When most people think of defensive tackle (DT) they envision refrigerators on the football field. While, technically, that is correct, they do serve a purpose, even for fantasy. Their purpose is to help stop the run and open gaps for the inside middle linebackers to get to the QB. Granted, the position is the least fantasy-friendly position, and is the most unpredictable and shallow defensive position. However, DT still contributes a decent amount of points, especially if your league counts stuffs or stopping the runner dead in his tracks. This list is tailored for Major League Fantasy Football, but is also viable for any type of league.
Tier 1: Safest bets
1.) Geno Atkin – Trailing only Von Miller and Cameron Wake in quarterback pressure, Atkins is as safe as they come. He’ll post an elite total tackle (TT) clip for DTs around 60, net 11 sacks (SKs), and get 7 stuffs (SFs). Easily a top 2 option.
2.) Muhammad Wilkerson – While not quite on the same level as Atkins, he is still the second best option. He’s young (23), on a defense that will be on the field a ton, and is only improving. Expect 50 total tackles, 7 sacks, 4 forced fumbles (FF), and a handful of stuffs. He also could net a couple passes defensed (PDs).
3.) Justin Smith – The safest bet on this list in the terms of consistency. While Smith won’t do anything spectacularly, he does a bit of everything. Health permitting, Smith will continue to wreak havoc upon the running and passing game, as he not only hits the running backs early in their runs, but also swats down passes at the line. Expect a well-rounded line of 64 TTs, 7 sacks, 1 forced and recovered fumbles apiece, and 5 stuffs.
4.) Corey Liuget – It’s easy to call him a one-hit wonder after his top 3 DT season last year, but I’m a believer. Tackles that can get near double digit PDs, 6 stuffs for 20 yards, and contribute 7 sacks are rare. He is one of those, and the stats could go up this season on a Chargers team in a miniature rebuild mode. This season 55 TTs, 9 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 1 recovered fumble, and 8 stuffs to go with 10 PDs.
5.) Fletcher Cox – His speed and athleticism, which is rare for DTs, should create ample opportunities for Cox to rack up 50 TTs, 6 sacks, 5 PDs, and 5 SFs in Kelly’s uptempo style of play.
6.) Ndamukong Suh – He is a sack machine, and has the potential to be an elite option. On-field issues are the problem here, as he has already been suspended for playing dirty, and could easily be again if he doesn’t clean the play up. 12.5 sacks is well within reach.
Tier 2: Solid Starters, but not the complete package
7.) Vince Wilfork – Like Justin Smith in the sense that he won’t do anything spectacularly, but will get the job done. His main assets at DT will be forced and recovered fumbles, and stuffs this season. He’ll also throw in a handful of passes defensed. A well rounded stat line is what should be expected from him, but only three sacks.
8.) Haloti Ngata – A staple of consistency in the Baltimore defense, while Ngata’s best days as a DT are behind him, he still could put up starter worthy DT numbers in most leagues. Expect 55 TTs, 5 sacks, and 3 stuffs from Ngata this season.
9.) Jonathan Babineaux – His main asset to fantasy owners will be his penchant for stuffs, as he has the pedigree to put up 10+ SFs and throw in 3 PDs and 4.5 sacks. If he ends up as your DT2, then you are set at DT.
10.) Marcell Dareus – Dareus has “Breakout Season” written all over him, and it may well happen. After finishing the end of last season strong, Dareus seems poised to put up a career year for the Bills. Don’t be surprised at 45 TTs, 7 sacks, and 8 passes defensed.
11.) Henry Melton – After a torrid start to the 2012 season (4.5 sacks in 5 games), Melton fizzled out in a big way. While streaky players have a place in fantasy lineups, when those streaks come is impossible to predict. Draft him as your DT2 and take the 40 TTs, 6 SKs from him.
12.) Nick Fairley – The other DT in Detroit may not have the name recognition, but at least he doesn’t kick opposing players in the privates. Assuming he can build upon last season’s breakout line, Fairley could be a value pick on draft day. 40 TTs, 6 Sks, and 9 SFs is not out of the question here.
13.) Gerald McCoy – With an improving front line in Tampa, McCoy could build upon his 2012 season and become a staple at the position. If he nets you 35 tackles, 7.5 sacks, and 8 stuffs, then you’ve spent your 2nd to last round pick wisely.
14.) Ahtyba Rubin – Rubin will be of the top tacklers at the position, and get 57 TTs, but the problem is he does little else, as he’ll also only get 2 sacks. Worth taking very late as a pick who could exceed his draft position if he can just get a few more QBs on the turf.
15.) Sharrif Floyd – The Vikings desperately needed to revamp their aging D-line, and Floyd is definitely a start. Coming out of the U. of Florida, Floyd posted a respectable 46 TTs and 3 SKs in his final season at Florida. The Vikings have anointed him opening day starter opposite Kevin Williams, and Floyd could easily put up the better stats. Draft him as a sleeper at the position, and the returns could be 35 TTs, 7 SKs, and a forced fumble or two, as well as a recovered fumble. Rank him higher in dynasty leagues.
Tier 3: Worth a roster spot, but starting to grasp for straws
16.) Kyle Williams – His main appeal will be his consistency in getting 45 total tackles, 5 sacks, and a handful of stuffs, as that’s about what he will average when he is healthy. Will be overshadowed by teammate Marcell Dareus, but that doesn’t mean Williams isn’t draft worthy.
17.) Kevin Williams – In the waning stages of his career, Kevin should still be viewed as a good source for passes defensed, while netting 35 total tackles and 3.5 sacks.
18.) Jared Odrick – There’s no doubt Odrick has the potential to get 7.5+ sacks, but the question is can he combine that with a tackle clip greater than 40, and also get 8 stuffs? If so, he would easily be a top 10 option, but one-year players are hard to believe. Definitely worth a flier as your DT2.
19.) Ziggy Hood – Ziggy is the player that you look at on tape and watch in games, and don’t think he does much, but then at season’s end he will turn in a solid stat line. He may never be elite, but he is definitely worth starting, given he’ll be starting and may see some time at defensive end as well. 45 TTs, 3.5 SKs, and 5 Pds could be his game this season.
20.) Jurrell Casey – Like Odrick, Casey oozes with potential, but fantasy owners would like to see more before trusting him as a DT staple. Of the two, I like Casey more, as I think he will put up better stats, minus the stuffs. Expect 50 TTs, 4 SKs, 1 FF, and 5 SFs this season.
Names to keep an eye on:
- Sheldon Richardson – Could easily post top 25 numbers on a team in complete rebuild mode.
- Darnell Dockett – Anybody home? Fantasy owners want to see the Docket from a few seasons ago, but the question is can Dockett rediscover the rejuvenation juice?
- Linval Joseph – Sleeper to put up top 10 DT numbers as Giants starter. Don’t blame ya’ if you have him as a top 20 option at the position. Good upside.
- Tyson Alualu – Alualu is the DT on the Jaguars who should be the one to grab, as it could only be a matter of time before he puts it together. Could 5 sacks and 45 tackles be in store? I don’t doubt it.