Top 12 Defensive Ends for IDP Dynasty Leagues

Don't be afraid to mix some of the older guys into your dynasty startup drafts when targeting defensive ends. They'll help you win titles now AND in the future!

With linebacker as deep as it’s ever been and defensive back in flux year to year, where should you look early in your IDP dynasty startup drafts? We say defensive end. While it’s true the safe floor isn’t there like it is with LB, this position group has the “boom” potential that can single-handedly win you a week (especially in “big play” leagues).

As you can see from this list of the top 12 defensive ends for dynasty (pulled from Adam’s free rankings), we value a mix of older and younger players at this position. After all, you want to have a team capable of winning you a title in 2021, not just one that looks good on paper for 2022 and beyond. So, the old guys still have value.

Let’s dig into the list… and stayed tuned for 13-24 coming later this week!

#1: Chase Young

If you go back and listen to the breakout episode of The Big Nickel IDP Podcast that ZMags was on, he put Chase Young on his Mt. Rushmore of future IDP stars. Young is our dynasty DE1 (and Josh’s overall IDP 1.01) because we truly believe he’ll be viewed as one of the best IDPs of all time after his career is over. JJ Watt probably holds that crown right now, with Aaron Donald, Luke Kuechly, and Bobby Wagner in the mix, too. But with what Young showed in his rookie season, along with the potential he’s flashed in the 2021 preseason, we’ve only seen glimpses of his true potential.

If you need a reminder of what Young achieved in his debut season:

  • 87.2 PFF grade, which was 6th best among edge rushers.

  • 40 pressures on 459 pass-rush snaps

(eyeball emoji)

#2: Myles Garrett

All we’ve heard about was how Garrett was affected by COVID last year. As a reminder, he still finished as the DE1. He’s the favorite to repeat as DE1 until proven otherwise, especially with that improved Browns defense.

Here’s Garrett’s PPG so far in his career:

  • 15.6 ppg in 2018

  • 16.6 ppg in 2019

  • 15.6 ppg in 2020

BUT don’t forget that 2020 average was affected by his struggles with COVID. Through the first seven weeks, he was averaging 20.14 PPG.

Plus, now he’s taking dumps on the field??? That’s a new level of swagger.

#3: T.J. Watt

The younger Watt averaged 22.7 PPG in 2020, making him the highest-scoring player per game last season. That was up from 2019 when he scored 21.5 PPG.

The only real knock is age: he will turn 27 in October, so gets dinged a tiny bit for dynasty. And our question is: have we seen peak TJ Watt? His past two years suggest no, that’s he’s still ascending. But we think if you’re buying him expecting that type of production, it’s a recipe for disappointment. After all, he can only stay the same or go down, and statistically speaking, the latter option is the most likely of those two.

#4: Nick Bosa

He averaged 14.4 PPG in 2019 according to Big 3 scoring. Yes, he was very streaky in that rookie campaign, but when he hit, oh baby. You won your week. He had 47 tackles and 9 sacks playing 76% of the defensive snaps. He also had 80 pressures, which was the 6th most in the NFL, and had a 17.5 win percentage, good for 23rd.

Need more convincing? PFF’s Jon Macri has Bosa as his dynasty IDP 1.01.

#5: Brian Burns

A lot of very smart football people are in love with Burns’ potential. We see him as the cornerstone of a vastly improved Panthers defense.

It’s not crazy to see him ranked ahead of Joey Bosa and Danielle Hunter in dynasty, but even in redraft, we’re shooting our shot with Burns over those two. We want the upside. And when we say upside, we’re talking “the ceiling is the roof.”

#6: Joey Bosa

The elder Bosa is criminally underrated at around 16 PPG the last couple seasons. Yes, he can be streaky, just like Nick. We do have concerns with Ingram gone. But who else is there alongside Bosa now? (checks Ourlads) Oh yeah, pretty much nobody.

We do worry that streakiness could continue with him being schemed out, or dropping back into coverage more as has been suggested throughout training camp. Assuming they get him some help, though, we have zero worries long-term. He’s signed in Los Angeles through 2026 and is a cornerstone of that defense.

#7: Danielle Hunter

Go check that 2019 log again: just 4 games in single digits. He’s like the DE version of CJ Mosley for 2021, only with top 5 upside for his position.

He finished as DL5 in 2019, averaging 16.7 PPG. In 2018, he was DL6 and averaged 16.8 PPG. And why is his log so nice and consistent? It’s because he gets high tackle numbers for a DE: 70 in 2019, 72 in 2020. When you combine those tackle numbers with 14+ sacks, you get an elite IDP asset (who’s younger than you think).

#8: Montez Sweat

For him to put up the log he did (13.9 PPG) playing alongside Chase Young in 2020 is so impressive. If you’d rather skip paying sticker price for Young in a dynasty startup and pair Sweat with a really solid DE2, we wouldn’t blame you.

Sweat finished the 2020 season strong: from Week 11 on, he averaged 16.26 PPG. All of that in what was likely your DE2 spot in the lineup. Now, he’s rightly being drafted as a DE1, going as DE8 according to IDP Guys August ADP. The crazy part?

For where he could finish, that still might be too low…

#9: Josh Allen

There’s no way around it, Allen was a turd last year for your IDP lineup. He missed time with a knee injury, came back, and then went on IR with a knee injury. This was in November, although from all indications the injury wasn’t serious.

So what we’re hoping for is a bounce back and fully realized potential alongside another DE we like who stepped in for Allen: K’Lavon Chaisson.

As a reminder, in 2019, Allen averaged 12.21 PPG.

#10: Jaelan Phillips

If you listened to Addie read the athletic measurables for Phillips on the podcast, you probably got all hot and bothered just like we did. Jamin Davis was our favorite landing spot from the 2021 draft, but this was #2. If Phillips is who everyone in the draft community thinks he is, he will thrive playing under Brian Flores.

The only question? Positional designation—like the next two guys on this list, some platforms have Phillips listed as an LB, which would knock him down quite a bit.

#11: Shaq Barrett

Let’s show some love for the “old” dudes! Barrett gets banged by the positional eligibility question, but don’t let that detract from the fact he’s very consistent for IDP. His 2019 average of 21.7 PPG was a ceiling we’ll never see him reach again, but even then, his 2020 average of 13.3 PPG was still nice. He’ll be 29 this season, but he’s signed long-term, so he’s a fine DE2 (assuming he’s a DE).

Remember, even with that downturn last season, he still finished 2nd in pressures with 77 on 492 pass-rush attempts. That was good for a 15.6% pressure rate. He also had a 17.6 pass rush win percentage, which was 20th best in the NFL. All his D-line mates are back and rookie Joe Tryon-Shoyinka should take some of the pressure off.

#12: Za’Darius Smith

Pretty much copy + paste the argument for Shaq Barrett here. Positional designation issues and age knock him down in the dynasty ranks, but Smith averaged 14.9 PPG in 2020 and 16.8 in 2019. Flip a coin between him and Barrett. We’ll go Barrett because of the contract and the talent around him, which should elevate Barrett’s play.

The big question with Smith in 2021 is his pressure total. In 2019, he led the league with 105. But in 2019, he only managed 59. Where does he land in 2021?

To hear our discussion of these players, check out the podcast episode here.

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Photo attribution:

All-Pro Reels, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Erik Drost, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Erik Drost, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

All-Pro Reels, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons