2012 fantasy football profiles and projections (LM 13-24)

Statistical projections are provided by EA Sports

  • Player
  • Analysis

Long had easily his best season as a professional in 2011. He was far and away St. Louis' most effective pass rusher, posting a career-best 13 sacks while just missing out on a personal best in tackles. Long should have plenty of chances to chase quarterbacks in 2012, as the Green Bay Packers, New England Patriots, Buffalo Bills, Chicago Bears and Detroit Lions are all on the schedule. While there are clearly better options out there at the position, especially for a player that almost exclusively contributes sacks, Long has upside at the age of 27 and could turn into a nice bargain bottom of an IDP fantasy draft.

It's fair to say that a move to Seattle and a switch to defensive end has been a shot in the arm for Clemons, both on the field and from a fantasy perspective. The veteran has recorded back-to-back 11-sack seasons and has seen increases in all of his numbers across the board since he left Philadelphia in 2009. Furthermore, his 22 total sacks in the past two years are more than he posted in his previous six seasons combined. When you throw in 51 total tackles last season, it's evident why Clemons is an attractive No. 2 defensive lineman in 2012.

After a torn pectoral muscle cost him all of the 2010 season, Dumervil came back to record 42 total tackles and 9.5 sacks in 2011. He also finished on fire, posting 27 of his tackles and six of his sacks in his final six games. If he can stay out of the trainer's room, which has been an issue for Dumervil, there's no reason to believe he can't regain his spot as one of the better players at his position in 2012. As a result, fantasy owners in IDP leagues should take a look at the Louisville product as a late-round No. 2 option with upside.

Smith was an absolute terror for opposing offensive lines in 2011, shrugging off double teams to rack up 7.5 sacks. Smith even recorded 58 total tackles and had two passes defensed as part of the NFL's best rushing defense. He'll turn 33 early this season, but offenses will have difficulty focusing on stopping him, with all the playmakers on the San Francisco defense. He's definitely worth a late-round draft pick. He shouldn't be considered elite, but he's still a very consistent No. 2 option at the position.

Simply put, Ngata is a load for offensive linemen to handle, measuring in at 6-foot-4 and 330 pounds. He's coming off one of his better seasons, from a fantasy perspective, finishing in the top 10 in points at the position on the strength of his 64 total tackles and five sacks. He has even shown some skills as a pass defender, posting five passes defensed in three of his last four seasons. Also a durable performer, Ngata has missed just two regular-season games in his entire career. While he isn't an elite fantasy option, the veteran out of Oregon is well worth a late-round look.

Rubin proved to be a load in the middle of Cleveland's defensive line in 2011, picking up five sacks as a nose tackle. He also finished second on the team in tackles with 83, a number obscured by how awful the Browns' rushing defense was last season. For IDP owners, Rubin's lack of name recognition means you can afford to wait until the later rounds to take a chance on him. But make no mistake, the Iowa State product has proven that his 2011 success was no fluke. If you're looking for a late-round bargain at defensive line, you can do worse than targeting Rubin in drafts.

Watt picked up some of the slack after Mario Williams was lost for the 2011 season, recording a respectable 5.5 sacks. But his biggest asset might have been his ability to get his hands up, he batted down four passes during what was a successful rookie season. As with any first-year player, there's the question of whether he'll take a step forward or backward as a sophomore. But with Williams now in Buffalo, Watt should be in a great position to improve on his 2011 totals. He's not yet elite at this point in his young career, and a recent elbow injury could cause some concern, but Watt is expected to be ready for Week 1 and does warrant late-round attention.

Mincey was mostly invisible on the stat sheets during his first five years with the Jaguars, notching a combined 46 total tackles and seven sacks. The Florida product surpassed both of those totals in 2011, finishing with career bests in total tackles, sacks and forced fumbles. Mincey is clearly in the Jags' plans for 2012 and beyond; the team rewarded him with a four-year, $27.2 million contract in the offseason. While there is some risk that he was a one-year wonder, it will be tough to pass on Mincey as a No. 2 defensive lineman in the late rounds of IDP leagues.

After two successful seasons with the Raiders, Wimbley signed a five-year, $35 million deal this past offseason to join the Titans. Essentially an outside linebacker, the veteran out of Florida State will now put his hand in the dirt as an end in Tennessee's 4-3 scheme. That shouldn't have much of an effect on his skills as a pass rusher, and there's no reason to believe he'll experience a huge decline in tackles, either. Fantasy leaguers should consider Wimbley, who finished in the top 15 in fantasy points among linemen last season, a potential late-round bargain as a No. 2 option across the board.

What in the world happened to Suh in 2011? After recording 66 total tackles, 10 sacks and finishing among the top three in fantasy points among defensive linemen as a rookie, the Nebraska product devolved into mere waiver-wire fodder by the end of last season. Whether he was affected by shoulder surgery or just endured the dreaded sophomore slump, Suh is back to square one in proving his draft value to fantasy owners. At 25 and with something to prove, the third-year defensive tackle is worth a roll of the dice in the late rounds of IDP leagues.

Abraham is certainly a little long in the tooth for a defender, but his numbers haven't taken a huge downward turn. Despite being on a snap count for most of the season, Abraham still put up 9.5 of the Falcons' 33 sacks. Now signed to a new three-year deal, the veteran out of South Carolina will continue to be utilized as a pass-rushing specialist for defensive coordinator Mike Nolan. As long as he can avoid injuries, Abraham should post numbers worthy of being a low-end No. 2 defensive lineman in 2012. Just be aware, however, that the cliff is coming soon.

Dunlap is one of the most talented young defensive linemen in the league. Unfortunately, he is coming off a disappointing 2011 campaign that saw him play in just 12 games while finishing with a mere 34 tackles and 4.5 sacks. He did, however, compile 13 hits on the quarterback and 29 pressures. If he's able to stay on the field and out of the trainer's room, Dunlap should rebound and produce better numbers in what should be an improved Bengals defensive. In fact, his upside is that of a No. 1 option in IDP leagues who can be had in the late rounds.

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