2016 fantasy football profiles (DL 1-15)

Auction...............$20

Bye Week.............9

When it comes to top defensive linemen, this is a place where fantasy and reality are perfectly aligned. There's J.J. Watt ... and everyone else. Whereas in 2014 when Watt ran away with the title, last season was closer with the Texans star edging Raiders pass-rusher Khalil Mack by just 4.5 fantasy points. Nonetheless, Watt remains a terror that can line up all over the field and be effective as both a run stopper and pass-rusher. You might even get the added bonus of Watt catching a touchdown pass or two. Regardless, he should be the first player off the board at his position and might be the first IDP option taken at all in most drafts.

Auction...............$13

Bye Week.............10

It didn't take long for Mack to jump into the ranks of the top pass-rushers in the NFL. In just his second season, the Raiders star posted 15 sacks and was a monster coming off the edge. Now that the secret is out, it's up to Mack to adjust to a league that will undoubtedly adjust to him. Adding former Seahawks linebacker Bruce Irvin could ease some of the pressure. With a combination of youth and explosive talent, Mack has the kind of upside that makes him worth taking earlier than many others at his position in your IDP drafts.

Auction...............$12

Bye Week.............4

In 2015, Cox posted the best season of his four-year NFL career with career-highs in tackles and sacks. He was one of the few bright spots in an otherwise dismal Eagles defense. As nice as last season was, there are potentially bigger things on the horizon for Cox in 2016. New defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz plans to change the team's defense to a 4-3. In addition, Philadelphia hired defensive line coach Chris Wilson who worked with Cox in a 4-3 scheme during his college career at Mississippi State. Passing J.J. Watt for the top spot among defensive linemen could be a tall order but Cox could turn out to be a nice IDP steal this season.

Auction...............$10

Bye Week............10

Without Ndamukong Suh, there were concerns that Ansah might not be able to perform at a high level. Instead, the former BYU standout racked up 14.5 sacks -- far surpassing his career-best in that category. The only real concern from a fantasy standpoint is that Ansah is never going to post large tackle numbers, meaning his greatest value is as a pass-rusher. Anyone drafting him should be aware of that. If he isn't getting to the quarterback, you'll be forced to look elsewhere for help along the defensive line. Let's just hope that last season was an omen of good things to come.

Auction...............$10

Bye Week.............8

The Rams were expected to have a formidable front in 2015 with Donald teaming up with Chris Long and Robert Quinn. But injuries to Long and Quinn depleted that group, leaving Donald on his own. The second-year player responded with 44 tackles and 11 sacks to improve upon an already impressive rookie season. Long has departed for New England, but Quinn is expected to be back and healthy. That should help rejuvenate a pass rushing group that was one of the league's most feared a couple of seasons ago and should help boost Donald's fantasy draft stock entering his third season.

Auction...............$10

Bye Week.............9

The ever-consistent Dunlap kicked things up a notch in 2015. The Bengals veteran reached double-digit sacks for the first time in his career with 13.5 quarterback takedowns last season. Along with Geno Atkins, Dunlap formed a solid 1-2 punch in Cincinnati's defensive front. That pressure from the middle should help prevent Dunlap from seeing too many double teams. With so much of the veteran's fantasy potential being based upon his ability to sack the quarterback, he'll need some type of help to get there. Yet if past is prologue, Dunlap is once again poised to be a top 10 DL option in plenty of leagues.

Auction...............$8

Bye Week.............11

It's been an up and down stay in New York for Wilkerson with the Jets. Last season was a definite "up" with the veteran posting a career-high 12 sacks. The issue for Wilkerson has been that he's never been able to maintain that level of production. After compiling double-digit sacks in 2013, he fell back to just six quarterback takedowns the following season. Having reached 40 tackles just once in his career, he'll need to be a more consistent pass-rushing threat in order to have any week-to-week fantasy value.

