis’ 41.2. Outside of Chris Jones, this defensive line isn’t great and it’s not a great spot for Omenihu.
Kaden Elliss ➡ Atlanta Falcons
STOCK DOWN: Kaden Elliss is one of my favorite players, so it pains me to have to label him as a “stock down” player. It’s really not his fault; the Falcons front 7 is just not a great unit. In 2022, New Orleans lined up Elliss at almost every linebacker position. He started 3 games as the Saints middle linebacker; in those three games, Elliss posted PFF grades of 90.1, 91.3, and 79.5.
The Falcons would be wise not to play Elliss on the outside but that may very well end up being what they do. Even if he’s kicked inside, Atlanta’s defensive interior may not offer much help. Aging veteran DIs Grady Jarrett and David Onyemata have seen their PFF grades steadily decline over the past few seasons.
Azeez Al-Shaair ➡ Tennessee Titans
STOCK UP: The FAU alum did well for himself. Azeez Al-Shaair, 25, will no longer play in the shadows of Dre Greenlaw and Fred Warner. Although he had to play through some injuries, Al-Shaair is coming off his best season as a pro.
His 2022 PFF season grade of 74.4 ranked 18th among 81 qualifying LBs, while his 82.1 run defense grade ranked 9th. The Titans found a great replacement for David Long to come in and shut down the run game. Al-Shaair will play behind a stellar defensive line that consists of Denico Autry (82.8), Teair Tart (73.1), and one of the best DIs in the game, Jeffery Simmons (81.1). Be sure to add Al-Shaair to your queue in startup drafts and see if he’s available as a free agent in existing leagues.
David Long Jr. ➡ Miami Dolphins
STOCK UP: The previously mentioned Azeez Al-Shaair may have put himself in a very good situation but David Long Jr. just upgraded himself into a great situation. The former Mountaineer has shown drastic improvement since he was drafted in the 6th round of the 2019 draft. Miami’s front 7 is a scary, yet underrated, unit.
Long Jr. (76.2) will line up alongside LB Jerome Baker (74.6) and together they’ll play behind DIs Christian Wilkins (82.2) and Zach Sieler (73.4). To make things even better, the unit is bookended by Bradley Chubb (65.5) and Jaelan Phillips (88.8).
Look for Long Jr. to pick up right where he left off.
Zach Allen ➡ Denver Broncos
STOCK UP: No one knows how to use Zach Allen better than Vance Joseph. The pair making the trip to Denver together was the absolute best-case scenario for Allen managers. In Joseph’s system, Allen is an immediate upgrade over his predecessor, Dre’Mont Jones. As Jones was asked to line up less in B-gap alignment and more outside and over the tackle, his PFF grades slipped to career lows as both a run defender and as a pass rusher. In Joseph’s defense, the ideal DI can handle a similar ask and that’s where Allen thrives. In fact, in Allen and Joseph’s last season in Arizona, Allen recorded career-high grades as a run defender (67.4) and as a pass rusher (71.6). You may have Allen buried on your depth chart right now but he may very well force you into a 3-4 personnel package this season.
Dre’Mont Jones ➡ Seattle Seahawks
STOCK DOWN: The Seattle Seahawks and Dre’Mont Jones managers are hoping Jones can return to his 2020 form, when he earned a career-high 74.7 overall PFF grade. Since 2020, Jones has been asked to do much more but has returned much less. The 26-year-old DI has failed to surpass a PFF grade over 60 in his last two seasons. If Jones became part of a defensive line rotation composed of solid, versatile players, that would’ve been his best opportunity to rebound.
Seattle’s defensive line is simply not that. At 35 years old, Al Woods is the only DI on the roster with a run defense grade north of 60. If you see any of your offensive linemen matching up with Seattle this season, you may want to start them.
Jalen Ramsey ➡ Miami Dolphins
STOCK UP: After Los Angeles traded him away, Jalen Ramsey signed a 3-year deal with the Dolphins. All-22 managers can expect Ramsey to fulfill the length of his contract with elite or, at least, very good play. The former #5 overall pick joins the Dolphins after averaging an 85.4 overall PFF grade in his last two seasons.
Although the Dolphins could use another CB, their secondary has some good pieces. Ramsey will have help over the top from one of the best young safeties in the league, Jevon Holland, and newly added safety DeShon Elliot. Maybe even more importantly, Miami quietly boasts one of the best front 7s in the league. Your leaguemates may be down on a CB who’s pushing 30, so it’s worth getting a price check.
Jessie Bates III ➡ Atlanta Falcons
STOCK DOWN: You’d like your safeties to be part of a defense with a respectable pass rush and good corners. Right now, Atlanta hasn’t checked either of those boxes. In 2022, PFF ranked Atlanta 31st in team pass rush. Outside of adding Kaden Elliss, the Falcons haven’t done much to address the problem.
The absence of a pass rush places overwhelming stress on secondary players and is almost certainly detrimental to their PFF grades. A.J. Terrell graded in the low 60s for two of his first three seasons in Atlanta. Casey Hayward Jr. also graded in the low 60s last season, the second-lowest grade of his career. The rest of the secondary is young and the linebackers don’t cover well. This is a pass defense that will look to Jessie Bates for leadership. The task may be too tall for safety who graded below a 62 in 9 games in 2022, just 1 season after he earned a 56.1 overall season grade.
Marcus Epps ➡ Las Vegas Raiders
STOCK DOWN: Marcus Epps followed up 2 good seasons in Philadelphia with a complete stinker. After playing well in 2021, the Eagles rewarded Epps by doubling his playing time. Epps was torched in coverage for 5 TDs, good for a 44.7 PFF coverage grade and a 56.3 season grade in 2022.
The 27-year-old safety finds himself in a very similar situation compared to Jessie Bates III; the team has limited pass rush outside of Maxx Crosby, a weak front 7, and a very young secondary. You may not want to roster Epps but you may want to get your hands on a couple of the receivers within this division.
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Thanks for reading! You can check out more of my written work on the All-22 blog. Along with my cofounders Ray Cotto and Chris Lombardi, we also have a podcast.
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