When it comes to drafting defensive line, it is highly based on your league. Not only is it important to take into account the league scoring, but the depth and competitiveness of your league is imperative, too. Defensive ends are some of the most matchup-based players in IDP and owners in shallower leagues can take advantage of the waiver wire. Teams like the Rams and the Cardinals give away sacks like Mr. Nice Guy, so in leagues that aren't deep, it might not be a bad idea to stack the rest of your team and play waiver wire bingo most of the year. However, competitive leagues won't have that luxury.
Most of the time in leagues that aren't overly competitive, I won't be investing any bench players on defensive line unless it's on a bye week or if that league rewards heavily for sacks. There are a lot of defensive ends, even ones in a 4-3, that don't even appear in these rankings. In other words, there is still quite a bit of competition and there might be some bargain basement deals once preseason is in full swing.
The lineman are after the jump:
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Jason Pierre-Paul- JPP is a beast and he is the unanimous top DL man. You'll have to do 14 backflips in a row to get him in your draft, though. I've seen him go in the third round in some IDP formats. Crazy talk.
Chris Long- Long going second in the 2008 draft might be perceived as nepotism in action, but the son of Howie Long has shown flashes of brilliance. That's certainly true last year. His best game by far came against the Saints when he sacked Drew Brees three times. In fact, only one other player in the NFL sacked him more than once. Karl Klug doesn't have much IDP value, by the way. Long, on the other hand, has very nice value and with his friendly schedule against plenty of teams prone to the sack, he could conceivably lead the league in that category. He's not much of a tackler though with just 37 tackles in 2011.
Cameron Wake- This Nittany Lion had one of the biggest years of 2010 with 14.5 sack lunches in his sophomore campaign and wasn't too shabby in 2011 with 8.5 sacks as an OLB. In 2012 he will be the Dolphins' new DE in a 4-3 scheme and is expected to get a full complement of snaps. Kevin Coyle, Miami's new defensive coordinator with a background in the secondary, is likely going to allow Wake to pin his ears back more often than not to help promote his secondary to get some turnovers. He is unlikely to get rack up the tackles, but 13 sacks in 2012 seems possible.
Charles Johnson- This is getting messy. Over the weekend there were reports that the Panthers were going to switch from their 4-3 base D to a 3-4. Most Panthers fans and hardcore football fans might have been scratching their heads on this one because five of the seven guys in their front seem like perfect fits for their positions on the 4-3. Rookie Luke Kuechly at the Mike, run-stuffing James Anderson at the Sam and Jon Beason sliding over as the Will to stay out of harm's way are a top-five LB group in the 4-3. Meanwhile, Charles Johnson and his six-year, $76 million deal would seem silly in any other position besides the DE in a 4-3. Not to mention Greg Hardy had a solid year in 2011 with 50 tackles and four sacks. The good news is that some Panthers sources said that they will keep their 4-3 base. Thank goodness. As for Johnson, his 2011 was a step down by only pulling the QB down 9.0 times with 40 tackles; those numbers are down from the monster 2010 season that was headlined by 11.5 sacks and 62 tackles. Johnson is likely going to land in between those two numbers and he'll have plenty of opportunities for sacks in one of the most pass-happy divisions in the NFL.
Chris Clemons- The undrafted 30-year-old Seahawk just got paid this week with a three-year, $22 million deal to eliminate any concern of a holdout. The Georgia product was one of the better DLs in the league for the fantasy playoffs by posting 13 tackles, three sacks and even a couple pass deflections in Week 14, 15 and 16. Clemon also boasts back-to-back 11-sack seasons and has developed into a fairly reliable asset in IDP leagues. His schedule is also one of the better ones in the league for DLs.
Carlos Dunlap- He's pretty much been as advertised in his career so far. When he came out from Florida most of the NFL world was worried about his work ethic and his dedication to football. Nobody could deny that Dunlap had ability and he began to show it last season. He had 4.5 sacks last season despite not being on the field all that much. Dunlap is an upside guy.
Chandler Jones- The Orangeman slipped in the draft to New England with the 21st pick. The 6-foot-5, 247-pound Jones had plenty of suitors in the teens and it was a mild surprise to see him go outside of the top 20. Luckily for him, Jones is thrust into a very intriguing position as New England's starting right defensive end. The bad news is that he's very unlikely to get a ton of snaps on running downs, but the good news is that teams attempt to throw on the Patriots quite a bit. The Patriots allowed the most pass attempts in the AFC thanks largely in part to their high-powered offense. Conversely, their secondary is one of the worst in the league. There is an ample opportunity for Jones to be a threat as DPOY, but there's no doubt he's going to need to earn a boatload of snaps.
Elvis Dumervil- Dumervil was one of the near 30 players arrested in the offseason and the charges against him are fairly serious. Click here if you want the details on the road rage incident. He's very likely to see a suspension and it's likely going to be a severe one. The Louisville Cardinal is in a great situation, so he's worth drafting in the late rounds if for some reason Goodell doesn't shock the world and totally bring the hammer down on him.
Thanks for reading!