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Dynasty Defensive Ends 13-24
After you get through the top 12 defensive ends, the question marks become more frequent. Do you go with proven older players or roll the dice on young upstarts with tantalizing upside?
As we get deeper into the defensive end rankings for dynasty (pulled from Adam’s free rankings), you start to see youth becoming more of a factor. In our minds, the equation is simple: we know what these older edge rushers are at this point. Could they surprise us in the later stages of their career? Sure, but we’d rather take a chance with the young, unproven guys because of the upside they represent.
Yes, it’s a bit of a gamble. But like Adam famously said, “Scared money don’t make money.” If there’s a position for IDP where we want to swing for the fences, it’s DE. Why? Because the payoff could be a massive, league-winning edge.
Pun fully intended there. Let’s get into the rankings!
#13: Bradley Chubb
Like with Derwin James, we’re still chasing that 2018 dragon with Chubb, when he averaged 11.98 PPG. Last year, in 14 games, he averaged 9 PPG. He had surgery in May for the ankle that kept him out the last 2 games but he’ll be healthy to start the season.
We’re rooting for Chubb because we know he’s talented. The question every fantasy manager has to answer is: Given the injury risk, am I going to roll the dice in 2021?
For dynasty purposes, though, Chubb is solid as a top-end DE2.
#14: Kwity Paye
This is the highest-potential edge rusher the Colts have had since Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis were terrorizing AFC South opponents. Just look at what Justin Houston did in 2019 as the floor for what we can expect from Paye once he’s established: 10.64 PPG. Getting 10 PPG from Paye in 2021 would be outstanding, as 170 total points is around what Brandon Graham, Cameron Jordan, and Trey Hendrickson did in 2020. Are we expecting that kind of output right away?
No—even though he flashed in the preseason, and the Colts need him on the field, there will be other guys in the rotation who will impede his rise to IDP dominance in 2020 most likely. But for 2022 and beyond, this position is his to dominate.
#15: Gregory Rousseau
We weren’t sure what to make of “Old Gregg” for 2021 after IDP managers got nothing from A.J. Epenesa (AKA A.J. Esposito) in 2020. Not to mention, Mario Addison and Jerry Hughes are still there, along with fellow rookie Boogie Basham.
But BOY OH BOY, has any rookie edge rusher seen their star rise faster than Rousseau during the preseason? He was an absolute terror for opposing offensive lines.
I’ll share this from Joe Buscaglia at The Athletic:
“Rousseau is ready for a big role right away. Coming into the summer, there was no way to tell what the Bills would get out of their first-round pick because Rousseau didn’t play college football in 2020. Right from the beginning stages of camp, it was clear he had a ton of ability… Rousseau took the strong practice performances into the preseason and has consistently won pass-rushing reps to get into the backfield.”
#16: Joe Tryon-Shoyinka
Even if the only preseason exposure you’ve had this year was short highlight videos on Twitter, you would have seen Tryon-Shoyinka on your screen. Whether it was almost taking Brandon Allen’s head clean off his shoulders, or the big strip sack in the Texans game, Tryon-Shoyinka has been making an immediate impact. The only question now is not whether he will make plays for the Bucs—it’s more just how many.
Since he’s currently stuck behind Jason Pierre-Paul and Shaq Barrett, he may finish 2021 lower than our sky-high expectations (watch this play again), but for dynasty, the outlook is bright for Tryon-Shoyinka with JPP being a free agent after this year.
#17: Haason Reddick
We thought Reddick would get a bigger deal in free agency coming off a 12.5 sack season in 2020, but he had to go Carolina to get a 1 year/$6 million deal from his former college coach, Matt Rhule. Let’s take a closer at who some of those sacks came against, shall we? And for giggles, we’ll include their pass-blocking grade from PFF:
T.J. Hockenson (50.6)
Brandon Knight (55.5)
Connor McGovern (58.0)
Matthew Peart (46.9)
Andrew Thomas x 2 (54.7)
Kevin Zeitler (68.7)
Cameron Fleming (56.5)
Mike McGlinchey (58.3)
So, yeah, not exactly a list of pass-block luminaries there. Maybe Reddick will play off-ball LB too, but the Panthers defense didn’t really allow for more than one fantasy-relevant LB (outside of Shaq Thompson and not counting Jeremy Chinn) because of their heavy use of Dime personnel. Yes, he’s #16 on these dynasty rankings, but part of that is because the big sack number from last year makes him an appealing “sell.”
