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IDP Projections: NFC South

This year I’m publishing all my IDP projections here at Rotoviz. In this edition I’m highlighting some of the scheme, personnel and coaching adjustments or other useful information I used when projecting the AFC South. I’ll share any actionable information, such as buy-low players, fades, targets and generally anything which could create informational advantages for our subscribers during drafts in dynasty and redraft leagues. 


At Rotoviz we proudly host the one and only Projection Machine, and it’s one of my favorite tools on the site.  For the past two seasons I’ve been actively projecting all 32 teams offenses, and during the season I project two NFL divisions for all 16 games. Through that work I’ve developed a process that I use to evaluate players and project their statistics. I thought I would take that work to IDP last season and projected each team.

This season I’m going to share some of my thoughts that can help IDP players in their off-season preparations for redraft, or can help them in dynasty drafts and orphan team overhauls. Maybe some readers will use these projections as a baseline to form their own.

My first step was to review some publicly accessible defensive position depth charts and compare to my own. I like using Ourlads and Rotoworld. In addition, it’s important to review the coaching and defensive scheme changes. I used a balanced scoring system that awards 1.5 points per solo tackle, 0.75 for each assist, 1 point for passes defended, 3 points per sack, 3 points for forced fumbles, 4 points for an interception. I’ve included the pressure rate metric from Football Outsiders, as it helps to track defensive pass rush progress and incorporates hurries in addition to sacks. Also included is QB sacks allowed, which was helpful for projecting sacks and I thought these would be useful to include for IDP and non-IDP folks for tracking defensive progress.

The NFC South features no scheme changes but there are plenty of opportunities which I will highlight after each projection set below.

TM 2016 16 HC 16 DC 2015 QB Sacks Allowed 2015 Pressure Rate 2017 17 HC 17 DC 2016 QB Sacks Allowed 2016 Pressure Rate
ATL 4-3 Dan Quinn Richard Smith 32 21.5% 4-3 Dan Quinn Marquand Manuel 37 26.4%
CAR 4-3 Ron Rivera Sean McDermott 33 26.3% 4-3 Ron Rivera Mike Wilks 36 30.2%
NO 4-3 Sean Payton Dennis Allen 32 21.3% 4-3 Sean Payton Dennis Allen 27 27.3%
TB 4-3 Dirk Koetter Mike Smith 27 24.4% 4-3 Dirk Koetter Mike Smith 35 24.7%

The NFC South is all 4-3 defenses and as a result, is plentiful with valuable defensive ends and linebackers for IDP purposes. Note there were defensive coordinator changes for both Atlanta and Carolina, but the schemes aren’t expected to change for either team.


Cameron Jordan NO DE 27 35 15 10 0 0 1 98
Kawann Short CAR DT 28 32 20 7 2 0 1 90
William Gholston TB DE 25 40 17 3 1 0 1 87
Gerald McCoy TB DT 29 25 8 8 3 0 1 75
Sheldon Rankins NO DT 23 28 10 6 0 0 1 72
Noah Spence TB DE 23 20 8 7 1 0 2 66
Charles Johnson CAR DE 30 20 10 6 1 0 2 65
Robert Ayers TB DE 31 24 7 5 0 0 1 60
Mario Addison CAR DE 29 20 6 7 0 0 1 60
Alex Okafor NO DE 26 25 7 5 0 0 0 58
Dontari Poe ATL DT 26 25 12 3 0 0 0 56
Grady Jarrett ATL DT 24 20 20 3 0 0 0 54
Takk McKinley ATL DE 21 20 10 5 0 0 0 53
Star Lotulelei CAR DT 27 15 11 2 0 0 0 37
Adrian Clayborn ATL DE 28 16 4 3 0 0 0 36
Hau’oli Kikaha NO DE 24 8 4 1 0 0 0 18


Most of these players represent known quantities on a per-season basis. Those projecting for additional opportunities for snap volume this season include: Noah Spence, Mario Addison, Alex Okafor, and Hau’oli Kikaha. Rookie Takkarist McKinley should be given opportunity and could find his way at the top of this list. This assumes his shoulder surgery heals up in time for him not to fall behind in training camp. I give a few more detailed thoughts below.


Hau’oli Kikaha was set to be the defensive end for the Saints last season but tore his ACL during training camp. It was the third time he had injured the same ACL. He hopes to come back from this injury, much like Carolina’s Thomas Davis did, and have a stellar career. At the moment, he’s on track to return, but a starting role opposite Cameron Jordan isn’t assured.

My current projections are skeptical of a full return for Kikaha this season, and I like former Arizona Cardinal Alex Okafor to take significant snaps at that defensive end position, at least in my early projections. In an extremely deep league, I like the value of picking up Okafor for free if you’re desperate at defensive end. It’s such a sneaky pickup that MFL currently has Okafor listed as a LB, which will certainly be corrected prior to the regular season.


If you want to go even deeper, keep Trey Hendrickson on your radar. He’s an athletic edge rusher out of Florida Atlantic. The Saints drafted him in Round Three of the draft and think highly of his abilities and a good camp could slowly move him up the depth chart, as they need help at defensive end.