Auction...............$8

Bye Week.............8

Quinn was beginning to establish himself as one of the most feared pass rushers in the NFL. The Rams end had scored double-digit sacks in three straight seasons before a back injury sapped him of productiveness in 2015. He ended the season with just five sacks -- tied for a career-low. Having had plenty of time to recover, Quinn should return to terrorizing quarterbacks in 2016. While he won't have Chris Long on the opposite side of the line, there is Aaron Donald, who came into his own last season as a pass-rusher. As long as Quinn can stay on the field, he'll return to being a key IDP piece on someone's roster.

Auction...............$8

Bye Week.............9

Campbell is one of the rare valued fantasy defensive linemen who succeeds more as a tackler than as a pass-rusher. In his previous eight seasons, the Cardinals veteran has never had more than nine sacks in any given season while he's posted 60 or more total stops on four different occasions -- including a career-high 72 tackles in 2011. Eventually the Cardinals will need to add something to their front line. It speaks volumes that 35-year old Dwight Freeney led the team in sacks last season while playing just 11 games. Until that happens, expect another consistently good (and occasionally great) season from Calais Campbell.

Auction...............$7

Bye Week.............7

Short became a full-time starter for the first time in 2015 and made the most of it. The Panthers defensive tackle helped anchor one of the league's toughest units last season with 55 tackles and a team-high 11 sacks. As one of general manager Dave Gettleman's "hog mollies" (along with Star Lotulelei), Short is establishing himself as a legitimate playmaker on the defensive line. The next trick will be to prove that 2015 wasn't a fluke and is rather the start of a trend. It would be wise to wait on Short in drafts this season, but if you are able to roster him there's the potential for another big year.

Auction...............$7

Bye Week.............6

Gholston has never been a big sack man in his three NFL seasons, posting a grand total of seven in 43 total games. The difference in 2015 was that he far surpassed his 2014 high in tackles (46 to 27). That's a good thing for the Buccaneers. But for IDP owners, it's a tough way to live. In a down year for defensive lineman, Gholston's 51 points were good enough for him to sneak into the top 10 but unless he finds a way to either get to the quarterback more or start becoming more of a tacking machine, it might not be enough to keep him there in 2016.

Auction...............$6

Bye Week.............8

Vernon's peak season so far came in 2013 when he racked up 57 tackles and 11.5 sacks while playing for the Dolphins. Now after four seasons in Miami, Vernon has headed north for New York where he joins fellow free agent Damon Harrison (Jets) and veteran quarterback muncher Jason Pierre-Paul. With a formidable front like that, Vernon should hopefully get back to where he was a few seasons ago. Certainly IDP owners hope so -- especially for a player who's likely to be drafted fairly late (if at all) and could provide surprising dividends.

Auction...............$5

Bye Week.............8

Once upon a time, the 49ers were overflowing with quality IDP prospects. But like many other formerly successful parts of their franchise, that's mostly dried up. Williams himself didn't do much that would turn heads in the fantasy world, averaging just three fantasy points per game. Considering last season was Williams' first as a full-time starter (also the first time he played more than nine games in a season), it's hard to imagine his ceiling going much higher. Considering the expected fortunes of his team's defense in 2016, there is no reason to consider the veteran as anything more than a waiver wire option at best.

Auction...............$5

Bye Week.............9

When he's on his game, Jones remains one of the more fearsome pass-rushers in the NFL averaging .65 sacks per game over his first four seasons in the league. That's why it was a major surprise when the Patriots traded him to the Cardinals for the disappointing (so far) Jonthan Cooper. Entering the final year of his contract, Jones will have extra incentive to show out in Arizona. That's good news for Cardinals fans as well as fantasy managers who are looking to take a chance on him.

Auction...............$5

Bye Week.............8

The good news about Heyward is that ever since becoming a full-time starter in 2013 he's been pretty consistent, averaging 36 tackles and six sacks per season. The bad news is that none of that adds up to Heyward being a consistently productive fantasy option. So far, Heyward hasn't shown that he's good enough in any one particular area to warrant being drafted or occupying a roster spot for anything more than the best matchups. He should be on the waiver wire in just about all leagues this season.

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