#18: Azeez Ojulari
Ojulari suffered in the predraft process after a knee issue was flagged at the medical combine in Indianapolis, but should the knee hold up, he could have the highest ceiling of all edge rushers drafted in 2021—and the projections back that up.
Per PFF, he had an 89.4 pass-rush grade in college since 2019, and according to NFL Next Gen Stats, Ojulari earned an 84 overall draft score per their model, behind only Jaelan Phillips (85) among edge defenders. Not only that, he has the 3rd-highest odds of making a Pro Bowl within three seasons of any prospect at his position (16%).
#19: Odafe Oweh
The closest comp we could find for Oweh on the Ravens is… Terrell Suggs? (If you have a better one, DM us). Suggs was about 15 pounds heavier but Oweh is 2 inches taller. Peak Suggs was super solid, averaging 16.71 PPG in 2011 when he won DPOY.
Reports out of training camp suggest that Oweh has been impressive this summer. Plus, Oweh gets the Macri seal of approval. At the very least, we know he can play gunner on the punt coverage team. What will his role be since the Ravens brought in Justin Houston? That remains to be seen, but long-term, Oweh is a prized asset.
#20: Khalil Mack
Boy, of all the edge rushers on this list, nobody may be more needed by their team in 2021 than Mack. If you think his $38,446,000 dead cap hit is bad this year, perhaps you didn’t see what it was last year. You know, when he would’ve been owed $63,800,000 if the Bears had cut him. The point is: Mack is going to have the opportunity.
Like Shaq Barrett and Za’Darius Smith, Mack does get banged by the positional designation a bit in leagues where he’s listed as an LB. But if he’s labeled properly or has dual designation, he’s a great flex piece. He tailed off a bit the last couple seasons, averaging 9.97 PPG in 2019 and 10.85 PPG in 2020. Over the previous 4 seasons before that, he averaged 14.68 PPG. In 2020, his pass rush win percentage of 19.9 was 9th best in the NFL, and his 57 pressures on 894 snaps were the 12th most. So, although Mack is older (turned 30 in February 2021), he’s still a decent option for IDP squads.
#21: Yetur Gross-Matos
Gross-Matos, or “Yetes” as we like to call him, was unusable his rookie season, averaging just 4.31 PPG. But remember that Brian Burns was also borderline unusable his rookie year, averaging just 6.4 PPG. If Ourlads is to be believed, he’s behind Morgan Fox at the moment opposite Burns. Complicating things is where Haason Reddick will line up throughout the season. But if you don’t want to pay the high price for Burns, taking a late swing on Yetes (and his high draft capital) isn’t a bad idea.
#22: Rashan Gary
The former #12 overall pick in the 2019 NFL draft, Gary has yet to live up to the billing due to limited opportunities provided up to this point. But good friend of the show Kyle Bellefeuil (@KBellf54 on Twitter) has been banging the Gary drum all offseason.
And with good reason: Preston Smith’s decline in play has opened the door for more playing time and Gary has all the athleticism needed to capitalize on his opportunity. He received a Relative Athletic Score of 9.95, which was higher than the 9.28 given out to… Khalil Mack. (h/t to Kent Lee Platte @MathBomb for that info)
#23: Romeo Okwara
If you’d told us leading into the 2020 season that an Okwara would have double-digit sacks in Detroit, we’d have been tempted to look at 3rd round rookie, Julian. However, it was older brother Romeo who burst onto the scene in 2020.
The breakout 10 sack performance resulted in the Lions bringing him back on a 3 year, $37 million deal. If we follow the money, Romeo and Trey Flowers look set to get the bulk of pass-rushing opportunities. The only thing to be mindful of is defensive line coach Todd Wash said that Flowers and Romeo will play outside linebacker in the Lions’ new base 3-4 defense this fall. This moves Romeo from a 4-3 end to a 3-4 LB, which could affect his positioning depending on which platform you use.
#24: Josh Sweat
The Eagles DE rotation is suddenly kinda crowded, with Brandon Graham, Derek Barnett, and Ryan Kerrigan in the mix. And what’s crazy is that all three of those guys plus Sweat are FAs in 2022. So, here’s our guess at what will happen: we think the Eagles will struggle in 2021, so the new coaching staff will want to see if their young guys are worth bringing back (Barnett and Sweat). In our eyes, we love Sweat as a sleeper candidate. Draft him late and see what happens.
To hear our discussion of these players, check out the podcast episode here.
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