Luke Kuechly CAR LB 26 95 54 1 10 1 1 204
Kwon Alexander TB LB 22 90 32 3 7 1 1 183
Deion Jones ATL LB 22 85 35 0 10 2 1 176
Lavonte David TB LB 26 80 30 3 4 1 2 168
Thomas Davis CAR LB 34 65 35 3 4 1 1 145
AJ Klein NO LB 25 65 35 1 2 0 0 129
Duke Riley ATL LB 22 70 30 0 0 0 0 128
Vic Beasley ATL LB 24 30 6 14 2 0 3 106
Craig Robertson NO LB 29 55 18 0 0 0 0 96
Shaq Thompson CAR LB 23 45 20 1 4 0 0 90
De’Vondre Campbell ATL LB 23 45 24 0 3 0 0 89
Dannell Ellerbe NO LB 31 40 25 2 1 0 0 86
Cameron Lynch TB LB 23 18 5 0 0 0 0 31


Few new faces emerge at LB for the NFC South, but the few that do could be worth selecting in our drafts. Duke Riley is said to be the starting weakside LB in Atlanta, and because of this I project him to play more snaps than De’Vondre Campbell. This could play out differently once training camp arrives, and I’ll certainly keep an eye on things. New Orleans will be fluid at the LB position, and it’s really anyone’s guess who starts. I have further thoughts on New Orleans and deep league opportunities below.


AJ Klein was an interesting one to project. I’ve seen him flutter around in some leagues thus far this summer and that’s mostly because Klein is viewed by many as an average talent with problems in coverage.

There’s also four other average talents competing for the two starting LB spots in New Orleans, but Klein is the only one with $9.4 million guaranteed from the Saints. Most fantasy teams are avoiding the situation due to uncertainty, but I like uncertainty. Klein has the big free agent contract, and he’s coming to camp with his lunch pail as he only wanted to sign somewhere that he could start. He looked decent in the fantasy box scores when filling in for Luke Keuchly in Carolina, and I like his chances to produce a 65-70 solo tackle season. That’s not necessarily going to win your league, but he could certainly play a role in deeper leagues.

However, Klein is a major liability in pass coverage, and according to PFF allowed a passer rating of 119.6 when targeted by an opposing quarterback. But if you’re taking more of a zero-IDP approach in your draft, then Klein’s one you can count on to be there late.


As you can see, I’ve taken a leap of faith and projected a slight bounce back from Lavonte David. That bounce back will only come at the expense of around ten tackles from Kwon Alexander. Although I’ve been a Kwon advocate, I still have to admit we’re looking at a small sample set.

Davonte David Progression

When you see this chart, you realize David has developed a surprisingly low floor in IDP. He was clearly off from his usual performance levels, and his production has dipped as long as Kwon Alexander has been a starting LB in the Tampa Bay defense. 


My projections for the New Orleans linebackers assume that Dannel Ellerbe wins the starting job at weakside LB. Ellerbe has not played more than nine games dating back to his 2013 season. Alex Anzalone is a good dynasty buy where he’s priced correctly. Anzalone’s got an impressive athletic profile from his NFL Combine measurables which moved him up the Rotoviz IDP Scouting Index to fourth among outside LBs, and if he develops enough in camp, he could get a crack at the starting lineup. His situation is a lot like Chicago Bears inside linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski was in last season as he was backing up two linebackers that missed a lot of time in their careers. When athletic linebackers get opportunity, good things can happen. The reports out of OTAs were positive, as Anzalone was working as a coverage LB in nickel packages.


Keanu Neal ATL S 21 80 25 0 10 1 3 165
Mike Adams CAR S 36 62 36 0 5 4 2 149
Keith Tandy TB S 27 65 35 0 8 2 0 140
Vonn Bell NO S 22 65 30 1 3 0 1 130
Kurt Coleman CAR S 29 57 28 0.5 9 3 0 129
Robert Alford ATL CB 28 55 28 0 15 2 0 127
Delvin Breaux NO CB 27 55 20 0 12 2 0 118
Kenny Vaccaro NO S 26 55 24 1 5 1 1 117
Ricardo Allen ATL S 25 60 30 0 4 0 0 117
JJ Wilcox TB S 26 55 30 0 5 1 0 114
Brent Grimes TB CB 34 48 10 0 13 4 0 109
Vernon Hargeaves TB CB 22 60 6 0 10 1 0 109
Daryl Worley CAR CB 22 55 20 0 7 1 0 109
James Bradberry CAR CB 23 52 20 0 10 1 0 107
PJ Williams NO CB 24 40 20 0 8 1 0 87
Desmond Trufant ATL CB 26 37 10 0 12 1 0 79
Marcus Williams NO S 20 40 16 0 3 0 0 75
Brian Poole ATL CB 24 35 12 0 5 0 0 67
Marshon Lattimore NO CB 21 25 8 0 8 0 0 52


Keanu Neal established himself as an elite IDP player in his outstanding rookie season, and it appears there’s much room for growth. He will be a tough get and is rightly pricey in most redraft leagues. I also expect James Bradberry and Daryl Worly to carry on their production into 2017, but their game averages in 2016 are probably their ceiling. In New Orleans, my safety projections are lower on Kenny Vacarro and Vonn Bell because of newcomer Marcus Williams getting so many indications of significant early playing time. This is a projection that could adjust once we get more definitive word from their training camp on how they’ll be used. 


If you plan to punt on all cornerbacks until the end of your draft have a look at Delvin Breaux. He can be had for nothing, as he’s been injured so much in the past few years that fantasy players have either given up on him or forgotten who he is. In fact, there was discussion of his playing career being ended early due to the severity of a back injury. Last season was mostly lost as Breaux broke his fibula in the first game and wasn’t up to speed late in the season when he returned. When he’s been healthy and played, he’s been productive in the fantasy box scores. He’s also been helping his team, as evidenced by winning PFF’s third runner up among NFL breakout players in 2015. All indications are that he’s back in form, so look to Breaux if you need a cheap CB.

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